“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.”
“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!"
"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