Soccer’s greatest journeymen, from John Burridge to Zlatan Ibrahimovic

In praise of the well-travelled players for whom the whole world was a stage.

Kevin Ellison came off the bench on Saturday to score the winner for Newport County against Oldham at the ripe old age of 42.

County are Ellison's 14th club in a career which has rarely hit the heights.

Nevertheless, not all 'journeymen' move around frequently with little success. There are some players who find success everywhere they go, even in short spells.

Kevin Ellison Newport County goal vs Oldham Aug 2021

So here's Planet Sport's selection of seven of the best journeymen for whom all the world was their stage...

Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Zlatan Ibrahimovic AC Milan May 2021 back

Labelling one of the greatest soccer players of the modern era as a journeyman is something that would probably not sit well with the great man himself. The fact remains, though, that the mercurial Swede has turned out for nine different clubs in seven different countries - in tandem with his remarkable record with the Sweden national team - scoring more than 500 career goals along the way.

Ibrahimovic started off in his native Sweden with Malmo. He broke through the club's youth ranks and quickly grabbed attention for his natural talent, with Ajax snapping up the young forward in 2001. Ibrahimovic notched 48 times in just over 100 appearances in the Netherlands and his list of achievements has continued to grow during a glittering career.

Ibrahimovic has won league titles in four different countries and has turned out for some of the biggest clubs in Europe, with Juventus, both Inter and AC MilanManchester United and Barcelona all benefiting from his talent.

Despite scoring a hatful of goals wherever he has been, Ibrahimovic's most productive spell was also during his longest stay at a club. Zlatan scored an incredible 156 goals in just 180 games for Paris Saint-Germain, on his way to 12 major honours in France's capital in just four seasons.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic La Galaxy unveiling Mar18

Ibrahimovic has scored in 10 of the biggest derbies in world soccer, including the Milan derby, El Clasico, the Manchester derby, Le Classique in France and the California Clasico in MLS.

After two successful years at Manchester United, MLS came calling for Ibrahimovic. He put pen to paper with the LA Galaxy and the goals continued to flow stateside. The striker netted 53 times in just 58 appearances with Galaxy before Europe came calling once more.

Now in his third stint with AC Milan, Ibrahimovic started the 2020/21 season by scoring 10 times in the opening six matches of the Serie A campaign.

He finished the season with 15 goals from 19 Serie A games, signing a contract extension with the club that will take him past his 40th birthday.

Freddy Adu

Freddy Adu exhibition Oct17

Before he was of high school age, Freddy Adu was tipped to be one of the greatest players of his generation. Aged just 14, Adu was the number one pick in the MLS SuperDraft and became the youngest person ever to play in professional sports in the United States. Then to top it all, he appeared in a commercial for Sierra Mist soda alongside Pele, handing Adu the metaphorical baton to become the next global superstar.

Unfortunately, child prodigy Adu has never got close to hitting the heights his initial promise suggested. He has earned 17 caps for the US men's national team, but Adu has taken on a nomadic existence at club level.

The attacking midfielder started brightly in MLS and played regularly for three seasons with DC United before taking a move to Europe with Portuguese giants Benfica.

He was unable to cement a place in the first team, however, and Adu took in loan spells in France, Greece and Turkey, playing just 14 times overall for Benfica before returning to MLS in 2011 with Philadelphia Union.

Freddy Adu Philadelphia Union Aug11

Two seasons in Philly followed but Adu would soon have to travel farther afield for his gametime, sometimes dropping out of the top divisions to do so. He played for Bahia in Brazil, Jagodina in Serbia, KuPS in Finland and returned to the US with Tampa Bay Rowdies in the space of two years.

A spell with the Las Vegas Lights followed in 2018.

Still only 32, Adu was most recently at Swedish third tier side Osterlen FF where he was released after only a month without playing a game.

Robbie Keane

Robbei Keane La Galaxy Aug15

With 11 clubs under his belt in a superb career, popular striker Robbie Keane took to the pitch in four different countries, with his trademark goal celebration of a cartwheel and forward roll coming out on a regular basis.

The former Republic of Ireland international scored 68 times in 146 caps for his country, but it was his exploits at club level that made him popular in a variety of locations around the soccer world.

Keane pulled on the jersey of some of the biggest clubs in England, taking in spells at Leeds United, a short stay at Liverpool and six years at Tottenham, alongside a season in Italy with Inter Milan, but the Irishman found his best form in front of goal in his time at LA Galaxy.

In his five years in California, Keane scored 104 times in 158 appearances. He was named the 2014 MLS MVP, made the MLS Best XI four times and was a three-time MLS Cup winner with Galaxy.

Keane left LA in 2016 and finished his career with a new challenge in India, playing for ATK in the Indian Super League, before retiring as a player in 2018 and subsequently embarking on a coaching career.

Lutz Pfannenstiel

Lutz Pfannenstiel Cuba gk coach Aug08

Goalkeeper Lutz Pfannenstiel may be one of the most well-travelled players of them all, as he holds the distinction of being the first player to have played in each of the six FIFA confederations around the world.

The German played for 24 different clubs in 15 countries, in a lengthy playing career that saw him travel from England to New Zealand, America to Singapore, South Africa to Norway and plenty more on his journey around the world.

Since retiring, he's kept up his travels in his subsequent roles, including becoming goalkeeping coach for the Cuba national team, assistant coach of the Namibia national team and spending seven years in the scouting team at Bundesliga club Hoffenheim.

Pfannenstiel's latest project is in the States, however, as he's been appointed to the role of sporting director of the newly-formed St Louis City SC - an expansion franchise which is set to start playing in MLS for the 2023 season. He certainly looks a worldly-wise pick, that's for sure.

Samuel Eto'o

Samuel Eto'o Chelsea Oct 2011

Like Ibrahimovic, Samuel Eto'o is widely regarded as one of the best strikers of the modern generation, with the Cameroonian legend retiring from the game in 2019 after a spell at his 13th professional club.

Eto'o's talents were spotted by Spanish giants Real Madrid when the striker was a teenager and he was subsequently snapped up to join the youth ranks at the Bernabeu. After breaking through to make a handful of senior appearances, Eto'o left Real to play for La Liga rivals Mallorca.

After four seasons that saw the forward develop his unquestionable talent and gain valuable senior experience, Barcelona had seen enough to sign the Cameroon international in 2004. Eto'o would go on to become a world-class striker at the Nou Camp, scoring 130 times in 199 appearances and winning the Champions League twice, alongside three La Liga titles.

Eto'o moved to Inter Milan in 2009 and kept up his winning form, helping the Black and Blues to a Champions League, Serie A and FIFA Club World Cup treble in his first season. A couple more seasons in Italy followed before he moved to Russian outfit Anzhi Makhachkala - becoming the newly monied club's marquee signing.

After spending time in Russia, the Premier League came calling as Eto'o took in spells at Chelsea and Everton, before a brief hop back to Serie A with Sampdoria and then heading to Turkey.

The goals kept coming in the striker's spells with Antalyaspor and Konyaspor and he would call time on an illustrious career with a final stint in Qatar, with over 400 goals scored in almost 900 career appearances.

Nicolas Anelka

Nicolas Anelka Chelsea Oct 2011

A former France international with 69 caps to his name, Nicolas Anelka was one of the most famous strikers of his generation.

Similar to Ibrahimovic, Anelka spent time in seven different countries and 12 different clubs during his career - moving between some of the biggest clubs in Europe at his peak.

After emerging through the youth ranks at Paris Saint-Germain, Anelka shot to prominence as a teenager when he made the move to Arsene Wenger's Arsenal in 1997.

An impressive breakthrough season at Highbury saw Anelka score nine times to help Arsenal to the Premier League title. He capped it off with a goal in the FA Cup final at Wembley, as the Gunners beat Newcastle United 2-0.

Anelka's star rose even further with 22 goals in a blockbuster 1998/99 campaign for the youngster - including a brace against England for France at Wembley - and with that, Real Madrid came calling to make Anelka their club-record £22.3million signing in the summer of 1999.

A solitary season at the Bernabeu saw Anelka's playing time limited and a 45-day suspension for missing three days' training, but he came up trumps with two goals in a 3-2 aggregate win over Bayern Munich in the two-legged semi-final of the Champions League.

Nicolas Anelka Real Madrid Jan 2000

A move back to PSG followed before returning to the Premier League with Liverpool and Manchester City. A stint in Turkey came in 2005 with a season at Fenerbahce, before a return to England for a third time with Bolton Wanderers. There then followed a productive four-year tenure at Chelsea in which he won another Premier League title, two more FA Cups and the Premier League's 2008/09 Golden Boot award.

Anelka went on his travels again, with stints in China and India either side of a short loan spell at Juventus, before retiring in 2015.

With plenty of major honours to his name, Anelka's playing journey showed that success can be found anywhere.

John Burridge

John Burridge Crystal Palace vs Nottingham Forest May 1980

The life of a goalkeeper is a binary existence - you're either first choice and playing every week, or hardly getting a look in. John Burridge had plenty of experience on both sides of the coin.

Even though Burridge played more than 750 times in a lengthy and varied career spanning 28 seasons, he only played competitive matches for two of his last 11 clubs.

The goalkeeper was on the move 33 times, with contracts taking him well into his 40s as he helped pass on his considerable experience from his time between the posts.

In one of his nomadic spells towards the end of his career, Burridge earned the distinction of becoming the Premier League's oldest ever player as he appeared for Manchester City as a half-time substitute against Newcastle United in April 1995, aged 43 years and 163 days.

'Budgie' took in spells in both England and Scotland, journeying from the top flight to the depths of the non-league game with many more stops in between. His longest stint at a club was four years as first-choice goalkeeper at Blackpool, during which time he helped the Seasiders win the Anglo-Italian Cup in 1971.

Such was his impact at Bloomfield Road, Burridge earned himself a place in the Blackpool FC Hall of Fame when it opened in 2006.

Since retiring, the former Aston Villa, Crystal Palace, Queens Park Rangers, Newcastle United, Wolves and Southampton (and many more besides) man has spent time in TV punditry, commentary and coaching.

Now a goalkeeping consultant, Burridge took his already-eclectic soccer journey farther afield to join the backroom team at Kerala Blasters in the Indian Super League in 2019.

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