10 footballers who impressed at other sports: Maldini, Batistuta, Dudek…

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Former Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand will attempt to become a professional boxer – but he’s far from the first footballer to try his hand at a different sport.

Ferdinand is one of the most decorated English footballers of all time after winning six league titles and the Champions League with United.

Taking part in Betfair’s ‘Defender to Contender’ project, Ferdinand’s move into boxing will be filmed for a documentary.

The chance to prove myself in a new sport was a real draw,” Ferdinand said. “Boxing is an amazing sport for the mind and the body. I have always had a passion for it and this challenge is the perfect opportunity to show people what’s possible.

“It’s a challenge I’m not taking lightly, clearly not everyone can become a professional boxer, but with the team of experts Betfair are putting together and the drive I have to succeed, anything is possible.”

We’ve taken a look at 10 other professional footballers who went on to switch sports.

Paolo Maldini

Quite possibly the greatest defender of his generation, almost certainly the most handsome, earlier this year the sickeningly brilliant Maldini qualified for a professional tennis tournament – the Aspria Tennis Cup, in Milan, of course – with his doubles partner and coach Stefano Landonio declaring: “He does not have any weaknesses.”

If that was the case then maybe Landonio should take the blame for the duo being beaten 6-1, 6-1 in 42 minutes.

Gabriel Batistuta

The man Mauricio Pochettino says Harry Kane should aspire to be like, Batistuta will always be remembered as one of the most lethal goalscorers in world football.

Despite ending his career amid chronic pain due to injury problems with his ankles, Batistuta quite literally got back on the horse by taking up polo in 2009.

After scoring two goals on his debut for the Loro Piana polo club, the Argentinian was typically driven. “It’s very difficult, but I hope to improve a little bit at a time,” he told Argentine television. “I’m a bit annoyed because I didn’t play well, but I will keep trying.”

Less than a year later he was lifting the Copa Stella Artois, which sounds likes the trophy your dad won with his pub’s darts team.

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READ: How Harry Kane’s stats compare to Gabriel Batistuta’s at the same age

Tim Wiesse

Let’s not get into a debate whether WWE is a sport or not here. Let’s just not.

Wiesse became a Bundesliga stalwart in his seven years at Werder Bremen, winning two cups, while he also earned six caps for Germany in the process and was part of the squads for the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012.

After hanging up his boots he bizarrely made sporadic appearances as ‘The Machine’ in WWE, saying ahead of his debut in 2016: “don’t really see wrestling as an escape, it’s an alternative to becoming fat and sitting on the couch.”

Bixente Lizarazu

Not content with winning five league titles, the Champions League, the World Cup, the European Championships and a plethora of various cups as a footballer with Bordeaux, Bayern Munich and France, Lizarazu became Jiu Jitsu European champion in the Blue Belt Senior 1 Light Division.

Patrice Evra should probably have been more careful when he called the former left-back a “tramp”.

Jerzy Dudek

Everyone’s favourite jelly-legged Champions League winner, Dudek retired in 2013 and promptly swapped the football pitch for the racing track, where he now competes in endurance races.

“Motor racing was my passion before football,” he told LFCTV last year. “I raced go-karts but of course that stopped when I became a professional footballer. When I quit football I also missed the adrenaline you got from playing.

“Now I’m taking in new tactics about cars, about different tracks. Of course there are times when I ask myself why I’m doing this; I have a wife and three kids at home – a very nice life, and when you lose control or focus in the car you can really get into trouble.

“But you need passions in life – they are what keep you going. Motor racing gives me a lot of joy and I’m loving it.”

We really miss Dudek, by the way.

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We did it !! Race Marathon finish 5in class , 43 overall !

A post shared by Jerzy Dudek (@jerzydudek1) on

Ivan Perisic

Despite spending all summer surrounded by intense speculation regarding his future at Inter amid interest from Jose Mourinho and Manchester United, Perisic appeared relaxed, competing in a professional beach volleyball competition.

“This was always my dream. I have been playing beach volleyball since I was 10. I’m very passionate about this game and every summer I have been practicing with my friend,” Perisic said after representing Croatia at the Porec Major event.

“I’d like to thank everyone who has given me the opportunity to play with the best beach volleyball players in the world. It felt amazing – even though I lost.”

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Lev Yashin

One of the most influential goalkeepers of all time, ‘the Black Spider’ became the only stopper to receive the Ballon d’Or in 1963.

Yashin also represented the Soviet Union at ice hockey and bandy, unsurprisingly also as a goalkeeper.

Bruce Arena

Currently in his second spell as the manager of the national team, Arena’s name is synonymous with USA soccer.

As a player, however, he only earned a solitary cap but was part of the national lacrosse team which triumphed at the 1974 World Championships.

Clive Allen

Best known for the 1986-87 campaign in which he scored 49 goals in all competitions for Tottenham, Allen spent a year as the London Monarchs’ placekicker in NFL Europe in 1997.

“It was bloody scary when I got out there I tell you that!” Allen told the Evening Standard last year, while backing NFL fan Harry Kane to make a similar transition later in his career.

“You try to relate it to something you would do in a football match, but there’s more pressure than there would be even taking a penalty because you’ve got players flying at you trying to stop it.”

Curtis Woodhouse

The man Rio Ferdinand will be hoping to emulate, Woodhouse was only ever a journeyman midfielder in truth (please don’t tell him we said that) but impressed as a boxer, winning British light-welterwieght title in 2014.

Woodhouse commented on Ferdinand’s decision: “If he’s fit and passes all the medical checks, good on him. He would be under huge pressure but I bet he’s missed that buzz.”

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