It is widely believed that footballers are not the smartest individuals. I strongly disagree with conventional wisdom; footballers are a lot more intelligent than people realise. While they might come across as very articulate they do possess more brainpower than the average person.
Without further ado, he is my list of the cleverest football players on the planet.
1. Mathieu Flamini
Although Flamini had a mediocre career with Arsenal and AC Milan, the Frenchman is a clever entrepreneur off the pitch. He co-founded GF Biochemicals, a biochemical company that mass produces Levulinic Acid, a possible future replacement for petroleum-based products. So far, the venture has been very successful and could capture a large market share of an industry worth £20 billion! Flamini’s net worth is close to £20 million right now but will be 100 times that amount if the company can maintain its position in a rapidly growing industry.
2. Frank Lampard
Chelsea and England fans can attest to Frank Lampard’s intelligence with his understanding of the game contributing to his 177 Premier League goals, the fourth-highest total ever. Lampard did well in school before turning professional, picking up 12 GCSE’s and scored highly on an IQ test taken at Chelsea, reportedly scoring more than 150 on the test, that’s not far off Einstein’s IQ! His match intelligence has enabled him to play multiple positions, from defensive midfielder to number 10. For someone who is related to Harry Redknapp, Lampard is clearly very brainy indeed.
3. Gary Neville
Defenders tend to be smarter than attackers but who knew Gary Neville would turn into such an articulate football analyst. A fantastic right back in his playing days. Neville won eight Premier League titles and two Champion Leagues. Once he retired, the former Man United player joined Sky Sports, where he gained a reputation as an insightful pundit. In the past he was a coach within the England national team and also had a brief stint in the La Liga, managing Valencia. Every football fan was delighted once he was sacked and rejoined Sky as a pundit.
4. Juan Mata
Spanish playmaker, Juan Mata has a cultured left foot but the culture doesn’t stop there. The Man United attacking midfielder spends his summers backpacking around Spain and Greece and loves to learn new languages, mastering English in his first year at Chelsea. Mata earned a degree while playing in the Real Madrid youth team and later took online courses in marketing and sport science when he moved from Valencia to Chelsea. His quick mind and intelligent play helped Chelsea win the Champions League in 2012.
5. Vincent Kompany
Man City defender joined the club at 22 and since captained them to two Premier League titles, being named ‘Player of the Year’ in 2012. Kompany is respected for eloquence and honesty in interviews, speaking better English than native English speakers. He turned down transfers as a teenager in order to complete his studies and has since received a Masters in Business Administration at Manchester Business School. All that time out injured did not go to waste!
6. Slaven Bilic
1998 saw a special crop of Croatian players reach the semi-finals of the World Cup. A rock hard centre back, Bilic was a key member of the squad. After retirement, Bilic went on to manage his country for six years and the former Everton player speaks German, English, Italian and Croatian. Apparently, he reads psychology textbooks to understand his players better and did a degree in law in case football didn’t work out as a career.
7. Shaka Hislop
Trinidad and Tobago goalkeeper featured for Reading, Newcastle United, West Ham United, Portsmouth and FC Dallas before retiring to become a pundit. After finishing school in Trinidad, he won a scholarship to Howard University in Washington DC, where he studied Mechanical Engineering and graduated with honours. While at university, Hislop interned at NASA although he said all he did was make cups of tea and sat in meetings he didn’t understand.
8. Petr Cech
Petr Cech is the goalkeeper with the most clean sheets in Premier League history. He has won four Premier League titles, four FA Cups, Europa League and Champions League to his name. But it isn’t just his trophy cabinet that sets him apart from other goalkeepers but he is also a very intelligent man. During a game for Arsenal in 2016, Cech revealed he communicated to his defence in three different languages. The goalkeeper can also speak German, Slovak and Czech!
9. Jean-Alain Boumsong
Boumsong had a disappointing career and never fulfilled his potential as an elite defender. Away from the field, he was a sharp cookie! The former Newcastle, Lyon and Juventus centre half has a degree in mathematics, which he considers his main interest away from the football field. Boumsong also an avid Mozart fan, dispelling the myth that all footballers are uncultured.
10. Ramon Vega
Swiss centre back, Ramon Vega might only be known for his brief spells with Spurs, Watford and Celtic but off the pitch, his astute business acumen and a degree in finance and banking, have yielded great success. A three-time winner of the Swiss Super League with Grasshoppers, Vegas spent a year in Italy before being signed up by Spurs in a £3.75 million deal. Despite the fact he was only a squad player, Vega started in 1999 League Cup final and ended up on the winning side. It came at a cost though, as he broke his ankle in the match and never managed to regain his form afterwards.
The Man United striker is often praised for his strength and speed but is also a very tactically astute player, with a nose for defensive weakness. Born in Antwerp to Congolese parents, Lukaku was raised speaking French and has since learned five other languages including Portuguese which he picked to help his Brazilian teammates at Anderlecht adjust to life in Europe. Lukaku claims to watch every Premier League game to study movement off the ball and with such an incredible work ethic it’s not hard to see why Manchester United paid £75 million to bring him to Old Trafford.
12. Jordan Morris
US international Jordan Morris is just 23 years old but already has a roaster of achievements every player would be proud of. The Washington state native came through the Seattle Sounders academy before attending Stanford University on a soccer scholarship. There he scored 23 goals in 54 games, was named the best college player in the country in 2015 and was called up for international duty by Jurgen Klinsmann. Morris has had bad luck with injuries recently and didn’t play many competitive games in the last year.
13. Simon Mignolet
The Belgian is rated by Jurgen Klopp as the smartest goalkeeper he’s worked with. Mignolet’s spell at Liverpool has been plagued by inconsistency, making a number of high-profile errors that have cost Liverpool points in big games. The goalkeeper takes his education very seriously, obtaining a degree in law and political science before starting his career. Unfortunately for the Belgian, his intelligence has resulted in success on the pitch and more than likely will sold by Liverpool if they are serious about challenging for the title.
14. Johan Cruyff
As a player, Cruyff had bundles of creativity, helping Holland implement their ‘total football’ philosophy. After retirement Cruyff became a manager, winning La Liga four times and the European Cup with Barcelona. He constantly experimented with new systems to gain an advantage and believed in team play above all, saying “In my system, the goalkeeper is the first attacker and the striker is the first defender.” It is impossible to imagine that anyone person has influenced modern football more than this Dutch legend.