Football – the beautiful game! Well, it is if you can actually see what you are doing. It’s often said that a footballer’s vision is his biggest asset. Whether it’s Fraser Forster climbing to reach a cross at the edge of his six yard box, Rio Ferdinand reading a 40-yard pass over the top or Lionel Messi threading the ball through a defenders legs to put David Villa through on goal, their eyes are the key component, sending all the important information to their brain ensuring optimum performance.
Last year, AC Milan bad-boy Mario Ballotelli realised that his vision was hampering him in his efforts to become a truly world class player. He decided to have laser eye surgery midway through the season to correct his issue. David De Gea is another British based footballer who has been rumoured to have struggled with vision problems, although whether that rumour came from an official source or was started by the Manchester United fans after a few high profile errors is still unclear.
Whilst players are now able to undergo laser eye surgery as a safe and quick solution to their vision problems, there are many world class players who didn’t have the option and had to struggle by using a combination of other solutions such as goggles or contact lenses. We’ve put together a list of our favourites:
France’s most capped player ever and one of the top 20 capped players ever, Thuram played at the highest levels for over 15 years competing in France, Italy and Spain. He was an integral part of the French team that won the World Cup in 1998 and followed it with the European Championship in 2000. Throughout his career, Thuram was never seen wearing glasses, choosing instead to rely on contact lenses on the pitch. Since retiring with a heart defect, Thuram is rarely seen without wearing a trademark set of thick, black-rimmed frames.
Zidane, named the best European footballer in the last 50 years and recognised as one of the world’s greatest ever footballers, won almost every honour that a footballer can in his prestigious career spanning 17 years. A World Cup and European Championship winner with France, Zizou also won a range of honours including the UEFA Champions League, Intercontinental cup and UEFA Super Cup. After hanging up his boots, Zidane has teamed up with a French glasses supplier to promote their range of frames and insisted that he always needed glasses but was too scared that an opponent would take it as a weakness.
Kaka, or Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite to his friends, is a Brazilian playmaker currently plying his trade with Real Madrid. The World Cup and Champions League winner always wears contact lenses on the pitch but has regularly complained of the inconvenience he has with them. Off-the-field, he is often seen delivering press interviews in thin-framed glasses. Owing to their similarity when wearing glasses, some Spanish commentators have even referred to him as “Clark Kent” in reference to the glasses-wearing Superman character.
Another football retiree, German internationalist Michael Ballack was a keen wearer of contact lenses throughout his career both on and off the park. Since retiring, Ballack has softened his approach to contact lenses and can often be seen sporting various styles of glasses. The fashion conscious star has been spotted out with a range of styles from top designers such as Giorgio Armani.
A list of famous footballers with vision problems just wouldn’t be complete without Edgar Davids, the inimitable Dutch international. The combative midfielder, nicknamed “The Pitbull” by Dutch legend Louis Van Gaal, was well known for his trademark dreadlocks and thick black goggles. Unlike others on the list, Davids was not afraid to wear his glasses on the pitch. He was forced to wear protective goggles following surgery in his right eye caused by glaucoma in the late 90′s.