Skip to main content

Ranked! The 10 best football pundits on TV right now

Sky Sports
(Image credit: Getty)

Arguably, being a football pundit on British TV is the best job in the world. You get to sit in a warm studio or pitchside at a game, watch football, talk about it and get paid. 

But punditry is rather like being a full-back: anyone can turn their hand at it and put in a half-arsed performance but real mastery takes hours of craft. The best pundits don't just explain what's going on, they make you feel a part of the event; they illuminate things you would never have thought to look for and make even a 0-0 at Turf Moor worth tuning in for. Or, they might just have an entertaining moan about Paul Pogba's potential.

HEATED DEBATES 12 of the most entertaining disagreements over football ever broadcast on TV

And while there are plenty of bad ones - we couldn't possibly comment who - there are plenty of good ones, too.

10. Alan Shearer

Gary Lineker's righthand man. The Premier League all-time scorer. The first comment on whichever status has just happened.

Alan Shearer's had a seamless transition from arm-raising goal-getter to the Match of the Day studio, like he was studying his punditry badges from his late 20s onwards. The Geordie is excellent value for any kind of comment on movement or finishing, too - that was his thing, kids - while the annual game of "when will they mention Alan never won the FA Cup" is fun for all the family.

But where Shearer steps into his own is the odd occasion that you've just witnessed the most monumental disasterclass one could possibly concoct. The calm, exasperated growl of a man who once decked Keith Gillespie for dropping some cutlery? He has the air of an unhappy dad at parents' evening. His soliloquy in the aftermath of England's Euro 2016 exit is still a punditry take for the ages. 

9. Graeme Souness

It's easy to forget but Graeme "middle-aged man shouting at cloud" Souness was one of the very finest midfielders of a generation. 

He won everything there was to win in football - and then he had a fairly decent career in management in which he saw everything, from the incendiary reaction to placing a large Galatasaray flag into the centre circle of the Fenerbahce pitch, to two of his own players fighting on the turf at Newcastle United (he offered them both out). He even signed Ali Dia - so the fact he sells the idea that he can't believe what he's just seen from Rob Holding is almost BAFTA-worthy. 

As a pundit, Souness has adopted a similarly gruff and vaguely miffed persona that he did in the game, in which seemingly only David Silva has impressed him in his last 30 years of watching the sport he knows and (hates to admit) he loves. The Scot has become the incumbent work-rate demander on Sky Sports and sets the tone for the broadcaster's post-match chats about just how south one or more of the big six are heading: he's well and truly part of the furniture now.

And every now and then, Souey gives us a glimpse of the man we all wonder must be under that brusque exterior when he tells us how he's becoming more environmentally friendly or how difficult it is to talk about mental health. Is he a national treasure? Perhaps. It's hard to imagine Sky without him, either way.

8. Rio Ferdinand

Ahead of the 2006 World Cup, Rio Ferdinand was given his own prank show. Like Manchester United's answer to Fonejacker, the much-maligned experiment featured Rio convincing art-lover David James to seriously critique children's paintings or attempting to kidnap David Beckham. It's safe to say Ferdinand's broadcasting career has taken a good turn since. 

The ex-England centre-back was a cultured ball-player and Rio's screen analysis on BT Sport is fittingly informative and well-conducted; given that it's not that long since he retired, either, insights into what Sergio Busquets actually says on the pitch are wholly welcome. He's become a staple of the Champions League coverage on BT - and he fits the picture, as a former winning captain in the competition.

Ferdinand knows the game - he especially knows how to defend and he's good at what he does on TV these days. He may never live down that excitement he showed for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's early United tenure, mind. 

7. Roy Keane

The hand grenade in the ball pit. The argument in the empty room. The dark side of the moon. You don't have to have agreed with anything that Roy Keane has ever said; nor do you have to have appreciated anything achieved in his trophy-laden career. But you can't live without him.

Keano is the chief firestarter of football punditry. While we always knew he liked a scrap on the field, his adoration for arguing is excellent television, whether he's talking about how far United have fallen, the lack of steel in the Arsenal midfield or just how much he hates the game that gave him this platform.

Roy's ramblings are a constant. Any lack of effort is jumped upon like a guard dog, as the irate Irishman will quite happily berate just about any current player or manager in the game. He's even had fiery conversations with Jurgen Klopp on-air.

No one is safe. Keane tears ex-teammates ("Peter Schmeichel was overrated") and total strangers apart equally (see his tiff with Tim Cahill last season), seemingly unimpressed with anything in the modern game and with a weekly axe to grind. It's just like it was in his playing days. You may hate his guts: but you can't deny what he adds to the team.

6. Micah Richards

Micah Richards' rise to Super Sunday regular has come out of the leftfield, in the void of Manchester City legends to call on in television. Stick your Lescotts and your Joe Harts, TV bosses said, as they opted for a name many fans perhaps expected to still be playing professionally, perhaps out in India or down in the fourth tier.

A wonderkid who never really reached his heights - and found himself, somehow, at Fiorentina - there's something charming about Sky leaning on an ex-pro who didn't actually do much on the pitch. It's wholly fair to say he's a better pundit than he ever was a player.

Richards is pigeon-holed for his explosive laugh and the fact that he knows a few of the City players on a first-name basis - none of them will speak to Gary Neville - but the former right-back is a lot sharper than he's perhaps given credit for. His struggles as a player inform his insights, while he's just about fair to everyone. He has an infectious enthusiasm for the game and it comes across nicely. 

It's actually pretty difficult to be as upbeat as Richards while coming across as a serious mouthpiece on the sport; most others try the 'serious critic' look for size. Richards has thrived for just being his jovial self, though - and we're here for it. 

5. Ian Wright

It's shocking that Ian Wright has not been knighted - or least given the formal title of the nation's uncle. He is every "your dad's mate at the pub"; his sense of humour is superb and he's the nicest bloke on the planet. 

Kids might not realise that Wright wasn't a footballer until his early 20s - but he went and scored 185 goals for Arsenal anyway. He's such a natural presence on Match of the Day or ITV's international coverage though, that you'd be forgiven for thinking he'd been on TV all his life. 

Though he's not the most cutting or the most analytically-pressing, he's just blooming good at talking about the game that he loves (and never without a comeback: never banter a man with a single gold tooth). He knows one thing in this game and that's the most important: how to score goals. For that, there will always be a job on the box for him.

And Ian Wright is never afraid to wear his heart on his sleeve. He's always willing to talk up players, managers and teams he loves. He's unashamedly an England fan; he turned up to the 2002 World Cup final in Yokohama wearing a kimono and spent most of 2014 in Brazil dancing with locals. He is the definition of how most of us would approach punditry and for that, we salute him. 

4. Alex Scott

Alex Scott has had to overcome unbelievable prejudice in her media career - and yet she might be the most accomplished pundit in the game. Can you think of anyone else with 140 appearances for their country? Anyone who's won the quadruple?

Scott's natural flair for analysis has not only had a huge impact on women getting into football broadcasting, it's been a breath of fresh air on both the BBC and Sky. Scott is effortlessly capable of dissecting a match succinctly and offering insight without ever digging anyone out and her passion for football comes across well: she's a really engaging presence. 

That she's been a presenter for Football Focus, an anchor during the Olympics and even on day-time TV quizzes shows her universal appeal. Scott is one of the most reliable studio guests in football and a very welcome addition to any panel.

3. Jamie Carragher

It's easy now to see how Jamie Carragher got into punditry. The Liverpudlian began youth football as an intelligent striker keeping Emile Heskey out of England boys sides with his link-up play; he was used across Liverpool's backline as a senior pro and though he was never lightning quick or physically supreme, he was perhaps the most intelligent player on any pitch.

In punditry, he's matured into an oracle of the sport and become a benchmark for other ex-pros, complete with his trademark points at his giant Monday Night Football tablet (accompanied by a very Scouse "there!") and Loki/Thor-like relationship with Gary Neville. Carra is extremely well-read and obviously so: he's fair to all, even when he has obvious biases and he's very articulate. 

That he won European titles and played with and against some of the greatest footballers in history only adds to the gravitas. The Liverpool legend might never have been the first pick in an England squad - but Sky would be empty without him.

2. Emma Hayes

Over the summer, Karen Carney posted a photo of her and former manager Emma Hayes out having a drink. Pictured was one of Hayes' research binders, brimming with post-it notes - all just for one game. 

The Chelsea Women manager is detailed beyond belief and puts the analytical research from her day job into her appearances on TV. But perhaps the best thing about Hayes is that she makes her punditry accessible to all - as she claims she tries to just chat about football on the telly like she's explaining it to her mum.

Hayes has big ambitions in the game and is one of the most accomplished coaches in Europe of any gender. But should the helter skelter of football management ever feel too much, she's very welcome on our screens any time.

1. Gary Neville

Arguably no one has been at the forefront of so many iconic moments in football punditry and commentary over the past decade. The heated debates. The scream when Fernando Torres scored for Chelsea against Barcelona. The Super League inquest. The self-reflecting takes on his Valencia stint. The TikTok of him rapping along to Dua Lipa.

To call him a latter-day Alan Hansen is underplaying just how he's soared to become the leading pundit in British football. ITV securing him for their international coverage was a genuine coup; he's the first voice that many look towards when Manchester United are in crisis, when Big Six teams are waning or when a political issue dominates the game. That he's capable of dishing out an Alan Partridge-esque quip here and there only adds to his appeal.

Football should be thankful that he's not going back into management any time soon. Ultimately, he's changed the game for punditry in this country: everyone measures up to Neville, these days. 

Subscribe to FourFourTwo today and save over a third on standard price.

Restock your kit bag with the best deals for footballers on Amazon right now

ALSO READ

LIST Football Manager 2022: All the FM22 wonderkids you'll need to sign

TALENT FIFA 22: The 150 best wonderkids in the game

GUIDE Best football gifts: Present ideas for football fans