When it comes to the spoken word, the soccer world typically favors the banal, the clichéd and the painstakingly obvious. However, while most player and manager interviews are media-trained affairs devoid of any personality whatsoever, they can occasionally take a turn for the interesting.
From angry rants and amusing gaffes to personal revelations and profound statements (and even the odd marriage proposal), ahead of the European Championship in France we now bring you 25 such moments from the history of the game’s second biggest tournament.
1. “I chose the penalty because I saw and realised it was the easiest and simplest recipe for scoring a goal. It is a simple recipe.” Antonín Panenka makes the pioneering spot-kick method that helped Czech Republic win Euro ’76 sound like a piece of cake.
2. “Before, France was a country that didn’t know how to win – they used to say that the most important thing was taking part; in 1984 we showed people that we could win titles. We had become a footballing nation with the respect of other countries.” Luis Fernández gets philosophical while reflecting on France’s success in Euro ’84.
3. “That was the moment where we could say: ‘It is 2-0, we can win this game.’ But the excitement about the goal. I did not really understand it and what I did. You can also see that in my reaction. I am asking ‘What is happening?’” Dutch hero Marco van Basten admits his initial struggle to comprehend his astonishing volley against USSR in the Euro ’88 final.
4. “Put your feet up and enjoy it.” England manager Graham Taylor tempts fate before a disastrous Euro ’92 campaign in which his side lost all three games.
5. “We must screw down the expectations. We have to change our tactic and play with long balls.” Manager Richard Møller Nielsen gets lost in translation before guiding backdoor qualifiers Denmark to a historic win at Euro ’92.
6. “There are two possibilities from this tournament. Either I shall be kissed all over my bald head or I will have tomatoes thrown at it.” Italy’s failure to progress from the group stages at Euro ’96 suggests coach Arrigo Sacchi faced a rather costly dry cleaning bill.
7. “I know there are far more important things in life than football, but if you cut me open and had a look inside right now it couldn’t be a pretty sight. I don’t know if I can sink any lower.” You might have been able to fault Scottish captain Gary McAllister’s penalty-taking skills at Euro ‘96 but you sure couldn’t fault his commitment.
8. “What am I to think when the coach has his hands and head up the backside of certain players.” Soccer’s most famous goggle-wearer Edgar Davids gets a one-way ticket back to the Netherlands after just one Euro ’96 game following his remarks about coach Guus Hiddink.
9. “Dennis [Bergkamp] is such a nice man, such a tremendous gentleman, with such a lovely family – it’s going to be very hard for me to kick him.” England hardman Tony Adams proves (kinda) he has a softer side as he prepares to play against his Dutch Arsenal colleague in Euro ’96.
10. “I’ve only taken one penalty before, for Crystal Palace at Ipswich. It was 2-2 in the 89th minute, I hit the post and we went down that year. But I think I’d be far more comfortable now than I was then.” Another reason why England’s Gareth Southgate didn’t inspire confidence before his penalty miss against Germany in the Euro ’96 semi-final.
11. “After having sex the night before a match I lose all feelings in my feet. I’m totally empty. Instead, I watch erotic movies. That doesn’t affect my power.” Sweden’s Freddie Ljungberg reveals a little too much information while discussing the Swedish team’s sex ban during Euro 2000.
12. “When I walk around people salute me and now I must be the only person allowed to drive in the bus lanes.” Coach Otto Rehhagel discusses the perks of helping the Greeks pull off one of the biggest shocks in world football at Euro ’04.
13. “I don’t remember anyone making such an impact on a tournament since Pele in the 1958 World Cup in Sweden.” England coach Sven-Göran Eriksson gets a little carried away with Wayne Rooney’s breakthrough performance at Euro ’04.
14. “Your suspicions are as ugly as your spitting.” Referencing Francesco Totti’s three-match ban for the wrong kind of dribbling, Swedish manager Lars Lagerbäck dismisses the Italians’ idea that his side will fix their Euro ’04 encounter against Denmark.
15. “I’m not talking to you people ever again. None of you may judge me as a man because I am more of a man than all of you put together.” Italian forward Christian Vieri puts the press in their place following reports that he and goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon had rowed after their Euro ’04 draw against Sweden.
16. “With the greatest respect to women, football is the most beautiful thing in the world.” Croatia manager Slaven Bili? tries but ultimately fails to avoid offending half the population during Euro 2008.
17. “I’m English, without a doubt. I will never ever say I’m not English. English born and bred. I’m Turkish, though.” London-born Turkish striker Colin Kazim-Richards suffers an identity crisis during Euro 2008.
18. “If such people attend our matches I prefer to play in front of empty seats. Our beloved president also held the scarf upside down, maybe it was the first time he’s ever been to a game? It was all very pathetic.” Poland keeper Artur Boruc gets permanently struck off President Lech Kaczy?ski’s Christmas card list at Euro 2008.
19. “First she told me not to do anything stupid again, which I did not do [against Portugal]. Then she said I should play the same way I did two years ago. What can you do? If the chancellor asks you to do something, you have to obey!” A suspended Bastian Schweinsteiger treats his country’s leader, Angela Merkel, with a little more respect during Germany’s final Euro ’08 group game.
20. “I don’t have anything to say to the people who want me to resign. But I would like to ask Estelle for her hand [in marriage]. The only thing I’m thinking about from now is marrying Estelle, which is why I’m asking her for her hand today. I know it’s difficult at this moment but it’s during these difficult times that you need people – and personally I need her.” France manager Raymond Domenech tries to divert attention away from his side’s dismal showing at Euro ’08 in spectacularly awkward fashion.
21. “Everyone is still talking about that goal in the 1988 final – I think it was a bit lucky.” Rafael van der Vaart bravely belittles his coach Marco van Basten’s Euro ’88 stunner during the Netherlands’ Euro ’08 campaign.
22. “I don’t give a s*** who wins it now. I’m going on holiday.” As you’d expect, Sweden’s self-proclaimed god of football, Zlatan Ibrahimovi?’s interest in Euro 2012 dramatically subsided when he was no longer in it.
23. “I can honestly say that my soul was left on that pitch, and I think I needed a few people to carry me off the pitch because I was literally dead.” Ivan Rakiti? should have literally looked at a dictionary following Croatia’s exit in Euro 2012.
24. “I’m not strong, nor fast, nor skilful. I’m a player from the street. Without my team-mates, without space, I am nothing.” Xavi adopts the ‘there’s no ‘I’ in team’ approach during Spain’s triumphant Euro 2012 campaign.
25. “You know where Messi was at this time last year? He was being eliminated in the Copa America, in his own country. I think that’s worse, no?” Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo gets shirty about the Argentinian superstar after being taunted by Danish fans in Euro 2012.