Soccer, particularly in the modern game, is a very physically demanding sport. The fitness programs, dietary requirements and training regimes implemented by professional teams, particularly at the highest level, leaves little room for unfit players. There are, as always, a few exceptions though. One of those is goalkeepers, who obviously have less physical excursion during a game and can often be prone to carrying a little more weight.
Another is incredibly gifted or technical players, whose ability covers up their physical flaws, with someone like Matt Le Tissier at Southampton (who doesn't make this list) being a prime example of that. Given that the professional game is roughly 150 years old, there have been a very many overweight players, and as such, any number of them miss out on our list of a top 20.
Some of these players had fitness and weight issues following a bad injury or incident, and may have been perfect athletes up until that point, whilst others were 'fat' for much of their careers. For some, their weight plagued their careers, restricting their potential and sometimes causing early retirement. For others, it failed to hold them back, reaching the highest level regardless. Here are the top 20 fattest soccer players.
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Powerful Egyptian forward Mido showed promise in his early years, combining force with technique, and scored 11 goals in 27 games for Tottenham in his best season, in his early 20's. He never kicked on though, and his career was marred by inconsistency, often put down to his poor attitude and fitness. He was often seen to be carrying a little excess weight, having fluctuating weight problems which eventually contributed to his early retirement at the age of 30.
19 Genero Zeefuik
Former Holland youth international, Genero Zeefuik was being touted for big things during his time at PSV, where he played for the Netherlands under-17, under-19 and under-21 teams, winning 32 caps between the three of them. Zeefuik was always a physical forward, but how much is fat and how much is muscle has more recently been called into question, with Zeefuik appearing larger, more laboured and less mobile, despite being only 25. He probably looked his largest at Hearts in the SPL, but is now playing in Turkey, where he has made a bright start.
One of the greatest players of all-time, in terms of technique, Ronaldo was as good as anyone in the history of the game. Were it not for a series of unfortunate injuries he would be considered right in the band of Pele's, Maradona's and Messi's; as it happens, he probably falls just short in most people's estimations. Despite missing huge patches of his career, Ronaldo still won 18 trophies in his career, including 2 World Cup's, the UEFA Cup and La Liga. He won the Ballon d'Or twice and FIFA World Player of the Year three times.
17 Micky Quinn
A prolific forward, Micky Quinn was undoubtedly rotund by football standards. His own fans created the chant "He's fat, he's round, he scores at every ground, Micky Quinn..", to combat chants of "Who ate all the pies?" and sometimes rather harsher chants from opposition fans. Quinn even entitled his autobiography 'Who Ate All The Pies'. The Englishman scored an impressive 227 goals in 535 games over his career, but never won a cap for his country, and had various nicknames, including "Sumo" and "Hippofatamus".
16 Kevin Pressman
The first goalkeeper on this list but certainly not the last, Kevin Pressman had a 22 year career, with 17 of those years spent at Sheffield Wednesday, where he played over 500 games. His later clubs included Leicester, Mansfield and Portadown. Like Quinn, Pressman retired without an England cap to his name, although he did play for the countries under-21 and B teams.
15 Neil Ruddock
One of football's supposed 'hard men', Neil 'Razor' Ruddock had a good career for a man of limited natural ability. Unlike the two that came before him, Ruddock did play for England, winning a solitary cap in a 1994 friendly against Nigeria. At club level, Ruddock's most significant spells came with Southampton, Tottenham, Liverpool and West Ham. Particularly large towards the end of his career, Ruddock ended his professional career in 2003 at Swindon, with a 1995 League Cup win with Liverpool his greatest achievement.
14 Andy Reid
Andy Reid is a talented footballer with good technique and a useful left foot, but he is probably best known by many within the English game for often appearing to not exactly resemble an athlete at the peak of their powers. Naturally stocky, Reid has at times simply been overweight. Despite this, he has spent eight seasons in the Premier League and currently plays for Nottingham Forest in the Championship, he has won 29 caps for Ireland and will be hopeful of playing at Euro 2016, although he currently hasn't played for his country in over two years.
13 Mehdi Ben Slimane
Despite the presence of the word 'slim' in his surname, former Tunisia international Mehdi Ben Slimane was anything but. Having come through the ranks at AS Marsa, making his international debut at 20, he went on to have a career in Europe, spending five years in France and Germany, playing for Marseille, Freiburg and Borussia Monchengladbach. A skilful winger, Slimane time at Marseille was disrupted by injuries. He won 33 caps for Tunisia, scoring six goals and featuring at the 1998 World Cup.
12 Paddy Kenny
The 37-year-old English shot stopper Paddy Kenny has had a long and fairly respectable career in the game, but has always had one major problem; his weight. His fitness has often been called into question, and even his long-time manager and admirer Neil Warnock once said "The first thing I did was put him on a diet. He was eating burgers, pizzas and chips - and that was in the same day".
He has played 654 games over his career, but now in his mid-30s, his fitness problems seem to have caught up with him, and he hasn't played regularly in almost two years.
11 Ferenc Puskas
A true legend of the game, Ferenc Puskas is quite rightly regarded as one of the finest players and most gifted forwards the game has ever seen. His technique, intelligence and accuracy were all second to none, but he did have some serious deficiencies to his game. He did not track back, he wasn't particularly industrious and he practically never used his right foot or his head.
Towards the end of his career Puskas was heavily overweight, but still virtually unplayable. He scored 616 goals in 620 games at club level and 84 goals in 85 games for Hungary, winning 10 league titles, three European Cups and reaching one World Cup final.
10 Jon Parkin
From Puskas to Parkin, this is surely the only list where the pair could be so close together. Parkin, a Barnsley-born forward who has played for the likes of Hull, Stoke, Preston and Cardiff, is actually quite gifted on the ball for a man of his size. At 6-foot-4, Parkin is a large man vertically, but has all too often been a large man horizontally too. He was known to return to pre-season training often considerably overweight. Aged 33, Parkin now plays for Forest Green Rovers in the National League, formerly known as the Conference, tier five of the English football league system.
9 Ivan Valenciano
Having spent almost his entire club career in South America, a lot of people may never have heard of Ivan Valenciano, although he did play for Colombia at both the 1992 Olympic Games and 1994 World Cup. A journeyman forward who made 16 transfers over a 19 year career was a prolific scorer in Colombia, but found life a little tricker in Brazil. Hotly-tipped as a youngster, Valenciano played in Europe for Atalanta but was a huge flop, playing only 5 games. He won 29 caps for Colombia, scoring 13 goals.
8 Steve McNulty
The sight of Steve McNulty on a football pitch is one which still looks wrong, despite the defender now being in his 13th season in the professional game. A graduate of the Liverpool academy, McNulty never played for the Reds, spending most of his career in the fourth and fifth tiers. McNulty has good technique for a defender, but his mobility surely has to be called into question such is his size. Aged 32, McNulty is currently on-loan at Tranmere Rovers from Luton Town.
7 Jan Molby
One of the finest Danish footballers to ever play the game, Jan Molby was a very gifted central midfielder who had great success at Anfield, where he spent 12 years of his career, playing almost 300 games. Colby won 13 trophies as a player, including 3 First Division titles, before retiring in 1998. In the 2006 list of Players Who Shook the Kop, Molby was voted the 16th greatest player in Liverpool history. With fine technique and passing ability, Molby had an excellent career, but was often stocky, and as he reached his 30s his weight began to become a real issue.
6 Jeroen Verhoeven
Dutch shot-stopper Jeroen Verhoeven began his career at Ajax, in the club's legendary academy. He left before making an appearance, but returned to the Dutch giants nine years later as a back-up goalkeeper, playing three league games in three years. Renowned for his incredibly large waistline, Verhoeven is no stranger to taunts and abuse from opposition fans. Despite his lack of appearances, Verhoeven is technically a two-time Eredevisie champion with Ajax and won the second tier title with FC Volendam.
When it comes to mercurial talents, they don't come more mercurial or more inconsistent than Brazilian forward Adriano. With a cannon of a shot, good technique, aerial ability, pace and power, Adriano had all the tools to become a world class center-forward. And at times he was, but for the most part, he let his incredible potential go to waste. Despite his failures, Adriano still won 13 trophies at club level and 4 with Brazil, with whom he won 48 caps and scored 27 goals. His character, fitness and work-rate were all called into question, and recent photos of the former Brazil star expose how serious his problem are. Adriano's career was effectively over at the age of 27.
4 Neville Southall
A truly world class goalkeeper, Neville Southall is an Everton legend, who spent 17 years with the Toffees, in which time he won nine trophies and played 747 games, making him by far Everton's leading appearance holder. He is also the most capped player in the history of the Welsh national team, having represented his country 92 times. Southall was named in the PFA Team of the Year four times, and even won the FWA Player of the Year once. Despite his array of achievements, Southall was a large man, and towards the end of his career he was severely overweight.
3 Tomas Brolin
Another very gifted player who let fitness issues ruin his career, after the 1994 World Cup, Tomas Brolin was hot property in Europe. During the early-mid 1990s, Brolin won the Coppa Italia, UEFA Cup Winners Cup, UEFA Cup and UEFA Super Cup with Parma, and reached the semi-final of both Euro '92 and the 1994 World Cup with Sweden.
Leeds United thought they'd signed one of the best number 10s in the game when he joined the club in 1995 then, but it wasn't to be. Brolin had failed to recover from an injury and was hideously unfit. His time in England was a car crash. He was severely overweight, retired at 28 and was named the second worst player in Premier League history.
Ailton Goncalves da Silva, or more simply 'Ailton' as he was better known, was a talented Brazilian striker who scored goals in both Europe and South America. Even at the peak of his physical conditioning Ailton was a stocky man, not helped by his short size and large frame. Standing at 5-foot-8, Ailton was very bulky. For the most part, he used this strength to his advantage, but his weight fluctuated and at times he was simply fat, with images at the end of his career illustrating just that. Ailton scored 205 goals in 476 games over his career, playing for the likes of Werder Bremen, Schalke and Besiktas.
1 William Foulke
The fattest professional footballer of all time quite simply has to be William Foulke, better known as William "Fatty" Foulke. When you're handed the nickname, 'Fatty', the odds are you're carrying some timber, and Foulke certainly was. A large man by nature, Foulke was 6-foot-4 and weighed a whopping 24 stone towards the end of his career, making him really rather large. While hampering his reflexes and agility, this did give Foulke the added bonus of occupying much of the goal without actually moving.
Folk spent the vast majority of his career at Sheffield United, later playing for Chelsea and Bradford and won one cap for England in 1897. Between the three clubs Foulke played 355 games over a 13 year career, winning the First Division title once and the FA Cup twice. The former Chelsea captain died in 1916 at the age of 42, with the exact cause of his death remaining largely unknown.
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