It is fair to say that soccer players are not renowned for their intellect. In fact, the lack of intelligence of certain players has become a topic of humor among many. You will not be surprised to see, with the greatest deal of respect, no Wayne Rooney or Gabriel Agbonlahor on this list. Whilst soccer players can often come across a little dim, if the only time the public saw you was just after you’d been running up and down a pitch for 90 minutes, you may not come across as smart as you’d like either. Furthermore, the demanding nature of becoming a professional soccer player at the highest level means that players very rarely get the opportunity to experience the benefit of further education.
However, the tide of public opinion may be turning; recent studies showed that Premier League players were in the top 2% of the population in terms of cognitive brain function, although they did not fare quite so well with IQ tests. A number of players now go through media training, and as such, should begin to come across a little more eloquent when interviewed in the future. In 2013, Paul McVeigh published a book entitled ‘The Stupid Footballer is Dead: Insights into the Mind of a Professional Footballer’ delving into the demand for sharp and speedy thinking required on the pitch from a modern soccer player.
The late, great Socrates, who passed away in 2011, proved that there was such thing as a brainy soccer player. The Brazilian legend may fall slightly behind his Greek namesake in terms of intellectual capacity, but the midfielder had a Doctorate in Medicine and practiced medicine after his retirement. Likewise, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has a Masters Degree in Economics and is often noted for his studious nature. Here is a list of the 10 smartest players currently playing the game.
Honorable Mention: Juan Mata
The Manchester United play-maker is known for his intelligence on the field but few know about his intelligence off it. The Spaniard plays the game cleverly, always finding space between the opposition lines and picking accurate and penetrating passes. Prior to becoming a World Cup winner however, Mata studied journalism in Madrid, making him a rare breed of player who can both make and write headlines. Mata has also taken a degree in Sports Science and Finance.
Making this list by virtue of his intentions to come out of retirement to play for Fort Lauderdale Strikers earlier this year, it is legendary Brazilian forward Ronaldo. Three time FIFA World Player of the Year, two time Ballon d’Or winner and two time World Cup winner, Ronaldo is commonly regarded as one of the finest players to ever play the game. Away from football, Ronaldo says he is grateful to have had the opportunity to do what he has done but feels he missed out on the opportunity to experience a comprehensive education. That’s why in 2013 he moved to England to take up a placement for Sir Martin Sorrell, becoming an advertising student. Ronaldo told one interviewer, “I have to immerse myself in something. Learning from Martin will be perfect. I won’t leave him alone, I’ll be asking him questions all day, just like a striker. He’s going to have to tell me everything.” We suspect Ronaldo, who spent 12 years at Barcelona, Inter Milan, Real Madrid and AC Milan, may not have lived a typical student lifestyle in London.
9. Romelu Lukaku
Everton’s $42 million summer signing from Chelsea is known for his power and direct approach to the game; with a strong left foot and domineering aerial ability. Still only 21 years of age, Lukaku was determined not to leave Belgium until he had finished his degree. The young striker was encouraged by his parents not to drop his education despite being considered as one of the hottest prospects in soccer. Lukaku did eventually earn a diploma in tourism and public relations. On top of his academic credentials, the Belgian can also speak a remarkable five languages; English, Dutch, French, Congolese and Spanish.
8. Matthew Lawrence
It is fair to say Matthew Lawrence is not a blockbuster name in the soccer world; the Englishman has spent most of his career in the divisions below the Premier League. The midfielder spent 16 years in the football league, where he was an FA Cup runner-up at Millwall, before dropping down to the English non-league. Millwall were beaten in the FA Cup Final but as runners-up they still got to play in Europe the following season. Lawrence is now 40 and still plays. He holds a Degree in American Literature. Lawrence has also written columns from English newspapers ‘The London Paper’ and ‘The Mirror’, as well as working as a pundit for ‘BBC London’, ‘Talksport’ and ‘5Live’.
7. Jean-Alain Boumsong
Currently a free agent, Jean-Alain Boumsong amassed a total of 27 caps at international level for the France national team, as well as having played for Rangers, Newcastle, Juventus and Lyon. There were raised eyebrows when Newcastle paid $12 million for Boumsong who had been a free agent months earlier, and the move later became part of the Stevens inquiry into corruption in football. The Frenchman struggled in the Premier League and Juventus signed him for their season in Serie B, before he moved back to France.
Boumsong trained as a doctor but never achieved his qualification and instead moved on to mathematics, in which he earned a degree.
6. Seyi Olofinjana
Seyi Olofinjana is currently plying his trade in Norway since being released by Sheffield Wednesday. The Nigerian played for Stoke City and Hull City in the Premier League but failed to make an impression for either side. His best work was in the Championship for Cardiff City, scoring eight goals in 44 games in the 2006-07 season. Despite his domineering stature, Olofinjana was not a particularly tough tackler and is better known for his tidy footwork and neat passing. He played 44 times for Nigeria between 2002 and 2010. He has a Masters Degree in Chemical Engineering.
5. Simon Mignolet
Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet has come in for criticism since joining the Merseyside club from Sunderland, but should his football career come crumbling down there is some solace for Mignolet, who has a career to fall back on. The 26-year-old has a Degree in Law and Political Science, and can speak four languages; English, French, Dutch and German. Mignolet moved from Sunderland to Liverpool for just under $14,000,000 but has come under fire on Merseyside. He has only managed to amass 14 caps for Belgium due to being second choice to Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.
4. Nedum Onuoha
Queens Park Rangers defender Nedum Onuoha was multi-talented as a youngster. Not only was he a junior sprinter and a talented soccer player, he also thrived in his academic studies. He ran the 100 meters in just 11.09 seconds at the age of 14 as a youth player at Manchester City. He has 10 GCSE’s, including 8 A’s and 2 B’s and at A Level he got 3 A’s, in Maths, Business Studies and ICT. Giving him the necessary qualifications to attend almost any university in England, should he wish to do so. Onuoha played 95 times for champions Manchester City and has made 74 appearances for current side QPR. He represented England 20 times at under-21 level but has never been called up to the first team. In 2007 he rejected the chance to play for Nigeria, still in hope of playing for England, but at 28 now and on the fringes of a struggling QPR side, an England cap seems unlikely.
3. Yuto Nagatomo
Japanese soccer star Yuto Nagatomo has been playing for Italian giants Inter Milan since 2011 and is a regular starter for the side. He has 81 caps for Japan and played in both the 2010 and 2014 World Cups. At the 2010 World Cup, Arsene Wenger chose Nagatomo for his ‘Team of the Tournament’. The 28-year-old can play at both left-back and on the left side of midfield and is known for his exceptional pace and ability to deliver quality crosses into the box. Nagatomo graduated with a Bachelors in economics at Doshisha University in Western Japan. He has also written two books.
2. Dennis Bergkamp
Not only was he one of the best strikers of his time, but Dennis Bergkamp is miles ahead of his peers in the brains department as well. Maybe he was perceived as a shady player back in the day because he was able to use his wits. While playing for Arsenal, Bergkamp earned himself a degree in medical engineering at the University of Bath. The “Non-Flying Dutchman” as he was affectionately known due to his fear of flying, is currently an assistant manager for Frank de Boer at Ajax.
1. Frank Lampard
It is well-known that Frank Lampard is intelligent and he comes in first as the smartest soccer player in the world right now. The Chelsea legend is currently trying to help their title rivals Manchester City win the Premier League. He is Chelsea’s all-time top scorer and has over 100 caps for England. As well as an incredible pedigree as a player, Lampard is also very intelligent away from the pitch.
He has an IQ of 150, which puts him in the top 0.5% of the world population and at genius level. Albert Einstein had an IQ of 160 whilst William Shockley had an IQ of 129, to give some perspective. Lampard also has 12 GCSE’s, all either A’s or A*’s including an A* in Latin. Lampard will soon be able to impress the New York media, when he makes his way across the pond next season.
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