“I wasn’t hungry, I was very hungry. I stole many bikes. I also stole cars. That was how we got by. We did those things on adrenaline, motivation. I came from Rosengard. In Sweden it’s considered a ghetto, but for me it was paradise.”
*Zlatan Ibrahimovic on his childhood *
"Mourinho is the best coach in the world. He is not God, but he almost is.”
*Eden Hazard *
“You want to compare me to Ibra? Well, that's a compliment... for him!"
*Mario Balotelli when a reporter likened him to Zlatan Ibrahimovic*
“I’d already done a lot of nice things lying down, but I’d never scored a goal!”
*Fred jokes about his opener against Spain at the FIFA Confederations Cup *
"I don’t know if my equal at AC Milan (Mario Balotelli) has committed theft on a train, drove without headlights in the night, or constantly ran away and withdrew from the U-21 squad. These were the sins of my youth. I recently turned 27 and if I do certain things in Germany that I used to do, I'd get arrested immediately! I've always been against taxing diets. Once a Dinamo Zagreb coach saw me while I was eating a pizza and severely scolded me, saying I would get fat. In response, I ordered ten pizzas and managed to eat five!"
*Mario Mandzukic *
"When we signed him from Banfield I assumed he came from Argentina. But I’ve since discovered he comes from the planet Krypton!
*Massimo Moratti on Javier Zanetti *
"I had never heard of Sheriff Tiraspol before – I thought they were from Northern Ireland! I only found out 20 minutes before we landed. I got told it was a country within Moldova. That was a new one for me, but it has improved my geography! I am very pleased to be here. I can tell my grandchildren that I played in a part of Moldova that isn't Moldova."
*Lewis Holtby on Tottenham’s visit to Tiraspol, which is a self-announced breakaway state*
"He is really something. I love him. He is Sir Arsene Wenger. He is hello (makes a handshake gesture). But he likes having the ball, playing football, passes... it’s like an orchestra. But it is a silent song. I like heavy metal more. I always want it loud. I love Arsenal’s style, but I cannot coach it because I am a different guy. If you watch me during the game I celebrate when we press the ball and it goes out. To enjoy football you have to do this. If, over the last four years, Barcelona were the first team I saw playing when I was four years of age — this serenity of football, they win 5-0, 6-0 — I would have played tennis. It is not my sport. I don’t like winning with 80 per cent of possession. Sorry, that is not enough for me. Fighting football, not serenity football, that is what I like. What we call in German 'English' football — rainy day, heavy pitch, 5-5, everybody is dirty in the face and goes home and cannot play for weeks after."
"It’s crazy that I’m compared to athletes like Michael Jordan, Usain Bolt or Muhammad Ali. I don’t like comparisons. Who am I to compare myself to someone else? I do my job and when my career is over we’ll see how well I’ve done. The biggest critic of Messi is Messi. I know when I do things correctly and when I do them poorly."
"[Pirlo's] always making jokes, always breaking the rules. One time when I was eating at Milanello, I had the bright idea of leaving my phone on the table, and he sent a text message from it to Galliani and Braida offering them my sister!”
*Gennaro Gattuso on Andrea Pirlo’s character and the text he sent to the Milan chiefs *
"He is a gentleman of the highest caliber, and to watch him on the pitch – pacing like a lion, as weightless as an astronaut – is pure therapy.”
*Morrissey, the English musician, on Robbie Keane after watching the Irishman represent Los Angeles Galaxy against Tijuana*
“Zlatan was calling us fishermen. Yes, we are fishermen, for fishing belongs to our culture. What he earns per minute or per day, we barely make in a year. We finish our jobs at around 4pm and practise in the evening; he is a professional. We are already a small enough country. Why he feels the need to put us down even further, it’s just weird. Zlatan likes to point out how much money he earns. He’s also on a level that everyone else can only dream of – he’s among the best three players in the world. He should be very happy. Why is he so angry? Why does he need to trash-talk? Why does he need to behave the way he does?”
*Simun Samuelsen on Zlatan Ibrahimovic following the Faroe Islands’ 2-0 loss away to Sweden *
“I went to Tahiti to play football, to make a living doing it, but then I saw that the sport is still amateur, so I started working as a tour guide. As the company I work for knows I’m a footballer, whenever an important person in that area comes, they ask me to receive them. It’s through this that I met Mourinho, Cassano, Buffon and Ronaldo – and in 2007 Torres. I went to pick [Torres and partner Olalla] up at the airport and then they went to Bora Bora. They were going to return to Papeete, but Torres had to leave at the last minute to sign a Liverpool contract. When the [Spain-Tahiti] game finished, I went to the Spanish dressing room and asked Vicente Del Bosque if I could speak to Torres. He knew I was there and recognised me! I was very happy and we exchanged jerseys.”
*Efrain Araneda, Tahiti’s Chile-born standby player *
“I arrived at Barcelona. I had bought a white suit to look handsome. Unfortunately, everybody was looking strangely at me – [I’d forgotten] white is the colour of Real Madrid! At the end of the first day, the club’s president told me, ‘That, never again!’ The day after I threw the suit in the bin!”
*Ludovic Giuly on his first day at the Catalan club *
“If Real Madrid come back in Champions League, I’ll let my girlfriend sleep with them!”
*Mario Balotelli offers an extra incentive for Real to reverse a first-leg deficit against Borussia Dortmund: the stunning Fanny Neguesha*