What do Leo Beenhakker, Michel Hidalgo, Diego Maradona, Bill Shankly and Eric Cantona have in common? They all were, or indeed are, famous for having some of the most unforgettable personalities in the world of football. This famous five, and many others like them, were always good for a quote or two to keep fans of the beautiful game surprised and amused in equal measure.
In its regular 'The things they say' feature, FIFA.com has long given centre stage to the romantics, the philosophers and, of course, the comedians from among the ranks of football’s coaches and players. 2010 had its own share of highlights, and who better than Dutch coaching legend Beenhakker to share his magic formula for success to get the ball rolling: "The game is not mathematics. In football, two plus two very rarely equals four – it's usually three or five and sometimes zero." Well that certainly clears things up...
Stars on the pitch and in the interview room
When FIFA.com published a collection of the best quotes from Hidalgo at the end of October, the feedback poured in from users in the comments section. And with good reason: the former French team coach was as dazzling in the interview room as his players were out on the pitch. "I have had enough of this collective thinking. Football has become too complex today. We are killing the art! Where have imagination, instinct and flair gone? You hear coaches talk in figures, statistics and percentages. They are nothing but two-bit technicians!" he once proclaimed. He also made it perfectly clear which of his star players was head and shoulders above the rest: "Platini – even his feet are intelligent!"
Not everyone, however, was as fulsome in their praise for the UEFA EURO 1984 winner. Eric Cantona was once asked whether Michel Platini or Zinedine Zidane was the best French footballer of all time. "It's me!" was his unequivocal reply. Gunter Netzer, German midfield maestro of the 1970s, was an equally forthright character, as we found out when picking through some of his most quotable outbursts at the end of July this year. Even the most famous German footballer of them all was not spared: "I was bending over and Franz Beckenbauer stole my free-kick. Man, I was angry. Unfortunately he scored as well."
Among the footballing greats, not everyone can hit it off all of the time, and the relationships between coaches and players are often strained to say the least. When German midfielder Hansi Muller asked for a chat with Austrian coaching legend Ernst Happel, the latter told him: "If you want to talk, you should try being a vacuum cleaner salesman. I only want footballers."
Bill Shankly, the Scottish legend who spent many successful years managing Liverpool, carved out a reputation both for success and straight-talking. "I was the best manager in the game and should've won more. I didn't do anything devious. I'd fight you, and break my wife's leg if I played against her, but I wouldn't cheat her." No doubt Mrs Shankly was relieved to hear it!
Honesty is the best policy
Top Egyptian coach Hassan Shehata and Paraguayan goalkeeper legend Jose Luiz Chilavert both tend to speak their minds, and one thing they certainly have no truck with is superstition. "Some are saying that I use magic and that all my results come from that. If that’s true, explain why I didn’t qualify for the World Cup? It’s just superstition," said a down-to-earth Shehata. Chilavert went a step further, saying: "I never had any superstitions. They’re just excuses for the weak."
Staying in South America, there was no way that we could ignore Diego Armando Maradona. Argentina's greatest ever player has certainly had some ups and downs in his life and still finds himself making the headlines whatever he does. In an exclusive interview with FIFA.com, the living legend cut a surprisingly frank and thoughtful figure. "The worst has already happened. I was at the bottom of the sea and my daughters pulled me out. I can get up every day now and that's an achievement when you consider that I used to go three whole days either awake or asleep. Seeing my grandson is like touching the sky. Everything else pales in comparison."
How did you enjoy this selection of quotes from some of the biggest personalities in the football world? If you’re hungry for more, then you can read all of the "The things they say" articles from 2010 by clicking on the list in the right-hand menu. Enjoy!