Former Barcelona, Manchester United, and Real Madrid men are among footballers who managed to play without training. It often goes overlooked that some footballers put themselves through incredible physical strain to play week in, week out. Down are some great footballers who didn’t train, including a remarkable story from Brazil.
5. Mesut Ozil
— Indy Football (@IndyFootball) January 2, 2016
In January 2016, amid some outstanding form from the German, Arsene Wenger explained the secret behind keeping him at his best: “Mesut, I gave him a one-week holiday during the international break.
“He doesn’t practise a lot, we rest him a lot between the games. He is a guy who once the basic fitness is there between the games, he wants to play.”
4. George Best
— OldFootballPhotos (@OldFootball11) December 27, 2016
Best’s attitude towards training, and football in general, is well documented. And in January 1972 he missed a full week’s training at Manchester United to spend time with Miss Great Britain instead.
Even the website georgebest.com, described as the “official platform to commemorate George’s life and playing career”, writes that as his drinking increased, “his training suffered and his appearances became less”.
Still, when you can score six goals in one game you can be forgiven for wondering whether you even needed to train.
Ronaldo Nazario ganando el Mundial de 2002 con 8 goles y 2 goles a Kahn tras volver de lesiones. Increíble.
Ronaldo Nazario winning the 2002 World Cup with 8 goals and 2 goals to Kahn after returning from injuries. Amazing. pic.twitter.com/gtIkEbDk0R
— 00s Football (@footballin00s) September 1, 2018
As one of the best players the world has ever seen, it’s fair to say Ronaldo was never put under too much pressure in training.
Even Gigi Simoni, who managed Ronaldo at Inter, said he didn’t ask him to do the same things as other players: “I never thought that all players should be managed in the same way if someone is special, and Ronaldo was exceptional.
“I never asked him to run, he just needed to train and play with the ball, someone else would have run for him.”
And when Fabio Capello took over at Real Madrid in 2006, although Ronaldo turned up for training, the Italian found a player struggling with his weight and seemingly not in the mood to get himself fit.
“Look, he weighed 96kg [15 stone],” Capello told AS. “I asked ‘how much did you weigh when you won the World Cup [in 2002]?’ 84kg [13 stone] he said. ‘Can you go down to 90kg [14 stone] at least?’ And he didn’t…”
Yet Capello still names Ronaldo as the “best by far” of all the players he ever worked with.