Football players aren't necessarily smart. Actually, they're usually on the other end of the spectrum.
And lucky for us, because it means plenty of great quotes about anything from a game to the sport in general to their personal lives to their thoughts on the world around them.
By great, we don't always mean smart or witty or even sensical. We just mean entertaining, because after all, these players are there to entertain us, not teach us about the mystery of life.
With that in mind, here are 10 footballers who could always be counted on for a great quote. Some are current, and some come from the game's past. But all of them knew how to command a microphone.
By the way, these are not in any order.
Joey Barton has made news lately for the wrong reasons. While he's a good player on the field, he can't seem to keep his mouth shut when he's off of it.
And when he opens that mouth, what comes out is an unforgettable combination of arrogance, petulance and absolute lunacy.
The main source of the fun is Barton's Twitter account, where he waxes poetic on all things related to football and life. Before joining QPR last month from Newcastle, Barton criticized Newcastle's board and then quoted George Orwell after the club told him he could go to another team.
Here's the quote:
"In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act. George Orwell."
That picture of Robinho is perfect.
Why? Because Robinho, for all his silliness, seems to have a good heart. He just isn't the smartest guy out there.
Before the World Cup last year, this is what he had to say about sex, family and football:
"My dream is to win the World Cup and then to enjoy having sex. After all of the effort, I think I will have deserved it. I feel good, enjoying myself and I'm going to dedicate all my goals to my family."
In that same article you'll find an anecdote about how Robinho once requested 40 condoms during a party. At the time he had a girlfriend but here's guessing they weren't all for her.
Roy Keane, on the other hand, doesn't have such a sunny disposition.
Keane, who earned his fame by serving as Sir Alex Ferguson's midfield bulldog from 1993-2005 at Manchester United, also became well known for his angry rants about opponents, referees, the media, teammates and managers. No one was spared from Roy's wrath, as this Daily Mail feature from a few years back demonstrates.
Some of the gems:
On being a pundit: "I was asked by ITV to do the Celtic versus Manchester United game but I've done it once for Sky and never again. I'd rather go to the dentist."
On Rio Ferdinand and other Manchester United teammates: "It seems to be in this club that you have to play badly to be rewarded. Maybe that's what I should do when I come back. Play badly."
The famous "prawn sandwiches" quote about United's fans:
"At the end of the day they need to get behind the team. Away from home our fans are fantastic, I'd call them hardcore fans. But at home they have a few drinks and probably the prawn sandwiches, and they don't realise what's going on out on the pitch."
Perhaps Keane's most famous incident was with then-Ireland manager Mick McCarthy in 2002. Upset at his country's training methods, Keane angrily walked out on his teammates before the World Cup. But he got in some choice words for McCarthy.
For the whole saga, click here.
Eric Cantona served as the creative foil to Roy Keane's role as enforcer in Manchester United's midfield from 1993-97 (Cantona started at Man U in 92 and Keane arrived a year later). True, Cantona did jumpkick a fan, but most of the time he played with flair and panache.
The two men's quotes follow a similar pattern. Where Keane bruised and battered with his remarks, Cantona preferred more, er, cerebral remarks.
Here's a sampling:
"I am not a man, I am Cantona."
"Sac à Merde." (French for "sack of s***, directed at France manager Henri Michel for dropping Cantona)
"When the seagulls follow the trawler, it's because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea. Thank you very much."
You figure it out.
Let's continue with the Manchester United theme, shall we?
David Beckham is perhaps the world's most famous footballer these days, despite playing in America the past few years. But while he's generally known as a pretty good player, what he's really famous for is his celebrity. And part of that celebrity is his consistently entertaining quotes.
Here's one from Beckham's book about teammate Landon Donovan:
"Maybe he's not a leader, maybe he's not a captain. Fair enough. But at a minimum you should bust your ass every day. That hasn't happened. And I don't think that's too much for us to expect."
And here are a bunch more on the more silly side:
"I definitely want Brooklyn to be christened, but I don't know into what religion yet."
"My parents have been there for me, ever since I was about 7."
Few players—heck, few people—can toss around insults the way Jens Lehmann does every day.
Opponents, fans, teammates, managers: no one is immune. Check out this feature from Who Ate All The Pies?
Here are some choice excerpts.
On the competition between himself and fellow Arsenal goalkeeper Manuel Almunia:
“My coach confirmed to me my impression that he uses a different measuring stick to evaluate Almunia. For me, this was a huge disappointment. That has forced me to think about my situation. I have to ask myself what is still realistic and possible for me at Arsenal? When Wenger says something like that, it’s going to be difficult for me to get back in here. It’s very frustrating. When I see the performances on the field, I get angry and I have to clench my fist in my pocket.”
On fellow goalie Petr Cech of Chelsea: “Well, he’s fantastic… for his age.”
On Oliver Kahn, who consistently beat out Lehmann for Germany's No. 1 jersey: “He takes himself far too seriously and thinks he is very important. I don’t like it when someone glorifies themself.”
No wonder he was called Mad Jens.
Most of Kevin Keegan's greatest quotes come from his managerial career. But he was also a pretty dang good player once upon a time, so he counts in this list.
So, as for that managerial career…
This has to be the most famous moment (and look at Andy Gray in that clip!). All you have to say is, "I will love it if we beat them," and Newcastle fans roll their eyes.
But Keegan is also known for his witticisms on football and life. Here are a few good examples:
"They're the second best team in the world and there's no higher praise than that."
"My father was a miner and he worked down a mine."
"England have the best fans in the world and Scotland's fans are second to none."
"The 33 or 34 year olds will be 36 or 37 by the time the next World Cup comes around, if they're not careful."
"Chile have three options - they could win or they could lose."
"I don't think there's anyone bigger or smaller than Maradona."
We know how you feel, ma'am.
Speaking of no one bigger or smaller than Diego Maradona…
Well, let's just let him do the talking. It's always been best that way.
"My legitimate kids are Dalma and Giannina. The rest are a product of my money and mistakes."
"The players have all got square feet. They are like Robocops, they have more need of lubricant than massage. I don't believe the tournament could be worse." (on the 1998 World Cup)
"I have 23 wildcats prepared to leave their skins on the pitch." (on his team's work ethic)
"To those who did not believe: now suck my d**k - I'm sorry ladies for my words - and keep on sucking it. I am either white or black. I will never be grey in my life. You treated me as you did. Now keep on sucking d**ks. I am grateful to my players and to the Argentinian people. I thank no one but them. The rest, keep on sucking d**ks."
Such is the quirky, arcane genius of Maradona that he can inspire others to greatness. Check out this translation of his "other" goal against England in 1986.
Johan Cruyff, right, is one of world football's most quotable and famous players.
Johan Cruyff is one of football's greats. He's among the best of all time in skill, arrogance and quotability. The first one you'll have to find out for yourself, but the other two can be summed up here briefly through quotes.
Try a few of these from Cruyff's Wikipedia page (translated from Dutch).
"You won’t get it until you understand it."
"Before I make a mistake, I don't make that mistake."
"Italians can't defeat you but you can lose to them."
"You always have to make sure you score one more goal than your opponent."
"It's better to lose with your own vision than with somebody else's."
"If I start running a little earlier, I'll seem faster."
"If I wanted you to understand, I would explain it better."
No need, Johan. We've understand all too well.
Football lost one of its all-time greats when George Best died in 2005. And it also lost one of the most quotable players of all time.
If you haven't had the pleasure of seeing George Best play, do yourself a favor and watch this. And this. And even this. Unlike today's footballers, Best wouldn't crumple under the slightest challenge—and that often led to goals. And unlike most modern footballers, Best was always witty with a quote.
Here are some good examples:
"If I'd been born ugly, you'd never have heard of Pele."
"They say I slept with seven Miss Worlds. I didn't. It was only four. I didn't turn up for the other three."
"Footballers today are millionaires by the time they're 22 or 23. More and more of them are going out and looking for something to give them a buzz outside football, be it gambling, drugs or booze. I got my buzz from playing. Players now have a groin injury for months and months and I often think they don't really give a toss whether they're playing or not because they're getting paid anyway."