An ego is not necessarily a bad thing in football. Brian Clough had one, Sir Alex Ferguson had one and just about every great player to have ever played the game had or has one.
Sometimes, though, those egos go just a little bit too far, as Paul Pogba has demonstrated in his new Pogmentary documentary.
However, the Frenchman is certainly not alone in carrying an ego so vast it generates its own gravity, as the following list illustrates.
What is even more egocentric than having a documentary made about yourself? Changing the word ‘documentary’ to include your own name.
What is even more egocentric than having a documentary made about yourself and changing the world ‘documentary’ to include your own name? Not even mentioning the trophies your team won while you were there but including one of your own rare man-of-the-match performances.
even more egocentric than doing all of that? Describing an offer of £300,000 per week as “nothing” and thinking it is so normal that you don’t even hesitate to include it in said
Paul Pogba, ladies and gentlemen.
You can’t really help but admire what John Terry has achieved in football, but you
really can’t help but deride
how I have done it.
Terry’s entire playing career was one weird display of ego after another. When he got himself changed into full kit, including shinpads, to lift the Champions League trophy in a match in which he did n’t even play, we thought his weird ego antics had peaked.
It was clear that he simply couldn’t feel he could allow the celebrations to happen without it looking like he had been a part of the final – like he was hoping the memory would fade but the pictures would remain.
On his final appearance for Chelsea, John Terry invented a whole new level on the ego scale by stopping an actual Premier League match in the 26th minute (his squad number), having the players arrange a guard of honour, and applaud him off the pitch . Again, in the MIDDLE of a match.
Even now after his playing career is long over, his ego couldn’t stand Rio Ferdinand
only putting him fifth on his list of all-time great Premier League defenders and he had to start tweeting stats to show he should be number one. Remarkable.
“When I heard my agent repeat the figure of £55,000 [per week], I nearly swerved off the road. ‘He’s taking the p***,!’ I yelled down the phone. I was trembling with anger.” Just let that sink in.
A man gets an offer of £55,000 a week and it is sufficient to make him tremble with anger.
To be fair, Ashley Cole was a brilliant full-back. He was as complete as they come. Well, maybe not complete, because he was missing an awful lot of humility.
You can say that he had every right to expect what he was worth at that time, and you’d be correct. To be reduced to physical displays of anger at only being offered mega money rather than super-duper-duper mega money, though, is all ego.
Leroy Sane is not necessarily a name that immediately springs to mind when you think of footballers with an ego, but then you look at his back.
Inexplicably, Sane has a full back tattoo of himself. He has had his actual face permanently drawn onto him.
You’d think that would be as bad as it can get, wouldn’t you? You would be wrong.
The image he has had tattooed on his back is of him scoring during his Manchester City days – in a Champions League tie they lost.
If you wanted to be kind, you’d call Mario Balotelli ‘an enigma’. If you wanted to be a bit more direct, you’d say that Balotelli has made a career out of failing to deliver on his own ego.
“There’s only one that is a little stronger than me: Messi,” Balotelli said shortly after he joined Manchester City. “All the others are behind me.”
He certainly did okay at Man City, and Inter Milan before that. He did okay at AC Milan after that too. You know who he has never done just okay? LionelMessi.
When Balotelli was looking for a way out of Milan, the size of his ego literally stopped Napoli from signing him.
“He would have problems in any team,” Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis told reporters. “He needs to solve problems with his ego.”
Balotelli went to Liverpool instead, where he was dreadful. Even that did not dent his ego though, of course.
Currently at Turkish Super Lig side Adana Demirspor.
Allan Saint Maximin
“In terms of quality, I think I’m able to do it.” That is Allan Saint-Maximin, of Newcastle, talking about the Ballon d’Or, in case you were wondering. Of Newcastle. Newcastle.
Why, then, you might be wondering, has he not got further in has a career than a mid-table Premier League team? He has an answer for that too: It’s other players’ limitations holding him back from greatness.
“Those who have played with me know very well that in terms of pure quality, I have nothing to envy (from) Sadio Mane.
“The day when I have a player capable of finishing the (assists), I will have seasons with 10-15 assists, and I will change opinions in the people’s heads.”
Clearly, Saint-Maximin is a very talented player, no one is disputing that. If he is worrying about a deadweight that’s holding him back, though, it’s his ego, not his team-mates.
Where do we even start here? We could probably knock out a 1,000-word feature that simply listed all the quotes attributed to Zlatan Ibrahimovic in which he openly and proudly declares his ego.
“I can’t help but laugh at how perfect I am,” is probably a good one with which to open here. Or how about the following little exchange with the press ahead of a 2014 World Cup play-off?
Zlatan: “Only God knows who will go through.”
Reporter: “It’s hard to ask him.”
Zlatan: “You’re talking to him.”
I don’t think we even need to say here anymore. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is not a footballer with a big ego – he is a big ego who plays football.
As far as reasons go for being considered egotistical by others, giving yourself a nickname is absolutely Exhibit A.
“He liked to think he was the Guv’nor,” Steve Bruce recalled of when Ince first arrived at Manchester United.
“He had to be called the Guv’nor even when he first walked in the door. I just thought: ‘Who’s this cocky little thing from West Ham?'”
Ince himself denies it. He says it originated from snooker banter that spilled out into shooting drills after he arrived at Man Utd, and coach Bryan Kidd gave him the nickname. We’ll call thinking anyone will believe that story ‘Exhibit B’.
The last word on this probably came from Jamie Redknapp, who played with Ince for Liverpool and England and said: “He said he’d never liked it, but it was on his car number plate.”
Plenty of other people had other names for Paul Ince too. “F***ing bottler and “big-time Charlie” were just two offered by Sir Alex Ferguson, for example.
Regardless, I think it’s fair to say that the Reading manager has a lot more ego that he ever had talent – and he was a very talented player.
Speaking of nicknames, we can’t ignore ‘the Special One’ himself, Jose Mourinho. Although, in fairness, he contests it.
He claims that his words were misinterpreted and “lost in translation” by the press that day when he was introduced as Chelsea manager. He insists he was saying he as
a special one, not
the special one.
Either way, you won’t find many people disputing Mourinho has one of the biggest egos in football. It is central to his whole demeanor of him. It might even be central to his success.
The real reveal about his ego is how eager – not willing – he always was to open an open spat with another manager. It wasn’t Sir Alex Ferguson-style mind games, it was outright ‘I’m better than you so shut up’.
You could say the most damning piece of evidence is that Mourinho has proven himself the best ever at managing players with huge egos, so he obviously knows a bit about having one.
Not to put too fine a point on it, Neymar has always been an egotistical spoiled little brat.
Back in 2010 when he played for Santos, he threw a tantrum when he, then a teenager, was not allowed to take a penalty against Atletico Goianiense after missing his previous two. He had to be restrained by a linesman and threw a bottle of water at the ground in disgust.
After the match, he started a spat with Marcel, the striker who was allowed to take the penalty, and got suspended by his own club for two matches.
He continued that behavior at PSG, a club he was at because he legitimately thought he should be getting paid more by Barcelona than Lionel Messi, where he tried to steal a penalty from Edinson Cavani.
To be fair, though, even if none of that had happened and he had the same haircuts, he would have made this list.
READ MORE: Paul Pogba out to prove Manchester United wrong after rejecting ‘nothing’ contract offer