Before there was DB7, CR7 or G8 (Gazza’s rather ill advised attempt to cash in on his brand) there was R9. As Brazilian legend Ronaldo de Lima reveals he plans to retire next year, now is as good a time as any to look back on some of the larger characters to have graced our beautiful game. So in honour of ‘Fat’ Ronaldo, here are my top 9 Great Fat Footballers. The criteria was simply having to be not very fit, or obviously quite fat, so players like Gazza, Rooney or Maradona aren’t included, as they’re probably as fit as they could be or could have been at their best – or just naturally quite chubby anyway. Skill vs relative fatness is taken into account – which makes it sound thoroughly analytical…it isn’t.
9. Tomas Brolin
Brolin arrived at Leeds United from Parma in 1995 with an impressive reputation but looking like a stand in Benny from a fat ABBA tribute band (FL-ABBA perhaps?). After impressing at USA 94, where he even made the Team of the Tournament, Brolin was seen as a potentially great signing by then manager Howard Wilkinson. He failed to, erm, pull his weight however, and after clashing with Wilkinson several times – once after pranking him on April Fools day by telling the media he was going back to Sweden – he was eventually loaned out to FC Zurich and back to Parma, where he went completely AWOL before turning up at Crystal Palace looking like a young Pat Butcher.
8. Neil Ruddock
Razor was always a big fella, but let himself go completely once he’d left Liverpool, even being fined and transfer listed by Swindon Town for apparently turning up pre-season well over weight. He was rumored to have once had a pair of shorts specially made to accommodate him since he couldn’t fit into the regular ones and famously responded to Eric Cantona’s jibes about his physique by turning the Frenchman’s collar down.
7. Neville Southall
Big Nev was a legendary stopper for Everton and Wales despite carrying more spare tires than the Michelin man by the end of his career – as well as sporting a criminally dodgy ‘tash. Several League, FA Cup and even a European title, and a record 750 appearances for the Toffees saw him named their “all time cult hero” in 2004. He was less of a large legend and more off a fat b*****d off the pitch however, as he sued his own daughter in 2007.
6. Jan Molby
Another legend on Merseyside, Molby became a fixture in the Liverpool team of the mid 80s mostly because no one could budge him out of it. Initially a defender, then a midfielder, then a defender again, he was eventually displaced (presumably with some effort) in the side by Ronnie Whelan, but still remained back up choice number 1 and a regular substitute. Rarely leaving the center circle, he lumbered forward enough to eventually score a remarkable 62 goals for Liverpool – 42 of which, where penalties.
5. Micky Quinn
“The fastest player in the world over one yard” as he called himself, Quinn was a fearsome striker (literally) for Coventry and Newcastle in the early 90s. He was so prolific that he was almost called up for the England squad under Graham Taylor, but wasn’t, possibly due to his massive aversion to vegetables of any kind. Nicknamed ‘Sumo’ and ‘Bob’ he inspired the brilliant chant “he’s fat, he’s round, he’s worth a million pounds” which is plausibly what he weighs now.
4. Matt Le Tissier
Although not as big as some of the lads on this list, Le Tiss was never one to go for too much strenuous exercise, both in training and on match day. Blessed with enormous natural skill, he could usually bamboozle the opposition by turning in circles whilst standing relatively still, which suited him down to the ground. One of best players to be regularly over looked by England, I’ve included him by virtue of him just not being very fit rather than overtly fat – even though he was often carrying a few extra pounds – but also being incredibly good. He revealed in his autobiography that the fastest he’d ever run was to avoid loosing a bet after he’d under hit a deliberately long pass from kick off after betting on the time of the first throw in. Utter legend at Southampton ….and on Countdown.
3. William Foulke
Has to be included near the top of any list of fat footballers by virtue of quite honestly being very fat. Whilst most players on this list are unfit, chubby or merely fat for a footballer, Foulke was genuinely fat for a fat person, weighing 24st by the time his career ended. A goalkeeper for Sheffield United and Chelsea, many myths and stories exist about his exploits at the turn of the century. He apparently chased a referee naked after the 1902 FA Cup final for allowing a dodgy equalizing goal, he would regularly throw opposition strikers into the net if they annoyed him, and he’d sometimes walk off the pitch if he felt the defence weren’t trying hard enough. One of the more interesting however is that whilst at Chelsea – in order to draw attention to his size and distract the opposition – the club positioned two small boys behind the net who would occasionally run and get the ball if it went out of play, merely by virtue of it being easier for them to do so. As a result, and completely by accident, ball boys were invented. True? Possibly, and I’d certainly like to think so.
2. Ferenc Puskás
Puskas, who looked a bit like Colin Farrell, mixed with Russell Crowe, mixed with a balloon, was 40lb overweight when Real Madrid bought him in 1958. He went on to become legendary for them, despite living a rather debauched personal life, hitting 157 goals in 182 games. He also has the relatively unique honor of playing for 2 different national sides. After he retired he managed Spanish side Hercules CF as well as a myriad of other peculiarly named sides, but I just wanted to include the line “he managed Hercules.”
1. Fat Ronaldo
Included first by virtue of his fantastic success and the fact that he inspired this list in the first place. Ronaldo de Lima was once just Ronaldo, until a smaller Portugeezer came along and designated that he’d be forever known affectionately in these isles as Fat Ronaldo. 3 times World Player of the Year and double Ballon D’or winner, Ronaldo is one of the greatest strikers of all time. Known as The Phenomenon in Brazil, a series of serious knee injuries, mainly incurred by being hacked down by frustrated defenders, contributed to his sizable weight gain towards the end of his career. Even carrying a few pounds though he continued to be devastating, breaking Gerd Muller’s all time World Cup goal scoring record in 2006 despite rarely breaking a sweat. A fantastic goal return of 340 in 480 games whilst playing in some of the toughest Leagues in the world (take that Pele) The two sized Ronnie will go down as one of the all time greats.