At what age is a player really at their peak?

It’s that time of year when the football based media is filled with stories of players supposedly harbouring for moves elsewhere or committing themselves to their contracted club.

It’s that time of year when the football based media is filled with stories of players supposedly harbouring for moves elsewhere or committing themselves to their contracted club. News hungry journalists mainly concern themselves with the former as the potentiality of a player wearing another club’s shirt is enough to provoke certain fans into either acting like Louie Spence on ecstasy, or moping around speaking with a voice so trembling with fear that one would think they were ‘touching cloth’ in a pub that is out of bog roll.

Signs of unsettled players

Every word of a player is scrutinised for the minutest detail that could, if worded slightly differently, be a sign that they are unsettled. They don’t even have to speak—it could just be they happened not to be smiling for the milliseconds it takes to capture a picture of them while in deep discussion with their manager. A photo as such often becomes ‘proof’ that they are having a sombre talk about the player’s future and that it concludes with the two agreeing to part ways.

All of these false rumours and glorifications are irritating, but one of the most annoying aspects contained within all this hearsay is when on the subject of players that are between the ages of 27 and 29. Tthis is when it is declared as fact that these players are at their peak. It’s become so ingrained in the minds of people who say this that they don’t think about what they’re saying and who they’re saying it about.

Prolific ratios

When 28 year old Cristiano Ronaldo is linked with a move away from Real Madrid he is described as being at the peak of his powers from now, as if he will perform better than he has in the last few years, which has seen him score 201 goals in 199 appearances for Madrid, not to mention his all-round play. Or his last three brilliant seasons with Manchester United where he pummelled in 91 goals in 155 competitive games. And that’s without being an out-and-out striker! The same applies to Lionel Messi. Are these ratios going to get even more prolific from herein?

27 year old Wayne Rooney is said to be approaching his best years, but will he ever better his Euro 2004 performances for England? Or the seasons where he linked up with Ronaldo at United, tearing apart some of the best sides in Europe? And those campaigns when he banged in over 30 goals for the club?

Did Michael Owen flourish from the age of 27, bettering his form between 18 and 21 where he burst onto the scene and won European Footballer of the Year? No. David Beckham never really outdid his days at Old Trafford where he left having just turned 28. Ryan Giggs is still a great player as he nears 40, but it could be said that his best years were as a teenager and when he was in his early to mid-20s.That one could well be up for debate.

Which players have peaked too early?

Alan Shearer was prolific in almost every season throughout his career, but he was in his pomp during those days at Blackburn Rovers and Euro 96 when he was early to mid-20s, topping the goal scoring charts and shooting his club to title winning glory in 1995. That early to middle period was undoubtedly the best of his career, same with Robbie Fowler and many more.

Someone who is generally considered the best player to have come from the British Isles, a Mr George Best, was finished at Manchester United by the time he was 27. That was largely to do with his lifestyle, but the fact remains, he had his best years before the supposed ‘peak’ period.

Of course, you could name players who were at their peak between the ages of 27 and 29 (Eric Cantona, Thierry Henry to name but a few), but let us please stop applying the ‘he’s-28-so-he’s-now-at-his-peak’ premise to every Tom, Dick and Bernard who has been on this earth for that amount of time.

Some play their best football at this point of their lives, but odd as it may sound, some don’t.

What do you think? When is a player at their peak? Have your say in the comments section below, on Facebook or on Twitter.