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.
15 Gareth Bale – 11.4 Seconds
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
12 T10. Micah Richards – 11 Seconds
11 T10. Dennis Rommedahl – 11 Seconds
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
8 T8. Gabriel Agbonlahor – 10.98 Seconds
7 Michael Owen – 10.8 Seconds
6 T5. Theo Walcott – 10.6 Seconds
5 T5. David Odonkor – 10.6 Seconds
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
2 Adam Gemili – 10.23 Seconds
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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