Being fat is not usually an attribute that fans associate with soccer players, but like any walk of life there are always players that are larger than others and for some, this was used as an advantage throughout their careers.
In this piece, we will be taking a closer look at 10 of the fattest soccer players to have graced the game including legends of the sport, lower league journeymen, and even some comedic value thrown in for good measure.
Let’s get straight into it and see who the fattest soccer players ever are.
10. Jon Parkin
We start our list today with one of the most notable lower-league journeymen in English soccer, Jon Parkin played for a number of clubs and never quite managed to break into the Premier League during his career.
Parkin played for over 15 teams during his long career in soccer, making over 500 combined appearances before he retired in 2019.
Playing as a striker, it would probably be an overestimate to call Parkin prolific at any point during his time at the top of the field, but he was a decent goal scorer in spells as shown by 190 career goals.
Parkin’s best time actually came right at the end of his playing career, with him moving from Newport County to beleaguered non-league side York City. In two years in the north of England, Parkin played just under 70 games and scored an impressive 36 goals.
While it may have been at a very low level, someone of Parkin’s age by that time does not usually register that many goals at any level.
9. Jeroen Verhoeven
Next up is the first goalkeeper to feature on our list and I highly doubt that you’ve ever heard of him (I certainly hadn’t before I performed the research for this piece).
Dutch keeper Jeroen Verhoeven played for a number of different teams in the Netherlands during his career but was most well-known for his long spell at FC Volendam who now plays in the Dutch top division, the Eredivisie.
Verhoeven’s top displays with Volendam earned him a high-profile move to Ajax in 2009, with the big man arriving as the third choice for the Amsterdam-based club.
Despite only making four appearances, Verhoeven spent three seasons in the Dutch capital before eventually departing in search of first-team soccer.
Verhoeven’s final year as a professional was back with his beloved Volendam, before he once again departed in favor of amateur-level side ASV De Dijk where he would retire from the game altogether in 2017.
8. Jan Molby
Danish midfielder Jan Molby is one of the few players on this list that made it at the highest level, with him appearing for a number of top clubs during his career.
Molby started out with his local club Kolding and was such a good leader that he was given the captaincy by the age of 18 which soon caught the attention of Ajax.
Molby later appeared for the Dutch giants 57 times over a two-year stay in Amsterdam, before making an even bigger move to Liverpool in 1984.
It was with the reds that Molby made his legend as he helped the team to a number of trophies in the late 1980’s and early 90’s. His greatest day came in the FA Cup final in 1986, as Molby commanded the Liverpool midfield against their city rivals Everton to take the title.
The Dane stayed in the UK for the rest of his playing career, moving to Swansea in 1996 following loan spells with Barnsley and Norwich. Molby retired in 1998 and enjoyed a short career in management that ended with Kidderminster Harriers in 2004.
7. Neville Southall
Up next is another goalkeeper that made it at the very top of the game, Neville Southall was one of the finest players to pull on the national jersey of Wales and remains the best goalkeeper to have featured for the small British nation.
It’s fair to say that Southall has been around the block when it comes to the teams that he played for during his career. In the early 1970s, Southall began his playing career with his hometown club Llandudno FC before moving to the slightly larger Bangor City in 1974.
After featuring for a few more lower-league teams in Wales and England, Southall eventually moved to Everton where he soon became a fan favorite.
The Welsh keeper remained on Merseyside for the majority of his career, making over 500 appearances for Everton, and is now firmly remembered by fans of the ‘Toffees’. Following this, Southall went back to moving teams regularly and featured for a total of 14 more teams before eventually retiring in 2002.
6. Wayne Shaw
Anyone familiar with the chant ‘who ate all the pies’ that is often directed towards fatter players on rival teams will certainly have heard the story of Wayne Shaw before.
Once a prolific central forward in his younger days, Shaw looked set to be a powerhouse of the lower leagues before changing roles into a goalkeeper.
Shaw took the phrase ‘filling the goal’ to new levels as his wide frame helped him become a beloved player to non-league fans in England.
It was during his time with Sutton United that he became an international phenomenon though, while sat on the bench in an FA Cup tie against Arsenal Shaw was caught eating a pie on the touchline by the television cameras much to fans delight the world over.
As it conspired, Shaw was wagered by a betting company to perform the act during the game in order to make a scene. Shaw was later banned from the sport as a result of the circus act following a 27-year career.
5. William ‘Fatty’ Foulkes
Possibly the first soccer player to be remembered purely on the fact that he was fat is William ‘Fatty’ Foulkes, a goalkeeper that played in England during the late 1800s and early 1900s. It is widely reported that Foulkes once started a game of association football weighing as much as 153 Kg.
Foulkes began his career playing for a number of amateur clubs before being scouted by then-soccer giants Sheffield United, where he is regarded as a club legend.
Foulkes was ridiculed by rival players and fans for his enormous frame but in a time where agility and dietary requirements weren’t a thing, it is hardly a surprise that he flourished against poorer opponents.
Foulkes went on to make nearly 300 appearances for the Yorkshire-based club before moving to Chelsea and later Bradford City in the latter years of his career. Despite never quite making it at the international level, Foulkes did get one England cap in 1897.
4. Tomas Brolin
A rather sad story of a player with near-endless talent that was later plagued with injuries and illnesses in the latter years of his career, Tomas Brolin was at one point one of the most feared opponents in world soccer.
Hailing from a small town in Sweden, Brolin was the original Swedish superstar who held the hopes of a nation on his shoulders. After spending the early part of his career at local teams in Sweden, Brolin’s talent attracted suitors elsewhere in Europe and he made the move Italian side Parma in 1990.
It was in Serie A that Brolin made his best performances, spending five years with Parma before departing for English giants Leeds in 1995. It was around this time that things started to go wrong for Brolin as he made just 14 appearances for the Yorkshire-based team.
Despite appearing for a host of clubs after leaving Leeds, Brolin never got back to his best and piled on the pounds before his retirement in 1998.
3. Adebayo Akinfenwa
For anyone that has ever played the iconic FIFA franchise on their console, you will almost certainly know about famous English striker Adebayo Akinfenwa.
Another player that spent the entirety of his senior career languishing in the lower divisions of English soccer, Akinfenwa was known for his power and strength which actually made him the highest-rated player in FIFA in terms of strength for many years before losing the title in 2022.
It is with AFC Wimbledon that Akinfenwa truly burst into the spotlight before he moved on to Wycombe Wanderers where he went on to make over 200 appearances and scored 52 goals during this time.
To some though, Akinfenwa was seen as a pretty rough-and-tumble kind of player that many rival fans hated to play against.
Akinfenwa was a master of the dark arts in the sense that he could get into the heads of his opponents and rattle them from the outset before scoring goals with a surprising level of ease against much faster opponents.
2. Steve McNulty
Yet another icon of the lower divisions in England, central defender Steve McNulty was one of the most dominant players in the football league during the best years of his career.
In the early days, many fans would underestimate McNulty, with many of them claiming he would be too slow and heavy to handle their agile strikers. They would soon learn to eat their words.
McNulty became a legend at a number of lower-league clubs, is known for his excellent reading of the game which meant he didn’t need to be faster than anyone else as he would already be in the right place at the right time.
McNulty is most highly regarded at both Luton Town and Tranmere Rovers as he helped guide both teams out of the non-league system in England.
Towards the end of his career, McNulty would leave Tranmere in favor of York City and have fallen into the depths of non-league. Despite not being able to guide them to promotion, McNulty still performed well during his time with the club.
1. Ronaldo (R9)
While the legendary ‘R9’ is not one of the fattest players to have played in terms of the actual weight of the man, he is certainly the most famous player to be considered fat in the modern game.
Now given the nickname ‘fat Ronaldo’ by some soccer fans, Ronaldo was unfortunate with injuries towards the end of his storied career that led to him piling on the pounds while out on the sidelines.
Ronaldo was one of the greatest players to have graced a soccer field during his best years, with many Brazilian fans still claiming he is the best player other than Pele to have played for the country.
In terms of his natural ability, there are few players in history that can match Ronaldo, perhaps only Messi and Maradona.
After retirement was when Ronaldo got truly fat though, with him no longer having to adhere to the strict dietary requirements of a professional soccer player.
It is somewhat sad seeing players get this large after leaving the game for good, but it must be said that Ronaldo is still talented whenever he touches a soccer ball.