Busquets, Koke and Nacho, starters on the first day of the new championship, are three of the players who lead the list of players who have only played for one team
Summer is the time for transfers, for the market in its purest form. A multitude of movements are made in the world of football during this period of the year. Players who go and others who come in each team for the new season. Although there are also those who remain immovable. They are known as ‘one club men’. Footballers such as Sergio Busquets (Barcelona) or Koke (Atlético de Madrid), benchmarks in their teams, as well as Nacho (Real Madrid), already a veteran in the white team, have started their umpteenth year in the ranks of the three main teams Spaniards starting from the starting eleven on the first day of the championship.
Gone are the times of eternal loyalty to a club, those in which starting and finishing the race in the same place was the order of the day. In a football that has more and more business and has lost part of its essence of yesteryear, changing colors is now the most common. Despite this, there is still a redoubt of footballers who do not know what it is to put on another shirt other than that of the team to which they have devoted their careers. Some infrequent cases in which loyalty to a shield is above salary or the desire to live new professional experiences.
In the case of a philosophy that has fewer and fewer members, one cannot talk about it, much less in Spain, without mentioning Athletic. One of the longest-running entities in national football has awarded the One Club Man award annually since it emerged in 2015 as a prize to those footballers who have played their entire career in the same team. Figures such as Paolo Maldini (Milan), Carles Puyol (Barcelona) or Ryan Giggs (Manchester United) are some of those who shine in his track record.
Although it is a species in danger of extinction, there are still in Spanish football, and specifically in its highest category, several cases of absolute identification with certain colors. Although over the years there are fewer left, LaLiga Santander continues to have another campaign with players who do not know what it is like to wear a different shirt than the one they are wearing today. A list in which Mario Gaspar is no longer, who has lost the status of ‘one club man’ during this summer by leaving for Watford after him all his life linked to Villarreal. The clear sign that it is not easy to belong to this particular group made up of a privileged few.
There are not a few footballers who have spent a large part of their career, or almost all of it, in the same club. Names such as Iker Casillas, Raúl González, Guti, Xavi Hernández, Andrés Iniesta or Leo Messi are some of the most notable cases. Players who seemed difficult to see wearing colors other than those of Real Madrid or Barcelona, but who ended up trying what it is to live outside the two giants of Spanish football.
Thus, the fact of carrying out the entire sporting career wearing the same shirt is reduced to a select group. Soccer players like Koke (Atlético de Madrid), Sergio Busquets (Barcelona), Sergi Roberto (Barcelona), Nacho Fernández (Real Madrid), José Luis Gayà (Valencia), Hugo Mallo (Celta) or Roberto Torres (Osasuna) are some of the current Primera players who still hold this honor. Although it would be a sin to forget Athletic, which has several ‘one club men’ such as Muniain, Iñaki Williams, Lekue or Yeray.
It is also worth mentioning the case of Real Sociedad, where Xabi Prieto was the main reference in the recent history of the txuri-urdin team when it came to talking about the ‘one club men’. In the squad that Imanol Alguacil now has at his disposal, the figure of the currently injured Mikel Oyarzabal stands out.
With years of career still ahead, time will be in charge of deciding if anyone ends up leaving this select group. Also who will join it. Players like Unai Simón (Athletic) or Zubimendi (Real Sociedad), with the first steps well taken, could pick up the baton that others started long ago. The only certainty at this point is that to be a ‘one club man’ not just anyone. As an example of how complicated such an undertaking is, a button: in Real Madrid’s 120-year history there are only four footballers who only wore the Chamartín team’s jacket: Zárraga, Camacho, Sanchís Jr. and Chendo. Nacho could be next.