In today’s day and age it is impossible for football players to keep their lives private. The paparazzi are never far away when they are on a night out or on holiday, and this means that they will often be spotted drinking and of course smoking. Footballers drinking and smoking heavily used to be common and not a particularly big issue, but with today’s players constantly in the media and the impact they can have on today’s youth, this is now heavily frowned upon. In addition, athletes are expected to take better care of their health and their bodies in today’s game, so when they are busted smoking they will often be reprimanded by their manager as well as condemned by the press.
Whilst it does come as a surprise when a player is spotted smoking, it does happen and Arsenal’s Olivier Giroud believes that each team will have three or four smokers. Provided it does not impact their performance and they manage to avoid lighting up when any paparazzi are around then there seems to be little harm in this, but as this list will demonstrate, it is particularly hard to avoid being photographed when you are a professional footballer no matter where you are.
When these players are caught it will often result in them making some kind of public apology and it can sometimes tarnish their reputation. These players are only human however, and it is unrealistic to expect them to live a perfect lifestyle and particularly due to the pressure that they are under and constantly being in the public eye.
Here are 10 players who smoke, or at least have been photographed sparking up a cigarette.
10 Wojciech Szczesny
Arsenal and Poland keeper Wojciech Szczesny is one of the latest players to spark the smoking debate, and he has recently lost his starting spot for Arsenal partly due to a bizarre incident earlier this season. After a loss to Southampton, which saw Szczesny make costly mistakes, the keeper was then found smoking in the showers after the game. How you smoke in the shower is beyond me, but Szczesny was fined £20,000 for his actions and has not seen much time on the pitch since the incident.
9 Wesley Sneijder
There was a period where it looked like midfielder Wesley Sneijder was about to become the best footballer on the planet. He had just achieved a historic treble with Inter Milan and then guided Holland to the 2010 World Cup final, scoring five goals in the tournament. Holland would lose the final to Spain 1-0, and from this moment it seems his career has been in decline. Some say this is partly due to his partying and smoking, and there have been several photos that have surfaced of Sneijder enjoying a cigarette whilst on vacation. Whether this has contributed to his slip in form is debatable, but it should not be forgotten what he has achieved earlier in his career.
8 Lionel Messi
That’s right, even the greatest player in the world was been spotted enjoying a cigarette. It seems likely that this is a one off and it was just Messi relaxing whilst on holiday, but it goes to show that even the top athletes in the world will occasionally neglect their strict lifestyle which usually prohibits such behaviour. As Messi is the greatest footballer on the planet (sorry, Cristiano), Lionel does not face much criticism for smoking, even if this is a one off, as he has achieved so much on the pitch. He is also an excellent role model for kids, but this photo proves that he is only human after all.
7 Fabien Barthez
Former United and France goalkeeper Fabien Barthez was famous for being a smoker, as well as an eccentric character. Paul Scholes revealed that both Barthez and Laurent Blanc would not start training until they had a cigarette each morning, and this was something that manager Sir Alex Ferguson was aware of too. Ferguson stated “I know Fabien smokes. I was even aware of that before he joined us. He must think I don’t know about it, but he is mistaken.” Ferguson also added “In England, it’s a rare thing to see a player smoking but, in all, I prefer that to an alcoholic. The relationship with alcohol is a real problem in English football and, in the short term, it’s much more harmful to a sportsman.”
6 Wayne Rooney
Even the poster boy for English football has been spotting sparking up on occasion. This could be the pressures of being the linchpin for England’s biggest club as well as the national side, or it could simply be somebody relaxing whilst on vacation from their job. Rooney is one of the best players of his generation, so it seems that it has not had an impact on his abilities. He is also the most famous English player however, and therefore he is idolised by many of England’s youth.
5 Mario Balotelli
Always a player shrouded by controversy, Mario Balotelli is considered to be football’s “bad boy” and therefore it comes as no surprise that he has been spotted lighting up cigarettes from time to time. In addition to being photographed smoking on holiday and on nights out, the Italian was also bizarrely caught smoking a cigarette in the toilet of a train whilst travelling with A.C Milan to Florence for a match against Fiorentina. Whilst at Man City, Mancini responded to Balotelli’s smoking by stating that he would prefer that he gave up, but “if he smokes 10 cigarettes a day and scores two goals every game, then that’s better”. Balotelli wasn’t scoring two goals every game and was causing plenty more controversies, and this is when he was shipped on to A.C Milan.
4 David Ginola
You will be hard pressed to find a cooler player than former Spurs, Newcastle and French midfielder David Ginola. The smooth talking Ginola would spark one up before and after the game, and even on the team bus when he first arrived in England. This was to the horror of his teammates and manager, who informed him that players in England do not smoke. Ginola was then shocked to see his teammates eating greasy fish and chips and other unhealthy foods which was considered to be fine.
3 Ashley Cole
Ashley Cole has been spotted sparking up numerous times over his career, and a friend claimed that he would smoke heavily during his yearly vacation in Los Angeles. His habit caused some issues once Jose Mourinho returned to Stamford Bridge, as the Portuguese manager is completely against the habit and demands the best from his players. This seemed to have caused an issue at Stamford Bridge as Cole lost his spot to Cesar Azpilicueta, and Cole was later moved on to AS Roma. Cole is certainly one of the best left backs of recent times, but some of his off-field behaviour, including his penchant for smoking, has tarnished his reputation and lost him the respect of many.
2 Dimitar Berbatov
One player who certainly doesn’t look out of place with a cigarette in his hand is Dimitar Berbatov, who is famous for his laid back, nonchalant attitude both on and off the pitch. The former Spurs, United, Fulham and current Monaco forward is famous for not sprinting during matches, but whether or not this has to do with his smoking habit remains to be seen and the Bulgarian claims “if someone has great qualities, they don’t need effort.” When questioned about being spotted smoking, Berbatov replied “no, sometimes when you see a picture I just pretend to smoke to make me more of a cool guy”. It seems to be working for Dimitar.
1 Jack Wilshere
The Arsenal midfielder has been caught smoking on a few separate occasions, and this is what has sparked plenty of debate surrounding the issue in recent years. Wilshere has been spotted smoking outside a London nightclub, at a party after the World Cup and in a swimming pool in Las Vegas, and most recently he was photographed holding a shisha pipe. Reflecting on the incidents, Wilshere said “I am young and I will learn from it. I realise the consequences it has and the effects on kids growing up. I have kids myself and I don’t want them growing up thinking their dad smokes and it is okay for a footballer to smoke, because it’s not. It is unacceptable and I will accept the consequences and I will move on.” Due to being a repeat offender and missing so many games, Wilshere has become the butt of many jokes because of his smoking (I couldn’t resist).