Gabriel Agbonlahor of Aston Villa and Youssouf Mulumbu of Norwich City compete for the ball.
When Chile coach Jose Sulantay slammed Alexis Sanchez recently, as reported in the Sun for being overweight, plenty of Arsenal fans will have been worried about the condition of their wantaway forward, but they won't be the only fans on edge. Wayne Rooney's recent escapades in the international break are reminiscent, not of the reformed professional looking to make good on his later years at Everton, but the poorly disciplined player who admitted that – in the battle between him and a few holiday bevvies (Guardian), the excess calories came out on top.
It's a problem of professionalism in the game, especially noticeable in England. Paolo Di Canio, after his tumultuous period in charge of Sunderland, claimed that a squad member returned from the summer break nearly eighteen kilos overweight (ESPN). With the new season about to get into full gear, and little place to hide for those players who've been slacking off, here's a list of five players who were called out for being too out of shape to perform for their team. (Including former Aston Villa, Newcastle United, Queens Park Rangers and Real Madrid stars).
5. Hatem Ben Arfa - Newcastle United
Hatem Ben Arfa of Newcastle United in action against Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium.
It's hard to doubt Hatem Ben Arfa's ability on the pitch. At his best, his touch and control is exceptional and he scored some excellent individual goals during his time at Newcastle United which helped him become a fan favourite. His attitude and commitment, however, was questioned repeatedly, and things came to head over the summer of 2014 when then manager Alan Pardew left him out of Newcastle's pre-season plans. The French newspaper Le Parisien claimed the club had fined him for being overweight according to the Chronicle, and he was allowed to leave Newcastle on loan at first and then permanently.
4. Benni McCarthy - West Ham United
Benni McCarthy of South Africa wears head phones during the Bafana Bafana training session at Marks Park Grounds.
Another famous case of a player with enough talent for the top flight, but an even greater appetite - McCarthy spent two seasons at West Ham United after a succesful stint at Blackburn Rovers, but only made 11 league appearances for the club. Reports from the Mail suggested he was fined on five separate occasions by West Ham for being overweight, and even when he did manage to slim down, he couldn't make the team. Now coaching in his native South Africa, it seems like McCarthy is better suited to a position which lets him advise on technique without having to directly participate in any fitness training.
3. Eero Markkanen - Real Madrid
Eero Markkanen (L) of Finland vies with Ragnar Sigurdsson of Iceland during a FIFA World Cup 2018 qualification match.
Real Madrid signed the promising young Eero Markkanen early on into his career, picking up the Finnish striker from Swedish club AIK Fotboll in 2014 when he was still only 23. Although they included him in their 25-man squad for the Champions League, he never made a senior appearance for the club, enjoying only ten games for the reserve team before they let him go. The Mirror reported that it was due to his arriving at pre-season training badly overweight - although no official statement was made by Real Madrid themselves.
2. Gabi Agbonlahor - Aston Villa
Gabriel Agbonlahor of Aston Villa during the Barclays Premier League match against West Ham.
Of all the potential indignities to sugger as a professional athlete, being sent to fat camp has to be among the worst. Despite starting up front as one of Aston Villa's most senior and highest paid players, Agbonlahor managed to find the back of the net only once during the disastrous campaign which saw his team relegated from the Premier League. He started the year having been named Aston Villa club captain, but was sent away from the squad for two weeks in April on what the BBC called a 'personal fitness programme' to try and help him get up to the required speed. The fans weren't fooled though: they know a euphemism for fat camp when they hear one.
1. Adel Taarabt - Queens Park Rangers
Adel Taarabt of QPR battles for the ball with Morgan Schneiderlin of Southampton.
Adel Taarabt had something of a reputation as a luxury player at Queens Park Rangers, capable of some lovely football, but guilty of being a passenger when the team needed to battle hard and grind out a result. On the basis of comments made by his former manager, it would appear that the Morrocan was himself a fan of a few luxuries. Perhaps guilty of exagerration, The Daily Mail reported Harry Redknapp's claims that the midfielder had turned up for the new season "three stone overweight". He barely featured for the club that season and was allowed to leave for Benfica soon after QPR's relegation.