Meet the footballers who don’t like football: Batistuta said it was ‘just a job’, Tevez enjoyed a £600,000-a-week ‘holiday’ in China while one former Arsenal striker preferred a movie to the match and Ter Stegen says he has ‘no idea’ about the game!
- Many footballers know they are lucky to be getting paid to play the game
- But there have been a handful of stars down the years who aren’t passionate
- Tottenham’s Benoit Assou-Ekotto never knew which team they were playing
- And Argentine superstar Gabriel Batistuta admitted it was simply a job for him
- Sportsmail takes a look at the players who see football as a career, not a love
Growing up playing football in the park with jumpers for goalposts, pretending to be our favourite stars, many children who pick up a ball often think, ‘Imagine if I got paid to do this?’
For the talented youngsters bursting onto the scene at academies up and down the country, that dream becomes a reality. The idea of earning a tens or even hundreds of thousands a week to essentially have a kickabout is a luxury only a tiny percentage of people get to enjoy.
But for some players, that’s as far as it goes. Commentators will describe some players as ‘like a kid on the playground’ when its clear how much a star is enjoying his football, while others just turn up to get the job done.
Barcelona’s Marc-Andre ter Stegen became the latest member of that group after admitting he has terrible knowledge of the game.
Sportsmail takes a look at the curious bunch that are footballers who don’t seem to really like football…
Marc-Andre ter Stegen kickstarted the topic of stars who aren’t passionate about football
How could a player so talented not like football, you may ask? For those who grew up watching the game in the 1990s, Batistuta was one of the first names that would come to mind when thinking of great strikers.
A legend for Argentina, he earned 77 caps and scored 54 goals to help them win two Copa Americas.
He also won silverware in Italy for Fiorentina and Roma as he notched a total of 292 goals across 537 games. But it was all just another day at the office for Batistuta.
Argentine ace Gabriel Batistuta was ‘not like other players’ and only saw football as a job
‘I do not like football, it is just my profession,’ he once said.
Alessandro Rialti, who co-wrote the star’s autobiography, said he was different from his team-mates.
‘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. Once he leaves the stadium, he doesn’t want football encroaching upon the rest of his life.’
Ever noticed how the Italian hardly ever celebrated his goals, and instead folds his arms or just looks moody? Well, according to the man himself, he’s not being arrogant – he’s just doing what needs to be done. As he puts it, a postman wouldn’t celebrate after putting a letter through your letterbox.
Mario Balotelli said celebrating a goal was akin to a postman celebrating delivering a letter
‘I do not celebrate my goals because it is my job,’ he said. ‘When a postman delivers a letter, does he celebrate?’
The 29-year-old, who now plays for Brescia, often came under fire while he was at Manchester City at the start of the last decade.
His frequent run-ins with his manager and team-mates, as well as personal issues – remember the indoor fireworks – seemed to point to him not fully embracing his career. It was all summed up with a famous celebration after scoring against Manchester United, where he revealed a grumpy shirt that said ‘why always me?’
The forward oozed class in the Premier League for Manchester United, Manchester City and West Ham. For someone who was so energetic and exciting, the revelation that he’s not the biggest football fan is quite the shock.
If you are asked to name the biggest fixture in club football, most would immediately say El Clasico. For Tevez, even Real Madrid v Barcelona doesn’t appeal to him.
‘I never watch football. I don’t like it,’ he said in 2018. ‘If Barcelona-Real Madrid is on, I change the channel to watch golf. I was never a football fanatic.’
Carlos Tevez earned £600,000 per week in Shanghai and said his time was like ‘a holiday’
One of the best players in the world on his day, Tevez has scored nearly 300 career goals, but towards the end his attitude to the game has become clear to see.
He suffered an awful spell with Shanghai Shenhua, who were paying him wages of £600,000 per week, and netted just four times. After leaving Tevez admitted he treated his season in China ‘like a holiday’.
‘It’s fine because I was on vacation for seven months,’ he said. ‘When I landed in China, I wanted to return to Boca [Juniors].’
Another Carlos and another who would rather stick something else on the telly instead of a football match. Arsenal fans will remember Vela for his glimpses of quality and beautiful dinked chips, although his professional career hasn’t quite panned out as expected. He was sent out on loan five times by the Gunners and is now playing in the MLS.
But while Tevez will switch channels for a round of golf, Vela prefers the Hollywood treatment. ‘Between a good movie and a good football game, I prefer the movie,’ he said.
Ex-Arsenal forward Carlos Vela said he prefers watching a film rather than a football match
He expanded on his thoughts in an interview with Canal+, saying ‘once the match ends, you can talk to me about anything that isn’t football’.
‘I’ll be honest with you,’ the Mexican forward said. ‘The truth is that I’ve never been so passionate about football as to say “I’m a fan of Real Madrid or of this team and I’ll stand with them to the death”.
‘I enjoy playing, but once the match ends the football is finished for me and you can talk to me about anything that isn’t football, because I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing so or like doing so.’
The former Tottenham star certainly entertained others during his time in north London – even if he was never entertained himself. Speaking in 2011, left-back Assou-Ekotto was open about his views that playing football was ‘a means to an end’.
‘There are more important things in life than kicking a ball around,’ he explained. ‘Yes, I play for the money but then doesn’t everybody who gets up in the morning and goes to work? They do it to provide for their family.
‘It infuriates me when footballers go on about playing for the shirt. I think they should be held accountable for it when they kiss the badge and six months later clear off for a better pay day.’
Benoit Assou-Ekotto said he played for money and never knew what team Spurs were facing
The former Cameroon international conceded during his time at Spurs that he had just one of his team-mates’ numbers on his phone.
And such was his lack of awareness of the other players on the team that after the club sealed the major signing of Rafael van der Vaart from Real Madrid in 2010, he had to ask captain Ledley King who he was.
While he proved a loyal servant to Spurs for nine years, his lack of passion for the game will come to no surprise for supporters after his regular lapses in concentration at the back, as well as reports that he would often get on the team bus and not know who they were about to play against.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen
The Barcelona shot stopper became the latest player to shock fans with his admission that he knows very little about football.
Despite being the No 1 goalkeeper for arguably the best club in the world, the Germany international said he doesn’t see many games on TV and has very limited knowledge of who players are, unless he is forced to study them for a match.
Barcelona’s No 1 goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen admits he knows little about the game
‘People laugh when I tell them I have no idea about football,’ he told El Pais.
‘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 LaLiga, 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.’
The former Arsenal midfielder was tipped as our next David Beckham as he dazzled with his expert deliveries and long-range strikes at Blackburn Rovers. A big move to Tottenham in 2008 drummed up expectation, but it only went downhill from there.
While a lot of fans and indeed coaches saw plenty of promise in Bentley, he admitted in 2014 that he ‘never saw himself as a footballer’ – thoughts that began early on in his playing days. A seven-time England international, now 35, Bentley decided to hang up his boots at the age of just 29 and now runs a restaurant business in Marbella.
‘To be honest, I was even having a few doubts about football when I was at Blackburn,’ he told the Mirror.
Former Tottenham man David Bentley said he had doubts about his love for the game early on
‘It was weird. I remember walking my dog, thinking: “This ain’t for me”. 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.
‘For me the professional dressing-room wasn’t that exciting, life wasn’t that great. Whether my career reached the heights it could or should have done – certain people are built for the life of a footballer but I don’t think I was.
‘Everyone grows up dreaming of being a Premier League footballer, playing for England – and I did it. I just decided that my future was outside of football.’
A proper football journeyman, Zamora managed to play consistently at a high level for most of his career with a decent return of goals. He bagged 190 strikes from 570 career appearances for mostly London teams, including West Ham and Fulham.
Bobby Zamora said he wanted nothing to do with football as soon as he retired from playing
He called it a day in 2016, but years earlier he had said when he did retire he wanted nothing to do with the game.
‘I’m not a massive football fan, really,’ he said in 2012. ‘Quite a lot more players than let on are the same. I don’t watch games on an evening or anything like that. A lot of people find it strange.
‘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.’
Zamora is now involved in charity and social work, helping to set up a housing initiative for local communities alongside former team-mates Rio Ferdinand and Mark Noble.
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