19 Premier League footballers who really don’t look like footballers

Quick Reads

The Premier League is a melting pot of cultures and hairstyles. But it’s still hard to see Kevin de Bruyne as an athlete.

What does a footballer look like? It’s a silly question, really, with no answer beyond the stereotype. Six foot tall? A simple fade? An Alice band if they’re foreign?

Thankfully, it’s much easier to define what a footballer doesn’t look like. Because the answer is simply “Wayne Rooney”.

Over the years, the Premier League has welcomed all manner of blatant impostors, from Leighton Baines — once a beloved keyboardist in The Rakes — to Edwin van der Sar, who was secretly a geography teacher.

And we should celebrate these figures. Footballers who rejected tradition, who refused to go to the gym or the barber, who chose football despite the mirror directing them elsewhere.

Here are some of the Premier League’s greatest ever footballers who really don’t look like footballers:

1. Wayne Rooney

2. Ivan Campo

Despite looking like an overfed Johnny Borrell, Spanish defender Ivan Campo made 172 Premier League appearances for Bolton, scoring 13 times.

And unlike model professional Fernando Hierro — another former Real Madrid defender who moved to Bolton for some reason — Campo was a hilarious loose cannon who regularly picked up cards for fun.

His non-footballing aesthetic got even better as time went on. By the time he signed for Ipswich aged 35, he looked like a mid-2000s Maradona.

Played like him too.

3. Literally every Liverpool midfielder this century

You can attribute Liverpool’s recent success to a few things: Jurgen Klopp, an excellent scouting department, swapping Coutinho for Van Dijk…

But the simplest explanation is that they stopped putting Uncle Fester lookalikes in central midfield.

Sure, Gary McAllister (63 years old) and Danny Murphy (goblin) were decent players. But Jay Spearing? Charlie Adam? Jonjo Shelvey?

Under what rock were they finding these lads? Were Houllier, Benitez and Dalglish too insecure about their own appearance to buy regular-looking humans? (It would explain why Jari Litmanen was sold prematurely.)

Absolute carnage over there.

4. Kevin de Bruyne

5. Tom Davies

Everton’s Tom Davies seems a likeable guy, but he definitely sells ‘healing crystals’ outside a backpacker’s hostel in Thailand.

He’s the anti Andre Gomes.

6. Marcin Wasilewski

Hard bastard Marcin Wasilewski became a Leicester favourite after helping them get promoted to the Premier League.

Credit then to Claudio Ranieri, who had the balls to hand his six-foot-one doorman just four appearances over the title-winning 2015–16 season — one too few for a winner’s medal.

Wasilewski turns 40 in June, but he’s still playing in the Polish top flight for Wisla Krakow.

7. Raul Meireles

Portuguese midfielder Raul Meireles would be less conspicuous amongst today’s crop of players, who are legally required to have a full sleeve or two.

But when he joined Liverpool in 2010, his cartoon rockstar appearance turned a few heads. (A pirate beard would appear a few years later.)

As we’ve established, the Merseysiders would happily take Brad Friedel in midfield over a classically handsome European, so they sold Meireles to Chelsea after one season.

8. Edwin van der Sar

You’ve got to be mad to be a keeper! Mad, or like, a taller-than-average train conductor.

9. Luka Modric

Crotian playmaker Luke Modric is something of a paradox: he adheres to the footballer trope of wearing a hairband, but it makes him look even more alien.

That being said, Modric’s slight physique contributes to his legend. Has a skinnier player ever dominated central midfield so easily?

10. N’golo Kante

In the late 2000s, Chelsea’s midfield was a who’s who of slow but robust human beings. Makelele, Mikel, Lampard, Ballack, (late-period) Essien…

Kante is quite the opposite.

At five foot six, the Frenchman doesn’t look much like a footballer — still less like a box-to-box midfielder — but he’s one of the best in the business.

Love him.

11. Roque Mesa

I used to like Swansea, but they only gave 11 league appearances to this metal-toothed, lobe-studded, pornstar-tached Spaniard.

He cost £11 million! They got relegated!

12. Gabriel Obertan

From his pate to his gait, nothing about Gabriel Obertan seemed footballerish.

He somehow played in seven Premier League seasons, first with Man United then with Newcastle, scoring just twice for the Magpies.

13. Leighton Baines

From what I can gather, Planet Football HQ basically comprises a Rory Delap poster and a box of NME back issues from 2004 to 2008.

Leighton Baines is presumably a PF favourite because, as has been pointed out countless times, he’s basically used his PL career to try out every single Oasis haircut.

Conventional-looking Lucas Digne gets more playing time these days, so Baines has plenty more time for experimentation.

14. Callum Paterson

Cardiff’s Callum Paterson is massive, moustachioed and somehow expects us to believe he’s two years younger than Jesse Lingard.

He so un-footballer-like, he doesn’t even have a position.

15. Andy Reid

I just searched “Andy Reid” on Wikipedia, which gave me this 62-year-old American football coach instead of the Irish midfielder.

Honestly, they don’t look that different.

16. Harry Maguire

Something quite endearing about a £180,000-a-week footballer getting a £5 haircut.

17. Jimmy Bullard

Eschewing typical footballer traits like professionalism, agility and ‘having a neck’, Jimmy Bullard was in a league of his own.

He had a head of white-grey hair before turning 40, which confirms he’s got Strongbow and gravy for DNA.

18. Gary Taylor-Fletcher

It doesn’t take a genius to notice that footballers get chunkier further down the football pyramid, but Gary Taylor-Fletcher deserves a special mention.

During Blackpool’s brilliant 2010–11 PL adventure, Taylor-Fletcher scored goals against Man United, Arsenal and Liverpool — who bravely resisted the urge to buy him.

Iconic.

19. Oli McBurnie

A six-foot-two Scotsman with flailing arms and actual children’s shin pads? Yes please!

By Benedict O’Neill


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