Speed is one of the most exciting yet contentious aspects of football. Fans loves to argue over ranking the quickest players in the world, even though television pictures are often the only evidence one can go by.
Clubs at all levels of the game conduct regular sprint tests, including over 100m, to ensure players meet the required standards of the competition. However, this information is crucially important to enhancing player development and performance and would give rivals a significant advantage should it become public. With this in mind, clubs are reluctant to publish the sprint records of their playing staff.
Unsurprisingly, many footballers once participated in track events during their youth and occasionally mention their athletic prowess in interviews or on social media. The personal bests many players speak of are often times they set as teenagers, meaning their current records might be even quicker.
Using technology that measuring players’ top speed, FIFA has begun collecting information from matches to determine the fastest players in the world. However, football is a game that accommodates both explosive acceleration over a few yards and raw speed over long distances. Compare the likes of Aaron Lennon and Diego Costa; both would be considered quick players, but for entirely different reasons.
Some players reach their top speed in a matter of strides, whereas others need 30 to 40 yards to shift through the gears. This means some would rarely be able to fully utilise their speed on a football pitch, thus making FIFA’s testing somewhat unfair.
There’s a reason why the 100m world record holder is known as the fastest man or woman alive, so it makes sense to use times clocked by footballers to determine the quickest in the game.
Here are the top 15 fastest 100m times ran by footballers.
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15 Gareth Bale – 11.4 Seconds
Gareth Bale has moulded himself into a near-complete player over the course of his career. The Welshman has exquisite skill and a fearsome left boot, but first and foremost, he is an incredible athlete. Bale has always been a gifted runner; he regularly blazed away his peers in the 1500m and 100m events during his teenage years. In fact, the Real Madrid star even clocked a scorching time of 11.4 seconds in the sprint event as a 14-year-old.
14 Nathan Dyer – 11.3 Seconds
Pint-sized wingers are often assumed to be terrifyingly quick over 10 yards, but easier to catch in a flat-out sprint to the ball. However, Nathan Dyer, 5’6”, is an exception to this rule. The Leicester City loanee once ran the 100m in 11.3 seconds at the age of 15-years-old, an accolade he supposedly inherited from his athletic mother, who could finish the event in 11.6 seconds. Dyer is yet to earn his first cap for England, but with speed like his, it’s difficult to write off his chances should Roy Hodgson opt to experiment with alternative wide options.
13 Nedum Onuoha – 11.09 Seconds
Nedum Onuoha might not be the most sterling centre-back the Premier League has ever seen, but he’s certainly up there among the quickest. The Queens Park Rangers star has always been famed for his ability to utilise blistering speed in the heart of defence, so it’s no surprise he was promising sprinter during his teenage years. Onuoha boasts a personal best 100m time of 11.09 seconds, but the ambitious defender has claimed he would be disappointed if he failed to clock 10 seconds flat in his current physical condition.
12 T10. Micah Richards – 11 Seconds
Micah Richards was a sight to behold in his prime at Manchester City; the fullback would bomb down the wing at lightning speed while shunting would be tacklers away from the ball with his powerful frame. Richards claims he ran the 100m in a time of around 11 seconds during his youth, which perhaps explains why he once had a promising future as a rugby player. Unfortunately a series of injuries and a subsequent dip in form led to his release by City in June 2015, but the burly defender remains in the Premier League having joined Aston Villa on a free transfer near the beginning of the 2015-16 season.
11 T10. Dennis Rommedahl – 11 Seconds
Dennis Rommedahl was once believed to be capable of covering 100 metres in 10.2 seconds, however, the man himself has since dismissed the staggering assertion. The former Charlton winger, who insists his personal best over the distance is 11 seconds flat, terrorised defenders with his astonishing speed, but too often his final ball left him down. Rommedahl didn’t entertain the idea of becoming a professional footballer until he was 18-years-old, so imagine what he might’ve been had he honed his skills from a younger age.
10 T10. Matt Jarvis – 11 Seconds
Matt Jarvis has been constant thorn in the side of Premier League defenders throughout his career, namely because of his electrifying pace. The Norwich City winger gave up athletics long before beginning his career as a professional footballer, but he claims his 100m time is around the 11 seconds mark. Although he might not always have the finishing touch to match, Jarvis is certainly an exciting player to watch with the ball at his feet.
9 T8. Alex Kiwomya – 10.98 Seconds
Alex Kiwomya, a member of Chelsea’s U21 squad, faces the daunting task of breaking into the Blues’ glittering first-team. The 19-year-old can play on the wing or as a central striker and if he has one attribute that could launch him into senior action, it’s electrifying speed. Kiwomya has been a junior athletics champion in the 100m event, recording a stunning personal best of 10.98 seconds as a 14- year-old. The Englishman isn’t the first player to be hyped up based on his raw pace, but hopefully Chelsea take care to shape him into a more complete attacking threat.
8 T8. Gabriel Agbonlahor – 10.98 Seconds
Gabriel Agbonlahor has long been heralded as one of the quickest players in the competition, and for good reason. He has reportedly ran the 100m sprint in just 10.98 seconds, although the man himself hasn’t backed up such reports. Nonethless, Gabby’s blazing speed has seen him operate as a central striker and on both wings for Aston Villa over the course of his career, and very few markers have been able to match him for speed.
7 Michael Owen – 10.8 Seconds
Michael Owen is undoubtedly one of the fastest strikers to have graced a football pitch, but the true extent of his freakish athleticism is rarely celebrated. When asked on Twitter how fast he could run the 100m sprint during his career, the former England international revealed his best time stands at 10.8 seconds, an effort he claims to have recorded as a 14-year-old. If that’s accurate, it’s no wonder few Premier League defenders could catch Owen while he was at the peak of his powers.
6 T5. Theo Walcott – 10.6 Seconds
Ask someone to name the fastest player in the Premier League and most people will answer with one name: Theo Walcott. The Arsenal forward has made a living out of skinning Premier League fullbacks and he’s said to have sprinted the 100m event in just 10.6 seconds. Walcott has the pace to cause problems for his markers in both central and wide positions, but although he’s frighteningly quick, it seems his fastest reported time is some way off the top of the pile compared to other professional footballers.
5 T5. David Odonkor – 10.6 Seconds
The name David Odonkor might ring a few bells, but probably only for one reason. The winger made waves on the international stage with Germany at the 2006 World Cup, utilising his blistering pace in the latter stages of matches. Considering Odonkor has clocked an official time of 10.6 seconds over 100m, he was the kind of electrifying player a tiring fullback would despise defending against. The 31- year-old now manages TuS Dornberg in the lower leagues of Germany after several serious injuries prematurely ended his career in 2013.
4 Claudio Caniggia – 10.5 Seconds
Given he played alongside Diego Maradona, Claudio Caniggia certainly wasn’t the biggest name in the formidable Argentina side of the 1990 and 1994 World Cup. However, he was one of the most exciting. Caniggia was revered for his searing pace and could reputedly run the 100m in just 10.5 seconds. A constant threat out wide, a player of his speed would likely give even today’s players a run for their money.
3 Marvell Wynne – 10.39 Seconds
Even the likes of Sergio Aguero and Diego Costa would have a difficult time beating Marvell Wynne to a through ball behind the defensive line. The American is a former athletics prodigy, who clocked a stunning time of 10.39 seconds in a 100m race during his college years. His personal best is commonly regarded as the fastest ever performed by a professional footballer, but as proved by the next two entries on this list, this is incorrect.
2 Adam Gemili – 10.23 Seconds
Now a professional sprinter capable of running the 100m in less than 10 seconds, Adam Gemili was once a budding footballer with Chelsea and Reading at youth level before signing for Dagenham & Redbridge. The defender, who ran an incredible time of 10.23 seconds at the Under-20 Championship as a 17-year-old in 2009, once said his football would always come before athletics. However, with speed like his, it’s no surprise Gemili eventually opted to pursue a career on the track.
1 Darren Campbell – 10.04 Seconds
Given his illustrious career in athletics, it could be argued that it’s unfair to include Darren Campbell in this list. He was torn between athletics and football during his youth, but gave up on the latter career path after failed trials with Plymouth Argyle, Newport County and Weymouth among others. Campbell was always a phenomenally quick player, which is upheld by his personal best time of 10.04 seconds in the 100m event. Despite never making the grade at a professional club, the former athlete is now a sprint trainer at Cardiff City.
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