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Fat footballers

ESPN staff
September 7, 2012
Wayne Rooney admits he had a few too many beers during the summer break © PA Photos

After Wayne Rooney admitted, "I'm like most blokes, I put on a few pounds after a holiday", we decided it was time to take a look at ten notoriously 'big-boned' footballers from over the years.

Arguably the most complete out-and-out striker of the last half a century, Ronaldo can still never be mentioned nowadays without the word 'fat' accompanying his name. Like the 'Ant' to the TV's 'Dec', Ronaldo simply cannot be described by his name alone, partially due to the existence of Cristiano, but mostly because he is now recognised as "Fat Ronaldo". In 2011 the Brazilian said to TV Globo: "I will live healthy. Do not want to get fat. I'm not going to get ugly." For once, the three-time FIFA World Player of the Year and two-time Ballon D'or winner failed to achieve his goals, but that should not blur our memory of him when - in years to come - history books tell us he "gobbled up chances".

Ronaldo was an unbelievable striker in his day © Getty Images

Tomas Brolin
Sweden international Tomas Brolin arrived at Leeds as one of the most highly rated footballers in Europe. He left as one of the best adverts for fast food that any marketing machine can dream up. Why was he on the large side? Maybe an insight into his character will help. When asked to play on the right of midfield for Leeds against Liverpool, Brolin decided he would purposefully sabotage the team. "It may not sound that bad, to be a wide midfielder at Leeds, but the defensive responsibilities I had ... I was going to run up and down the right like an idiot. That wasn't me. So I decided … I was going to be piss-poor against Liverpool." Leeds lost that game 5-0, and Brolin never recovered. Winner of a Cup Winners' Cup, UEFA Cup, and third place at a World Cup early in his career, Brolin later retired at the age of 29 to chew over where things went wrong.

Jan Molby
Often abused by chants of "You fat bastard" and "Who ate all the pies" from opposing fans, Molby is nonetheless one of only a handful of players in English football to have had an FA Cup final unofficially named after him. Liverpool's 3-1 win over Everton at Wembley in 1986 is known by Kopites as the Molby Cup final, such was his influence on the game, but that only makes one wonder how good he might have been had he not been 'generously built'. A prison sentence in the late 80s for drink-driving testified to the fact Molby liked a beverage, but having won three league titles and three FA Cups with Liverpool he remains one of the most naturally gifted players to have represented the club. Food for thought.

Neil Ruddock
When the combative England defender Neil Ruddock played for your club, you knew there was always a danger when a nippy striker came to town. Ruddock reached a size so big at Swindon that none of the 86 pairs of shorts at the club fitted him. He needed specially made efforts. Prior to that move to Swindon, which didn't exactly go well, Ruddock had played for Crystal Palace, who's chairman Simon Jordan revealed: "Harry Redknapp told me to make sure I had a weight clause in his contract - 98 kilos, or whatever. And if he's over that then fine him 10% of his wages. That is the only way to ensure you get a fit and focused Ruddock." Clubs tended to keep a wide berth from the former Liverpool man after that.

Jan Molby made up for his lack of athleticism with his passing ability © PA Photos

Benni McCarthy
West Ham have provided a shining example of how to lose pounds - and plenty of them - at times over the past 20 years, but one man who did not fit into that club ethos (or his own shirt) was Benni McCarthy. Fined £200,000 for failing to meet fitness targets at the club, the South African later engaged into a row with vice-chairman Karren Brady, who labelled him a "big fat mistake". McCarthy responded by calling Brady "the devil with tits", to which Brady replied: "At least I'm supposed to have tits". So tit-for-tat really.

Micky Quinn
"He's fat, he's round, he's worth a million pounds - Micky Quinn, Micky Quinn!" What a fan favourite big Micky Quinn was for Portsmouth, Newcastle and Coventry. A regular goalscorer, despite his multiple chins, Quinn once claimed he was the "fastest man in the world over one yard." Usain Bolt never got to disprove that theory, but "Sumo" netted over 200 league goals in his career which certainly adds... well, weight... to his argument.

Andy Reid
In a shootout between Neil Shipperley and Andy Reid, we've gone with the latter. No doubt, Shipperley arguably reached a larger state than his rival, but he did not match Reid's reputation as "the fat Maradona". When you're being labelled the fat version of something that wasn't particularly slight in the first place, that tells you you're carrying an extra tyre or two. Still, 27 caps for Republic of Ireland tells you Reid could take a free-kick. Either that, or it merely shows he had no greater competition for his place than Kevin Kilbane.

Neville Southall
Speak to any Everton fan and they'll tell you Neville Southall was the best keeper ever to play the game in England. Winner of two league titles, two FA Cups and a Cup Winners' Cup, Southall made over 500 league appearances for Everton in an illustrious career. Such was his reputation, he later launched a website offering his time in exchange for money. An hour on the phone with the big man was set to cost £99. An email would set you back £50. Weight loss advice, well that would have cost you more than just money...

Neville Southall was one of the greatest goalkeepers to grace English football © PA Photos

William Foulke
Once signed by Sheffield United for £20, Foulke looked like a man who could spend more than that sum down his local chippy. Tipping the scales at over 24 stones at one stage in his career "Fatty Foulke" was an undoubted cult hero. He won the league with Sheffield United and played a part in three FA Cup finals, and it's fair to say a void was left when he retired.

Frank Lampard?
"Fat Frank" to so many opposing fans, Lampard actually makes this list due to his reputation, rather than his actual weight. One of the finest Premier League midfielders of his generation, Lampard merely suffered from a little puppy fat in his early days, after which he has - to be fair - lived an extremely healthy existence. However, it's much more fan calling him "Fat Frank" so we'll continue with that until he next stands close to Rooney in the England team.

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