A run down of the cars which are driven by or have been driven by professional footballers, from the interesting and quirky to the down right appalling.
The famous joke about a footballer who has one GCSE being nicknamed the professor by his team mates is not without merit – and it seems that the more money they earn, the more likely footballers are to waste their wages on expensive cars most normal people would cross the road to avoid.
Footballers, like many people, associate their car as a status symbol and with the stratospheric wages some earn they are able to make an impression with their choice of cars. Whether it is the right impression is a matter of debate.
Some in the case of Pele have used their car to show off the personality they want to project. He used a Jaguar in order to appear at the London-signing of his autobiography, suggesting his class, elegance and style. Meanwhile George Best bought an original Mercedes 300SE in the mid 1970s, it was after all the only way he was ever going to be able to scamper past Leeds United’s Paul Reaney.
Another retired forward Jurgen Klinsmann used to drive around in a much-worn Volkswagen when he played for Tottenham Hotspur in the mid 1990s. There is a trend of German footballers staying loyal to German brands. Retired goalkeeper Jens Lehmann, who played for Tottenham’s arch rivals Arsenal also used a Volkswagen although his competitor for the number one jersey, Spaniard Manuel Almunia drove a Hummer H2, a shocking vehicle only matched by some of his performances for the Gunners.
The Hummer was also a vehicle of choice for Manchester City’s Carlos Tevez, who when not absconding in Argentina, used the car to drive to and from the City training ground at Carrington.
The Range Rover has traditionally been seen as a popular car for footballers to drive, with Paulo Maldini, possibly the most decorated defender in European football history owning the vehicle whilst he plied his trade with Italian giants Milan.
Dutch star Dennis Bergkamp, who scored one of the greatest World Cup goals of all time in the France 1998 World Cup for Holland against Argentina, is another who prefers high powered Range Rovers. Despite its ability to travel far at speeds, Bergkamp’s Range Rover Sport still could not compensate for the Dutchman missing long European away games for Arsenal and Holland due to his fear of flying.
Other Arsenal attacking players with a love of large cars are Freddie Ljungberg and Andrei Arshavin. Ljungberg – who also played for West Ham in England – owned a modified Porsche Cayenne Turbo, although whether he still drives that car during his present stint in Japan with Shimizu S-Pulse is a mute point.
Similarly to Bergkamp, Arshavin drives a Range Rover Sport SUV. The Russian has though been involved in a minor traffic accident since he moved to the UK from his Russian club Zenit St Petersburg – with the irony not lost on anyone who heard Arshavin claim that women should not be allowed to drive on the road.
Cars have sometimes caused footballers to be remembered for the wrong reasons. Besides the Arshavin quote about women drivers, another former Arsenal player has also become the subject of ridicule because of his actions involving a car.
Writing in his autobiography Ashley Cole, now Chelsea’s current left back, lost any respect he previously had with this passage when talking about contract negotiations and his weekly wage at Arsenal: “When I heard the figure of £55k, I nearly swerved off the road. ‘He is taking the [mickey]!’ I yelled down the phone. I was so incensed. I was trembling with anger. I couldn’t believe what I’d heard.”
Whilst Cole has been derided for his lack of class, footballers and their cars have largely been laughed at for their lack of taste. Aston Villa reserve Stephen Ireland possibly takes the award for worst colour scheme, after fitting out his black Overfinch Range Rover Sport with pink trimmings on the wheels, side and grille, as well as a pink and black interior.
Much travelled controversial Senegalese striker El Hadj Diouf has several cars of which the most famous is the Cadillac Escalade which is completely white inside and outside of the car. However the most outlandish car which has been driven by a footballer must surely go to Djibril Cisse.
The Frenchman who counts Liverpool, Olympique de Marseille and Panathinaikos amongst his clubs in a well travelled career has been seen driving around in a Plymouth Prowler which was especially exported from America for the flamboyant forward. Obefemi Martins meanwhile, when not being loaned out by his Russian club Rubin Kazan invested in a Lamborghini Murcielago, which cost him approximately three weeks’ wages – or £200,000 in layman’s speak.
Not all strikers have questionable taste in the vehicles which they own, Chelsea’s Didier Drogba has been seen in a Mini whilst his former team mate and current Dynamo Kyiv talisman Andrei Shevchenko prefers to drive an Audi RS6. Dynamo were in the same Europa League group as Stoke City, who also have players who like to express themselves through their choice of cars. Defender Matthew Upson owns a Porsche 911 whilst fellow striker Peter Crouch drives around in a SUV which suits his huge six foot seven inch frame.
Stoke’s winger Jermaine Pennant also likes his cars, having a white Ferrari amongst other vehicles in his collection. The winger will always be remembered though for breaking with the road laws as both a Leeds United and Birmingham City player. Pennant also forgot about his Porsche when leaving Spanish club Real Zaragoza for Stoke, leaving it unlocked at Zaragoza train station in 2010 where it accrued parking tickets galore.
Finally, to prove that it is not just footballers who enjoy expensive car tastes, the current Real Madrid manager Jose Mourinho is known for his love of the high life. When coaching Italian club Inter to victory in Italy and Europe, the Portuguese tactician was enjoying living by the shores of Lake Como and driving his two seated Ferrari 599 sports car.
The beautiful game has seen some of the worst car fashion trends thanks to several footballers who have had too much money to spend. Whilst some of the cars have been a joy to behold, there are other vehicles which have looked questionable to say the least. If nothing else it proves that having money does not necessarily buy you taste or class.