Footballers’ autobiographies have a justifiably bad reputation these days, but they sometimes have a habit of throwing up the odd diamond in the rough. For those of you who would rather not wade through the 200+ other pages of anodyne anecdotes and checklists of possessions, we’ve compiled a list of our ten favourite quotes from recent times.
Roy Keane – The Second Half
The midfield hardman released a follow-up to his 2003 memoir this past week, and was far less reserved this time round. Sir Alex Ferguson, Peter Schmeichel, Alf-Inge Haaland and a host of others all come under fire, but his account of the time he tried to sign Robbie Savage as Sunderland manager tops the lot: “I got Robbie’s mobile number and rang him. It went to his voicemail: ‘Hi, it’s Robbie – whazzup!’ like the Budweiser ad. I never called him back. I thought: ‘I can’t be f**king signing that.’” Savage responds…
Sir Alex Ferguson – My Autobiography
Keane’s former gaffer doesn’t flinch when aiming the crosshairs at a number of targets, from David Beckham to Rafa Benitez. There is one thing that has always off-limits, though: “There was no way I could contemplate taking the England job. Can you imagine me doing that? A Scotsman? It wasn't a bed of nails I was ever tempted to lie on.”
Ashley Cole – My Defence
The England left-back was treated as a pariah for leaving boyhood club Arsenal for then newly cash-rich Chelsea. Though the title of the book might have hinted at some sort of reconciliation effort, the contents did little to endear Cole to Gunners fans. Here he is describing being offered less than the £60,000 per week wages he’d demanded: "When I heard the figure of £55k, I nearly swerved off the road. ‘He is taking the p*ss!’ I yelled down the phone. I was so incensed. I was trembling with anger. I couldn't believe what I'd heard."
Zlatan Ibrahimovi¿ – I Am Zlatan
The maverick striker’s foray into the written word produced enough quotes to fill this list several times over, using it to settle scores with journalists, Rafael van der Vaart and particularly Pep Guardiola. His dismissal of John Carew after being criticised by the Norwegian is perhaps the most cutting: “What Carew does with a football, I can do with an orange.”
Phillip Lahm - The Subtle Difference
The German left-back might have won the World Cup this summer under Joachim Low, but he was less than kind about Low’s predecessor, Jurgen Klinsmann: “All the players knew after about eight weeks that it would not work under Klinsmann. The rest of the campaign was only about damage control. Essentially we only did fitness training under him and there was very little tactical discussion. The players talked among themselves how they would play before a game.”
Andrea Pirlo – I Think Therefore I Play
The revered playmaker discusses his philosophies, his playing style, his passion for wine and his unexpected addiction to Playstation in great detail. He is slightly less sophisticated in trying to articulate his feelings around the infamous 2005 Champions League Final, in which he played for Milan in their 3-3 penalties defeat to Liverpool: “You might hit upon an elegant phrase that stays with you and makes the journey that little bit less bitter. I’ve tried with Istanbul and haven’t managed to get beyond these words: for f**k’s sake.”
Gary Neville - Red
The Manchester United legend and scourge of Scousers everywhere offers his account of trying to tap-up Steven Gerrard while on international duty at Euro 2004: “'Come play for United,’ I said one day to Steven when we were in the hotel. 'The fans will take to you in no time.' He just laughed, and said: 'I’ll do it if you go to Anfield.’"
Rio Ferdinand - #2Sides
A contender for worst ever autobiography title, Ferdinand jumps on the chance to stick the boot in on David Moyes after his shambolic season at the helm of United: “It was embarrassing. In one home game against Fulham we had 81 crosses! I was thinking, why are we doing this? Andy Carroll doesn’t play for us! The whole approach was alien. Other times Moyes wanted lots of passing. He’d say: 'Today I want us to have 600 passes in the game. Last week it was only 400’. Who cares? I’d rather score five goals from ten passes."
Dennis Bergkamp – Stillness and Speed
Rather more surprising than the disagreements between Ferdinand and Moyes are the Dutchman’s revelations that he would occasionally row with Arsene Wenger in the latter stages of his Arsenal career: “He used statistics on me and one time I said to him: 'Where in your statistics does it say that I changed the game with a killer pass?'”
Neil Warnock – The Gaffer
Finally, an excerpt from the entire page Warnock dedicates to his obsession with collecting football cards with his son and opening them in the QPR changing room: “The manager has a card too and I was naturally delighted to see I was a four-star. I pointed this out to the lads, and then I revealed the ratings. 'Sorry, Adel, you're only three-star, so are you Armand. Kieron, you're just a two-star. Luke and Joey, you are both fours but Fitz ... I can't bring myself to tell you ...' 'Someone's already told me boss, I'm a one-star.'”
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