Like most other sports where training begins at an early age and takes up plenty of time, it is a commonplace for footballers not to advance past high school education. In many cases, especially for prodigies, they hardly ever make it past their elementary-level learning.

Occasionally, footballers emerge who can balance the demands of the football pitch as well as academic requirements and do so brilliantly. The legendary Brazilian Socrates attained his bachelor’s degree in medicine while playing as a professional footballer and even practiced his trade. He was not alone among the early trailblazers. Ian Dowie, a former Ireland international and who also played in the EPL for West Ham, Crystal Palace and Southampton, has a Master’s degree in Engineering. He also worked a short stint at the British Aerospace. Shika Hislop, former Newcastle number one and a Trinidad and Tobago international, mirrors Dowie’s accomplishments. Hislop started his football career through a scholarship at Howard University, where he attained his degree in mechanical engineering and even served as an intern at NASA.

These legends set a trail that several modern footballers have sought. This list looks at the top ten players currently playing in the modern game who have attained significant education achievements.

Glen Johnson

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Glen Johnson is a former right-back who played in the premier league for notable clubs like Chelsea, Liverpool, West Ham, and Stoke before retiring in January 2019. In 2012, he surprised everyone by revealing that he was studying for a degree in Maths, which was his best subject in school. He got his degree from the Open University after dedicating two hours daily to his study.

Simon Mignolet

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Simon Mignolet may have lost his number one status at Liverpool and moved back home to Club Brugge, but his position as one of the most educated goalkeepers in the modern game is not under any threat. The 31-year-old pursued higher education as a safety net should injury or some other unforeseen circumstance curtail his football career. His efforts paid off as he graduated with a Law and Political Science degree. This qualification added to his fluency in five languages, and a thriving coffee shop should be more than enough safety nets.

Duncan Watmore

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You may not have heard much or even anything about Duncan Whatmore. If you have, it probably regards his academic achievement. The now 25 years old Sunderland Winger became the only second ever Premier League player to graduate with a First Class Honors. Watmore achieved this feat in 2015 when he graduated from Newcastle University with top honors in Chemistry, all the while balancing the pressures of breaking into the first team.

Andrey Arshavin

The former Arsenal player will be forever remembered outside his home country for his Euro 2008 heroics and the four goals he scored against Liverpool at Anfield. He is, however, more than that, as his academic credentials indicate. Arshavin studied at the University of Technology and Designs in St. Petersburg Russia, where he attained a Master’s degree in fashion design. He has even opened his line of clothing which has proven popular in Russia. At 38 years, old Arshavin is fast approaching retirement and he can look forward to a busy and engaging career as a leading fashion designer.

Romelu Lukaku

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Romelu Lukaku has become a highly divisive striker is football following his two seasons at Manchester United. Yet, his talent as a marksman is undeniable and it has seen him become the all-time Belgian international top scorer with 51 goals in 83 appearances at only 26 years old. Besides his pitch exploits Lukaku holds a degree in Journalism and Public Relations. His linguistic abilities should come in handy should he choose to follow that career path as he speaks five languages; English, French, Dutch, Portuguese and Spanish. He also understands Swahili and German.

Vincent Kompany

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The former Manchester captain and defense stalwart recently left heading back to home club Anderlecht where he has taken the role of player and coach.  During his successful spell in England, where he won three premier league titles and one player of the year award, the former Belgium captain was also a student at the Manchester Business School. He graduated with a Master’s in Business Administration. He already demonstrated tons of leadership acumen on the pitch and now he has the papers to back it up should he decide to head to the boardroom.

Giorgio Chiellini

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Giorgio Chiellini has forged out his name as an uncompromising defender at Juventus. He was part of the immovable trio nicknamed ‘BBC’ consisting of Buffon, Bonucci, and him. While the other two later moved on he has remained the ever-present part of Juventus backline to the adoration and delight of the Juventini. Even while he was part of the team rewriting Italian football history, he was also an ardent scholar at the prestigious University of Turin where he undertook a degree in economics and later on attained a Master’s in Business Administration graduating with honors.

Andres Iniesta

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Regarded as one of the best, if not the best midfielder of his generation, Andres Iniesta achieved everything there is to attain as a footballer. He may have missed the Ballon d’Or, but so did everyone else during the duopoly of Messi and Ronaldo on the award. Yet still, winning the club treble twice, the Euros Twice and World Cup are accolades even these two out of this world talents can only envy. There is also the not so little matter of academic prowess. The Barcelona legend holds two degrees; one in Biology and another in Sports Science.

Juan Mata

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Juan Mata is many things and belongs to that elite class of players loved across the football divide for both their skill and general character and personality. He also happens to be one of the current brainboxes of modern football. During his time in Spain, he attained a degree in Journalism. Not satisfied with that the decorated midfielder took up two more degrees one in sports science and another in finance, all the while juggling high-level football responsibilities.

Frank Lampard

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Another recently retired footballer with a brain to match his talent is the current Chelsea coach, former midfield legend Frank Lampard. Even his coaching work, first at Derby and now at Chelsea, reveal a comprehensive thinking process. An IQ test conducted by Mensa famously tested his genius, and he recorded an IQ of 150 comfortably placing him among the most intelligent 0.1 percent of the world population. He also has impressive GCSE test scores scoring maximum grades, including an A in Latin for which he also has a degree. Recently, he got a publishing contract to write children’s books proving there is absolutely no limit to what he can do.

These ten footballers are not only an example to fellow footballers and students, but also show talent and studies are not mutually exclusive.


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