By 90Min
December 03, 2018

It is often said that in the money-rich world of modern football, the distance between players and fans has never been greater. How can supporters relate to the vast wealth and privilege of those who take to the field every week?

That is why the romantic notion of a hometown hero continues to hold sway to this day. A player who started out like the supporters themselves and understands the joy and heartbreak of being a fan is a welcome throwback to a bygone era.

Here are six players who stayed true to their roots as they became world class players.


Steven Gerrard

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Born in Whiston, Gerrard was raised as a Liverpool fan and joined the club's youth academy at the age of nine. After making his first team debut in 1998 his rise was meteoric, making his England debut in 2000 and winning three major trophies with Liverpool in 2001.

It was in the mid-noughties that he really cemented himself as a Liverpool legend, first by inspiring the iconic comeback against AC Milan in the 2005 Champions League final, and then by scoring twice to win the FA Cup final against West Ham the following year.

Although he could never win that elusive Premier League title, Gerrard's inspirational presence and his passion for his hometown team means that he goes down in history as one of the greatest players ever to have played for Liverpool.


Carles Puyol

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Carles Puyol was born in Catalonia and spent his entire career there with Barcelona, but it could all have been so different. Barca accepted an offer from Malaga in 1998 but Puyol refused to go after seeing his La Masia teammate Xavi make his first team debut.

Puyol's persistence paid off as he went on to establish himself as one of the greatest defenders of his generation, making 593 appearances for Barcelona over the course of 15 years. He was appointed captain in 2004 and led by example during one of the most successful periods in club history.

By the time he retired, his trophy cabinet contained six La Liga titles, three Champions Leagues and 11 other major honours at club level. His decision to stay at Camp Nou had been very much justified.


Francesco Totti

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Francesco Totti grew up idolising Roma players, but like Puyol, he could easily have ended up on a different path. His youth team reached an agreement for him to join Lazio's academy but Roma youth coach Gildo Giannini convinced his parents that I Giallorossi was the right club for him.

Totti would establish himself as the greatest player in Roma's history, with more goals and more appearances than any other player. Despite a modest trophy haul, he rejected numerous approaches from more successful clubs, assuring his legendary status.

He finally called time on his illustrious career in 2017 with his 786th appearance for Roma. Most footballers would frame the shirt from their final match, but Totti's was fired into space instead - a fitting tribute for a player who was often out of this world.


Alan Shearer

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Though he was raised on Tyneside as a Newcastle fan, Alan Shearer only became a hometown hero via a circuitous route. He started his professional career at the opposite end of the country for Southampton, before joining Blackburn in 1992 and winning the Premier League title with Rovers three years later.

In 1996, Shearer faced the choice between joining Newcastle or their title rivals Manchester United. He opted for the former, and over the next decade he became the symbol of his boyhood club, scoring 206 goals to surpass Jackie Milburn's record as the club's all-time record goalscorer.

Shearer would have amassed a vast collection of trophies if he had chosen the other United, but he has always said that he does not regret it. When you see how he is revered by one of England's most passionate sets of supporters, you can understand why.


Bastian Schweinsteiger

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Born in the Bavarian town of Kolbermoor, it was only natural that Bastian Schweinsteiger should gravitate towards Bayern Munich, less than an hour to the north. He joined the club's youth team before his 14th birthday and made his debut at the age of 18.

Within a year he was a first team regular and a Bundesliga champion, setting the tone for an illustrious career in which added seven more league titles to his collection, and playing in the first Bayern team ever to win the treble of Bundesliga, German Cup and Champions League in 2012/13.

On 23 May 2015, Schweinsteiger scored against Mainz in what would prove to be his final Bayern game. After a spell at Manchester United, he joined Chicago Fire and still isn't ready to hang up his boots at the age of 34.


Paul Scholes
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Born in Salford, just a mile west of Manchester town centre, Paul Scholes actually supported Oldham Athletic as a boy - but he was clearly destined for greater things than that, and joined Manchester United's academy in the early 1990s gold rush of talent which would become known as the 'Class of 92'.

Scholes was often known for his industrious, no-nonsense style, but his technical abilities were also among the very best, as he proved when he scored his most memorable United goal in the 2008 Champions League semi final against Barcelona.

After winning ten Premier League titles and two Champions Leagues, Scholes retired in 2011 - but returned six months later and was still a cut above almost everyone around him. He won one more title before finally calling it a day in 2013, his status cemented as one of the greatest midfielders ever to grace the Premier League.


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