Leo Messi and 10 Soccer Stars Who Could Have Thrived in the NFL

Michael Cummings@MikeCummings37World Football Lead WriterNovember 5, 2011

Leo Messi and 10 Soccer Stars Who Could Have Thrived in the NFL

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    What if world soccer stars had grown up playing American football?

    It's an interesting thought.

    Say David Beckham grew up in Southern California instead of England. With that face, don't you think he would have been the quarterback of his local high school football team?

    OK, maybe not. But you get the idea: It's fun to imagine an alternate reality for some of our favorite athletes, regardless of where they're from or how well they'd fare in another sport.

    We've always heard the scenario the other way around, though. Every time the US National Team loses a high-profile match, everyone says the same thing: American soccer isn't as good as it could be because the best athletes play other sports.

    Forget all that for now. Let's talk about world soccer stars who could cross over to the gridiron.

    This might be easier than you think. Not all American football stars stand 6'6" and weigh 300 pounds. Some are just as average in height and weight as you and me. Athletic ability is where they make up the difference.

    Some American football stars are, of course, impressive physical specimens. But we've got that covered, too.

    Ready? Let's go.

Leo Messi

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    Name: Lionel Messi

    Height: 5'7"

    Weight: 148

    Suggested NFL Position: Return specialist

    Role Model: Devin Hester

    Why: Have you seen Messi move?

    If not, check it out.

    If so, you're not arguing at all. You know exactly why Messi would be a perfect return specialist.

    He has the body control, field awareness, speed and balance necessary to make defenders miss.

    Bonus thought: Let's get this out of the way early. Leo Messi, and every other player on this list, could also be a kicker.

    If you play soccer, you can kick a field goal.

    It's kind of like how all guitarists can also play bass. It's the same thing, only with fewer intricacies.

Cristiano Ronaldo

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    Name: Cristiano Ronaldo

    Height: 6'1"

    Weight: 165

    Suggested NFL Position: Diva wide receiver

    Role Model: Terrell Owens

    Why: Cristiano Ronaldo is all about No. 1. And that's your stereotypical NFL wide receiver.

    Seriously, this is a perfect match. Imagine Crissy getting like two receptions for 15 yards in a big divisional game, then taking to Twitter to say something like, "Just give me the damn ball!"

    Plus, if he gained about 25 pounds (he's already ripped), Crissy might have the weight to withstand the punishment dished out by defensive backs on crossing patterns.

    He'll have to stop crying, though.

Peter Crouch

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    Name: Peter Crouch

    Height: 6'7"

    Weight: 156

    Suggested NFL Position: Possession receiver

    Role Model: Michael Irvin

    Why: The dude is 6'7"!

    He has got to gain some weight, though.

    Anyway, he already has his touchdown dance figured out. And we would all love to stare at his wife in the stands.

Tim Howard

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    Name: Tim Howard

    Height: 6'3"

    Weight: 210

    Suggested NFL Position: Defensive back/emergency quarterback

    Role Model: Charles Woodson

    Why: He's American. He's 6'3", 210 and he's a goalkeeper.

    The first part means he already knows the game.

    The second part means he's got the size to play.

    The third part means he knows how to read an offense.


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    Name: Xavi Hernandez

    Height: 5'7"

    Weight: 146

    Suggested NFL Position: Quarterback

    Role Model: Doug Flutie

    Why: OK, so he's too short. But he could be the scrappy, do-whatever-it-takes kind of quarterback in the vein of Doug Flutie.

    Xavi pulls the strings for Barcelona, the best team in the world. He reads the game better than anyone (with the possible exception of his teammate Andres Iniesta, who just doesn't look the part of an NFL quarterback unless we're talking Jeff Garcia).

    And he couldn't be any worse than this guy.


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    Name: Ronaldo

    Height: 6'0"

    Weight: At least 250

    Suggested NFL Position: Lineman

    Role Model: Leon Lett

    Why: A quarterback can't do his thing without the hosses manning the offensive line.

    Ronaldo, the original one, qualifies.

Nigel De Jong

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    Name: Nigel de Jong

    Height: 5'9"

    Weight: 158

    Suggested NFL Position: Linebacker/fullback

    Role Model: Tim Riggins

    Why: You want your linebackers to be a little bit crazy. Nigel de Jong is a little bit crazy.

    You want your fullbacks to be tough and fearless. Nigel de Jong is, well, he's a little bit crazy.

    And mean.

Gennaro Gattuso

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    Name: Gennaro Gattuso

    Height: 5'10"

    Weight: 170

    Suggested NFL Position: Linebacker/safety

    Role Model: Bill Romanowski

    Why: With enough steroids, Gennaro Gattuso could be just as big and crazy as Bill Romanowski.

    I'm pretty sure he's already getting close.

Gareth Bale

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    Name: Gareth Bale

    Height: 6'0"

    Weight: 163

    Suggested NFL Position: Running back

    Role Model: None

    Why: For whatever reason, there aren't many white running backs in the NFL. Bale would have to gain weight, but he definitely has the speed and power.

Chris Samba

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    Name: Christopher Samba

    Height: 6'5"

    Weight: 185

    Suggested NFL Position: Anything

    Role Model: None

    Why: Aren't you scared of him? I am.

    Look at what he can do in a soccer uniform. Imagine all the things he could do for a football team.

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