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Amazing Facts About Footballers Before They Were Famous

Before they were playing in front of thousands of adoring supporters, before they earned the multi-million dollar contracts and endorsements, world famous footballers were just awkward teens like anyone else at that stage in life. 

Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Neymar, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and David Beckham are all world renowned for their skills on the pitch. As often as we like to delve into what made them footballing greats, their embarrassing pubescent years remained largely a mystery.

Until now. Check out the video and fun facts below.

Amazing Facts About Footballers Before They Were Famous

Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo before he was famous

Looking good, buddy. Photo: @Nigerianscamsss | Twitter

Here’s some more ammunition for Cristiano Ronaldo haters: Ronaldo was nicknamed, unsurprisingly, “cry-baby” as a child.

Cristiano Ronaldo before he was famous

"Cry-Baby" Photo: @tony_dinadis | Twitter

His mother Dolores Aveiro says, “When he got home from school I’d tell him to do homework but he’d say he didn’t have any. I’d be making dinner and he would jump out of the window and run off until late. He used to cry when he passed and his friends didn’t score. People called him ‘cry-baby and ‘little bee’ because nobody could catch him.”  

Another little known fact about Ronaldo’s early life is that by the age of 14, he had decided that he needed to make it as a semi-professional — especially after being expelled from school after throwing a chair at a teacher who had “disrespected” him. 


Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi before he was famous

The masked boy wizard, Lionel Messi. Photo: @PuspitaFM | Twitter

Messi moved to Barcelona at the tender age of 13. In the dressing room, he was often referred to as “El Mudo,” the mute one. According to football writer Sid Lowe, “Messi did not reach five feet and he changed in silence. In the dressing room, they looked at him and could not believe how small he was; on the pitch, they looked at him and couldn’t believe how good he was.” 

Also, much of Messi’s growth as a footballer has been attributed to his increased dedication to the game over the years. During the beginning of his career in Spain, Messi took comfort in Argentine food — he was a frequent visitor to a restaurant, Las Cuartetas, where he feasted on savory steaks and sweets. 

For many years Messi hardly touched vegetables and fish, foods which have now become staples of his diet. 


Neymar before he was famous

Peak Neymar. Photo: @SangtawanSn | Twitter

Much has been made of Neymar’s transfer from Brazilian club Santos to Barcelona, particularly the vast unknown sums involved, but it’s less known that he was on the verge of signing with Real Madrid when he was only 15. 

However, a combination of homesickness and a hefty price to keep Neymar and his entire family happy, kept Neymar at Santos for the time being.

In 2006, a young Neymar was asked what he’d like to do as a professional footballer with lots of money. Neymar replied, “Help my family.”

Neymar’s mother, Nadine, also recalls how her son used to always sleep with a ball and that he had over 50 balls in his room. This may go some way towards explaining Neymar’s relationship with the football: “A ball is like the most jealous woman in the world,” claims Neymar. “If you do not treat her well, she will not love you and she can even hurt you. I love her to bits.” 

Neymar, for all of his flash and style, is also a homebody. He enjoys staying indoors, playing snooker, cards and PlayStation. He loves FIFA, Grand Theft Auto, Call of Duty, ice cream and biscuits.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Zlatan Ibrahimovic before he was famous

Before Zlatan was famous, he used to read! Photo: @ben_machell | Twitter

Zlatan Ibrahimovic grew up in the Malmo ghetto of Rosengard, and his life there was anything but privileged. According to Zlatan, he and his friends stole...a lot. 

“When we needed something we went to the shop and we went to steal. I had a particularly good relations with the bikes.”

Zlatan reportedly even stole his coach's bike to ride to practice on one occasion. 

Zlatan’s life as a student was just as rowdy. “I was rowdy, I was mental,” says Ibrahimovic. “I just had a hard time sitting still, I had ants in my pants.”

His former school headmistress can only agree. “I’ve been at this school 33 years,” she said. “Zlatan is easily in the top five of the most unruly pupils we have ever had. He was the number one bad boy, a one-man show, a prototype of the kind of child that ends up in serious trouble.”

Fortunately for Zlatan, his footballing career ended up keeping him out of trouble, although parents of his Malmo FF youth team once created a petition to have him thrown out of the club.

David Beckham

David Beckham before he was famous

David Beckham never looked awkward. Sorry. Photo: @wtvskate | Twitter

David Beckham’s youthful hijinks resulted in a lot less time on the naughty step than Zlatan. “I wasn’t a clubby person,” says Beckham. “I haven’t been a big clubby person my whole life, you know, even at a very young age, which I think helped me throughout my career. I’ve got nothing against going out and having a good time, but for me it was all about Manchester United.”

It’s a little known fact that David’s mother, Sandra, was a hair stylist. 

David Beckham before he was famous

David Beckham's mum did this. Photo: @sockthewalk | Twitter

Beckham’s favorite class was art, and he also suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), requiring everything to be strictly organized and, if possible, in pairs.

Follow me on Twitter: @ConmanFleming

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