The rapid commercialisation of the game, especially in the last two decades or so, has ensured that football is no longer the same as it once was. Long gone are the days when one-club players used to be the norm rather than the exception.
Today, Igor Akinfeev (CSKA Moscow), Lionel Messi (Barcelona), Sergio Busquets (Barcelona) and Thomas Muller (Bayern Munich) are members of a dying breed who have shown unwavering loyalty to their clubs even when they knew that moving out could have meant better prospects for them.
Ten players who have played for the most clubs
The concept of 'journeyman footballer' is actually not a new one, but the term has especially gained prominence in recent times when player salaries and transfer fees have gone through the roof, thanks to rich owners with very deep pockets.
Players seldom think twice about jumping ship when a 'better' offer comes along. But it is not always players who are to be blamed. The lure of money, read 'gargantuan transfer fee' can make the heads of even the biggest football clubs turn.
On that note, let us have a look at the ten players, retired or active, who have played for the most clubs than anybody else.
#10 Craig Bellamy (9 clubs)
Craig Bellamy started his professional career with Norwich City in the Championship (the second tier of English football) where he spent four years before making his Premier League debut for Coventry City in 2000-01.
The Welsh striker then followed up with another four-year stint, this time at Newcastle United, where he scored 43 times in 128 appearances, which is both the longest he has stayed at and most he has scored at any single club.
Subsequent spells in the English top tier saw the centre-forward, who also had a stint with Celtic, turn out for five more teams - Blackburn Rovers, Liverpool, West Ham United, Manchester City and Coventry City. The first of two Premier League goals for Coventry City made Bellamy the first player to score for seven different teams in the competition.
If not for his persistent injuries and proclivity to change clubs regularly, Bellamy could have been a more 'devastating' player as described by Gianfranco Zola who managed the Welshman at West Ham United:
"Injuries have been the downside of his career, otherwise he would have playing for top teams with more consistency. The fragility he has got in the muscles has stopped him from being a higher player. But he is a devastating player."
#9 Juninho Paulista (9 clubs)
Osvaldo Giraldo Junior, better known as Juninho Paulista or simply as Juninho, turned out for nine different clubs in five different countries, making his name at the most nondescript of places.
The 2002 FIFA World Cup winner with Brazil played the most at English club Middlesbrough, netting 34 times in 152 games at the Teeside, and earning the moniker of Little Fella because of his diminutive stature.
Juninho, renowned for his ball control and acceleration, was pursued by many top clubs in Europe but surprised many, even the Boro faithful, when he chose to join newly-promoted Middlesbrough in 1995. The player almost single-handedly popularised the English Premier League in Brazil as one of the best football leagues in Europe.
“People in Brazil didn’t really know the Premier League but, when I arrived, I could feel the size of the championship. I told all the guys back here it was the best league in Europe. Over time this started to consolidate and the Premier League started to open the market. Interest here began to increase with television partnerships. I think that I opened the door,” Juninho said in a later interview.
The attacking midfielder, who played for five different clubs in Brazil, also turned out for Atletico Madrid, Celtic and Australian A-league club Sydney FC. In his last professional outing, Juninho scored as the player/president of Ituano to save the Brazilian club from relegation on the last day of the 2009-10 season.
#8 Peter Crouch (10 clubs)
Peter Crouch, unlike his name, stood tall among the big boys of English football, turning out for as many as ten different clubs before retiring last season at the age of 38.
The lanky striker signed his first professional contract with Tottenham Hotspur but did not play a single game for Spurs. Following two loan spells, Crouch joined Queens Park Rangers in the Championship.
After a stint with Portsmouth, the Englishman made his Premier League debut for Aston Villa in 2001, staying at the club for three seasons before moving to Liverpool after another stint in the Championship with Norwich City.
Crouch then turned out for Spurs before enjoying his longest stint at any club with Stoke City where he played for seven consecutive seasons, the last of them in the Championship, and scored 62 goals in 262 games. He then played six games for Burnley in the 2019-20 Premier League before calling time on his professional career.
The much-travelled striker holds the Premier League record for most headed goals (53) in the competition.
#7 Robbie Keane (11 clubs)
Robbie Keane, one of nine players to have scored for six different clubs in the Premier League, is the 15th highest top-scorer in the competition.
The former Republic of Ireland captain made his professional debut for Wolverhampton Wanderers in 1997-98 in the English First Division before making his Premier League debut with Coventry City two seasons later.
Following a lone spell in Serie A with Inter Milan, Keane returned to the English top-flight in 2001 and turned out for Leeds United, Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool.
After loan stints with Celtic, West Ham United and Aston Villa, Keane played for LA Galaxy in the Major League Soccer in US before turning out for ISL side ATK in 2017-18.
The Irish player enjoyed his most prolific spell with Spurs for whom he scored 122 goals in 306 appearances in various competitions in nine different seasons.