Murray talks football, favourites and becoming The Best

  • Former Tennis No1 Andy Murray is an avid football fan

  • Had trials with Rangers as a youngster, grew up watching Barça at Camp Nou

  • Gives his take on this year’s The Best nominees

Tennis star Andy Murray has been determined to be the best all his life. Moving to Barcelona as a youngster to receive the best training necessary to raise his game, he has fought for the No1 spot in his sport since breaking on to the scene over a decade ago, finally achieving that goal late last year.

Having become the best in his discipline, a position only rescinded recently to Rafael Nadal, he is well-placed to discuss what it takes to get there. When it comes to mixing this discussion with football, Murray is better placed than most. An avid football fan, he had a grandfather who played professional football, and even had trials for professional teams himself as a youngster. spoke to Murray to get his take on this year’s candidates for The Best FIFA Football Awards™, his love of the game and how to become the best. Just how close were you to becoming a footballer? Andy Murray: Not as close as everyone thinks! I was asked to go back after my first trial with Rangers but it was really difficult to play both tennis and football at the same time. Both sports were placing different demands on my body and in the end it just became a question of which sport I enjoyed the most and which I was better at. After a lot of deliberation, I decided tennis was the sport I was more naturally gifted at and decided to move to Spain to pursue a career in that, which thankfully turned out to be the right decision.

When you said recently that you “would like to do something in football” when you retire from tennis, did you have anything specific in mind? I have no idea! I just find the sport really interesting, I love reading, watching and talking about football, so if I wanted to do something that wasn’t tennis that I thought I was passionate enough about, I’d maybe look at doing something in football. I’m a huge fantasy football fan, so I’d probably quite fancy myself as a manager but it’s completely different doing it in real life, definitely not as easy as everyone thinks.

Growing up in Barcelona, did you get to the Camp Nou much as a youngster? Moving away from home at a young age was obviously difficult, but living in a city like Barcelona, which is famous for its football, made things easier. My friends and I would go a lot as teenagers, and we saw some great matches. One that stands out in my memory, is when we saw Barcelona against AC Milan in the Champions League in the 2004/2005 season. Ronaldinho scored one of the best goals I’ve ever seen live, people still talk about that goal.

You’ve already said you’re a keen fantasy football player, so what would be your personal World11 for 2016/17? Gianluigi Buffon; Dani Alves, Sergio Ramos, Giorgio Chiellini, Marcelo; Ngolo Kante, Toni Kroos, Luka Modric; Paulo Dybala, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi

Who would be your winner for The Best FIFA Men’s Player award, and why? It has to be Cristiano Ronaldo at number one. He won La Liga and the Champions League, and scored a crazy amount of goals in both competitions to help his team get there. I think he scored ten goals from the quarter-finals onwards in the Champions League, which is unbelievable.

And The Best FIFA Men’s Coach award? It’s difficult to look past Zinedine Zidane at Real Madrid: league winners, Champions League winners and also the first club to win the latter back-to-back. That kind of performance doesn’t happen by accident and takes a special kind of manager to be able to motivate your players week in, week out to sustain that level of performance.

The finalists were also announced recently for The Best FIFA Women's Player: in what order would you place Deyna Castellanos, Carli Lloyd and Lieke Martens, and why? The women’s game seems pretty competitive right now and it’s encouraging to see how it’s growing. Obviously it’s been big in the USA over the last few years, but it’s great to finally start to see things improving in the Women’s Super League over here in the UK. The only way the women’s game is going to continue to grow is through ensuring that it's exposed to as many people as possible, as much as possible and not just during big international tournaments.

I’ll have to be a bit biased when ordering my top three, and go for Carli Lloyd at number one. It was great to see her make a loan move across to Manchester City from Houston during the NWSL off season - she’s a huge name over there. So, for me, it would be:

  1. Carli Lloyd

  2. Deyna Castellanos

  3. Lieke Martens

Who gets your vote for this year’s Puskás Award? As an Arsenal fan, it’s got to be Olivier Giroud’s scorpion kick against Crystal Palace. Mkhitaryan scored a very similar goal the week before, but I think the angle and pace at which the ball was moving before Giroud makes contact with the ball makes his just that little bit more impressive.

From someone who has risen to the top of their profession, can you give some insight into what it takes to be the best, and the sacrifices it takes to get there? I had to sacrifice a lot to reach the top, it takes a huge amount of dedication and hard work and you need passion for your chosen sport and to love what you do. Looking back, my parents also sacrificed a lot to enable my brother and I to be where we are today, whether they were driving us half way down the country to play in a small tournament, or working long hours to pay for our coaching. It would’ve been easy for them to say, “not tonight” or “get the bus” but they never did, and it’s because of them I’m in such a fortunate position today.

Do you think that the same mentality and desire is required across different sports to be the best? Definitely. To be the best you have to believe in yourself no matter what, but you also have to be extremely dedicated. You have to continually look to improve, and never accept yourself as a finished product. Even now there are areas of my game I want to improve.

If you were to give one piece of advice to any young boy or girl who is determined to be the best in the world at their chosen sport, be that football, tennis or another sport, what would it be? Always believe that when you apply yourself you can achieve anything. Make sure you give 100 per cent and work as hard as you can in everything you do, not just in what you enjoy but also in life. Also, always remember that natural ability will only get you so far - there is no substitute for practice.