Ahead of Euro 2024, we look at the oldest players in European Championship history, with Portugal defender Pepe potentially in line to break the record.


Oldest Players in European Championship History: Top 10

  1. Gábor Király (Hungary vs Belgium on 26 June 2016) – 40 years, 86 days
  2. Lothar Matthäus (Germany vs Portugal on 20 June 2000) – 39 years, 91 days
  3. Morten Olsen (Denmark vs Italy on 17 June 1988) – 38 years, 308 days
  4. Luka Modrić (Croatia vs Spain on 15 June 2024) – 38 years, 280 days
  5. Maarten Stekelenburg (Netherlands vs Czech Republic on 27 June 2021) – 38 years, 278 days
  6. Peter Shilton (England vs Netherlands on 15 June 1988) – 38 years, 271 days
  7. Ivica Vastic (Austria vs Poland on 12 June 2008) – 38 years, 257 days
  8. Jens Lehmann (Germany vs Spain on 29 June 2008) – 38 years, 232 days
  9. Gianluigi Buffon (Italy vs Germany on 2 July 2016) – 38 years, 156 days
  10. Pepe (Portugal vs Belgium on 27 June 2021) – 38 years, 121 days

Gábor Király – 40 Years, 86 days
Hungary vs Belgium on 26 June 2016

Gábor Király broke a record that stood for 16 years at Euro 2016 as he became the oldest player in Euros history to feature at the tournament. He actually first set the new benchmark during Hungary’s opening group game, a 2-0 win over Austria, but he went on to appear in all four of their matches in France.

The last of which was a last-16 encounter with Belgium; playing in that match saw him stretch his record as the oldest player in European Championship history to 40 years and 86 days.

Not that you’d have guessed his age from his performance. Hungary may have lost 4-0, but without the efforts of Király, the scoreline would’ve been far more embarrassing as he made 10 saves; only four goalkeepers have ever recorded more in a single Euros game.

Nevertheless, despite his longevity and the fact he trousered a major record for himself at Euro 2016, Király arguably remains most notable for his curious loyalty to jogging bottoms, which he wore instead of shorts for virtually his entire career.

Gabor Kiraly at Euro 2016

The final leg of that lengthy career came after Euro 2016 with a Hungary testimonial in November 2016, though he didn’t officially hang up his gloves/boots/tracksuit pants until 2019 at the age of 43 following a few more years at his first club, Haladás.

His reign will likely end this summer, however, with Pepe – already one of the oldest players in European Championship history – still a prominent member of the Portugal squad at the age of 41.

Lothar Matthäus – 39 years, 91 days
Germany vs Portugal on 20 June 2000

The record for the oldest player in European Championship history hadn’t changed hands since 1988 until Germany great Lothar Matthäus featured at Euro 2000, though his achievement was not celebrated with any particular warmth, with it rather seen as an indictment of the team’s slide toward mediocrity.

There were precious few reasons for German fans to look back on Euro 2000 with fond memories as they were dumped out in the group stage, finishing bottom of their section.

By that point, Matthäus had effectively become a sweeper, and while there remained glimpses of the ability that had graced the top of the game for the previous 20 years, German football had already started to recognise him – and that team in general, fans would argue – as a relic of a bygone era, with the German Football Association (DFB) beginning to implement the Extended Talent Promotion Programme – the reform of youth development that had its root in 1998 – soon after the Euro 2000 debacle.

Matthäus played in all three of Germany’s games at Euro 2000 but critics felt his inclusion was a sign of favouritism from coach Erich Ribbeck. There were even reportedly some within the squad who wanted Matthäus dropped during the tournament, with captain Oliver Bierhoff doing little to deny he was among them.

Lothar Matthaus at Euro 2000

Aged 39 years and 91 days for the last of Germany’s three Euro 2000 games, a 3-0 defeat to Portugal, Matthäus reached 150 caps but never played again after that tournament, which is still regarded as a major catalyst for the DFB’s subsequent reform of youth football.

Morten Olsen – 38 years, 308 days
Denmark vs Italy on 17 June 1988

Denmark’s captain Morten Olsen took the record from Dino Zoff (set in 1980) during Euro 88, with his last outing at that tournament coming in a 2-0 defeat to Italy that saw the Danes finish their campaign without a point.

There was a feeling after this game that a rather aging Danish old guard had come to the end of its journey; Olsen did retire from international football briefly after Euro 88, though he ended up collecting three more caps over the following year, taking his tally to 102.

Olsen was a Denmark stalwart. Captain since 1983, he led the team at two European Championship tournaments and a World Cup, and he later went on to coach the national side for 15 years from 2000 until 2015, making him the longest-serving manager in the team’s history.

As such, FIFA recognises Olsen as the first person to play and manage for 100 games for the same national side in men’s international football, with Didier Deschamps the only other man to achieve this.

Martin Olsen - Denmark

Luka Modrić – 38 years, 280 days
Croatia vs Spain on 15 June 2024

Croatia’s greatest ever player and fresh off winning his sixth UEFA Champions League with Real Madrid, Luka Modrić became the second-oldest outfield player to feature at a European Championship in Croatia’s opening game at Euro 2024 against Spain.

It wasn’t a game to remember for Modric, sadly, with Croatia losing 3-0 to La Roja.

Maarten Stekelenburg – 38 years, 278 days
Netherlands vs Czech Republic on 27 June 2021

He may have become the second-oldest goalkeeper to ever appear at a Euros tournament, but this was a day to forget for Maarten Stekelenburg, whose surprise inclusion at the age of 38 years and 278 days provided a succinct summary for the state of Dutch goalkeeping at the time.

The Oranje had cruised through their group, but after the sending off of Matthijs De Ligt, they came completely unstuck in this last-16 encounter against a refreshing, exciting Czech Republic side.

Stekelenburg was hardly a picture of authority in his goal, fumbling badly on multiple occasions, including one incident where he almost spilled the ball into his own net. He was then caught in no-man’s land for the Czechs’ opener.

That was his last game for the Netherlands though he continued playing at club level for Ajax until the end of the 2022-23 season.

Peter Shilton – 38 years, 271 days
England vs Netherlands on 15 June 1988

Had the fixture schedule been slightly different and England played before Denmark at Euro 88, Three Lions goalkeeper Peter Shilton might have briefly held the record for the oldest player in European Championship history.

As it happened, England’s opener against Republic of Ireland came the day after Olsen featured in Denmark’s first match, so the achievement was always going to be beyond the goalkeeper.

Nevertheless, his appearances against the Irish and the Netherlands at least made him the oldest goalkeeper to play in the Euros at the time, and that remained the case until Király came along.

Otherwise, it was a hugely underwhelming tournament for England. They lost all three group games, making it their worst ever performance at a European Championship.

Still, good news about Shilton’s record…


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