The old saying goes, “Fake it until you make it.” While there’s no denying that it takes a lot of talent to be a professional athlete, confidence can also help you keep your head in the game—even when things aren’t going your way.
Wondering which footballers lead the pack when it comes to next-level confidence?
Read on for a roundup of five soccer stars whose attitudes are as fierce as their footwork.
1. Thibault Courtois
The Belgian shot-stopper helped lead Real Madrid to its 14th European title in 2021. After defeating a very strong Liverpool team 1-0 during the Champions League final, Courtois took to Twitter with a post that expressed his pride in his team—and in his own contributions.
“Yesterday in the press conference I said that when Madrid plays finals they win…I saw a lot of tweets coming my way that I would get humbled today it was the other way round,” Courtois told BT Sports after the match.
The keeper also had some words for England’s football fans. “Today I needed to win a final for my career, for all the hard work to put respect on my name as I don’t think I get enough respect,” he continued.
2. Cristiano Ronaldo
Ronaldo’s name on this list should surprise absolutely no one. “I only feel bad when I play badly, luckily that rarely happens,” the Portuguese football forward once notoriously said.
As the all-time leading scorer in men’s international football, Ronaldo’s not entirely wrong—although some suggest that his attitude detracts from his status.
The sport’s most decorated player, Brazilian Dani Alvez once said of Ronaldo, “To be the best player in the world, you cannot just play well, you must also be liked by other people, and I understand that his attitude ends up hurting, a little, the great player that he really is.”
3. Paul Pogba
French footballer Pogba joined Manchester United’s Academy as a much-anticipated up-and-comer when he was just 16. Since that time, however, his career has been rocky—at least in part due to an excess of confidence.
The midfielder—set to return to Juventus next season—burned serious bridges on the way out of Old Trafford—especially when he spoke poorly of the £300,000-per-week contract offers he’d recently received. His arrogant argument? He deserved better.
Said English coach and former footballer Gary Neville of Pogba in 2018, “He’s got the confidence, the arrogance, the personality to play for Man Utd. He was sensational.”
4. Noa Lang
Is Dutch winger Noa Lang single-handedly responsible for the popularity of Belgian football since he started playing for Club Brugge? Absolutely—just ask him.
“I made Belgian football a thing again. I really think so. Children know Club Brugge now,” he reportedly said in an interview.
He went on to claim that he’s also responsible for newfound interest from people in his native country. “Dutch people are watching the Belgian league, too. Before I arrived that wasn’t the case,” Lang continued.
And while Lang has his fair share of detractors, he claims they’re all “secretly big fans.”
Lang has also spoken of his lack of nerves, which he attributes to talent. “Why should I be nervous about something I can do very well?” he says.
5. Zlatan Ibrahimovic
When he was just a teenager, this Swedish striker was offered a tryout with Arsenal. His reasoning for turning it down? “Zlatan doesn’t do auditions.”
This is just one example of the confidence Ibrahimovic continued to exhibit throughout his career.
When Norwegian player John Carew called his fancy footwork “pointless,” Ibrahimovic clapped back, “What [John] Carew does with a football, I can do with an orange.”
And when contemplating whether to stay or go with Paris Saint-Germain upon completion of his contract, Ibrahimovic made the city a bold offer. “I don’t believe they can change the Eiffel Tower for my statue…But if they can, I will stay here—I promise you,” he said.
Nor was Ibrahimovic’s cockiness reserved for his professional life. When asked what he got his ex-girlfriend for an engagement gift, his response speaks for itself. “What do you mean, ‘present?'” he asked. “She got Zlatan.”
When all was said and done, Ibrahimovic went out with the same swagger he went in with. Before playing his final game at Parc des Princes in 2016, Ibrahimovic tweeted, “I came like a king. I leave like a legend.”
Given his legacy as one of the best strikers of all-time, many fans would argue that this remark was less a display of arrogance, and more a statement of fact.