The English Premier League has long been considered the most exciting, if not the best, league in world football. A constant source of excitement and nerves for the fans that make the trips to see their club in action or for those who tune in to watch them on the box, it's quite the experience.
Whether it provides last-minute, stoppage-time goals, outrageous long-range efforts or crazy goal-line clearances - there is rarely a shortage of buzz around a British top-flight fixture.
It attracts some of the best players around and although it doesn't play host to the exceptional talents of Lionel Messi, Neymar Jr. or Cristiano Ronaldo (not anymore, at least), it does feature some top-quality stars such as Sergio Aguero, Philippe Coutinho and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. These guys are true showmen and they have a great ability to turn games on their heads and conjure moments of audacious skill with the slightest turn of their boot.
But what happens when these stars take leave of the EPL? What happens to them after they retire or move to a different league in search of a new adventure? Do the fittest and more luxurious of these stars manage to maintain their physique and skill?
Some of them are pretty good at it, but there are also those who lose track of the pounds they pack on or they seem to conveniently forget their new training schedule.
So, let's take a look at some ex-Premier League stars who managed to keep it together after they left, and let's also cast our eyes on those who seemed to let things go a little bit...or a lot. Who's a fit hit and who's a fit miss?
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16 Steven Gerrard - Fitness King
The Liverpool legend recently hung up his professional boots for the final time and although it's surely only a matter of time before we see him playing an exhibition match or a charity game, it's still sad to see such a hero of the English game exit stage left. A genuine superstar who stayed loyal to the red half of Merseyside for so long, Steven Gerrard was an icon who inspired youngsters everywhere to kick a ball about in their back garden and to pursue their dream of playing at the highest levels imaginable.
After he made the transfer to MLS to play for LA Galaxy, 'Stevie G' might not have produced his best levels of performance ever, but he did manage to keep up his level of professionalism, staying fit and continuing to look every inch the top athlete he has always been, regardless of how many minutes he could get through due to injury or older age. Gerrard has never really been one for changing his image that often, sporting almost the same exact (reliable) haircut ever since he first took the global game by storm, but that's probably a good thing and it showed how focused he was on playing well on the pitch instead of worrying about fashion, style or acting like a celebrity. He's looked after himself in all the right ways.
15 Gabriel Agbonlahor - Fitness Flop
There was a time when Gabriel Agbonlahor was tipped to become a genuinely successful English player, but those discussions must seem like an awfully long time ago for the current Aston Villa star as he struggles for any semblance of form with the Villains under manager Steve Bruce. During their catastrophic 2015/16 Premier League campaign, Villa were preposterously bad as they struggled to pick up points for weeks on end, often failing to even hit the target, let alone rustle the net. At the heart of it all was a team captain who, like the rest of that team of flops, looked disinterested and as though he had lost his appetite for the game. It was frightening to behold how everything had gone so topsy-turvy so quickly.
Now in England's second tier, the Championship, Agbonlahor's great difficulties have persisted with a drop down a level. Yes, he has managed to nudge himself ever so slightly into Bruce's thoughts but he is far from a regular starter for the club and is still training on borrowed time. Frankly, he will probably never hit the heights he could have done and that's thanks in large part to the fact he threw away his time as a leader and potential winner of trophies through some silly decisions and lack of respect for the loyal fans. Despite being placed on a strict new fitness regime in recent times, he looks a shadow of the player with great potential he once was and he has a lot of tough work ahead of him before he can dream of life in the EPL again. There is still plenty of groundwork to be made up.
14 Frank Lampard - Fitness King
It can't be easy being a top football superstar - the hours of training they do week in, week out is surely a draining experience to go through, but Frank Lampard has never been shy about putting in the hard yards to achieve his goals - and to score some goals as well. In all, the former Chelsea midfielder netted 177 times throughout his Premier League tenure, turning out for West Ham United, the Blues and even Manchester City. An English legend, he will always be considered one of the finest playmakers and creators that soccer has ever borne witness to.
Since moving abroad to the States, 'Lamps' has continued to keep himself in top shape and hasn't approached his time away as anything even remotely resembling a holiday. Some players make the move to MLS with a view to saving some real megabucks and taking it easy in the sun, but Lampard hasn't had that view. It's not been his most productive spell in terms of the amount of goals and assists he has pocketed, but just looking at how he has managed to keep his shape in check, worked hard to turn his career around in recent months, even figuring out how to score important goals tells a lot about him as a player. He still looks a class act and it's easy to imagine how he'd fit nicely into a crisp new suit, giving tactical instructions as an EPL manager down the line. We'll have to wait and see.
13 Neil Shipperley - Fitness Flop
Neil Shipperley togged out for the likes of Chelsea, Crystal Palace and Southampton back in his peak playing time. In truth, he enjoyed a successful career as a professional and earned many fans throughout the course of his well-beaten Premier League path. Somewhat of a journeyman who saw his fair share of dressing rooms, Shipperley bounced from club to club but always brought a tremendous amount of heart wherever he wound up playing. In total, he made almost 150 English top-flight appearances, scoring 27 goals along the way so he wasn't shy in terms of hassling opposition goalkeepers and he became pretty good at doing it when it mattered, too. Arguably the highlight of his time as an active player was his golden goal tap-in against West Ham United back in 2004 at the Millenium to secure Palace's return to the Premier League with a 1-0 aggregate victory.
Shipperley certainly deserves to relax and enjoy himself as he moves into his mid-40s so it wouldn't be fair to get too preachy about things, but it's admittedly something of a shame that such an industrious player has not worked as hard in his downtime to stay fit as he perhaps once did. Then again, when you've become a Premier League hero for a certain group of fans, he has probably earned the right to live his life on his own terms now. We just hope it doesn't affect his health down the line.
12 Gary Neville - Fitness King
Perhaps Gary Neville spends too much time on social media lambasting the way he thinks journalism has gone down the gutter, but at least he hasn't been spending an equal amount of time digging into some pie pastries because in fairness to him he still looks in pretty good shape. Sky Sports' top-class Monday Night Football programme was not the same without him while he was getting schooled in Spain's La Liga with Valencia alongside his brother Phil, and while he still has a few lessons to learn from a managerial point of view, there can be little questioning his knowledge, passion or intelligence as a football legend. There is still plenty of time for the former Manchester United defender to make his mark as a top-quality coach.x
Until then, we can delight in his insightful match-night analysis alongside Jamie Carragher and commend him for not falling into the same dangerous pitfalls which have taken down more than a few of the former professional footballers who have exited their playing days long before him. He has stayed busy and he looks sharp in his punditry gear, often sporting a stylish suit and tie in the glitzy studio. There is little to suggest we will see his waistline balloon to crazy levels because he has shown the exact same levels of commitment and dedication to a healthy lifestyle now as he did when he was terrorizing strikers or rampaging up and down the flank in the red of United as he won medal after medal.
11 Steve Bruce - Fitness Flop
Currently the manager of battling Aston Villa in England's second division, Steve Bruce faces a tough slog attempting to get the former Premier League side back to the big time in double-quick time, but with the winning mentality and experience that he has behind him, Villa are under the supervision of a very capable figure who could just figure out how to resolve their issues and inject some swagger into their displays again. Bruce is a three-time Premier League champion with Manchester United and has cemented his reputation in their history books as a serial winner who helped build the Red Devils' reputation as a club of champions and world-class athletes.
That said, he could probably do with some body-building himself because he's not exactly in the best of shapes - and he hasn't been for a few years. One memorable montage of snaps from the summer of 2015 shows the contrast between Bruce at his peak as a player and what he looked lie wearing his trunks on holidays, and the difference was startling. Some would argue that it's difficult for players to take orders from a coach to run faster, put in more effort and give 110 percent when they're not exactly looking too slim and slender themselves. On the other side, Bruce has done his running and chasing - is it time he enjoyed himself and cut loose?
10 David Beckham - Fitness King
To his credit, David Beckham always looked good. He was probably born with a tub of Brylcreem at the ready. Arguably the first ever true football celebrity, his star far outgrew the camera-ready one spawned by George Best in his heyday. Beckham grew from a footballer into a brand in the blink of an eye and it was his ability to successfully combine the two together that has seen his brilliance continue to shine brightly long after he has stopped playing. People still buy into the Beckham mark, they still love to see him appear in the limelight and they still remember what a terrifically exceptional footballer he was. He'll always go down as one of the most striking free-kick takers of all time, not just because of the style he used, but because of the amount of goals he scored as a result.
If 'Becks' has ever had a bad hair day, we've not seen it (although there were quite a few gasps and raised eyebrows when he shaved his head all those years back). He always looks immaculately dressed, has long been a fashion icon for men, and is continuing to be one as those who mimicked his look as a youngster growing up, continue to follow in his fancy footsteps through middle age. There is little sign that his influence is waning - he's in demand to sport top retailers' clothes, recently teamed-up with famous comedian and actor Kevin Hart for a series of adverts and made a great documentary not too long ago called For The Love of the Game. A gentleman who continues to be as slick off the pitch as he was on it - long live the Beckham brand.
9 Adel Taarabt - Fitness Flop
Way back in August was the last time Adel Taarabt popped up in the news - and that was because he told France Football that he was 'in talks with several clubs' but since those soundbites hit the newsstands, a transfer has not materialized for the Moroccan international. Last heard, he was still on the books with Portuguese giants Benfica. The only problem there is that he's apparently playing and training with their B team instead of being involved with their senior, first-team set-up. That's quite a big difference and it means a great deal in terms of how valuable he is. Benfica will not get a lot of money for a second-rate performer - so he needs to start catching the first-team coach's eye before he can talk up any potential move away.
As to why he finds himself stuck there, it would appear that he fell foul of Benfica club President Luis Filipe Vieira after he turned up to training overweight, carrying six extra pounds and he's been unable to find a way back into the team ever since. Taarabt was once a Premier League starlet with Tottenham Hotspur and many held high hopes for him, none less so than Damien Comolli who persuaded him to join Spurs instead of going to Arsenal, but time has not been good to him and he clearly hasn't looked after himself since losing sight of a English big-league career (or maybe it's that he has taken care of himself a little too well, if you know what we mean).
8 Thierry Henry - Fitness King
To be perfectly honest, Thierry Henry could probably make a black bin bag look sophisticated - and that's not just because he's French. The man oozes class and panache and comes across as stylish in a television studio as he did when he was pinging balls past helpless goalkeepers into the back of the net for Arsenal in the Premier League, whipping up tricks to baffle a plethora of defenders or shimmying away from trouble with the ball glued to his feet. He was 'un vrai vedette' (that's French-speak for 'true star', by the way) who won his fair share of glittering honours including a memorable role in the Gunners' 'Invincibles' league campaign, and he remains a true commander of people's attention today. If ever a word could have been coined with somebody particular in mind, 'suave' was surely it and Henry most certainly the person.
Nowadays, he is working alongside ex-Everton manager Roberto Martinez as an assistant coach for the highly-ranked Belgium national team and he seems to be getting on rather well there with The Red Devils. Before that, of course, he was a television pundit whose expertise wowed us all nearly every time he made a comment about a particular team's strategy, tactics or ideologies - the man knows his football on and off the park. Much like his well-trimmed fellow former professionals on this list, Henry has continued to maintain a healthy-looking build long after he has stopped kicking a ball around a field for money and he deserves huge credit for the way he has stayed motivated under his own steam.
7 Mido - Fitness Flop
Mido's case of losing his x-factor is something of a difficult enigma to unravel, depending on who you ask of course. There are those in the 'for' camp (in which Mido conveniently finds himself) who are of the opinion that the demands of playing a lot of football at a young age, under immense scrutiny from the media and with high levels of energy simply burned him out. There is also the sub-clause that he fell out of love with the game as well as simply seeing his body take too many hits. The rest think that he was simply lazy, didn't care about the clubs he played for as much as they cared to see him perform well and that he over-indulged in some of life's finer things - such as lots of food, for example. Feel free to make your own mind up about which you think rings more true.
Whatever conclusion people come to, Mido certainly made a truckload of cash, saw a lot of interesting countries and was, for the most part, a very sought-after footballer who enjoyed some decent success. He's a two-time winner of the Dutch Eredivisie, claimed the African Cup Winners' Cup and scored his fair share of exquisite goals. However, he often struggled with weight throughout his playing days as he became visibly larger and less mobile, and it's hard to see how he'll manage to keep his waistline in check with so much free time on his hands now that his playing days are over. Perhaps he'll prove us all wrong.
6 Gerard Pique - Fitness King
When you get voted as the most handsome player at Euro 2016, you've got to be doing something right. Yep that's right, in a poll of nearly two thousand women, nearly 75% opted for him as their favourite choice as he beat off competition from the likes of Olivier Giroud, Jesus Navas and even Cristiano Ronaldo. The Barcelona and Spain centre-half is obviously a firm favourite among the ladies, then, but that's unlikely to interest him too much considering he is happily married to pop-star wife Shakira. Pique has been a leading light for youngsters who want to become defenders as he has become a modern-day example of how to blend excellent defensive skills with an attacking strength. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact he hardly ever changes his hairstyle - or maybe he gets his strength from his sharp beard?
Once upon a time, Pique used to ply his trade for Manchester United after arriving on English shores a number of years ago, but he didn't exactly fit into United's style of play and Sir Alex Ferguson never seemed uber-keen on him as an option at the back - but at least they haven't done a Paul Pogba on it since by selling him and then buying him back for an exorbitant amount of cash. The then young player rarely looked at home there, but ever since nailing down a place with Catalan giants Barca, he has looked every inch a top player - and, at least as far as his female fans are concerned, a good-looking bloke, too.
5 Paul Gascoigne - Fitness Flop
Everybody knows the sad tale of Paul Gascoigne. Once the toast of England who was touted to go on and win World Cups and European Championship trophies, a life of boozing and poorly-made life choices saw him throw away his hard-earned talent to become a down-on-his-luck former superstar. Although he was part of the 1990 England World Cup team that finished fourth, he never managed to top that achievement on the international stage, despite achieving moderate success at club level which saw him win the 1991 FA Cup with Tottenham Hotspur as well as earning a runners-up medal with Middlesbrough for their 1998 Football League run to the final.
It is still sad to look upon the way his physical condition has greatly deteriorated over the last number of years and especially ever since he left the EPL, but it's also difficult to look past the many controversies and public shocks he has been involved in in recent years. Time and again, it has looked as though the ex-England international might stay on the wagon only to fall off it again, and after comebacks, a cracking autobiography, numerous guest appearances on television it always looks like he might have found his feet again, but alcoholism is a serious illness and it's just so unfortunate that 'Gazza' has never quite been able to shake it off permanently. He looks almost completely different to the world-class maestro who once strutted their stuff so remarkably on the pitch and on his really bad days, it's gut-wrenching to see just how far and disastrously an idol can fall.
4 Fernando Torres - Fitness King
Fernando Torres is one of those players the neutral just can't help but love. When Steven Gerrard announced his retirement in late November, the Spaniard was one of the first players to congratulate his former team-mate on a extraordinary career, stating that he was the 'best player' he had ever played with and the best he had ever seen take to the field. He's just one of those guys who brings joy to the game and so it's not always been easy for his admirers to see him go through periods of turmoil and bad form ever since he left Liverpool and England all those years ago. Although he has rediscovered his mojo at Atletico Madrid under Diego Simeone, it hasn't always been plain sailing but one aspect of his that has always stayed in place has been his youthful exuberance.
Los Rojiblancos play a high-tempo game in La Liga and the UEFA Champions League but 'El Nino' has not lost the energy he displayed so effortlessly as a youngster as he continues to keep up with the demands of a physically demanding style of play that normally stretches the team across every blade of grass that covers the Calderon - and he hasn't seen his boyish looks fade with the years either. It would appear that his love for the game has managed to keep his smile about him as he nips past his markers, his blond locks flowing in the wind with every dart he makes this way and that. It's little wonder that his moniker, which has stuck with him over the years means 'The Kid' - after all, he is an energetic youngster at heart and he still looks as fit and healthy as he was when he first burst onto the scene.
3 Tomas Brolin - Fitness Flop
So, it's fair to say that Tomas Brolin was a fairly famous footballer in his heyday - unfortunately his fame had little to do with a divine skill or outrageous possession of godlike ability. Although, in fairness to him there was a period of time in the early 1990s when he was more than a match for the defenders he faced as he churned out some very good displays for the Swedish national team as well Parma in the Italian Serie A. After that purple path, however, he became better known because he was a tad overweight and garnered something of a cult following for his ability to carve out a career despite his larger frame - he even topped a BBC poll of Leeds United fans as their worst-ever player. Ouch.
It's not exactly breaking news for a retired footballer to pack on a few pounds. It happens to most of them along the way and is sort of a rite of passage in many ways and Brolin certainly deserves to cut loose now that the days of rigorous training practices and grueling matches are behind him, but it seems as though he might have enjoyed himself a bit too much since leaving the EPL and it's still alarming to see just how big a guy he has become since then. It can be difficult to get an up-to-date picture of him, but as recently as early 2015 he still looked out of shape after a picture of him playing football started doing the rounds on social media.
2 Cristiano Ronaldo - Fitness King
There's a long-running joke that Cristiano Ronaldo can zip past any obstacle he wants with a ball at his feet - except for a mirror. It's no real secret that the Real Madrid icon is just a little bit fond of himself - he starred in a big budget film all bout...well, himself and he rips his shirt off at pretty much any opportunity he gets. Then again, although a lot of guys are peeved at the Portugal international every time he does it, it's safe to assume that most are just jealous that he has the muscles to flex and show off instead of, y'know, flab. When he first arrived at Manchester as a precocious teenager, he had a lot of talent but even more to learn as he spent a few seasons doing his best impression of Jekyll and Hyde with his sumptuous dead-ball skills, eye for goal and wicked technique as well as diving and moaning at decisions that didn't go his way. But through all those ups and downs, one element remained a constant - his high level of hard work.
Nobody could ever accuse the flashy flair player of not giving it his all (at least on a personal level) and the proof of that is in the historic records he has set - La Decima, five Ballon d'Ors, league titles, etc. - as well as the incredible levels of fitness that he has reached. Sure, he's fairly vain and probably owns quite a few looking glasses, but he does look pretty good in fairness to him and he has earned the right to bask in his own glory, even if some of us do find it a little bit weird.
1 Neville Southall - Fitness Flop
It's a shame to think it, but Neville Southall is perhaps one of the most underrated players of his generation and it's often forgotten just how great a shot-stopper he really was. An Everton player for 17 years, he was a true Toffee and a legend that the blue half of Merseyside looked up to long after his retirement. Moreover, away from the club scene, he became a genuinely influential Wales international player and remains the country's most capped player of all time - some achievement for a custodian whose position is always up for scrutiny with every dropped catch, misplaced kick-out or odd howler. He became a Premier League great over time and is now a coach and mentor with nearly 60,000 followers.
Southall remains a very influential figure in the beautiful game and offers some excellent tips online for his fans and admirers to drink in, however it doesn't look like he has been taking care of his own physical health in recent years because he has really packed on the pounds - snaps of him on social media or the videos he posts every now and then are not the most flattering and they really highlight how much he has let himself go, which is a massive shame. He's not yet 60 years of age and while he spends a lot of his time looking to stir up support for various charities that he generously looks out for, he still has plenty of time to get on a health kick for himself and do himself a favour.
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