Words: Jim Butler
Time was, you knew where you stood with footballers’ music tastes. As any issue of Match or Shoot from the '80s and '90s will attest, it generally ran the gamut from sickly sanitised soul to rockist rubbish.
And while this noble tradition still exists in some quarters – who could forget former England skipper Steven Gerrard lamping a Southport DJ for allegedly refusing to play Phil Collins? And what about Everton boss Roberto Martinez pulling some dodgy moves to Jason Derulo at the pop star’s recent Manchester gig? – latterly the times have-a-changed.
Granted, Harry Kane has yet to out himself as a fan of melody-bothering techno terrorist Holly Herndon, and we haven’t been privy to Chris Smalling’s blog extolling the virtues of Mancunian indie-pop miserabilists Horsebeach. But, honestly, sometimes the beautiful game’s finest exponents do get it sonically right.
Just take note of these discerning chaps...
In the least surprising news you’ll ever read, when it comes to music, G-Nev is a big fan of the Manchester scene. He counts The Charlatans as good pals, even joining them on stage for a little acoustic sing song last year, and owns a signed guitar from Noel Gallager, who, accordingly, defaced it with MCFC penmanship. Now under the cosh as Valencia boss, in quieter moments of desperation we like to think he’s reaching for his beloved Stone Roses’ eponymous debut album. Can he prove to be the resurrection though?
Described in some quarters as the Premier League’s only hipster footballer – is that a good thing? – the permanently crocked Liverpool striker was quick to praise the likes of leftfield popstars’ Jessie Ware and Banks. He’s also been known to rap battle with teammate Jordan Ibe over a spot of Drake. Beats taking on Robert Huth we suppose.
Want to know what music was playing in Andres Iniesta’s head when he gracefully slotted past Dutch keeper Maarten Stekelenburg to win the 2010 World Cup Final for Spain? A Jose Carreras aria? No. Placido Domingo? No. Try Kasabian’s brutal Club Foot. It became the Spanish team’s unofficial anthem during that victorious campaign. So much so that the diminutive Iniesta invited the band to Barcelona to watch a game and have a kickabout on the hallowed Camp Nou turf.
We can count the number of footballers (past and present) with a fondness for the motorik rhythms of Krautrock on the finger of a mitten – step forward Everton left back Leighton Baines. Baines used to pen a blog for Everton in which he waxed lyrical about the charms of Tame Impala, The xx, Can, Lana Del Rey and The Black Keys. He’s also mates with Miles Kane (you can read about their bromance here). Top man.
The thinking footballer’s thinking footballer. The former Chelsea and Everton winger listened to John Peel, was dubbed "the post-punk footballer" by the NME and once asked to be substituted at half-time so he could catch a gig by ethereal dream pop merchants, Cocteau Twins. Having DJ'd since his younger days in Glasgow, he still spins the decks for a club night in trendy Dalston, which even led to this nice write-up in hipster bible Vice.
On the pitch, the veteran Barton is a no-nonsense dynamic midfielder with a surprisingly deft touch. Off it, the erstwhile loon has reinvented himself as an erudite chap. The music that best represents this most misunderstood of charming men? The Smiths, natch. He once said that getting Morrissey (pictured with Joey here right) and Johnny Marr back together would top anything he ever achieved on the football field. What, even better than attacking Carlos Tevez, Sergio Aguero and Vincent Kompany in one afternoon’s work? You’re too modest, Joey.
Xabi Alonso is the heartbeat of every team he’s ever graced. But what’s the soundtrack to this midfield orchestration? Dinosaur Jr, My Bloody Valentine, Pavement and Wilco. In fact any iconic act that was probably blaring out from any self-respecting underground indie club of the '90s. Has also been known to tweet about his love for the Velvet Underground. Sweet.
Granted, Rio’s a bit slick but his love of all things urban is genuine. He was a regular patron of Manchester’s much-missed Fat City record shop, and he even put his money where his mouth was when he set up his own label, White Chalk Music.
The one-time poster boy of German footballer (and an inspiration for the likes of Mesut Ozil, Mario Gotze et al – or should that be und alles?), has released a number of mix albums (ok, two) that highlight his love for cosmic leftfield Americana (The Flaming Lips) and ramshackle British indie (The Beta Band). We love this guy.
Unlikely as it may appear, the towering striker is a big indie lover. He turns up at every snakebite and black festival going, has professed admiration for Future Islands (maybe there’s a dance he can ape instead of the robot?) and even appeared in a video for Brum band Peace. What an absolute dude.
Zlatan knows. Zlatan knows that the best way for a mercurial modern footballer to get away from the all-consuming media glare is to whip open his ludicrously expensive headphones and lose himself in the hypnotic pulse of reggae. His favourite song? Bob Marley’s anthemic One Love. Zlatan knows.
Alessandro Del Piero
The former totemic Italian forward has appeared onstage with the Rolling Stones and even turned up in his friend Noel Gallagher’s video to Lord Don’t Slow Me Down. Some might say that’s some supersonic music credentials right there.
Derby County’s former captain had to retire recently having failed to recover sufficiently from an horrific injury sustained in 2012. Barker no doubt finds solace in his extremely erudite music collection – his love of Nick Cave, The Cure, Leonard Cohen, Mogwai, Explosions in the Sky and Holy Bible-era Manic Street Preachers is well documented.
Another majestic Spanish midfielder with an equally sublime music collection. The Stooges, The Jesus and Mary Chain and Velvet Underground are staples on the Mendieta stereo. Moreover, his authentic indie badge is well established. Before playing a game in Glasgow, he tweeted about some bands from the city – The Pastels, Frightened Rabbit and Franz Ferdinand were all mentioned. He ended up having a conversation with Stephen Pastel. None more indie.
The Southampton striker got married to the delicate sounds of The Smiths’ There is a Light That Never Goes Out. His blog also documents his Top Ten bands – included in this hall of fame are Jay Z, Al Green, Bob Marley and Paul Weller. We’ll pretend we didn’t see Ed Sheeran’s name in there.
If Pat Nevin was the post-punk player, Stuart Pearce – aggressive, snarling, bruising Stuart Pearce (he wasn’t called Psycho for nothing) - was the original punk footballer/manager. His music of choice was the scorched earth aesthetics of The Stranglers and the Sex Pistols; the latter whom he introduced onstage at their triumphant Finsbury Park reformation gig in 1996.
The next English superstar-in-waiting has professed to a love of classic British guitar bands, including The Who. We’re particularly fond of his appreciation for laidback hip hoppers Jurassic 5 though. Like Stones’ assured defending it demonstates a nice touch. Speaking of all things jurassic, what's the betting he's a fan of the Stones?
The recently-retired Wigan and West Brom defender took no prisoners while out on the field of play. And while he might have sported some daft hairdos in his time, this is in stark contrast to the contemplative music he devours at home. Scharner has spoken of an obsession with fellow countryman, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, saying: “I spend time imagining how he pieces his music together. I wonder how it is possible to think that big, to bring together the violins and wind instruments.” Something we’ve all wondered, Paul.