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10 players with the longest contracts in football history

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Cesc Fabregas
Cesc Fabregas. Photo by
  • Lionel Messi tops this list with his contract at Barcelona
  • He joined Camp Nou in 2004 and only left in 2021
  • The Argentine could have stayed longer were it not for the club’s dire financial situation

When Lionel Messi announced his departure from Barcelona, it brought to an end one of the longest ever football contract.

Since the star of his football career in 2004, the Argentine spent close to two decades at Camp Nou. This is a huge achievement, given this is the club where he established his dominance in the sport unapologetically.

However, he is just one of several footballers who have also had long contracts with their teams. Here they are.


Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi. Photo/ Sky Sports.

Then a young star, Messi signed a nine-year contract in 2005, just as he made his way into the first squad, which ran through 2014.

However, he bagged a ton of new contracts throughout his stay in Nou Camp. His 668 goals in 774 appearances is only one of several figures that show they were all worthwhile.


Inaki Williams

Inaki Williams. Photo by Goal

Another of the longest ever football contract that English football fans might not be too familiar with is Inaki Williams. Williams, a forward, committed to Athletic Bilbao for nine years, with a £117 million release clause.

The 26-year-old has made 291 appearances for the Basque team. He scored 64 goals, but it is unclear whether he will honour the club’s sustained faith in him.



Andres Iniesta. Photo/ Barca Universal

Andres Iniesta received a lifetime contract from Barcelona in 2017. He has been a member of the team since joining as a member of the junior team in 1996.

The master of Barcelona’s midfield will eventually leave the club in 2018, but he will always be remembered as one of the club’s greatest players.

He contributed 137 assists and 57 goals in 674 games for the team. Iniesta is the player with the second-highest number of games played in Barcelona’s history, after only Xavi and Lionel Messi.


Iker Casillas, another legendary player for Real Madrid, received a lifetime deal the same year as Raul. He joins the bandwagon of football players with the longest ever football contract.

The Spanish goalkeeper joined the team when he was just nine years old and played an astounding 725 games for the European giants after graduating from their academy.

After winning three Champions Leagues and five LaLiga championships, he left the club in 2015, falling only 16 appearances short of Raul’s club record.


In 2008, after 16 years with the team, Real Madrid striker Raul received a lifetime contract. The Spaniard had previously been Cristiano Ronaldo’s closest rival as Los Blancos’ all-time leading scorer.

He departed the Bernabeu in 2010 to sign with Schalke, leaving Madrid with the club record for most appearances with 741 and 323 goals scored in that time.


Another Kepa Arrizabalaga signed a seven-year contract and paid a world record fee of £71.6 million to join Chelsea in 2018. It was another long-term agreement that ended up as a tremendous failure.

He was supplanted as the club’s starting quarterback in 2021 when Frank Lampard signed Edouard Mendy, but he has never really justified that price tag or the length of his deal.




Pardew undoubtedly enjoyed the longest ever football contract in English football history. His eight-year deal with Newcastle in 2012 sealed it all.

The agreement was reached after the Magpies’ manager led his team to fifth place in the 2011–12 Premier League season. He was named manager of the year in the process.

Pardew departed Newcastle for Crystal Palace two years later after reaching a compensation arrangement with the club.

Six years after leaving St James’ Park, his contract at Newcastle technically just ended last summer.


Cesc Fabregas signed a nine-year contract as a teenager that would keep him with Arsenal until 2014. But the midfielder went for Barcelona in 2011; therefore, he did not complete the duration of the deal.

However, his 57 goals and 92 assists over the course of 304 appearances with the Gunners would indicate that the money was well spent.


Saul Niguez, a midfielder for Atletico Madrid, is rapidly reaching ten years with the team. This deserves a spot in the longest ever football contract.

The Spaniard joined in 2012 and received a nine-year contract in 2017. He has played consistently for Diego Simeone’s team since then.

Saul, who is 26 years old, has participated in approximately 350 games for the team. He played at least 45 times for Atletico in each of the previous five seasons.


A left-winger, the Brazilian-born Denilson signed a long-term deal with Real Betis in 1998 for a then-record fee of £21.5 million. The ten-year contract, which is a deal that is nearly unheard of, came along with a hefty price tag.

He stayed with the team until 2005. It’s reasonable to say the South American’s time there did not go as planned, given that he left after 175 games with just 13 goals and five assists.

Denilson was playing for Al Nassr in Saudi Arabia eight years after being acquired for a transfer record sum.

Teresa is a journalist with years of experience in creating web content. She is a wanderlust at heart, but an outgoing sports writer with focus on tennis, athletics, football, motorsports and NBA.

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