Being the cultured Italian gentiluomo that he is, Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini is probably not averse to the odd shot of grappa in his cafe corretto, or a even willing sip of Nebbiolo Vino Rosso when the occasion arises, but one thing that he can’t tolerate is what he deems to be the excessive drinking culture that appears to be rife amongst the young(ish) English contingent of his current squad.
Speaking last week, the City boss decried the extra-curricular habits of the likes of Joe Hart and Adam Johnson, amidst a spate of alcohol-soaked headlines with the former even filmed dancing on a bar at 5:00am with England’s Euro 2012 qualifier with Montenegro looming on the horizon.
True to the stereotypical Italian psyche, Mancini even advocated womanising as a healthier equivalent to imbibing your body weight in fluorescent vodka and, to be fair, he does have a point:
“It is better to go with a woman than a drink. It is better. That is what I did when I was a player.
In Italy the players don’t have this culture to drink after the game. It is so different, but I understand it is part of the English culture and it is not easy to change.”
Mancini was also adamant that his players should place their career ahead of their social life, especially since becoming fixtures in his fellow countryman Fabio Capello‘s England set-up:
“It is good for their career not to do this,” he said. “OK, they are young now but when you are 28 or 29 you pay the price. That’s why for me there can be no drinking before games. When you play every three days you must have 48 hours to recover.
If you drink, if you don’t sleep, you can’t do it. If you are young, OK. But in one, two or three years, that will change.
Adam and Joe are young, they are playing in the national team and they must change. It’s very frustrating for me to see this behaviour because I don’t understand it.
I don’t understand why a player must drink after a game. OK, maybe one drink is OK. But three, four, five, six – drinking until they are drunk – this is not good.”
Don’t let the Russian 2018 World Cup bid team catch wind of this, whatever you do. They’ll have our guts for garters.
Unfortunately for Mancini, it seems his pearls of wisdom have fallen on deaf ears as, in the early hours of Tuesday morning both Hart and Johnson (along with Gareth Barry and Shay Given) were filmed chucking shots down their gullets at a student house party in St Andrews.
The City foursome, in Scotland on a two-day golfing break after their defeat by Arsenal the day before, reportedly arrived at the party from a nightclub at around 1:00am before leaving an hour or so later. Praise be, The Sun then carried all the salient detail:
“Barry in particular was caught drinking from a liqueur bottle on camera after the Premier League players bought rounds for the youngsters in the local Lizard pub, before heading to the party in student digs.
They were drinking and signing autographs for everyone. Joe Hart was throwing £50 notes around like confetti. The flat was like any student digs, with mouldy food and a fridge packed with beer. For some reason [everybody was] packed in the kitchen, singing and telling the players how great they were.”
All things considered, this probably wasn’t the reaction Mancini was after – although the quartet will not be facing any disciplinary measures as they didn’t actually break any club rules or curfews.
It’s no secret that alcohol can serve to wreck or, at the very least, stunt a career that many believe the privileged protagonist in question has no real right to abuse. After all, if you can’t sufficiently quell your pinings for the 10-15 years you will spend in the professional game then you are probably going to find genuine sympathy hard to come by – just look at how Paul Gascoigne has fared since prematurely calling time on his bona fide playing days.
You only need to leaf through the biographies (‘auto’ or otherwise) of players like Gazza, George Best, Tony Adams, Paul Merson et al to appreciate the devastating extent that failing to curb alcoholic tendencies can have on a footballer’s performance and moreover, on their livelihoods in general.
As a point of comparison, Cristiano Ronaldo has been a staunch teetotaller since his father Jose Dinis Aveiro died in 2005 from an alcoholism-related liver disorder, and even won considerable damages when the Daily Mirror tried to claim he’d been on ‘a drink-fuelled bender in Miami’ whilst recovering from a serious ankle injury a couple of summers ago.
Whereas the Real Madrid forward may arguably not be the best player in the world, he can usually be found comfortably rooted somewhere in most sane people’s top two.