The soccer one-liners down through the years are classic. Whether from a player, manager, fan, or pundit they transcend the era to say something about the sport. Check out some of the best in the game. And send us the ones we are missing.
Classic Soccer Quotes
The manager, the gaffer, the boss, the head coach. Regardless of what you call the person that runs the team his take on the game is always important but that does not mean they are always eloquent. Arguably the most famous soccer quote of all-time is from Liverpool’s manager Bill Shankly so we will start with his words.
‘Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.’ – Liverpool manager Bill Shankly
‘Soccer is simple, but it is difficult to play simple.’ – Johan Cruyff
‘If you are first you are first. If you are second, you are nothing.’ – Bill Shankly
‘Whoever invented football should be worshipped as a God.’ – Hugo Sanchez, Mexican legend as player and coach.
‘If you’re in the penalty area and don’t know what to do with the ball, put it in the net and we’ll discuss the options later.’ – Bob Paisley
“They started in that tournament in July. July! Crikey. I was on the beach.” Sir Alex Ferguson on why Roy Hodgson deserves the Manager of the Year award, after steering Fulham to the Europa League final. Fergie be nice, not everyone can coast into Europe every season and lounge on the beach.
‘Football is simple but the hardest thing to do is play simple football.’ – Johan Cruyff
‘I don’t believe skill was, or ever will be, the result of coaches. It is a result of a love affair between the child and the ball.’ – Manfred Schellscheidt, German-American soccer coach who coached the 1975 U.S. men’s national team and the 1984 Olympic team.
‘The goalkeeper is the jewel in the crown and getting at him should be almost impossible. It’s the biggest sin in football to make him do any work.’ – George Graham on defending.
‘Other countries have their history. Uruguay has its football.’ – Ondino Viera, Uruguayan manager.
‘That lad must have been born offside.’ – Sir Alex Ferguson on Filippo Inzaghi
‘We have people coming here to admire the scenery and enjoy their crisps.’ – Alex Ferguson
‘At a football club, there’s a holy trinity the players, the manager and the supporters. Directors don’t come into it. They are only there to sign the checks.’ – Bill Shankly
‘We didn’t underestimate them. They were a lot better than we thought.’ – Bobby Robson after England squeaked past Cameroon at 1990 World Cup.
‘I would have given my right arm to be a pianist.’ – Bobby Robson
‘The vision of a champion is someone bent over, drenched in sweat, to a point of exhaustion, when no one else is watching.’ – Anson Dorrance, North Carolina women’s soccer coach and manager of the U.S. women’s national team from 1986-1994
‘A million wouldn’t buy him, and I’d be one of them.’ – Bill Shankley
‘As with every young player, he’s only 18.’ – Alex Ferguson
‘As long as no-one scored, it was always going to be close.’ – Arsene Wenger
‘We hope could be Yao Ming on the football pitch here.’ – Gordon Strachan
‘If you buy a man who is half-dead, everybody may be happy off the field, but on the field you’ll have major problems.’ – Arsene Wenger
‘I will also take risks in the future. At least, it is good for everyone: our team, the crowd and also the opponent.’ – Aad de Mos, Dutch football manager
‘I’m not going to resign. I’m going to try to make it right. In October, win two games and we qualify.’ – Sven Goran Eriksson
‘When I go to the press conference before the game, in my mind the game has already started.’ – Jose Mourinho
‘I would not say he (David Ginola) is the best left winger in the Premiership, but there are none better.’ – Arsene Wenger
‘I can see the carrot at the end of the tunnel.’ – Stuart Pearce, English manager and former player
‘He’s one of those footballers whose brains are in his head.’ – Derek Johnstone former Scottish manager and player
‘If you don’t concede any goals you’ll win more games than you lose.’ – Bobby Moore
‘If a player is not interfering with play or seeking to gain an advantage, then he should be.’ – Bill Shankly
Managers like to think they are in control but it is the players who get the results. They are the idols for kids around the globe and have their moments of brilliance and lunacy on the field and while talking about the beautiful game.
‘Every kid around the world who plays soccer wants to be Pele. I have a great responsibility to show them not just how to be like a soccer player, but how to be like a man.’ – Pele
‘Some people tell me that we professional players are soccer slaves. Well, if this is slavery, give me a life sentence.’ – Manchester United and England midfielder/forward Bobby Charlton
‘I spent a lot of money on booze, birds and fast cars. The rest I just squandered.’ – George Best
‘The ball is like a woman, she loves to be caressed.’ – Eric Cantona
‘I used to go missing a lot…Miss Canada, Miss United Kingdom, Miss World.’ – George Best
‘I would not be bothered if we lost every game as long as we won the league.’ – Mark Viduka
‘Sometimes in football you have to score goals.’ – Thierry Henry, who would know something about scoring goals after knocking in 335 in his career.
‘Italians can’t win the game against you, but you can lose the game against the Italians.’ – Johan Cryuff
‘Deschamps gets by because he always gives 100 per cent, but he will never be anything more than a water carrier. You can find players like him (Deschamps) on every street corner. At present Didier likes to act like a monk and a moralist but he’ll end up wallowing in every kind of vice.’ Eric Cantona on fellow Frenchman Didier Deschamps prior to Manchester United playing Deschamps Juventus. Juventus won both legs of that Champions League encounter.
‘How many players can you find on street corners who have won two European Cups? Besides, every team needs its water carriers.’ Didiers Deschamps in reply to Cantona’s comments. Deschamps went on to captain France to the 1998 World Cup title. Not too bad for the water carrier.
‘There’s no in between – you’re either good or bad. We were in between.’ – Gary Lineker
‘I’d give all the champagne I’ve ever drunk to be playing alongside him in a big European match at Old Trafford.’ – Eric Cantona on what he would give to have played with George Best
‘The Brazilians were South American, and the Ukranians will be more European.’ – Phil Neville
‘Whatever happens, there are always things you could have done better. You score two goals and you usually feel you could have done better. You score two goals and you usually feel you could have scored a third. That’s perfectionism. That’s what makes you progress in life.’ – Eric Cantona
‘My parents have been there for me, ever since I was about 7.’ – David Beckham
‘I definitely want Brooklyn to be christened, but I don’t know into what religion yet.’ – David Beckham
‘Fail to prepare, prepare to fail.’ – Roy Keane
‘One accusation you can’t throw at me is that I’ve always done my best.’ – Alan Shearer
‘Without being too harsh on David Beckham, he cost us the match.’ – Ian Wright
‘It was like the ref had a brand new yellow card and wanted to see if it worked.’ – Richard Rufus, former Charlton Athletic player
‘Germany are a very difficult team to play…they had 11 internationals out there today.’ – Steve Lomas, Northern Ireland midfielder from 1994-2003
‘I faxed a transfer request to the club at the beginning of the week, but let me state that I don’t want to leave Leicester.’ – Stan Collymore
‘If a team wants to intimidate you physically and you let them, they’ve won.’ – Mia Hamm on intimidation.
‘Football’s not just about scoring goals it’s about winning.’ – Alan Shearer
‘I don’t believe there is such a thing as a ‘born’ soccer player. Perhaps you are born with certain skills and talents, but quite frankly it seems impossible to me that one is actually born to be an ace soccer player.’ – Pele
‘I’ve had 14 bookings this season – 8 of which were my fault, but 7 of which were disputable.’ – Paul Gascoigne
‘Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.’ – Pele
‘I couldn’t settle in Italy – it was like living in a foreign country.’ – Ian Rush
‘Everything is practice.’ – Pele
‘I’ve never wanted to leave. I’m here for the rest of my life, and hopefully after that as well.’ – Alan Shearer
‘I was always taught as a kid if you do something, do it right. If not, go do something else. For me, soccer was life.’ – Marcelo Balboa, former U.S. international from 1988 – 2000
‘I have the chance to do for a living what I like the most in life, and that’s playing football. I can make people happy and enjoy myself at the same time.’ – Ronaldinho
‘Leeds is a great club and it’s been my home for years, even though I live in Middlesbrough.’ – Jonathan Woodgate
‘Behind every kick of the ball there has to be a thought.’ – Dennis Bergkamp
‘In Latin America the border between soccer and politics is vague. There is a long list of governments that have fallen or been overthrown after the defeat of the national team.’ – Luis Suarez
‘If you don’t believe you can win, there is no point in getting out of bed at the end of the day.’ – Neville Southall
“I remember seeing Boy George sing for the first time and having a debate with my mates as to whether it was a boy or a girl. The fact he was called Boy George was a bit of a clue.” Matt Le Tissier on his 80s dilemma. Sadly for many people the ‘Boy’ part of his name did not settle matters.
‘I am very mistrustful of people who are constantly over intellectualizing things. It kills passion. You have to allow yourself to lose control from time to time.’ – Eric Cantona
‘Every time I went away I was deceiving my mum. I’d tell her I was going to school but I’d be out on the street playing football. I always had a ball on my feet.’ – Ronaldo
‘I’m as happy as I can be – but I have been happier.’ – Ugo Ehiogu, former English footballer.
‘If you’re attacking, you don’t get as tired as when you’re chasing.’ – Kyle Rote, Jr., former U.S. international 1973-75
‘Pele called me the greatest footballer in the world. That is the ultimate salute to my life.’ – George Best
‘We lost because we didn’t win.’ – Ronaldo
‘I was surprised, but I always say nothing surprises me in soccer.’ – Les Ferdinand
‘I was watching the Blackburn game on TV on Sunday when it flashed on the screen that George (Ndah) had scored in the first minute at Birmingham. My first reaction was to ring him up. Then I remembered he was out there playing.’ – Ade Akinbiyi
‘I always used to put my right boot on first, and then obviously my right sock.’ – Barry Venison former footballer and TV pundit
‘Alex Ferguson is the best manager I’ve ever had at this level. Well, he’s the only manager I’ve actually had at this level. But he’s the best manager I’ve ever had.’ – David Beckham
‘I’d like to play for an Italian club, like Barcelona.’ – Mark Draper, English midfiedler
‘I took a whack on my left ankle, but something told me it was my right.’ – Lee Hendrie
Shankly pointed out earlier that administrators were at the football club merely to sign the checks. That may have been true in the Scottish manager’s day but not in modern soccer. The administrators still sign the checks but cutting big checks gives them a pulpit to speak their mind.
“I think I’ve found you a genius.” – Manchester United talent scout Bob Bishop’s telegram to the club on discovering a 15-year-old George Best.
‘The rules of soccer are very simple, basically it is this: if it moves, kick it. If it doesn’t move, kick it until it does.’ – Phil Woosnam, former Welsh professional football and Commissioner of NASL from 1969-1983.
‘It’s difficult to find a defect on Mourinho, perhaps he is a little introverted but he is marvelous.’ Inter Milan president Massimo Moratti talking about Mourinho! Yes the Special One is a little introverted, who came up with that nickname for Mourinho anyway?
‘Football is the opera of the people.’ – Stafford Heginbotham, English businessman and club owner, in 1985
‘If this can be termed the century of the common man, then soccer, of all sports, is surely his game…. In a world haunted by the hydrogen and napalm bomb, the football field is a place where sanity and hope are still left unmolested.’ – Stanley Rous, the 6th president of FIFA serving from 1961-1974, speaking in 1952
The power of the pen is reluctantly handed to the soccer pundits who provide their insights on the game and its players. Just like the players they can have moments of brilliance and a howler of an effort.
‘To say that these men paid their shillings to watch twenty-two hirelings kick a ball is merely to say that a violin is wood and catgut, that Hamlet is so much paper and ink.’ – J.B. Priestley, The Good Companions, 1928
‘All that proves is that most of the world is too poor to build bowling alleys, golf courses, tennis courts and baseball fields. There’s hundreds of millions of poor people out there who still ain’t got indoor plumbing, but that don’t mean there’s something great about an outhouse. Soccer is boring. I’ve never seen a more boring sport.’ – Mike Royko, Chicago newspaper columnist, in 1994
‘I loathed the game, and since I could see no pleasure or usefulness in it, it was very difficult for me to show courage at it. Football, it seemed to me, is not really played for the pleasure of kicking a ball about, but is a species of fighting.’ – George Orwell, Such, Such Were the Joys
‘I fell in love with football as I would later fall in love with women: suddenly, uncritically, giving no thought to the pain it would bring.’ – Nick Hornby, England novelists well known for his soccer book Fever Pitch
‘Cameroon’s substitute bench looking dark.’ – Arne Hegerfors, Swedish sports journalists
‘I think football would become an even better game if someone could invent a ball that kicks back.’ – Eric Morecambe, English comedian
‘Americans get pummeled every few years for knowing and caring so little about the “world’s game,” but that’s the world’s problem, not ours. We’re the nation with an embarrassing array of options, and that is a blessing that will never be confused with a curse. The U.S. loses to Germany on Friday, we’ll get up from the table, walk across the room and check the box scores to see if Luis Castillo kept that hit streak going for the Marlins.’ – Mark Kreidler, American sports journalist
‘Message to all rioters: put down your brick, put away the spray paint, and leave the cop cars alone; you’re acting like soccer fans! It’s embarrassing.’ – Jim Rome, well known soccer hater and American sports journalist
‘If soccer was an American soft drink, it would be Diet Pepsi’ – Lewis Grizzard, American humorist
‘No, soccer is dull as dishwater and just because it stops camel traffic in Saudi Arabia doesn’t mean we have to fall in line.’ – Robert Tychkowski, Canadian Sports writer
‘The score is Sunderland nil (zero), Leicester nil (zero), the temperature is nil (32 degrees) and the entertainment value is not much above nil (zero) ‘ – Sunderland v Leicester, Radio 5 Live
‘Five days shalt thou labour, as the Bible says. The seventh day is the Lord thy God’s. The sixth day is for football.’ – Anthony Burgess, English writer and composer.
‘Football is all very well a good game for rough girls, but not for delicate boys.’ – Oscar Wilde, Irish playwright.
‘To the aesthete it is an art form, an athletic ballet. To the spiritually inclined it is a religion.’ – Paul Gardner
‘The Glaswegian definition of an atheist: a bloke who goes to a Rangers Celtic match to watch the football.’ – Sandy Strang, Scottish comedian
‘Soccer is not about justice. It’s a drama – and criminally wrong decisions against you are part and parcel of that.’ – Pete Davies
‘The roots of our Soccer Tribe lie deep in our primeval past.’ – Desmond Morris, English Zoologist
‘Soccer is a game in which everyone does a lot of running around. Twenty-one guys stand around and one guy does a tap dance with the ball.’ – Jim Murray, American sportswriter in 1967
‘Soccer is the ballet of the masses.’ – Dmitri Shostakovich, a Soviet Union composer and pianist, in his ballet The Golden Age which followed a Soviet soccer team.
‘The rest of the world loves soccer. Surely we must be missing something. Uh, isn’t that what the Russians told us about communism? There’s a good reason why you don’t care about soccer – it’s because you are an American and hating soccer is more American than mom’s apple pie, driving a pick-up and spending Saturday afternoon channel-surfing with the remote control.’ – Tom Weir
‘In football everything is complicated by the presence of the opposite team.’ – Jean Paul Sartre, French philosopher and playwright
‘Rugby is a beastly game played by gentlemen; soccer is a gentlemen’s game played by beasts; football is a beastly game played by beasts.’ – Henry Blaha
‘Up to five goals is journalism. After that, it becomes statistics.’ – French Journalist Emmanuel Gambardella while reporting on Sweden’s 8-0 win over Cuba at 1938 World Cup.
‘The sanity of society is a balance of a thousand insanities.’ – Ralph Waldo Emerson, American essayists/Poet
‘If they are going to win this match, they’re going to have to score a goal.’ – English broadcaster Jimmy Hill
‘Football’s a difficult business and aren’t they prima donnas. But it’s a wonderful game.’ – Queen Elizabeth
‘A sport where the players actually enjoy getting hit in the head by a ball.’ – Soccer advertisement, published for the MetroStars Major League Soccer team, 1997. MLS…You’ve come a long way baby.
“I thought Pele would be too much pressure. Edson not many people would know.” Winston Buddle, father of forward Edson, to the Associated Press on why he named his son Edson rather than Pele.
‘Whoever invented soccer should be worshipped as a God.’ – Anonymous
‘Whenever the ball flew toward our goal and a score seemed inevitable, Jesus reached his foot out and cleared the ball.’ – Author unknown, from an article in Rio de Janeiro’s Jornal dos Sports
‘The more time you have, the more mistakes you will make.’ – Anonymous
‘Concerning football playing, I protest to you it may rather be called a friendly kind of fighting, rather than recreation. – Author Unknown
‘Why is there only one ball for 22 players? If you gave a ball to each of them, they’d stop fighting for it.’ – Author Unknown
What classic soccer quotes are we missing from our list. Leave your suggestions in the comment section below.