Football, or soccer if you must, is the international sport of planet Earth. At every level, it arouses passions on and off the pitch, divides families and unites friends in equal measure. As flippant as they may seem, memorable soccer quotes give a great glimpse into the rich tapestry of a game that encapsulates the many cultures of the world, as well as it’s many characters.
Professionals really have never been short of a wise word or daft quote for the media. Here are ten of the best:
- 10. Andrea Pirlo
“Sometimes a pinch of sadism is the ingredient that makes victory taste that little bit sweeter.”
The sensation of a win over your rivals, of a last-minute goal to take the points; we know the sensation Andrea Pirlo describes in winning is all the more wonderful thanks to your opponents suffering. Capped 116 times, the cultured midfielder was a key member of Italy’s 2006 World Cup winning squad and won a glittering array of domestic and European honours with AC Milan and Juventus.
- 9. Gordon Strachan
Reporter: “So, Gordon, in what areas do you think Middlesbrough were better than you today?”
Strachan: “What areas? Mainly that big green one out there…”
An industrious midfielder with Aberdeen, Manchester United and Leeds United, he won 50 caps for his country. Strachan, now the Scotland manager, earned his managerial spurs at some of England’s lesser lights before moving to Celtic. Here he captures the helplessness and exasperation of losing football matches beautifully.
- 8. Brian Clough
“I wouldn’t say I was the best manager in the business. But I was in the top one”
A prolific goalscorer for Middlesbrough and Sunderland before injury cut his career short, Clough is remembered as the best manager England never had. His forte was taking unfashionable clubs to the pinnacle of the English game and beyond. A league champion with Derby County, he repeated the feat with Nottingham Forest, before guiding them to consecutive European Cup final victories. To many he was the first (and last) “Special One”
- 7. Pele
“Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do”
To some players, success seems to come easily but even those whose talent seems to be a gift from God, must work hard. Pele, the greatest of them all, also preaches humility. Too often footballers are portrayed as arrogant egotists but this is a reminder that it isn’t given to them on a plate; reward is the culmination of hard work.
- 6 George Best
“They’ll forget all the rubbish when I’ve gone and they’ll remember the football. If only one person thinks I’m the best player in the world, that’s good enough for me.”
Pele called him “the greatest footballer in the world” but Best is remembered as much for his playboy image as his footballing skills. At heart, he was just a Belfast lad who loved to kick a ball. And he did so with incredible balance and skill; a mercurial dribbler; everything about the Northern Irishman mesmerising; from his twinkle toes to dazzling eyes.
- 5. Socrates
“Beauty comes first. Victory is secondary. What matters is joy.”
The words capture jogo bonito. Socrates, captain of arguably the finest Brazil team since 1970, led his team at the 1982 World Cup. They brought the beautiful game to life, with exquisite passing and movement to a samba beat. Tall, languid, completely at ease with the ball, he was a renowned athlete despite being a heavy smoker. That Brazil never won the World Cup that year adds to the legend. Football with a smile has never been a more appropriate epitaph.
- 4. Johan Cruyff
“Soccer is simple, but it is difficult to play simple”
Nothing about Cruyff was simple. Player, coach, manager, mentor, advisor, director; he held every position conceivable at Ajax and Barcelona. The majestic Cruyff led the Dutch to the 1974 World Cup final where they lost German efficiency and their own over-confidence. His theory lives on in Pep Guardiola, a disciple of the Dutchman both as a player and coach.
- 3. Zinedine Zidane
“I once cried because I had no shoes to play soccer, but one day, I met a man who had no feet.”
The finest midfielder of his generation, winner of every major honour in his career, offers a sense of perspective about the sport. A player whose passing made the game such a joy to watch, scored one of the greatest goals in a Champions League final. His volley against Bayer Leverkusen displays everything for which Zizou was renowned; technique, timing and the sweetest strike of the ball you’ll ever see.
- 2. Bill Shankly
“The trouble with referees is that they know the rules, but they do not know the game”
The legendary Liverpool manager’s words ring as true today as they did half-a-century ago. To this day, managers complain officials don’t understand football; the Scot’s words remain unheeded. Shankly’s reign took the club from the Second Division to the top of the English game, laying down the foundations for Liverpool’s future successes.
- 1. Tony Adams
“Play for the name on the front of the shirt and they will remember the name on the back.”
Mr Arsenal, the Gunners legendary skipper, understood how fans think and what they expect of players. He won the title four times at the club, five domestic cups and one European trophy, as well as 66 England caps. A statue outside of the Emirates Stadium commemorates his days as an Arsenal player.`