Before the weekend’s Premier League action, Swansea star Angel Rangel made a few headlines with his charitable food-giving acts in snowy South Wales on Friday, driving around the city with his wife handing out food to homeless people and generally doing the football profession a big favor with his act of generosity.
The fact that footballers are more egoistic and selfish than your average fan has made plenty of entertaining and enraging (depending on your allegiance) reading for all of us.
So while we celebrate Rangel’s deeds of kindness, here are the 10 most self-centered players in world football, just to balance out the narrative.
Why always him?
The general consensus is that Mario Balotelli is one of the biggest egos in football, having made his teammates and coaches tear their hair out first at Internazionale and now at Manchester City.
A classic example of Balotelli’s self-centeredness was in the aftermath of his winning of the Golden Boy award in 2010, given to the best under-21 player that year. He had this to say about winning and the also-prodigiously talented Jack Wilshere of Arsenal:
“Who else would have won it other than me? There is only one [of the former winners] who is a bit stronger than me—Messi. All of the others are way behind me. What’s he called? Wil…? No, I have not heard of him yet, but next time I play Arsenal I will have to pay attention. Maybe I could show him the Golden Boy and remind him that I won it.” (via the Telegraph)
To dominate on and off the field.
That is the definition of the verb “to Zlatan,” which was recently added to the Swedish dictionary.
The origin? That considerably self-centered footballer, Zlatan Ibrahimovic of Paris Saint-Germain.
Ibrahimovic has set Ligue 1 on fire since arriving in France, and his quips off the field are arguably more entertaining and breathtaking than his tricks and goals on the field.
Any sensible player would go about finding a decent place of accommodation upon arriving at a new city, but only Zlatan would consider buying a hotel outright if no apartment meets his outlandish requirements (via ITV).
His autobiography, I am Zlatan, contains a whole selection of gems. Here are some of them.
If Ibrahimovic is a footballer who says what he wants, then Carlos Tevez is one who does what he wants.
We won’t ever forget his memorable six-month exile that started with a public refusal to come on as a substitute in a Champions League game against Bayern Munich in September 2011 and ended with a triumphant return to the first team against Chelsea in March 2012.
We won’t ever forget his memorable quotes that claimed Roberto Mancini to have treated him like a “dog” and then his public apology to Manchester City about his actions.
Of course we, won’t ever forget all that, because only a football player paid £250,000 a week can afford to take six months out of his schedule, remain on the club’s salary books and return to Argentina to work on his golf game.
All the more paradoxical given that the Carlos Tevez on the pitch has consistently been lauded as a winner, a great teammate and someone who gives his all for the team.
Our next candidate on the list is Joey Barton, who, if we’re to judge solely on media coverage, plays for Twitter full-time and Olympique Marseille part-time.
A few days ago, Barton made headlines again, this time getting involved in a public spat with former Liverpool midfielder Dietmar Hamann on Twitter as a source of personal attacks on the German international.
It’s not only Barton’s Twitter quips and fights that earn him his reputation as a world-class footballer in the self-centeredness category, though. His philosophical musings (feel free to put quotes around that if you subscribe to anti-Bartonism) have generated plenty of interest and created a cult following.
Here is a brilliantly entertaining (or downright depressing) collection of Joey Barton’s best Twitter rants.
And who could forget his post-World Cup 2006 rant on the subject of footballer autobiographies?
“England did nothing in that World Cup, so why were they bringing books out? ‘We got beat in the quarterfinals. I played like sh*t. Here’s my book.’ Who wants to read that?”
All this and more in this compilation of Barton’s Top 30 mad moments (via the Daily Mirror).
But Joey Barton can’t even touch Nicklas Bendtner in terms of pure footballing ability.
The Arsenal striker, currently on loan at Serie A leaders Juventus, is never at fault when he misses a chance.
That’s what he genuinely believes anyway, according to sports psychologist Jacques Crevoisier, who worked with Bendtner in an analysis of the striker’s self-belief and mental capacity (via the Daily Mirror).
This is the same Bendtner, of course, who was branded “too fat” by the Juventus hierarchy just a few months ago, but whose non-appearances for Juventus have been met with derision by Bendtner’s agent, who has labeled him “too strong a player to stay on the bench.”
Anyone whose confidence is so high that it's truly infected those around him is surely deserving of a place in the pantheon of self-centered footballing greats.
One player who does deserve a place in the current generation’s footballing hall of fame is Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo, who has lit up Portugal, England and Spain with his dazzling skills on the ball and his equally impressive tendency for a memorable soundbite.
Here’s one of his all-time best quotes:
“People whistle me because I am good-looking, rich and a great footballer. They are jealous of me.” (Goal.com)
Which is probably somewhat true, given the sheer amount of ire that he receives on Internet message boards.
There was also the whole episode earlier this season where Ronaldo made the headlines after refusing to celebrate his goals for Real Madrid because he was apparently sad at the Madrid club.
The Goal.com link above showcases 10 of his best lines.
Much like Zlatan Ibrahimovic (yes, him again), Antonio Cassano has had a word coined just for him: cassanata, by Fabio Capello, for his prima donna-like ways.
Much like Ibrahimovic, Cassano has put in controversial but starring performances in Serie A, though just a bit more explosive and infuriating than the giant Swede.
This was what Cassano had to say about himself:
“I thought I was the new Maradona. I felt like I could win matches all on my own, and out on the pitch I only ever thought of myself.” (FIFA.com)
There isn’t much else that doesn’t automatically qualify you for an entry on this list.
Sadly for us, though, it seems that Cassano’s self-centered ways are nearing an end.
Would you imagine Ibrahimovic saying this? “I know now that there are ten other players on the pitch there to help me.”
It was fun while it lasted, Antonio.
His troubles at Chelsea since a high-profile move from Liverpool in 2011 have somewhat obscured a reality: that Fernando Torres used to be one of the world’s very best strikers during his time at Anfield.
Perhaps that was what gave him the self-belief to push on and prove himself at a top club. Maybe that was what inspired him to turn his back on a legion of loyal fans and move to a club where bigger wages were calling.
Torres’ first interview as a Chelsea player did plenty to rub the salt in Liverpool’s wounds, claiming that he had arrived at the top level and that he had taken a big step forward in his career by going to Stamford Bridge (via the Guardian).
Not long after, his confidence was shot with a barren spell in front of goal, and he’s not looked the same again.
On the opposite spectrum is Robin van Persie, who discarded all the loyalty behind his cause at Arsenal and joined Manchester United in the summer of 2012. He has gone on to lift Manchester United to top spot in the English Premier League with his goals.
Certainly one of the best signings of the 2012-13 season so far, but that doesn’t take into account all the torment he’s had to have gone through as a result of this transfer.
The controversy that the move generated even resulted in a spoof video put on by talkSPORT, claiming that Van Persie’s daughter is so unhappy at her father’s move to Arsenal’s rivals that she pukes whenever she sees him in a United shirt.
So why did he go to Old Trafford?
Because he “listened to the little boy inside him.” (via the Daily Mail)
Rounding off our list is Ashley Cole, who has recently agreed a bumper new contract at Chelsea to bring those rumors linking him with a move away to a grand close (via the Daily Mail).
The deal reportedly makes him the highest-paid defender in the world, but to be frank, it’s no surprise given his history as Cashley Cole, his nickname in almost all footballing parts after his controversial move from Arsenal to Chelsea because of salary demands.
We didn’t make this up: He admitted it himself in his frank account of the incident in his poorly selling autobiography.
Then Arsenal vice-chairman David Dein was offering an head-spinning £55,000 a week to extend Cole’s stay at Arsenal, but that was apparently far from his demands, as he trembled in shock and almost swerved his car off the road in anger.
If that isn’t footballing greed at its finest, what is?
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