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Blog: 7 Surprising facts about European Football

Football has the unnerving ability to surprise us all.

Whether it’s a last-minute goal or a penalty that shouldn’t have been, nobody can realistically know what to expect once the whistle is blown.

At all levels, The Beautiful Game has the ability to surprise, infuriate or simply confuse us. And that’s just the players.

So what are a few of the most surprising facts about football in Europe? Let’s take a look.

1 – Zlatan Ibrahimovic has never won the Champions League. An iconic (and humble) player in almost every respect, Zlatan has played for some of the biggest clubs in Europe – Ajax, Inter Milan, Juventus, AC Milan. Oh, and Manchester United. But his timing has never been great and although these clubs have all collected Europe’s biggest club prize, he doesn’t have a coveted winner’s medal.

2 – Denis Bergkamp once won the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Goal of the Month prizes. This probably isn’t too much of a surprise, but in a single month? In August 1997, the Arsenal legend did just that with remarkable strikes in just four days against Southampton and Leicester (twice in one game). Nobody else is likely to repeat that feat.

3 – Alvin Martin scored a hat-trick against three different goalkeepers. In 1986 against Newcastle, the West Ham defender struck three times in the same match, starting with an opener past Martin Thomas. Not long after, an injured Thomas was replaced by Chris Hedworth – who was himself injured after Alvin’s second goal. Then it was the turn of Peter Beardsley to take the gloves, but he couldn’t stop the hat-trick goal in an eventual 8-1 loss.

4 – Mark Hughes played for two teams on the same day. This might not be a surprise in grassroots football, but in the professional game its virtually unheard of. Just after he signed for Bayern Munich in 1987, Hughes played for Wales in a World Cup qualifier against Czechoslovakia at lunchtime, before making a dash across Europe to play for his new side against Borussia Monchengladbach in the evening.

5 – Two players have scored a hat-trick of headers in the Premier League. Duncan Ferguson struck three times with his head for Everton against Bolton in 1997, before Salomon Rondon repeated the feat for West Brom against Swansea in 2016. Not only that, but Matt Le Tisser scored a hat-trick of set pieces for Southampton against Nottingham Forest in 1995, while Wayne did the same for Manchester United against Bolton in 2011.

6 – In the 1980s, Aston Villa were more successful than Manchester United. The Reds are known as a powerhouse of the modern game, but before Alex Ferguson took over in 1986, Villa had won seven league titles and FA Cups, three League Cups and the European Cup. At the time, they were 18-15 ahead of United in terms of major honours – and it took four years for that to change.

7 – Since 1982, at least one player from Inter Milan AND Bayern Munich has appeared in every World Cup final. It started with Wolfgang Dremmler, Karl-Heinze Rummenigge, Paul Breitner (Bayern Munich), Gabriele Oriali and Giuseppe Bergomi (Inter Milan). In 2018, Croatia’s Ivan Perisic and Marcelo Brozovic, and France’s Corentin Tolisso continued that record.

Told you it would be surprising. Football will never be predictable, or even lacking in passion. But where would be the fun in that?


James Shaw