Mind games. Facts. Sardines. Football has given us the gift of press conferences and post match interviews, where sometimes we see the red mist take hold of players and managers. It’s not all controversy, though, as usually we see the repetitive politically correct answers to monotonous questions from journalists. You won’t see any of that here. We take a look at the top ten football interviews, where we go from tell-all conversations with intriguing insight to the downright bizarre.
10. Pepe – Spain, 2016
Soccer AM’s Tubes conducted a one-on-one interview with Real Madrid hard man, Pepe. Pepe, more well-known in some circles for brutal fouls he made years ago than the consistent performances he’s had the last few years, came across as friendly and well-spoken. Pepe claimed people needed to understand how he differs from on the pitch to off it and how he doesn’t like to lose a 50-50 challenge the same way a striker doesn’t like missing a scoring opportunity. The interview offers a chance of viewing Pepe in a different way than the media like to portray.
9. Zlatan Ibrahimovic – United States, 2015
The legendary striker played a word association game with Sports Illustrated, describing himself amongst a handful of other world-wide talents. The superlatives were reserved for pretty much everyone mentioned, except one. Lionel Messi was given ‘fantastic’, Jose Mourinho ‘power’ and simply ‘wow’ for himself. Cristiano Ronaldo? Just ‘good’, according to the book of Zlatan. A slight dig at the two time FIFA Ballon d’Or winner?
8. Raheem Sterling – England, 2015
The interview that sparked outrage amongst Liverpool fans, vindicating their suspicions that the twenty-year-old was no longer interested in playing for the Reds. He confirmed that he had turned down a one hundred thousand pound per week offer from Liverpool, that money was not the issue and that there was no offer Liverpool could make to keep him at the club. It was a strange decision from Sterling’s management to allow the interview to ever happen, with the interviewer’s questions clearly set-up to make embellished headlines in the papers for the next few days.
7. Jose Mourinho – England, 2015
Following a 2-1 loss to Leicester, Jose Mourinho conducted his final post-match interview as Chelsea manager. It was one of the most uncharacteristic moments of his career as he lambasted his players, claiming he was ‘betrayed’ by them. He looked and sounded truly defeated, his side languished in the bottom half of the table, clearly having lost control of the Chelsea locker room. A world apart from his infamous ‘Special One’ press conference.
6. Adebayo Akinfenwa – England, 2016
The powerhouse striker had just scored a penalty to earn AFC Wimbledon a 2-0 win and spot in Football League One before giving one of the most charismatic football interviews of all time. The striker looked more like he was giving a motivational speech to hopeful footballers worldwide rather than a post-game summary, not looking out of place behind the camera at all. He claimed he exerted himself more running in celebration than the game itself, how he was now technically unemployed, asking football managers to contact him on WhatsApp for a job, and how he was told he was ‘too big’ to play football earlier in his career.
5. Joey Barton – France, 2012
The English midfielder spent a year out on loan at Marseille after QPR had attempted to cut ties with him following the final game of the 2011/12 season, where Barton was given a straight red card against Manchester City before looking to provoke more City players on his walk off the pitch. In France, he gave an interview in a ‘French accent’ where he claimed he was bored of the English media’s attention to trivial matters rather than discussing football, and that the French league was ‘boring’.
4. Ljubo Milicevic – Australia, 2013
Former Socceroo Ljubo Milicevic sat down with The World Game journalist David Basheer in a tell-all interview. The controversial, outspoken Croatian discussed his ego, battling depression and general out-look on life. Milicevic had done an interview with SBS some two years’ prior, criticizing Anglo-Australian culture by saying he doesn’t identify as an Australian, despite being born in Melbourne, and that Australia Day represented nothing more than an excuse for Aussies to get drunk. He addressed these points here, showing some remorse and explaining that he ‘lived within his own ego’ for many years and took out his aggression on others. He describes his life experiences, the highs and lows, claiming to be the life of the party at the best of times. He claims he opted to spend his lows in isolation where it was all about ‘chocolate and porn’. Milicevic was an open book and deserves credit for having the courage to express himself so freely.
3. Ange Postecoglou – Australia, 2007
Then Australia youth coach Ange Postecoglou was invited to the World Game on SBS in 2007, where he was involved in a heated exchange with analyst Craig Foster over Postecoglou’s failure to qualify for the 2007 Youth World Cup. Foster questioned Postecoglou’s quality as a coach and claimed he pointed the blame towards his players rather than taking responsibility himself. Foster asked for Postecoglou’s resignation before insisting the attack wasn’t personal, which Postecoglou scoffed at, clearly losing interest in continuing the discussion. His interest may have returned some nine years on, though, as Postecoglou is now the coach of the Australian national team.
2. Eric Cantona – England, 1995
Manchester United maverick Eric Cantona was given the opportunity to speak to the media following a court appeal hearing on charges given for his infamous fly-kick on a Crystal Palace fan at Selhurst Park. His statement? “When the seagulls follow the trawler, it is because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea.” The statement has been dissected for years; that perhaps the press were the seagulls waiting for Cantona to explain everything, only for Cantona to lure them in and respond in riddles. One thing’s for sure, it was a response delivered in a manner only Eric Cantona could wholly embrace.
1. Rafael Benitez – England, 2009
Facts. Rafael Benitez was all about facts as Liverpool entered the new year of the 2008/09 season at the top of the Premier League table. Benitez claimed Alex Ferguson could not be punished by the FA, even after criticizing match officials and questioning the integrity of fixturing. Benitez warned Luiz Felipe Scolari, then Chelsea manager, to use zonal marking on Manchester United’s staff when going to Old Trafford due to their constant conversations with referees, particularly at the half-time interval. Unfortunately for Benitez it was Ferguson who would have the last laugh, lifting the Premier League trophy at the end of the season.
So, how would you have ranked these interviews? What have I missed that you would have included? Let us know in the comments section!