The Top 10 Coolest Sportspeople Of All Time

By Conor Neville
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Here, we rank the top 10 coolest sportspeople of all time and explain why. Do you agree?

10. Angel Cabrera

Cabrera looks the way a golfer should look. While some of the younger players resemble boyband wannabes with their sunny smiles and pointless gym sessions, Cabrera looks like a relatively successful middle-aged businessman on his day off. See his cigars, his paunch, his waddling stride.

Most golfers choke a little bit over their first Major but Cabrera's composure under pressure is one of his greatest assets. He won two majors in the late 2000's, the 2007 US Open and the 2009 Masters, despite not being in contention for these prizes that often. He looked like he could have easily coped with not winning them but he won them all the same.

9. Marat Safin

Like a lot of cool sports people he was brilliant on his day but most of the time he couldn't be arsed. His victory in the 2005 Australian Open was one of the only times neither Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal didn't win a major between 2003 and 2007.

Absurdist humour works well in tennis with Safin famously calling for hawkeye, casually using up one of his challenges, when a Roger Federer serve was miles in. Also, his parents didn't hang around at his matches like a bad smell (d'you hear that Lleyton Hewitt and Novak Djokovic?).

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8. Garry Kasparov

The hyper-intellectual, insanely petty and paranoid world of chess is much cooler than it is given credit for in American teen sitcoms. Kasparov, the big beast who dominated chess from 1985 to 2005, has that air of Jose Mourinho about him. He quit competitive chess in 2005, while still at No. 1, so he could concentrate on giving out about Vladimir Putin full-time.


7. Eric Cantona

An obvious one, Cantona was almost a parody of an artistic French footballer. His finest hour emerged via Roy Keane's 'first' autobiography.

"One morning, Brucey arrived in the dressing room with a cheque for fifteen grand. The first team squad had contributed to some video and this payment was due to be split eighteen ways. Struggling to work out who was owed what, we decided on a majority vote to hold a draw, winner takes all. The option of taking your cut, about eight hundred quid, was available. For the younger lads, this was a couple of weeks wages. They wanted the money. Only Paul Scholes and Nicky Butt opted to play for the pot – about twelve grand after the needy had been paid out. Eric Cantona’s name came out of the hat. He got his cheque. And plenty of stick. Next morning, Eric arrived with two cheques made out to Paul and Nicky. This was their reward for taking the gamble, Eric explained."

As of 2014, he remains the only former Premier League footballer to star alongside Cate Blanchett and Geoffrey Rush in a feature film.


6. Willie Duggan

"Smoking, drinking, not training too hard," was George Hook's assessment of Willie Duggan's Ireland career before placing him in his all-time Irish XV. Effortless achievement is always a plus. Duggan was also good for the wry, cynical, fatalistic remarks that used to be so prevalent in Irish rugby in the amateur era.

Before one game in the Parc des Princes, the Irish players had promised each other that they would lay it all on the line. They were going to die out there for each other out there in that Irish rugby graveyard. As a hush descended after this solemn vow was made, Duggan spoke up. 'Remember lads, when we get out there, it's every man for himself.'


5. Gerry McInerney

Between 1985 and 1989, Gerry McInerney never trained with Galway or played any League games. In 1985, he went to America for a weekend and, in true '80s style, stayed for five years. He landed back to Ireland every year in August to play in the All-Ireland semi-final (aka, Galway's first round match).

He was an integral part of the Galway half-back line (invariably called swashbuckling) that won in '87 and '88. While over there, he purchased a pair of white boots on the entirely legitimate grounds that they were the most comfortable in the store. Back home, these were regarded as the ultimate symbols of subversion.


4. Zdenek Zeman

A sportsman of a sort, Zeman never played football at any level but was one of those guys who got into coaching at the age of about 14 and has managed millions of teams across Italy. He is known for encouraging recklessly attacking football and for being trenchantly iconoclastic in interviews. He is particularly unmoved by the achievements of Mourinho and Fabio Capello remarking in a recent interview that "I could put my dead grandfather in charge of their teams and they would still win."

He is also the best smoker in football management. Given that it is now obligatory to express wistful nostalgia about Channel 4's Gazzetta Football Italia, for most children of the 1990s, Zeman is synonomous with cigarettes. Cruyff is disqualified from the tag of best smoker in football not just because he gave them up a while ago but because he's a kook who talks an enormous amount of shite in interviews.


3. Mikey Sheehy

In an era where even the best Gaelic footballers now look a bit agricultural to modern eyes, Sheehy had that off-handed casualness of the true ball player. Whereas many players back then used to put their head down and unthinkingly horse into the ball, Sheehy's kicking was measured, upright and about twenty years ahead of its time.

His crowning moment, his Pirlo-Pananka moment, was the Paddy Cullen dink. That bit of insouciance and audacity is something all of our cool sportspeople exude from time to time. Gaelic football needs more of it.

2. Andrea Pirlo

Haring around isn't the most elegant thing on a football pitch. Pirlo was always a tasty passer and a crucial cog in the Champions League winning Milan teams of 2003 and 2007 and was very influential in Italy's World Cup win of 2006. It was in 2012 however, that he moved into a new stratosphere of cool with his displays in the Euros. The Guardian was besotted with his performance against England. His panenka penalty was absurdly chic. The great Barney Ronay wrote;

"By the end the oldest outfield player on the pitch was guiding his gently malevolent passes about the pitch, and drifting around with that upright assertive jog that seems to say: Enough, this is how we're going to do this now. There's a grown-up in the room... Either way, this is what football has become, a business of holding and transferring possession of the ball. Pirlo may have something austere and ancient in his bearing, but he is in fact jauntily state of the art."

1. Serge Blanco

French rugby in the 80s, their backs moved like whippets, their jerseys loosely rippled in the breeze, they tossed the ball around, always operating (and thriving) on the edge of chaos. Whenever a pass went astray that was merely a prelude to another piece of dazzling, improvisational rugby, keeping the move alive on the way to a triumphant touchdown in the corner. Rugby union was a much messier, more anarchic game back then and the French were the most anarchic of all. Their backs were marvels of free association.

By contrast, Ireland's backs were marvels of selfless patience, who's primary, indeed sole task, in fruitlessly chasing down kick after kick from the outhalf. On long, chastening afternoons in the Parc des Princes, Ireland always looked a mixture of bewildered, knackered and even half-admiring as they watched the French backs flit past them in the course of another licking in Paris.

They had many great names, Sella, Lagisquet, Camberabero (they also had a lock called Jean Condom). But the coolest of all was Blanco. A stylish runner, a casual risk-taker, an absurdly athletic chain smoker and a prolific try scorer.

Blanco is a central figure in this story...

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