Six football figures who are good at maths

With the FIFA World Cup set to kick-off this week, football fever has hit the Whizz Education offices. We’ve been thinking of ways we can link the world’s most-watched sporting event to our favourite school subject and this time around, we’ve decided to focus on the players and managers. Despite the stereotype that footballing types aren’t the most mathematically minded of people, we’ve found six famous football figures who are equally as comfortable discussing numbers, angles and fractions as they are talking about offsides, corners and crosses.


Glen Johnson

The former England right-back made headlines last world cup when it was revealed that while his teammates were spending their free time soaking up the sun, Johnson was locked away in his hotel room studying for his mathematics degree. “I was good at maths at school but I didn’t really think of anything else but football,” Johnson told the Telegraph back in 2012 when it first came to light that he was spending two hours a day studying maths through open university. “I love the planning and problem solving, equations, working out.”


Jean-Alain Boumsong

Like Johnson, Boumsong holds the rare distinction of being a professional football player with a degree in mathematics. The former French international, who also played for Rangers, Newcastle United, Juventus and Lyon, initially started off studying medicine but opted for mathematics when his career took off. We have no doubt that his mortarboard takes pride of place alongside his 27 caps for Les Bleus.


Brian McClair

During his time playing for Scottish side Motherwell, McClair, also known as ‘Choccy’ (as in eclair) studied mathematics at the University of Glasgow. Unfortunately, the former Scottish international didn’t actually complete his degree and in 1983 instead opted to become a full-time footballer with Celtic. That said, we have no doubt his mathematics skills would have come in handy when counting all the trophies he won while playing for Manchester United under Sir Alex Ferguson between 1987 and 1998.


Arsene Wenger

With three league titles and seven FA Cups to his name, Wenger is universally recognised as one of the smartest coaches to grace the Premier League. However, it turns out Le Professeur’s intelligence isn’t just limited to the confines of the dugout. The former Arsenal manager also holds a Master’s degree in Economics from the University of Strasbourg, meaning that he’d be more than handy when it comes to working with numbers (and no, we’re not just talking about his ability to devise on-field formations).


Iain Dowie

The Sky Sports pundit and former Southampton, West Ham and Crystal Palace striker holds a Masters in Engineering from the University of Hertfordshire and actually worked for British Aerospace before being scouted by Luton Town in 1989.



When you share a name with one of history’s greatest-ever philosophers, there’s almost an expectation that you’re going to be bright, and that was certainly the case with this former Brazilian captain. Being a doctor as well as a professional footballer, the late, great Sócrates would have had to regularly deal with mathematics, whether it was through prescribing the appropriate dosage of medicine to give to a patient or by calculating the trajectory of a perfectly weighted through ball.


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