• Football

Five players who tipped their managers off the scales

Michael Beattie
October 21, 2014
Harry Redknapp was not impressed with Adel Taarabt's commitment to the cause

Queens Park Rangers' forward Adel Taarabt is not only out of form but also out of shape - at least, that's what his manager Harry Redknapp believes.

A war of words broke out at Loftus Road over the Moroccan's fitness, with Redknapp claiming he could not be selected for Premier League action because he was "about three stone overweight" and refused to "run and train".

Taarabt issued the counter-claim that he was, in fact, a kilogram lighter than when he was sent out on loan to AC Milan last season, but Redknapp was having none of it and insisted he only lost weight because of tonsillitis.

After both were told to stop their embarrassing spat by chairman Tony Fernandes, ESPN took a look at five other players who were deemed by their managers to be a little too fond of their food.

Benni McCarthy

Benni McCarthy was ordered to lose a kilogram a week at West Ham © Getty Images

If the way to a man's heart is through his stomach, the route to his brain is through his wallet. That's the theory West Ham chairman David Sullivan ran with when he believed Benni McCarthy was ballooning in 2010, informing the striker he would be docked a week's wages - £38,000 - unless he lost a kilogram per week until he was back in trim.

"He's training very hard so he must be eating or drinking something very wrong," Sullivan said. "Short of spending 24 hours a day with him, we have to assume that.

"With the amount of training he is doing his weight should be going down with a normal diet. We are not starving him. It's just, don't eat ice cream, don't eat cakes, don't drink wine. Who knows when they go home what they do.

"It's like a jockey turning up overweight. He can't ride a horse, can he, and no one is going to pay him? I think we are fully within our rights to say 'you are not honouring your side of the contract'. You expect him to turn up in a state to be a footballer."

The skinny: South Africa's all-time top goalscorer made just 11 appearances in 18 months for West Ham, where he racked up £200,000 in fines and never found the net. Having missed out on a place in the host nation's World Cup squad, he saw out his playing days in his homeland after returning in 2011.

David Ginola

David Ginola considered suing former Aston Villa manager John Gregory © Getty Images

Ginola's relationship with Aston Villa manager John Gregory was rocky, to put it mildly. Having arrived at the club in 2001 still shell-shocked that Tottenham had accepted a £3 million bid for his services, he was challenged to channel that frustration to prove the doubters wrong.

In fact, Gregory considered it such an effective tactic, he joined the ranks of the doubters and told the Frenchman to buck up his ideas and lose a few inches.

"While David had 34,000 adoring fans at White Hart Lane, few people in the Midlands have been convinced so far," Gregory told the press, adding: "David looks overweight."

That was a dig too far for Ginola. He turned in one of his finest performances in (and out of) an Aston Villa shirt soon after - against former side Spurs, to boot - but hired Cherie Blair as he considered suing Gregory and the club for what amounted to harassment in the workplace.

The skinny: Ginola left the club soon after. While the threatened lawsuit never materialised, he was back a decade later attempting to sue then-Villa manager Gerard Houllier in the latest episode of a French feud that dates back 20 years.

Dean Ashton

Dean Ashton was another hefty West Ham player © Getty Images

Perhaps someone at West Ham needs to have a word with the canteen staff. Before McCarthy's pounds-for-pounds weight loss programme, the club had England hopeful Dean Ashton on the books - but his chances of an international career rested on slimming down.

A broken ankle suffered during a training-ground tackle from Shaun Wright-Phillips scuppered his hopes of a debut during his first call-up to the senior squad under Steve McClaren in 2006, but two years later Fabio Capello saw fit to bring him back into the England set-up.

"We followed Dean in a lot of games last season and he was very good but he had injury problems before that," Capello said. "He has since told me he is fit now. I spoke with him in Trinidad and I told him he had to lose weight and be better physically because technically he is good but he is not quick."

The skinny: Capello handed Ashton his solitary England cap in the summer of 2008. Suitably inspired, the West Ham striker made a fine start to the following season, only for a sprained ankle in Gianfranco Zola's first training session at the club to end his career at the age of 26. Both Ashton and West Ham attempted to sue the FA for compensation for the ankle injury picked up in 2006.


Ronaldo - the 'old, fat one', according to Sir Alex Ferguson © Getty Images

The two-time World Cup winner - or "the old, fat Ronaldo," to quote Sir Alex Ferguson - had a history of serious injuries throughout his career, and like so many sidelined footballers faced weight problems that truly took hold at Real Madrid in 2006.

Having already been nicknamed 'El Gordo' - the fat one - by the Madrid faithful, coach Fabio Capello made his feelings clear by signing Ruud van Nistelrooy to play up front alongside Raul, then getting straight to the point three months after the Brazilian's latest surgery.

"Ronaldo needs to improve his physical condition," Capello. "Because after his operation, he was fat. Now he's losing weight. Not as much as I've asked him to, but he's really trying."

"The worst thing is not to have the trust of the coach, and to not know how to regain it," Ronaldo fired back. "But I'm a fighter, and I'm going to fight my way back into the starting line-up."

The skinny: Ronaldo joined AC Milan in 2007 and ended his career at Corinthians in 2011, but continues to battle with weight issues. Claiming his weight problems were down to an underactive thyroid after retiring, he recently appeared on a Brazilian television show aiming to help celebrities shed the pounds.

Neil Ruddock

Neil Ruddock was taunted for his weight by Eric Cantona © Getty Images

Eric Cantona once taunted Razor Ruddock about his weight during a match, so Ruddock promptly turned down the Manchester United midfielder's collar. "Trust me to pick the only Frenchman around who wanted a tear-up," he jokes on the after-dinner circuit.

Yes, Ruddock had his problems with his weight throughout his career, a trait that has been linked with the fact the centre-back - who once admitted to consuming 212 steak and kidney pies per year - won a solitary England cap.

Sometimes it's best to head these things off at the pass. When Ruddock was angling to join Crystal Palace in 2000, club chairman Simon Jordan insisted he had a maximum weight clause in his contract, with docked wages whenever the scales tipped past the target.

Who gave Jordan that nugget of advice? One Harry Redknapp, Ruddock's manager at West Ham. And just as well - Ruddock left Palace by mutual consent after struggling to stay on top of his weight. He moved on to Swindon, who stopped paying his wages when weight became an issue again.

The skinny: Ruddock is no supermodel, but he took his calorie intake more seriously than you might imagine. He began keeping a food journal during his Liverpool days - hence the knowledge of his pie intake - which wife Leah Newman used to convert into charts and graphs to try and make him chance his ways.

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