Ronaldinho, Ozil, Best: 10 world class players who simply did not need to train

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Whatever the sport, the mantra top athletes follow is at least a slight variation on the notion of working insanely hard to achieve your goals.

That, of course, is a worthy life lesson and - as cliche as it might sound - obviously rings true in pretty much every walk of life. Indeed, when you see the lengths Cristiano Ronaldo goes to in order to keep himself in fine fettle, the success that comes his way barely seems surprising.

Still, there’s nothing quite like the idea of someone being able to turn the proverbial ‘it’ on without putting all that effort in. Perhaps that simply isn’t possible anymore given the demands of elite-level sport but, as much as we should constantly talk up the need to work hard, it’s a nice change of pace to hear a different side of the story once in a while.

If nothing for no other reason than to bring up the seething jealousy you felt as a school kid watching a classmate absolutely nail an exam they didn’t revise for, while your hard work went unrewarded, here’s a look at a few of the best footballers who didn’t need to train.

Darren McGregor

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A fixture in the Hibernian backline since moving back to his hometown club in 2015, former manager Neil Lennon revealed the stoic central defender ‘doesn’t train’, such was the impact two long-term injuries had on the player.

Paul McGrath

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A ludicrously talented centre-back for both Manchester United and Aston Villa, major injuries seriously impacted Paul McGrath’s ability to train during the week, though that did little to halt his excellence on the pitch.

"The greatest footballer to play for Ireland, imagine how good he could have been with two decent knees," said Michael Glennon of RTE.

‘Virgil van Dijk reminds me of him. That’s how good he was.’

‘There’s an anecdote in his book about how a cutting edge physio at Villa whose name escapes me right now, upon watching him play on a Saturday having barely trained all week exclaims: “That’s impossible”.’

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Arsenal fans may have grown increasingly frustrated at the German’s perceived lack of application as his controversial stint in north London came to an end but, at his best, the 2014 World Cup winner always seemed effortless.

Arsene Wenger - not a man known for his intense disciple - claimed in 2016 that the mercurial No.10 ‘doesn’t practice a lot’.

Jonathan Woodgate

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It is wholeheartedly unfair that Jonathan Woodgate is largely remembered for his shambolic Real Madrid debut, having been sent off after giving away a penalty following a year-long wait to make his bow in the Spanish capital.

While a Newcastle United player, Woodgate’s injury problems started and - after moving to Tottenham Hotspur in 2008 - the former England international revealed he did not train.

George Best

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Britain’s first footballing icon, George Best’s life off the pitch was as newsworthy as his stunning Manchester United career.

Clearly, it’s important not to make light of the Best story but, in his pomp, the Nothern Irish wizard was one of the greatest players in the world, all while leading the life of a rockstar off of it.

In January 1972, Best missed a full week’s training at Manchester United to spend time with Miss Great Britain.

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To describe Ronaldinho as a ‘flair player’ would be to do the Brazilian great a disservice. At his best, the Barcelona legend was a difference-maker, capable of winning major trophies and deciding huge games all while looking ridiculously happy about the situation.

What made him so popular was how much he enjoyed playing the game. According to former PSG teammate Jerome Leroy, that enjoyment spread to matters off the pitch.

"He just turned up on Friday ready to play on the Saturday. That was Ronaldinho. I think he was trying to emulate Romario, but he did not have the same success."

Ledley King

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Lauded by Thierry Henry as one of the greatest defenders he’d ever faced, Tottenham Hotspur legend Ledley King is one of the most famous English players of all time who did not need to train.

As a result of crippling injuries, the ex-England international was reduced to pool work in order to keep fit, as former boss Harry Redknapp described.

“It’s crazy that you can not train once all week and then come in on a Saturday and be the best player,” he said in 2011.


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Widely regarded as one of the greatest footballers of all time, Ronaldo’s time at Inter Milan saw his life off the pitch make hit headlines as much as his exploits on it.

Gigi Simoni, who took charge of the Serie A giants during the Brazilian forward’s time there, even admitted he never asked the player to ‘run’ in training, merely allowing him to do what he did best - absolutely bamboozle defenders with his majestic close control.

“I never asked him to run, he just needed to train and play with the ball, someone else would have run for him. And his team-mates were glad to do that because they knew to be part of a strong team with a genius on the top.”

Matt Le Tissier

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The greatest player in Southampton’s history and a talent under-used by the English national team, Matt Le Tissier has been cited as an influence by the likes of Spanish World Cup winner, Xavi.

Indeed, the only thing lacking in Le Tissier’s career was reportedly his application in training.

Wayne Rooney

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During the mid-2000s, there was a time when Wayne Rooney was widely considered as one of the great players in the world while still a teenager, rated higher than Manchester United teammate Cristiano Ronaldo.

Clearly, the record goalscorer for both United and England enjoyed one of the greatest careers in recent history but it’s a wonder as to how good he could have been had he put in the same level of work in keeping himself in shape as the Portuguese great.

"Wayne didn’t see the importance of the gym really," said former Manchester United fitness coach Mick Clegg in 2013.

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