FOOTBALL is the world's most popular game with an estimated 3.5 billion fans across the planet and from next week the world's eyes will be on Brazil, where 32 nations will be competing in the 20th FIFA World Cup.
While the beautiful game's elite names are some of the most recognisable faces on the planet, they're not always viewed as bastions of intelligence and responsibility. Off the pitch, players are more famous for setting their house on fire than obtaining a world-class education. However, as always, there are exceptions to this rule and the intelligence of some players may surprise you!
We've dug deep to uncover eight players who studied at university.
1. Glen Johnson
Liverpool defender Glen Johnson is a certain starter for England at the World Cup but while other players are likely to spend their spare time in Brazil on the Copacabana Beach, Johnson will have his head buried in text books as he studies for a Maths degree. Johnson is a part-time student at the Open University, which is an institution that supports distance learning. Speaking about his studies in 2012, Glen Johnson said: "I was good at maths at school but I didn’t really think of anything else but football. My teachers used to say, ‘You ain’t going to achieve anything’. So I was thinking, ‘I’ll show you’."
2. Steve Coppell
A recognisable figure for followers of English football, Steve Coppell is an ex-England winger who is most famous for a nine-year spell at Manchester United, where he set a club record for consecutive number of appearances. Before signing for Manchester United, Coppell began an Economics degree at Liverpool University and he only agreed to move to Man United on the basis that he was allowed to finish his studies.
3. Clarke Carlisle
Defender Clarke Carlisle is perhaps one of the only footballers more famous for their brains than their feet. While playing for Burnley, Carlisle became the first professional footballer to appear on Countdown, a game show in the UK that focusses on word and number puzzles. Eight years earlier, Carlisle was awarded the title of 'Britain's Brainiest Footballer' and in 2011, he appeared as a panellist on BBC politics show, Question Time. Carlisle has a degree in Professional Sports Writing and Broadcasting from Staffordshire University.
4. Oliver Bierhoff
Oliver Bierhoff was one of Germany's most celebrated strikers of the 90s, scoring 37 goals in 70 international appearances and lifting the European Championship trophy for his country at Euro 96. Away from the game, Bierhoff is yet another player who obtained a degree in Economics, this time at FernUniversität Hagen, which specialises in distance learning.
As if being one of Brazil's greatest every players wasn't enough, Sócrates really did live up to his namesake (an iconic classical Greek philosopher). The 1983 South American Footballer of the Year remarkably completed a doctorate in Medicine whilst playing professionally and practised medicine after his retirement. In addition to that, Sócrates also held a PhD in Philosophy. Sócrates is probably the smartest man to every play the game.
6. Edwin van der Sar
The former Manchester United and Holland keeper may have won 27 club honours throughout his professional career but one of Edwin van der Sar's most prized possessions is the Sports Management degree he obtained once he hung up his gloves. On the back of his degree, van der Sar has secured a role at his former club Ajax as director of marketing and he said: "You thought as a player you had it tough but it’s nothing compared to working in an office doing a proper job.”
7. Juan Mata
World Cup winner Juan Mata made headlines for all the right reasons when he moved to Chelsea in the summer of 2011, as he revealed that he was studying for two degrees. In an interview with UK newspaper The Daily Mail, Mata said he was studying degrees in Sports Science and Marketing at Madrid's Universidad Camilo Jose Cela.
8. Arsene Wenger
Nicknamed "Le Professeur", long-serving Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has a reputation for a studious approach to football and meticulous management. The Frenchman has a master's degree in Economics from the University of Strasbourg and speaks seven languages, having worked in France, Japan and England.
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