Posted : February 2014Author : Josh Roberts
As everyone knows, beards are cool. Whether deemed impractical or merely behind the times, this universal knowledge has yet to permeate the footballing world, with only a few fashionable souls brave enough to don full facial hair. Once scientific research proves beyond doubt the link between beards and greatly enhanced footballing ability, the following players will be reduced to mere mortals as a hirsute tidal wave washes across world football. Until then, they remain ahead of the curve...
If ever a beard was representative of its wearer, it would be that of Xabi Alonso - exuding a calm control, classy but commanding. Once a fresh faced young pup at Liverpool, Alonso's decision to embrace his red-tinted beard coincided with multiple honours both internationally with Spain and domestically at the heart of the Real Madrid midfield. Eagle eyed football fans may have noticed a similar recent effort from Michael Carrick, albeit with patchier, less impressive results.
6. Tim Howard
Although recently lost to the Howard household drain, Everton's American stopper has been sporting the classic 'Inverse Head' look in the past couple of seasons. Contrasting with a shaved head, his majestic beard has no doubt contributed to Howard providing a formidable obstacle to opposition forwards, with only Chelsea having conceded fewer goals than the Toffees so far this season. Howard even told the Metro that it was the strength gained from his beard that helped him keep out Christian Benteke's spot kick earlier this season. Take note, world.
5. Roy Keane
Despite having retired from playing in 2006, Keane has remained in the game with ultimately disappointing managerial spells at Sunderland and Ipswich Town - spells often adorned with a two-tone beard showing maturity and wisdom. Now working as part of a 'Bad Cop, Badder Cop' double act as assistant to Republic of Ireland boss Martin O'Neill, Keane can also be found frequently scolding professional Toby jug Adrian Chiles on ITV's match coverage.
4. Olof Mellberg
A classically Scandinavian offering from former Aston Villa centre-back Olof Mellberg. Sturdy and reliable, Mellberg's beard was present during many of the 117 appearances he made for Sweden, and can still be observed when the 36-year-old turns out for current club Copenhagen in the Danish top flight. It also led to team-mates dubbing him 'Olof Mellbeard'. Probably.
3. James Dayton
Perhaps less well known and revered than the other incumbents of the list, 25-year-old James Dayton is still a giant amongst beard wearing footballers, enough so to take a podium position. Having started his career at Crystal Palace, it was a move to Kilmarnock, and the harsh Scottish winters, that inspired a rugged lumberjack look. Sadly, Dayton, who now plys his trade at Oldham, shaved off his beard, although he did manage to provide an amusing picture in the process.
2. Andrea Pirlo
It is no coincidence that since sprouting his darkened bristles, Andrea Pirlo has seen a renaissance in the twilight of his playing days, serving as the fulcrum in both the Juventus and Italian midfield. His metronomic control of midfield matters reflects a beard you could set your watch by. Pirlo looks set to pick up a third Serie A title in a row with The Old Lady, and the 2014 World Cup Finals may provide a fitting swansong for beard and player alike.
1. Matthias Holst
Once again it's left to the Germans to show us how it's done. As with Dayton, not a household name amongst football fans, but a shere force of will has seen Matthias Holst take the gold medal. Having spent the previous three years at the centre of the Hansa Rostock defence, Holst was released last summer and remains a free agent. At only 31, he surely has more to offer the game as such beardliness undoubtedly deserves a wider audience. Here's hoping the planets align for Holst.