Messi, Pele, Man Utd: Football's most embarrassing predictions

Messi, Pele, Man Utd: Football's most embarrassing predictions

As we head rapidly towards the start of another Premier League season, pundits around the country are preparing their predictions for the 2022/23 campaign.

As we all know, just because you are paid to give your opinion on the beautiful game, it doesn’t guarantee that you’ll have called things correctly come the final day of the season.

In fact, over the years, a few predictions have gone so spectacularly wrong that they have earned their way into footballing folklore.

Be careful with your words, guys. They can very easily come back to haunt you.

On that note, we’ve decided to take a look back at 10 of the most embarrassing predictions in football history.

“You can’t win anything with kids”

A bold statement from Match Of The Day pundit Alan Hansen after Manchester United lost 3-1 to Aston Villa on the opening day of the 1995/96 season.

Sir Alex Ferguson had decided to take a gamble on a new crop of youngsters moving forward – and former Liverpool defender Hansen wasn’t impressed.

“Aston Villa, at 2.15pm when they got the teamsheet, it’s just going to give them a lift and it’ll happen every time he plays the kids. He’s got to buy players. It’s as simple as that. The trick to winning the championship is to have strength in depth. They just haven’t got it,” he declared on the Saturday evening highlights show.

As it turned out, David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Gary Neville, Phil Neville and Nicky Butt had plenty to offer at first-team level, helping United to a Premier League and FA Cup double that season.

Hansen has never lived his comments down.

Stuart Pearce told Arsenal they’d wasted their money by signing Dennis Bergkamp

“He made no impression at Inter,” said Nottingham Forest legend Pearce of Bergkamp when he arrived at Arsenal in July 1995, “so the guy is now trying a different country in the hope it might suit him better. I would have taken Stan Collymore ahead of Bergkamp, even for £1m more. Liverpool have got a better deal than Arsenal.”

Per Just Arsenal, Pearce was also quoted as saying: “Dennis Bergkamp is a waste of money. I doubt he can help Arsenal win anything.”

Liverpool signed Collymore for £8.5m. He scored 35 goals in 81 games during his two-year stint at Anfield – with no silverware to show for his time on Merseyside.

Bergkamp, meanwhile, won three Premier League titles at Arsenal, as well as a trio of FA Cups. The ‘Flying Dutchman’ even has a statue in his honour at the Emirates.

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Mayor of small French town eats a rat after Paris Saint Germain Champions League failure.

Charles Dayot – mayor of Mont-de-Marsan in south west France – was pretty confident that PSG would advance to the 2016/17 Champions League quarter-finals having beaten Barcelona 4-0 in the first leg of their last-16 tie.

Such was his optimism, he even insisted he would “eat a rat” if the Ligue 1 giants failed to qualify after the second leg at Camp Nou.

PSG famously fell to a 6-1 defeat and Dayot ended up eating a rodent in front of his entire town shortly afterwards.

“How are England going to win in Germany?”

Heading into a crunch World Cup qualifier in September 2001, former Bayern Munich and Germany forward Uli Hoeness didn’t give Kevin Keegan’s England much hope of getting one over on his home country.

“How are England going to win in Germany? It hasn’t happened for 100 years. I have no doubts whatsoever that Germany will quite clearly thrash England. They will easily qualify for the World Cup with this match,” he brashly predicted.

Well, the Three Lions did win – and in fine style.

A Michael Owen hat-trick, together with goals with Steven Gerrard and Emile Heskey saw England to an unprecedented 5-1 success on German soil.

Dietmar Hamann thought Leicester would be relegated in their title-winning season

Leicester’s appointment of Claudio Ranieri in July 2015 proven to be an absolute masterstroke from the Foxes, but former Liverpool and Manchester City man Hamann didn’t see it that way.

In a truly unfortunate tweet, the German midfielder told his followers: “Can’t believe Leicester appointed Ranieri, Great club, great fanbase but I’m afraid MK rather Old Trafford season after next.”

“MK” stands for the Stadium MK, home of the MK Dons – then of the Championship.

Yep, that’s right. In the 2015/16 season where Leicester defied the odds to claim Premier League glory, Hamann actually tipped them to go down.

A complete horror show of a prediction.

“Messi can’t score with his head”

While on punditry duty for the 2009 Champions League final between Barcelona and Manchester United in Rome, former England boss Terry Venables was waxing lyrical about the ways United’s Cristiano Ronaldo was superior to Barca’s Lionel Messi.

“Messi is wonderful on the right but Ronaldo is terrific on the right, the left and through the middle as well,” insisted Venables. “He also scores goals with his head, which Messi couldn’t do even if they put a top hat on him.”

From the moment those words left Venables’ mouth, the script was set. Messi (without a top hat, for the record), headed home Barcelona’s second goal on the night in a 2-0 victory for La Blaugrana.

“Can’t see anything but an England win”

Rio Ferdinand was high on England’s chances of success in their Euro 2020 group game against Scotland last summer, so much so that the refused to even contemplate that Gareth Southgate’s men might not get the victory.

“It’s a huge game,” he told BBC Sport beforehand. I can’t wait. Nothing to fear, and we will go down and get our seat and watch it. Looking forward to it.

“England are going to win. I can’t see anything else, I’m telling you. I’ve never been this confident about a game in a major championship.”

Final score: England 0 Scotland 0. Unlucky, Rio!

Bernie bares all

Former Middlesbrough striker Bernie Slaven was convinced that his beloved Teeside club would lose to Man United at Old Trafford in December 1998 that he vowed to “flash my bum” in a department store window in the city.

Boro emerged with a 3-2 upset victory and Bernie stuck to his word.

“Lukaku ‘will score a tonne of goals on Chelsea return”

In his early season predictions for the 2021/22 season, Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville backed Romelu Lukaku to lift the Premier League Golden Boot on his return to Chelsea.

Following his £97.5m switch from Inter Milan, the 29-year-old Belgian managed just eight top-flight goals last term.

That’s a full 15 goals shy of joint winners Mo Salah and Son Heung-min. Lukaku is now back with Inter on loan and it would be a shock to see him in a Chelsea shirt again.

Pele’s dubious predictions

Pele’s a three-time World Cup winner, but his prediction game leaves a far bit to be desired.

An African World Cup winner by 2002? Didn’t happen. Middlesbrough’s Nick Barmby to become one of the best players in the world? Never looked like it. Nii Lamptey as his successor? Could be the strangest of the lot!

The iconic Brazilian hailed Lamptey as the heir to his throne having watched him represent Ghana in the 1991 U17 World Cup.

Lamptey had a decent professional career, representing the likes of PSV, Aston Villa and Coventry, but never threatened to match Pele’s enduring legacy.

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