Mesut Ozil, Cristiano Ronaldo and football's altruists: 12 footballers with big, big hearts

1. Laurent Koscielny

As a youngster growing up in the Lorreze region of France, future Arsenal defender Laurent Koscielny always loved hearing the sounds of accordions being tuned in the local Maugein factory, which had been going strong since 1919. Yet hit by stiff competition from the Far East, the business seemed set to fold until owner Bernard Combes persuaded Koscielny and other local investors to stump up a combined €600,000 to "breathe new oxygen - literally," into Maugein. "It's good to know that Laurent has retained his values," gushed Monsieur Combes. Formidable!

NEXT Who built a hospital with his Pepsi money? >> 

2. Didier Drogba

"People need to look beyond what they see from Didier Drogba on the football pitch," insisted his then-former manager Jose Mourinho. "He's not everyone's favourite player, but he's a man of enormous depth." And very long pockets.

In 2009, the Ivorian striker handed over his entire £3 million fee for representing Pepsi for a planned hospital to be completed in his home town of Abidjan. Two years earlier, he'd set up the Didier Drogba Foundation and, with United Nations assistance, purchased the plot of land upon which the hospital was eventually built. "At heart, he's a man of the people," claimed Mourinho. 

NEXT Who gave a seven-figure sum to an African charity? >> 

3. Craig Bellamy

He may have occasionally been a niggly so-and-so on the pitch, and not averse to smacking team-mates with a golf club off it, but diminutive forward Craig Bellamy made up for his foibles with a heightened sense of morality when it came to charitable activities.

Moved at the poverty he witnessed on a visit to Sierra Leone in 2007, he launched the Craig Bellamy Foundation in conjunction with UNICEF two years later. In 2013, the Welshman stumped up around £1.4 million of his own cash to help ensure that African youngsters not only enjoyed playing football, but also stayed in school. "It's just something I felt I had to do," he insisted. We salute you Craig.

NEXT Who split his entire wage between four charities? >>

4. Guy Moussi

It's not an exaggeration to say that Guy Moussi's two-month loan spell at Birmingham City in 2014 was instantly forgettable. Yet what the French striker may have lacked in on-field prowess, he more than made up for in charitable zeal.

Moussi opted to split his entire Birmingham wage between four charities: the Stop Ebola campaign, saving a group of stricken Turkish miners, funding a new roof for a Parisian church, and Birmingham’s Disabled Supporters Club. A shame his loan spell wasn't extended…

NEXT Who gave his furniture to Sue Ryder? >>

5. Markus Rosenberg

Markus Rosenberg may have failed to find the net during his two-year spell with West Brom, but he proved a massive hit with local charity shop owner Sue Ryder.

Rather than attempt to flog his (still pristine) lounge suite and bedroom furniture on the second-hand market, the Swede personally delivered the goods to Ryder's shop, and expressed the hope that the "new owners will be as happy with their purchases as I've been at The Hawthorns". "I'm his No.1 fan," insisted Sue. Quite right, too. 

NEXT Who handed over all his belongings? >>

6. Lars Elstrup

Former Luton striker Lars Elstrup later had serious regrets about handing over his career earnings for religious purposes. In the mid-1990s, he changed his name to Darando and gave up all his worldly possessions to the Wild Goose sect.

Years later, after exiting the group, Elstrup tried, unsuccessfully, to reclaim his stuff via the courts. "Those bastards have kept the lot," admitted the Danish forward (now plain old Lars again) ruefully, before proceeding to scratch out a living in the Danish lower leagues. 

NEXT Who swapped his £36,000 watch for the waiter's Seiko? >>

7. Vedran Corluka

It sometimes pays to flatter a Premier League footballer. A waiter at the Whisky Mist restaurant in Mayfair casually mentioned to Tottenham defender Vedran Corluka that he liked his diamond encrusted £36,000 watch. Corluka responded that he was also pretty taken with the waiter's more modest £150 Seiko, and insisted they swap timepieces.

It's unclear as to whether Corluka has been back for another meal there. Perhaps he feared the waiter would next inform him he was also partial to his Jag....

NEXT Who gave his Mercedes to a youth-team player? >>

8. Oliver Kapo

There really is no pleasing some footballers. After cheekily asking Frenchman Olivier Kapo what he was planning on buying him for an end-of-season gift, Wigan youngster James McPike was understandably surprised when the striker tossed him the keys to his Mercedes, informing him the car was his.

As if that wasn't generosity personified, Kapo also paid McPike's insurance. Yet just before the Frenchman departed the club, McPike handed him the keys back, claiming he couldn't afford the fuel bill. How ungrateful. 

NEXT Who paid for the fans' taxis home? >> 

9. Niall Quinn

Suffice to say that Sunderland supporters' rendition of "Niall Quinn's Disco Pants" didn't go down too well with staff on an EasyJet flight from Bristol to the North East following their team's 2008 away clash with Cardiff. So much so that the entire contingent was slung off and marooned at Bristol airport.

That was until chairman Quinn hove into view (he'd stomped off too after the flight was cancelled), pulled out his credit card and offered to pay £8,000 in taxi fees to get the Mackem lads home. Unsurprisingly, none refused Quinn's generosity. "He's a top man," gushed one supporter. Too true.

NEXT Who bought pizza for the snow-shovelling fans? >> 

10. Paolo Di Canio

After 200 loyal Swindon fans had shovelled snow off the County Ground pitch into the early hours in January 2013 to ensure their team's league game went ahead, manager Paolo Di Canio, not for the first or last time on his life, felt "overwhelmed with emotion".

Deciding that the shovelling diehards needed a reward, he reacted in the only way a passionate Italian can, and treated them to a job lot of pizzas. Problem was they were wolfed within a few minutes. Paolo should have opted for some extra toppings. 

NEXT Who paid for a tsunami survivor's education? >> 

11. Cristiano Ronaldo

Indonesian youngster Martunis was having a kickabout when a devastating tsunami hit the beaches of Banda Aceh in 2004, but somehow miraculously survived (albeit separated from his family). Amid tragic circumstances, however, football once again proved itself an agent of hope - or more specifically, Ballon d’Or winner, Cristiano Ronaldo did.

After the Portuguese preener spotted Martunis wearing his shirt in a photo, the Real Madrid star flew out to meet him before later paying for his education (while the Portugal team helped pay for his family home to be rebuilt). But that’s not all: in July 2015, a 17-year-old Martunis was signed up to Sporting Lisbon’s academy.

NEXT Who has paid for 30+ vital operations for Brazilian kids? >>

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12. Mesut Ozil

Some people go on holiday to South America and come back with a comedy gift. Last summer, Mesut Ozil returned with a World Cup winner's medal and a charity. Having funded vital surgery for 11 Brazilian kids, the Arsenal schemer rounded it up to 23 - one for each member of the World Cup squad, y'see.

And lest this be seen as a short-term gesture made in celebration, let it be noted that he continues to bankroll operations for Brazilian children: in co-operation with aid agency BigShoe (opens in new tab), he has underwritten surgery for 11 more children in October and November this year.   

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