Music is to football as doping is to sport: it’ll always be there. It’s not always welcome, but it’s always exciting.
And, it seems, the reasons sporting icons succumb to doping are the same as those that push them to make music – betterment and fame. Spoiler alert, it doesn’t always work.
In the wake of the pulsating new release from retiring goalkeeper Petr Cech, it seems as good a time as any to construct the definitive list of footballers’ musical ventures. The rabbit hole was dense and fraught, but we have emerged thankfully unscathed.
Well, not from these. Here’s your not-so-honourable mentions, who failed to make the final 15-man cut. Apologies to Terry Venables, Jese Rodriguez and Papu Gomez. Commiserations to Carlos Tevez, but more so to anyone’s ears who’ve been subjected to that monstrosity, and thanks but no thanks Morten Gamst Pedersen – take your Norwegian ‘Take That’ back from whence it came.
And so, without further ado, the top 15 footballer-performed songs of all time.
15. Andy Cole – ‘Outstanding’
Actually, this is definitely worse than Pedersen’s Nordic ‘Backstreet Boys’, but because Andy Cole took full ownership of the whole song, he gets the nod. It’s also MUCH, MUCH funnier.
It features the repeating of the striker’s name no less than three times before he’s even uttered a word, and the immortal lines: “I reminisce back to the schoolyard. I used to work hard, I used to play hard. Got my kicks from hitting the net, not from drugs, you bet – WE’RE OUTSTANDING!”
What can you say? Except RIP R’n’B.
14. Emmanuel Frimpong – ‘Leave It Yeah Remix’
God, this was bad, wasn’t it? But it was also somehow culturally significant (which is significantly troubling) and leant fame to a footballer who, since leaving Arsenal, has been sacked off by Barnsley and followed it up with stints at Ufa, Arsenal Tula, AFC Eskilstuna and Ermis Aradippou, whatever any of those things are/mean.
Best line: “If you wanna tackle, tackle then – Soft to the ladies [takes top off] hard with the men.”
13. Lukas Podolski – ‘Halleluja Brings’
SO much to unpack here. Wow. Firstly, look at that outfit. Are there any worse looks than a tie loosely hanging over a t-shirt? There can’t be.
Secondly, the name? Why is it in English, and why does it still make no sense? Thirdly, have you ever seen a footballer team up with a less cool ‘rockstar’? He looks like a CBBC version of Bruce Springsteen, but really, really German.
Can’t offer you a ‘best line’ here, because if you think I’m transcribing German, let alone translating it, you’ve got another thing coming.
But I will give you my favourite moment – it’s right at the start, where Bruce Scheizersteen asks Lukas Podolski (with terrible audio-visual synchronicity) whether he can sing and Poldi comes back with ‘Hey Peter, can you play football – you f*cking prat’ (ok maybe not the last bit), effectively showing in the first four seconds why this was such a futile endeavour.
12. Mesut Ozil – ‘Large’
This is iconic, because it was effectively Nike commandeering Mesut Ozil into making a ‘rap’ song with the second-cringest artist you’ll see here (behind old Brucey), and yet it somehow works. I mean, not as a song – obviously not – but as a representation of Ozil’s career, it’s perfection.
The lack of commitment, the lazy rhythm, the occasional exhibition of flair – it’s all here in this video. It’s terrible – we’re talking Garageband-default-beat-Eurotrash ‘hippidy hop’ – but addictively so.
Best line? Jesus, I mean there’s too many – he compares himself to Diego Maradona at one point – but the first line always brings a smile to my face, especially with the bad English translation provided. Bearing in mind that it rhymes in German, it goes: “My captain says to me I’m a Rugrat, I reply in opposite to you I’m a European champion. So what’s up ya?”
11. Paul Gascoigne – ‘Fog on the Tyne’
It would be fair to say that, as a footballer, Paul Gascoigne may still be underrated? But as a singer, he was supremely overrated. Christ, people just lapped this stuff up, but it was never beyond parody.
With its hypnotic beat, and Proclaimers-esque repetition, ’Fog on the Tyne’ is certainly superior to the monstrosity that is ‘Geordie Boys’, but it’s still minor footballing work.
Best line: “The fog on the Tyne is all mine all mine, the fog on the Tyne is all mine.”
10. Kevin Keegan – ‘Head Over Heels in Love’
Here’s the context: in 1979, Kevin Keegan had just become only the second player after Johan Cruyff to win successive Ballons d’Or. What did he do with his unparalleled level of football fame? Make a horrifyingly brave power ballad, accompanied by a music video with deifying lights glowing behind him as he exhibits a stage presence less imposing than Dua Lipa’s – there’s even a moment where he visibly counts himself in with his fingers pre-chorus.
To be fair to Kev, it is by far the bravest song on this list, and has a rousing chorus…it’s just the rest of it is, well, bad.
Best line: “And it looks like I’m falling all over again, Head over heels in love with you. Yes it looks like I’m falling all over again, Head over heels in love with you.”
EVERYBODY! “YES IT LOOKS LIKE…”
9. Ruud Gullit – ‘Not the Dancing Kind’
Ruud Gullit’s cheery 1984 effort, which you can find the unofficial link for here, represents a turning point in this list, because it’s genuinely not a bad listen. Especially if you don’t pay too much attention to the lyrics.
I still find it difficult to believe that it is actually Ruud considering how unaffected by his accent his singing voice is compared to his speaking voice, but who am I to cast slander at a European champion?
As alluded to, the lyrics are…well, see for yourself: “(Not the dancing kind) Oh, but I wanna, (Not the dancing kind) Oh, but I wanna be with you, (People worry) What they worry for? (People hurry) What they hurry for? (Here’s some music) Start feelin’ good.”
8. Boli & Waddle – ‘We’ve Got a Feeling’
Definitely the weirdest song on here, but a strong case for the most wonderful as well. Created during Chris Waddle’s three-year sojourn in Marseille, the Geordie teamed up with European final goalscorer Basile Boli to produce this…masterclass?
The sound might not be everyone’s cup of tea – although the French to English back and forth is excellent – but by god the visuals…the visuals are exceptional. If you click on one link in this whole thing, click on that one. You will not be disappointed.
Best line: “Tu fait des zigs, tu fait des zags, a gauche a droit comment tu fait toute ca? Well Basile, to tell the truth, in my cradle in my early youth, I kicked a bunch my rubber balls, with great emotions I recall.”
Can it get better than that? For context, his head pops out of a tv screen as he says this. Exceptional.
7. Asamoah Gyan – ‘Odo Pa’
It would be fair to say that Asamoah Gyan (aka Baby Jet) may have become a better singer than footballer in recent, but this song actually casts a somber note, considering the subsequent disappearance and confirmed death of lead singer Castro.
It is also a genuine tune, and definitely the only song on this song to win an actual award – the ‘Highlife Song of the Year’ at the Ghanaian Music awards.
6. Petr Cech – ‘That’s Football’
Finally, here it is, the latest entry into the football-music lexicon, and what an entry it’s had! Who knew that Petr Cech and Roger Taylor (of ‘Queen’ fame) were the duo we’ve been waiting for?
It’s an eclectic song, channelling both the infamous Pro Evolution Soccer 2008 theme tune (you know – “WE’RE GONNA PLAY FOOTBALL (SOCCER!)” and the acclaimed song ‘Total Football’ (definitely the best football-related music video of all time) by ‘Parquet Courts’, just without, you know, the generationally good lyrics.
Best line (all Czech deadpan): “Hard work, Commitment, Sacrifice, Aim.”
5. Royston Drenthe – ‘Tak Taki’
No idea what he’s saying, and no one seems to have bothered to translate it, so neither will I. Royston Drenthe: another name for the better-artist-than-footballer club.
The only problem is that this was filmed in 2008, and the fashion evokes 1998 at the earliest – the kickups in the camo khaki three-quarter lengths are iconic. Still bangs though.
Best line: “[Something something something] I’m Royston Drenthe [something something something]”
4. Clint Dempsey – ‘Don’t Tread’
Clint Dempsey was already a Premier League hero, then he did THIS. Dempsey, aka ‘Deuce’, redefined the paradigms of what footballers could be and do with this track, while also crafting the greatest named song of all time. ‘DON’T TREAD’. Why didn’t Jay Z think of that for ‘Blueprint 3’?
The whole thing was curated by Nike, a la Ozil, hence why the video looks like a mid-2000’s Nike advert. Also – S/O ‘BIG HAWK’ 4 REAL.
SO, SO, SO many gems here, but you can’t beat this: “Game took hold like the roots of a tree, Think soccer ain’t a sport? Then why’d NIKE sign me? Cause I got on my job, And made the game ferocious, I was born with a drive, I got that from no coaches.”
3. Ryan Babel – ‘101Barz Freestyle’
That is not the video for the 101Barz freestyle, this is, but it’s not official so I can’t put it in here. Besides, the above tune is worth having in here just to prove Ryan Babel’s worth – it has 12m views, and the former Liverpool man is by far the best thing about it.
But that’s minor Babel compared to his exemplary work in the booth for 101Barz. The guy can genuinely rap. Like, seriously. It’s the least sanitised, least self-aware piece of music on here, and that’s why it’s so great. There’s even a ‘lock up your daughters’ type line. Incredible.
But the best line? The best line is unequivocally this (and it rhymes!): “If somebody wants beef, I’ll say bon apetit, I like it with some pepper, homie I’m sure in my life, Give me the f*cking ball or lose both of your legs.”
FIRE. IN. THE. BOOTH.
2. Ian Wright – ‘Do the Right Thing’
Ask me tomorrow, this might be number one. It’s so, so close. Unfairly derided upon its release, this is a phenomenal track, and boasts perhaps the greatest vocals in the genre’s history. Ian Wright has pipes. You heard it here first.
Produced by Chris Lowe (of ‘Pet Shop Boys’), it’s a disco masterpiece. Some people will mock the pun-heavy title, but to me it’s a clear reference to Spike Lee’s seminal film of the same name from three years prior. Wrighty is also the only person in these rankings for whom you could genuinely see a musical career coming to fruition. He has ‘it’, that X factor, and he’s got the dance moves and stage presence to back it up.
The top comment on the YouTube clip of this song sums up these facts perfectly: “Heard this in a club the other night – it got three reloads.” I bet it did.
Best line: “Giving up? Easy to do. When the world keeps spinning, And you can’t get through.”
1. Glen & Chris – ‘Diamond Lights’
This is a powerful, powerful song. It’s sensational. The lyrics are beguiling, but completely compelling and genuinely nuanced. It’s always reminded me of ’Cry Little Sister’ from ‘The Lost Boys’ soundtrack for some reason, which is perhaps unsurprising, given they were both created in 1987.
But back to Glen and Chris (or Hoddle and Waddle, which is much better), because ‘Diamond Lights’ is era-defining. The lyrics are genuinely better than most you find banded about these days (that may be the most yer da thing ever said, but it doesn’t make it any less true).
As a duo, they’re faultless. Hoddle is all bravado and showmanship, Waddle is all laid-back and camp – it’s 80s perfection.
For best line, I’m just gonna give you the first four and a half verses, because it is special, special songwriting:
“Eyes that freeze like ice,
Cold electric blue those diamond lights.
You were hard as stone, Solid stone, for me.
The colours change rearrange my life, can’t explain so afraid tonight.
Darling I love you, my diamond lights, I’ll always want you.
Darling I love you, my diamond lights, I’ll always need you, Oh darling.
Diamond, diamond lights.
Standing in the rain, Cold electric sky no diamond lights.”
Chills. Now, if David Bowie sang that, you’d be crying your eyes out. But because it’s Hoddle and Waddle, you can have a nice little laugh. Well, no more. This song deserves its day in the sun.
I’m sorry, its day in the ‘cold electric sky’.