7 More Best Football Players: Then And Now
Turning back the hands of time: Whatever happened to the big names we grew up with? We are investigating the fate of 10 more European superstars in football.
How many times has Cristiano Ronaldo been on the cover of GC Magazine now? 24 times? Yawn. It is time to
Best Football Players from 1980 to 2000: The Shortcuts
1 | ZINEDINE ZIDANE
Who He Is
Here comes the sun king, the absolute monarch of European football. There has hardly been any other contender in European football who is as decorated, acclaimed and cherished – both by team members and opponents alike – as Zinedine Zidane.
His personal story reads like a real-life version of the “European Dream”. Algerian by his heritage and French by citizenship, Zidane was born into the school of hard knocks which in his case this meant growing up in the banlieus of Marseille, the ghetto-like suburbs that are blossoming around all major French cities. As if growing up in La Castellane, Marseille’s largest and most rugged-out banlieu, wasn’t enough Zidane, also happened to be of Kabyl descent, making him a minority within the minority.
While Zidane’s upbringing was not exactly favorable, his unique talent in football in particular, was the exact opposite. Discovered by renowned talent scout Jean Varraud at the age of only 14, Zidane played his first professional match only two years later among the men of AS Cannes who were facing FC Nantes at that time. From here on it was Bordeaux, then Turin, then Real Madrid. The latter set a new world record when they paid 77,5 million Euro to have Zidane join the Galacticos’ Foreign Legion and play among other non-Spaniard superstars such as Luis Figo and David Beckham.
Zinedine Zidane could be remembered as a unique talent in national football if if it wasn’t for his success with the French national team that easily outranks his domestic success. Take the World Cup finals of 1998, for instance. Zidane single-handedly established a 2:0 lead in the first half of the match by two impressive headers. With his kind of it was rather easy for the French to seal the deal 3:0. In short, the French earned their first title through the magnificent talent of their most talented player, and Zidane himself became a National hero.
And then there was the head-butt. The 2006 World Cup finals are almost at their end when in the 10th minute Italian striker Materazzi had the interesting idea to refer to “Zizou’s” sister as a “whore”. Zidane then gently reminded him that the sport is called “football” (not “soccer”) and head-butted Materazzi to the ground, deliberately sparing him any major injury as the blow went to Materazzi’s chest, not his head.
The numerous red cards Zidane saw throughout his career he himself attributed to none other than his passion for the sport: “if you look at the fourteen red cards I had in my career, twelve of them were a result of provocation. This isn’t justification, this isn’t an excuse, but my passion, temper and blood made me react.” – with a little more fighting spirit of this kind Louis XIV, the actual sun king, might have just saved his head.
Where He Is Now
The head-butt of 2006 might have come more easily to Zidane as his exit from professional football after the World Cup was a made thing even before the tournament started.
Once he officially quit football, condolences and celebrations came in by the thousands. Franz Beckenbauer named him „one of the greatest players in history“. Zlatan Ibrahimovic named him his idol and commented that skill-wise Zizou was „from another planet“. Teammate and long-time admirer Thierry Henry crowned him by stating that „that God exists, and that he is back in the French international team.“ Similar compliments have come from Ronaldinho, David Beckham, Roberto Carlos, Pelé, Kevin Keegan, Xavi, former French president Jaques Chirac, Rivaldo – and even Magic Johnson who called him „a phenomenon“.
Zidane’s career in coaching took off with a three-year delay. After the grand laudatio came to an end things got quiet about Zizou. A first sign of life was heard when he, together with to former …., bought French third-tier club … in …. .
2 | OLIVER BIERHOFF
Who He Is
German football is loud, dirty and comes from the gutter. At least that is what it was like until Oliver Bierhoff entered the scene. “The best players go where the money is” – with no concept of passion for the sport it was this type of business-like approach to football that Mr Bierhoff quickly became renowned – and hated for. But more about that later.
Football-wise it has to be said that Bierhoff was anything but untalented. The heavily skilled striker more than once saved the day for the German National Team. Most prominently when he scored the first ever Golden Goal in the history of the sport: four minutes after he entered the field in the finals of the 1996 Euro Cup he leveled the score against the Czechs to 1:1 through an impressive header, only to golden goal Germany to the trophy during over time.
Even more ‘strikingly’, Mr Bierhoff pulled off the fastest hattrick ever known to German football. In the qualification round for the 1998 World Cup he was only employed in the 69th minute, a hesitant recognition of the about-to-be team captain. But that did not keep him from turning the tables on the Croats exactly 360 seconds later. Germany was behind with 0:1, but within six minutes sent their opponents back to Belgrade 3:1, thanks to three explosive goals by Oliver Bierhoff.
Another face of his showed once he retired. Now more than ever, it was his sterile, money-oriented world view that kept him from ever taking up any leading position with the German National team. Of course, this did not keep him from insisting on such a position with a vengeance. After throwing one hissy fit after the other the High Command of German football finally gave in and awarded Oliver Bierhoff with a special position, created out of thin air and exclusively for him. So instead of becoming the team’s heart and soul, the coach, Oliver Bierhoff became team manager. Not only does team manager sound extremely vague and meaningless, the position was is extremely vague and meaningless.
Not even the administrative elite liked the elitist pretty boy, and the fact that he preferred pinstriped suits over the low-key outfit of jacket and jeans, made so popular by Jürgen Klinsmann and Rudi Völler, didn’t help much, either.
Where He Is Now
Bierhoff quit the sport in 2002 and went ahead to “further pursue his career” within the German National team. Whether the German National team was also interested in having Mr Bierhoff around is something that would have to be carefully investigated – to put it in friendly terms.
His know-it-all attitude and not least his undisclosed consulting contracts were received with icy responses. He even earned the informal title of being the team’s “event manager”, a quasi-insult as he continuously tried to subvert German football culture through corporate lobbying and silly marketing stunts nobody cared about. At one point he was almost punched by Michael Ballack when Bierhoff tried to increase “user experience” by ushering Ballack into holding up a silly “thank you” sign to the crowd. Mr Ballack was man enough to save the annoying zealot a well-deserved beating and instead stomped a hole into a nearby water dispenser.
Speaking of lobbying. To this day Oliver Bierhoff is in high demand for speaking jobs at big-scale corporations. A fact which in his case is no coincidence. More than once have there been voices claiming that in actuality he is a mole infiltrating the sport on behalf of the secret Adidas-Mercedes-Benz-Vattenfall conglomerate. Things went so far as to claim that Bierhoff is on a mission to subvert the National Team’s board of trustees, confuse the masses with terms like ROI, VC, HRM and UX only so he could finally sell the German National Team to a straw man company in Hong Kong. The fucker.
3 | ROY KEANE
Who He Is
Roy Keane was, and is, a lot of things. Rock-solid defensive midfielder, the most stable point in Manchester United’s trophy-hauling machine, maniac, gladiator, comedian. You can pick one depending on where are you from or which club you support.
Roy Keane might not have been the most skilled, or the most loved player of his generation. In fact, there were a lot of other greats playing for Manchester at the time. However, it is undoubted that his massive presence was elementary for the Red Devils’ success, providing an all so important backbone at the tail end on their midfield. A backbone that allowed the greats like Scholes, Giggs and Beckham to do their magic without having to worry about what happens if they lose the ball. Because in that case Keane would be there, waiting to stomp a poor box-to-box midfielder six inches deep into the ground.
Roy Keane was pretty much one of those players who were universally hated by every fan of every club, except for his own. You see, our Roy was highly critical of everything and everyone around him, and when he couldn’t put you down with his enormous body strength on the field, he put you down with words.
And, evidently, as he started to run out of people he could insult, he turned on his club’s fans, suggesting they are more interested in their prawn sandwiches than supporting the team. Hard to decide if this one was more vicious or when he got himself thrown out Ireland’s national training camp by calling his coach, Mick McCarty, a wanker.
It wasn’t just scandals with him, of course. Being one of the best to ever played in his position, Roy Keane won pretty much all the trophies available with Manchester United and then added a couple of Scottish League titles with Celtic , just for good measure.
Where He Is Now
After his playing days, Keane took up managerial jobs, starting with helping Sunderland to promotion in his first year. After that however, it went on to a decline again, struggling and almost getting relegated, and then, as he usually does, made some enemies elsewhere, namely Ipswich, with whom he couldn’t make in progress in the Championship (Second tier of English football). With his character and standing in the Irish football hierarchy, it wasn’t long before he was named part of the Irish team’s coaching staff in 2013.
And of course, in true Keane-fashion, it just couldn’t be a normal office job for him. First, he got into a fight with a fan after an ill-fated qualifying game in 2014 against Scotland, sending the poor fella to hospital. From that point on, it was just the usual insulting spree, mostly directed at Roberto Martinez, manager of English club Everton, who in the eyes of Keane was too hard on the Irish players. That’s rich coming from good old Roy, but that is just the way he is.
Beside coaching he is a media pundit of course, claiming to be the Absolute Oracle of Football. Which in hi case means he is mostly exchanging major arguments with the likes of Thierry Henry, or Gareth Southgate, retiring from the whole thing every once in a while, only to get back to it in glory, making sure we are all aware we will never know half as much about the game as he does. Well, never change, Roy.
4 | FREDDIE LJUNGBERG
Who He Is
Whatever you might think, Football’s classiest model and hairstyle ambassador is not David Beckham. The true great of this category is his Swedish counterpart, Arsenal’s midfield legend, Fredrik “Freddie” Ljungberg.
Ljungberg grew up in Halmstad, a place he didn’t particularly like, and the only thing that made it bearable for young Freddie was playing for the youth setup of local club Halmstads BK. Under the wings of coach Olle Eriksson. Frieddie proved himself to be an outstanding character, most of his buddies remembering him for his gold-hearted personality, always passing on the opportunity to score himself in order to assist his teammates. A great personality trait, but the cut-throat world of Swedish football would have none of it, and his coaches made sure he learns to be a bit more selfish sometimes, since he had a vicious shot and was capable to score tons of goals himself, not needing anyone to finish the job for him. Beside being supercool with everyone, he was also great at literally every sporting activities (maybe except for chess, but who knows…), having been selected for the U15 handball team, but he knew that wasn’t a real sport, and decided to focus on football.
For which not only Arsenal fans will forever be grateful, but we can all say we’re glad he preferred to kick a ball instead of throwing it, as he became a lead figure of a highly entertaining, and lethal attacking unit of the turn-of-the-millenium Arsenal side, that played some of the most scintillating football the world has ever witnessed, with a special knack for important and key goals. He just loves the limelight, that Freddie. After achieving a historical, unbeaten Premier League winner’s title, his career in London started to deteriorate, due to a persistent ankle injury that held him back so much, Coach Wenger had no other choice but to let him go in 2007. After a short one year stint at West Ham United, he decided he’s no longer interested in the sport, and retired from club and international football as well.
Where He Is Now
That is where his pretty-boy persona came to the forefront, and after the whole world accepted he is not going to sign for anyone, he became part of the fashion world, and mostly making headlines with his momentary choice of pop-singers or models to date.
Well, he got bored again, and went back to do what he always did best: Play football. Ljungberg helped getting recently established franchise, the Seattle Sounders, on their feet in the US-based football league, Major League Soccer. Despite the nagging injury, he accomplished his mission, and once done, he moved on to Chicago, then to Celtic, and to finish it off, he broke Japanese hearts as well when he didn’t stay for long at Shimizu S-Pulse. It’s just part of his personality that after ‘officially’ retiring, in 2014 he went back to football once more to play a few games for Mumbai City FC in the newly formed Indian Super League. Safe to say that job bought him a new castle of a house somewhere fancy.
5 | ANDREAS MÖLLER
Who He Is
“Milan, Madrid – I don’t mind either. I just want to play in Italy”. It was through quotes like these that Andreas Möller gained a reputation for being a little “special”, and by “a little special” I mean “a little dim-witted”. Be that as it may, it wasn’t his unique approach to geography that made Andreas ‘Andi’ Möller stand out from the crowd.
Sadly, the one thing to make him stand out was him being one of the biggest whiners in the history of the sport. Constantly complaining over nothing, and with his lips always trembling as if he was about to cry any second, Andi Möller was a poster boy for what in Germany is called a “Heulsuse”, a “Howling Suzie” which loosely translates into English as a combination of ‘wussie’, ‘liar’ and ‘whiner’.
As if being the bitch boy of German football wasn’t enough, Andreas Möller then decided to crown himself by pulling off the boldest fake foul ever conducted on the Eurasian landmass. On April 13, 1995 he tripped over his own feet so professionally that people were wondering if he had been practicing the move for a longer time. The referee witnessed his Hollywood-ready stunt only from a distance, Möller got his penalty and the BVB Dortmund sent home Oliver Kahn’s Karlsruher SC 2:1.
It is needless to say that everyone from pundits to stadium janitor freaked out over the infamous act that made Maradona’s ‘Hand of God’ look like a schoolboy’s prank. Andreas Möller was banned from the two upcoming matches by the National football council, paid 5000€ in fines for a “lack of sportsmanship” and earned “Heulsuse” as his new middle name. From that day on it was Oliver Kahn who took a special interest in him, treating our Howling Suzie accordingly whenever he got the chance (picture).
Surprisingly, Möller’s shifty personality traits stand in stark contrast to his success on the pitch. It is not exaggerating to say that Möller has been one of the most successful German forwards of the last three decades. From Bundesliga to Champions League he literally won every title out there and often so more than once. In international tournaments he won the World Cup in 1990 and the Euro Cup in 1996. Here, he even saved the day when he scored the one penalty in the semi-finals that sent the Brits home and paved the way for Germany to win the title.
Möller quit his professional career in 2003 with 485 Bundesliga matches under his belt and no real plan on what to do next.
Where He Is Now
Möller eventually tried himself in coaching. Probably due to a lack of contacts – or a lack of sympathy for the former Heulsuse – Andi Möller had to go the official route and obtained a license for coaching in 2005 as if he was a failed amateur who now tried the other side of the game in order to make ends meet. One year later he took up a position with the marketing department of Viktoria Aschaffenburg, a third-tier club from Bavaria. When he tried swapping the dull 9-5 job for a coaching position, his prayers were heard fast enough: Andreas Möller was offered unpaid work as Viktoria Aschaffenburg’s head coach. He took the job.
After random appearances as a pundit – at one point he worked on a cruise liner – his name came up once more. In 2015 Bernd Storck appointed him as assistant coach for the up-and-coming National team of Hungary. All of Germany scratched their heads how Mr Möller, who had been flying under the radar of major media outlets for the past decade, suddenly managed to get involved with a Euro 2016 contender. It surely wasn’t for him actively persueing a career in coaching, that’s for sure: “I really didn’t send out bulks of applications, you know,” he said in an interview with Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. “And if you’re not that active, your name disappears rather quickly.” – In our last newsroom meeting we were still undecided if in the case of Andreas Möller this was a good or a bad thing.
6 | EDGAR DAVIDS
Who He Is
Asking „Who He Is“ is kind of pointless here. Anyone growing up in the nineties and who even had ea faint interest in football will know who is Edgar Davids. His ‚sunglasses‘ and dreadlocks instantly made him stand out as the most bad ass football player ever. Then we grew up, and we realized that it is actually very close to the truth. Davids is one of the most bad ass and coolest players of the last decades, perhaps even of the last century. We also learned that those are not sunglasses, but protectors for his eyes as he has been struggling with Glaucoma, and felt bad for him at some point.
Davids was born in the Dutch settlement of Suriname located on the Southern tip of the Caribbean which probably explains the compulsory dreadlocks; the family moved to the Netherlands only a couple of months into his life. Growing up in Amsterdam and given his talent, it was inevitable that he would wind up playing for local giants such as AFC Ajax, and over the nineties he has won three league championships and one Champions League title. Another accomplishments was when he gained his trademark nickname The Pitbull from the equally raucous head coach, Luis van Gaal (also known for the reddest head ever seen in football).
After putting everyone in their place in Holland he decided he would be even more successful in a climate that lacks the need for boring windbreaker jackets. Thus, in 1997 Davids headed for more sunny pastures that he found in Italy. At Juventus he formed of one of the most mesmerizing inside-midfield partnerships ever, namely the one alongside a certain Zinedine Zidane. The pair of them laughed off and pulverized all of Italy in their reign as one of the greatest sides of the late nineties. He was so brilliant he even helped a bit in rebuilding Barcelona for Frank Rijkaard in 2004, before moving on to move with extreme levels of energy in Inter Milan.
After that, the I could say the inevitable decline in career started, but not for Davids, since he seemed ever incapable of getting exhausted, and a move to English side Tottenham Hotspurs revitalized his career. Later he went to Ajax to casually win a Dutch Cup, and then he just decided he’s going to be a playboy in London and played out his latter days at Crystal Palace.
Where he is now
As usual, he stayed with coaching, and after running Crystal Palace, he went a few miles away and became Player/Manager of lower-league side Barnet, while in the meantime being head coach of a Sunday League (men messing about with hangovers and beer-bellies) team Brixton United. He didn’t do too bad at Barnet, and saved them from relegation in League Two (Fourth tier of English football), but that was the most he could make, and even he wasn’t satisfied with his performance. This came along with some massive disciplinary issues on the field, which is rather strange, since Davids has always been known as a tough but clean tackler.
Beside all this, and the obvious media appearances, he is running a street soccer fashion label called Monta Soccer, that offers the dopest gear you can kick a ball (and the weakest kid) with.
7 | HAKAN SÜKÜR
Who He Is
When someone hears the words ‘Turkish Football’, the very first name coming to mind is undoutedly that of Hakan Sükür. Not only is he pretty much the greatest player the country has ever produced, he is also among the most interesting people in football in general. Not because of a fun or promiscuous personality, with him it’s just what he usually does. And the news that emerge around him, especially lately. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Our hero started out in smaller clubs, first bringing attention to himself with a cup win with his parent club Sakaryaspor, before attracting the interest of Istanbul giant Galatasaray. And that is where he finally became a real superstar, winning tons of cups a league titles with his team. In the meantime he even went for a brief stint on the Italian side and played for Turin in 1995. He was actually supposed to play amazing football, but he literally only chilled out there, scoring but one goal during the first half of the season, prompting Turin to say ‘screw it’ and send him back to Galata.
Sükür resumed the brilliance there, scoring tons of goals and making sure his club kept winning the league most of the time. The absolute highlight, however, came after the turn of the century. Galatasaray won the UEFA Cup in 2000, becoming the first Turkish club to ever win an international competition. Two years later, he became part of another massive national feat, reaching the semi-finals of the 2002 World Cup with Turkey, which is by far their best finish in their history. That was pretty much the golden era of the national side, and it goes without saying that the Bull of the Bosporus acted as team captain the whole time.
After that, he had a not-so-bad spell back in Italy where he playing for Inter. Trophies, however, he earned none, but at least the goals came at the beginning, before he started to struggle once again, for some reason not being able to translate his genius into the Italian game. Later he tried out the Premiership too, playing a while for Blackburn Rovers. Here, he spent long months on the team’s injury reserve before he could eventually make his debut. Sükür only ended up scoring two goals, both in one game, before Blackburn decided they’d rather not pay him anymore. He finally accepted that for some supernatural reason he could only play any good when tied to his home country and once again returned to Galata for another five years. It is almost ridiculous, but this transfer seemed to fix things once again, and the Bull was a key player for a successful spell, up to the point when, at 37, he decided to retire.
Where He Is Now
And here comes the truly interesting part: After a few years living off his greatness, getting awards and accolades of the highest level, Sükür decided to take a shot at politics. That was just a little strange because on the one hand he is by descent a Kosovar Albanian. On the other, politics is just something footballers don’t do. Not being rude here, but they just don’t have the smarts to steal and deceive properly.
That, however, didn’t stop Hakan Sükür from becoming a regular Member of Parliament. For two years he was a MP before he decided it was a stupid game anyway, mostly due to a massive turmoil around his support of the Islamic Gülen Movement. Sükür kept in politics as an independent MP, but decided to focus his attention to punditry on Turkish Television.
Something similar happened with social media. Over the last years he has been warned several times over constantly insulting President Erdogan. Now kids, let this be a lesson for you all: August this year after all the crap went down in Turkey, the president issued a plethora of arrest warrants, and one of them had “Hakan Sükür” written on it. This was not only for the insults, but also because the president happened to stumble upon “evidence” that Sükür is part of an armed terror group. So if you ever troll someone on Twitter, make sure it is not a massively powerful politician with hitleresque ambitions, else get ready to take it to the streets and rebel. Or just delete your account and get on with your life, as you should.
8 | DAVID BECKHAM
Who He Is
It is actually a little strange that Mr Beckham was not included in the first episode. I mean, I could pretty much skip the ‘Who he is’ part and people would still know about that handsome poster-boy of modern football (and a lot that is wrong with it).
Arguably the best known footballer of our time, David Beckham comes from London, but started taking football seriously in the youth setup of northern giants Manchester United where he drew attention to himself early on. 1992 was pretty much the last time Beckham was only known by real, massive football fans, as he together with a bunch of other would-be-superstars won the FA Youth Cup. Better yet, when in 1995 most of the top players of MU were let go after their contracts ran out, legendary manager Alex Ferguson had no issues throwing him into the starting eleven, along with his classmates.
That move paid off pretty well for the red-nosed Scot, and the bunch along with Becks has won pretty much every trophy they could get in the second half of the 90’s, including the Spice Girls. Well, at least our David managed to marry the Posh member, Victoria Adams in 1999, that meant a major change for the superstar youngster. From that point on, he became a household name, and he was no more ‘just’ a football star, but slowly turned into a pop culture icon. And there was no stopping from there, his sheer existence inspired global hysteria, and it wasn’t really any surprising that he signed for Spanish royal giants Real Madrid in 2003, becoming the next member of the ‘Galacticos’ (That’s Spanish for spending the whole annual budget of a smaller Eastern-European country on one star player every year). Of course, you can understand the signing, because 5 minutes after the news breaking in the far-east, shirt sales boosted one million percent and Senor Perez was bathing in money like uncle Dagobert.
So yeah, Mr. Beckham is always a good investment, and he was pretty much the most endorsed person ever in the whole existence of sponsorships, and by the time he turned 30, there was no multinational company that didn’t make an advert with him, and there was simply no high-tier celebrity who didn’t become his acquaintance. Oh, he also has been named the “Ultimate Metrosexual”. Do whatever you want with that information. It was not really a surprise afterall that in 2007, he signed for Major League Soccer side, Los Angeles Galaxy. Now that was the absolute posh-boy move, and although he swore to God he just wanted to play football, and the move had nothing to do with getting a 17 digit bank account balance in USD as well. To his credit, if we see beyond all the media and general hype, he has always been a model professional, with a very disciplined and extensive training regime, and all his coaches praised him for his amazing abilities and attitude towards the game. No surprise he was also captain of the England team for years, even despite that little fiasco in the 1998 World Cup, after which people threatened set his perfect hair on fire.
Where He Is Now
During and after the LA Galaxy times (during because the American schedule is from spring to autumn, leaving a possibility to play in the autumn to spring Europe in the off-season), he had stints at AC Milan and Paris Saint Germain, casually winning a league title with each, then decided to retire. Since then he got a little bit off the map, but his value did not plummet one single bit. I mean, the guy was paid over 20 million Euros just to provide his approving smile for the Chinese football league, which was in a bit of a trouble with all the betting scandals.
Apart from that, he slowed down a little, and although his football academy plan didn’t work out, charity has been close to his Gucci-clad little heart, and kept being a major supporter and ambassador for UNICEF, Malaria No More UK, and a club called FC Harlem Lions (helping troubled kids of the crappy New York borough). And if nothing else works, he just lights his teenage son, Brooklyn, on fire (figuratively) and gets back into the spotlight. Oh yes, and he also got allowance from the Los Angeles Galaxy to buy and build a new MLS franchise in Miami, for a measly 25 million Dollars.