The Tuesday 10: Brilliant baldies

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Wayne Rooney has joked that his recent glut of headers is exacerbating his bald spot. Fear not, says Dan Ross: examine these excelling egg-heads...

Jaap Stam
Back in his intimidating, domineering prime for Manchester United, Jaap Stam was the most terrifying man in football. His strength, power and bone-crunching brutality were awesome... when they were needed. Most of the time, players rarely got close enough to warrant a demonstration.

The combination of pitch-black, deep-set eyes, veins bulging on his temples, and sharp slaphead created a 1980s ‘boot boy’ look that ensured the ball was won before he even challenged.  His sheer presence won him trophies with some of the finest clubs in the game – including Lazio and Milan in Italy and PSV and Ajax in Holland.

"Try it, sunshine"

Now back in the Netherlands coaching at his first professional club, second-tier FC Zwolle, Stam says "When you are on the touchline you find you instinctively know how to encourage people, to make them play in a certain play." Exactly what ‘encourage’ means is open to interpretation, but if he has ordered them to win promotion don't bet against Zwolle playing Ajax some time soon...

Attilio Lombardo
Sampdoria, Juventus, Crystal Palace, Lazio. Spot the odd one out.

In summer 1997, a 31-year-old Italian with Serie A, Champions League, Cup Winners Cup, Coppa Italia, Intercontinental Cup, and European Super Cup winners medals (and with more than a passing resemblance to The Muppets regular Sam the Eagle) signed for the Eagles of South London.

It was a match made in heaven. Attilio Lombardo was an instant fan favourite, scoring on his debut against Everton, and his vision and ability helped a poor Palace side to tenth in the table by November. An injury on international duty left him sidelined until April, by which point the club were bottom of the league. 

"You'd look better like this, Sasa..."

In a somewhat surreal move following Steve Coppell’s resignation, Lombardo and Tomas Brolin became joint player-managers, and the ‘Bald Eagle’ surprised many Palace fans by staying with the club the next season following their inevitable relegation.

However he was unable to resist the call of Sven-Göran Eriksson’s Lazio in January 1999, and a successful year-and-a-half in Rome brought a wealth of winners medals, including those for the Serie A, Cup Winners’ Cup and Coppa Italia. But then if he was going to leave Palace for anywhere, it would be for Lazio – nicknamed ‘Aquile’: ‘Eagles’.

Temuri Ketsbaia
It's improbable that he will appear in many other football Top Tens, but former Newcastle United favourite Ketsbaia thoroughly deserves his place in this one. Unlike the receding and the patchy, Temuri is a wonderfully bald chap, and an icon of the 90s for the Toon faithful.

He played in the black and white between 1997 and 2000, a member of the Magpies squad that lost two successive FA Cup Finals. But despite his lack of success under Kenny Dalglish and Ruud Gullit, his determination and passion – albeit often bordering on madness - ensured he is likely to be remembered in Toon for a long time.

"I'll play skins"

The moment that will long live in the memory is his bizarre celebration after scoring against Bolton Wanderers in 1998, where he booted the advertising hoardings at the Gallowgate End.

In fact, KetsbaiaK’s wacky outbursts were so common that it became a source of much amusement on Tyneside that his name was an anagram of “I'm a true basket, I”. But they love a ‘character’ in the North East and the Georgian Geordie’s hairless pate is welcome back at St James’ any time.

Yordan Letchkov
If anything was more surprising than Bulgaria’s performance at USA 94, it was that their journey to the semi-finals of the tournament was masterminded by a man who looked like a serial killer. And an old serial killer at that.

Moody, argumentative and bald (bar a tiny island stuck to his forehead), Letchkov acted and looked like a grumpy old man – hardly a poster boy for Bulgarian youths aspiring to play the beautiful game. Except that in every other aspect, he was.

Oh, he's not gonna be happy with that shot

Nicknamed ‘the magician’, Letchkov was a marvellous footballer, capable of playing on the left wing or as a striker. Like several of his teammates (namely the perpetually angry Hristo Stoichkov and the downright menacing Trifon Ivanov) he may have looked like a convict having a kickabout in the exercise yard, but his skills and goalscoring ability were top class.

As if to prove the point, in ‘94 he used his bowling-ball bonce to power a sumptuous header past the Germans, surprisingly sending them home at the quarter-final stage, before Bulgaria eventually lost out to Italy in the semis.  They may not have won the World Cup, but the ‘Golden Boys’ achieved cult status all over the globe.

The April issue of FourFourTwo – out now – comes with an entire free magazine about USA 94, including a four-page feature on the Bulgarians

Stephen Ireland
Perhaps the most gifted current Irish player not playing for the national team, Stephen has been in exile from international competition since 2007, when a lie about a grandmother’s death to get compassionate leave went wrong.

While that hasn’t helped his public image, his hair had already done most of the damage.  Afflicted by shy hair syndrome that had resulted in his hairline backing off almost halfway down his scalp, Ireland decided to go for a hair transplant.

Unfortunately for Stephen, he ended up with a rather odd set of sproutings that blurred the line between ‘Big Issue’ and wig misuse, and further ridicule led to ditching the hair altogether.

Divided Ireland: Spot the difference

An obviously talented player, though, at just 23 he has racked up nearly 170 appearances for Man City in all competitions, and until Roberto Mancini’s arrival he was one of a select few that survived the influx of talent signed by the Arab bosses. However, rumours currently abound that Ireland could be on his way to Merseyside, with Liverpool and Everton both interested now the starlet has dropped to the fringe of Mancini’s squad.

Thomas Gravesen & Lee Carsley
An integral part of the Everton success story of recent years, this centre midfield partnership propelled a distinctly average Toffees squad – still reeling from Wayne Rooney’s departure to Old Trafford – into fourth spot, and the Champions League qualifiers, in 2004/05.

Not only did they look like the Mitchell Brothers, they also played like Goodison was Albert Square, rarely failing to take control of the midfield. While Carsley hassled, harried and bullied opponents off the ball, Gravesen took on a more attacking role, his smart passes and over-excited forward bursts usually resulting in a chance on goal.

Brothers in arms (but not wigs)

Eyes popping and veins bulging as they barked at those around them, Goodison’s twin peaks were so strikingly similar in appearance from the distance of the media area that many commentators just went with a name and hoped for the best.

However, perhaps because of the playing style of his doppelganger, Gravesen was mistakenly identified as a defensive midfielder by European giants Real Madrid, and in January 2005 they snapped up the Danish international hoping he would replace the departed Claude Makelele. After several ‘enthusiastic challenges’, Madrid quickly realised they had the wrong domed destroyer. Interestingly, upon realising their mistake, Madrid never swooped for Carsley.

Bobby Charlton
Wayne Rooney’s Manchester United career has, thus far, been remarkably similar to that of Old Trafford legend Charlton. Neither a No.10 nor a No.9, obviously balding at the age of 24, and has passed the 90-goal mark in his first six seasons with the Red Devils.

Definitely thinning: 23-year-old Bobby in 1961

But the man known (if only to headline writers) as "Roo" still has some way to go, however, before he can match the final achievements of Sir Bobby, owner of perhaps the dodgiest comb-over of all time. Charlton holds the record for the most league appearances for United (606), and scoring more goals for club (249) and country (49) than any other player.

He won the World Cup with England, and with United he won a European Cup, a hat-trick of league titles and the FA Cup. Individually he earned such accolades as the FIFA World Cup Golden Ball and European Player of the Year.

So Rooney has no need to worry about his bald spot – hair isn’t everything. Charlton managed all this with only a couple of strands...

Alfredo di Stefano
Di Stefano was another player who refused to let his lack of locks limit his career, and although calling him a ‘baldie’ is somewhat unfair, he was certainly waning on top.

Widely regarded as one of the greatest players of all time, he was the brains behind one of the most successful sides in the history of the game. His goalscoring talents were extraordinary, and his tally of 216 league goals remains more than any other player in Real Madrid’s history. During his 11-year spell in the Spanish capital, he fired the side to five European Cups and eight league titles, and was twice named European Footballer of the Year.

"Balding? Maybe. Talented? You decide"

This baldie’s finest moment, though, came when he starred alongside ‘tubby’ Ferenc Puskas, in the 7-3 victory over Eintracht Frankfurt in the 1960 European Cup Final at Hampden Park, a game many consider to be the best demonstration of football ever given. Puskas netted four, while Di Stefano bagged a hat-trick, as the unlikely-looking lads blitzed the Germans.

Pierluigi Collina
Not a footballer, granted, but one of the most influential and instantly recognisable baldies to have graced the game, regarded as he is as being one of the best referees of all time.

After contracting a severe form of alopecia in the early-90s, Collina was as bald as they come. He lost all of his body hair and, somewhat predictably, was given the nickname Kojak. While he may not have been the most attractive referee in the game, he quickly became the most famous.

"What do you mean, 'Not the most attractive'?"

Collina was appointed whistler for some of the biggest occasions in the modern game, including Man United’s treble-completing 1999 Champions League Final win over Bayern Munich, the 2002 World Cup Final between Brazil and Germany, and the 2004 UEFA Cup Final between Valencia and Marseille. He became particularly popular in England after reffing England’s famous 5-1 win over Germany in 2001.

Remarkably, despite his rather crudely mocked baldness, Collina became a bit of a pin-up (as far as referees go). He was the first referee to become the cover figure for a football video game (PES3, PES4), and he starred in Vauxhall, Mastercard and Adidas commercials – not to mention becoming the face of frozen octopus in Japan, giving bald men everywhere reason to dream (albeit a bit weirdly).

France World Cup Squads 1998/2000
In July 2000, France beat Italy in the Final of European Championships to cap the most successful period in their history, becoming the first nation to hold both the World and European titles since West Germany in 1974.

While the then captain and FIFA World Player of the Year Zinedine Zidane was the man credited with driving les Bleus to such incredible success, many people overlooked the real reason behind the trophies – baldies.

That’s right, whether their opposition were blinded by reflecting light, or the French were simply more streamlined than the enemy, a squad led by ‘The Monk’ and filled with hairless wonders dominated the world.

In front of eccentric bald custodian Fabien Barthez stood the rock-solid dome duo of Lilian Thuram and Franck Leboeuf, accompanied by the definitely thinning Laurent Blanc.

"Take two bottles into the shower?"

In midfield, Zizou was joined by the receding hairline of Patrick Vieira, while the damage was done up front by follically-challenged forwards Nic Anelka, Sylvain Wiltord, David Trezeguet and the ever-retreating hairline of Thierry Henry.

If you’re still unconvinced by the theory, note this. Wiltord and Zidane both netted in the respective finals, while Henry, Zidane (again) and a Thuram brace got them through the semis. And who was the most hirsute member of the squad? One-goal also-man Christophe Dugarry. Case closed.

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