Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen has admitted that he’s not a massive fan of football.
It’s rare for players to say this, publicly at least. But Ter Stegen isn’t the first footballer to admit he’s not obsessed with the sport.
The assumption that all players absolutely love football is wide of the mark.
“People laugh when I tell them I have no idea about football,” Ter Stegen, who is regarded by some as the best ‘keeper in the world right now, is quoted as telling El Pais by the Daily Mail.
“I don't see a lot of football, except when there are good games or when I'm particularly interested in one because I have a relationship or a friend. Sometimes they ask me for a player's name and I have no idea.
“In La Liga, for example, it happens to me with names. I don't know what they are called. But later, when they show me the video, I realise that I know exactly who it is.
“I remember better how they move on the field, how they kick or stand out. It is a bit strange, it happens to me when we analyse opponents.”
So, which other footballers (either current or former) are not actually huge fans of the beautiful game?
We’ve come up with a list of famous players who, for various reasons, don’t like different aspects of football.
Wales. Golf. Madrid. In that order.
This was the message on a flag that Bale controversially held up last November - it did *not* go down well in the Spanish capital - and there appears to be an element of truth to it.
“I don’t really watch much football,” Bale told ESPN in January 2018 when asked about Neymar and Kylian Mbappe. “I’d rather watch the golf to be honest.”
Another high-profile player who prefers golf over football is Carlos Tevez.
The Argentine striker revealed in October 2018 that he only likes playing football, not watching it.
"If Barcelona and Real Madrid are playing each other, but there is a golf tournament on another channel, I'll choose to watch the golf instead," he explained in an interview with Clarin, per Marca. “I don't watch any football on television.
"I don't like football, I've never been a fan of football, I simply like to play and to have the ball at my feet."
Benoit Assou-Ekotto - most famous for his nine-year spell at Tottenham - admitted in 2010 that, to him, football is a job and nothing more.
In a surprisingly honest interview with The Guardian, the former Cameroon international said he played for money, rather than out of passion for the game.
"But if I come to England, where I knew nobody and I didn't speak English … why did I come here? For a job. A career is only 10, 15 years. It's only a job. Yes, it's a good, good job and I don't say that I hate football but it's not my passion,” he said.
"I arrive in the morning at the training ground at 10.30 and I start to be professional. I finish at one o'clock and I don't play football afterwards. When I am at work, I do my job 100%. But after, I am like a tourist in London. I have my Oyster card and I take the tube. I eat.”
David Bentley was a talented footballer who, unfortunately, became increasingly disillusioned with the sport as his career progressed. The former England international ended up retiring in the summer of 2014, aged just 29, admitting: ‘I’ve fallen out of love with the game’.
In an interview with the Mirror several months later, Bentley - who went on to open up a restaurant in Marbella - said: “To be honest, I was even having a few doubts about football when I was at Blackburn.
“It was weird. Kim was like: ‘You’ve got to buck your ideas up’. A lot of people were saying that and I remember walking my dog, thinking: ‘This ain’t for me’.
“I remember being a bit disappointed in myself. I was thinking: ‘You should love it, what’s the matter with you? You’re only saying this because you’re a little bit unhappy at the minute’.
“But in the end I just got tired of all the bull**** that goes with it, people wanting you to sell yourself as something you’re not.”
Bobby Zamora was a decent top-level striker who played for England twice during the 2010-11 season. But despite realising the dream that millions of children wish they could achieve, football wasn’t his passion.
“I’m not a massive football fan, really,” the former West Ham forward told the Daily Mail in 2012. “I don’t watch games on an evening or anything like that.
“Quite a lot more players than (those that admit it) are the same.
”I’m not sure what I want to do after I finish playing but if it means watching football then I don’t want to get involved.”
Ronaldinho, one of the greatest players we’ve ever seen, absolutely loves football - but only to play, rather than watch.
The Brazilian, who is currently in a Paraguayan prison, can’t sit through a full game on TV.
"I don't like to watch football, I like to play it,” he was quoted as saying by The Sun in January 2018.
"I can't stand in front of the television for 90 minutes, I only watch the highlights."
David Batty, the former Leeds United and England midfielder, has lived an elusive life since retiring from football in 2004.
FourFourTwo reported in 2018 that Batty now lives a quiet life in North Yorkshire. He shuns the limelight and never gives interviews.
But whatever he does with his time, it’s fair to assume that it’s nothing connected to football.
"The national game is boring,” Batty was quoted as saying by The Guardian in 2007. “And I've not been to watch any match since I finished playing.
"I can never understand anybody paying to watch it, never mind going all the way across the world to see it.
“You want to be entertained."
One of the best strikers of his generation, Gabriel Batistuta once said in an interview with Argentinian TV: “I do not like football, it is just my profession.”
His autobiography co-writer, Alessandro Rialti, confirmed this was true in a 1999 interview with the Sunday Times, per Eurosport.
“The important thing about Batistuta is that he is not like other players. He is a very good professional who doesn’t really like football,” Rialti said.
“Once he leaves the stadium, he doesn’t want football encroaching upon the rest of his life. He is a very sensitive and intelligent man. When we were doing the book, he came to my office and for five full days he spoke about his family and his life in Argentina.
“But when it came to the football and his career, he switched off. ‘The records are there,’ he said, ‘you can look them up’.”
Espen Baardsen, who was born in the USA but represented Norway at international level, played in England with Tottenham, Watford and Everton in the late-1990s and early-2000s.
However, the goalkeeper decided to retire aged just 25 after losing interest in football.
“I got bored of football,” he told The Guardian in May 2008. “Once you’ve played in the Premier League and been to the World Cup, you’ve seen it and done it.
“It was dictating what I could do and when. I felt unsatisfied intellectually, I wanted to travel the world.”
He revealed at the time that he was working for an asset management fund.
Football sounds a lot more fun to us, but each to their own…
Whether he was being flippant or not, a statement on Stephen Ireland’s Bebo page (ask your older siblings or parents, kids) caused a stir in September 2007.
The Manchester City midfielder, who once admitted lying that his grandmother had died in order to excuse himself from international duty, wrote: ”Football Is S**T Why Did I get Stuck Doin It."
Dani Alves has no plans to stick around in football when he hangs up his boots. The legendary full-back admitted in December 2015 that certain aspects of the sport bother him.
"I hate what surrounds football," he told O'Globo, per Goal. "I live in this world, but do not belong to it.
"When I leave football, I will put a backpack on and travel the world. It will be inevitable to watch football, but I won't live in it."
Another player who revealed he had no intention of being involved with football after retiring is the Argentine forward Ezequiel Lavezzi, who retired last year.
“Sometimes I think about giving it all up. It's a thought running through my head today, not just in the past,” Lavezzi told Marca Plus, per Goal, in January 2015.
“Once I leave football, I will not continue in the world of sport. Right now I don't know what I might do.”
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