I’ve been meaning to do this for a while: compile an XI of football players who have appeared on the covers of video games. So after a bit of internet research here is my world-beating line-up…
Erik Thorstvedt (Fifa 95)
Fifa 95 was the second installment in the now long running series. Aside from introducing an isometric point of view the FIFA series was also one of the first to feature box art with pictures of actual players, rather than simple illustrations. FIFA ’95 though still remains one of the only to have used a goalkeeper as the box cover star. Sadly there is also a cruel irony that by the time of the games release Thorstvedt was losing a the battle for his first team place to the up and coming Ian Walker before being forced into retirement by injury soon after in 1996 .
Marcel Desailly (Adidas Power Soccer ’98)
As with goalkeepers defenders are something of a rarity on video game covers, the simple reason being that more glamorous midfielders and strikers are the ones who shift more product. Therefore to get on the cover, a defender must be good, really good. Mercel Desailly was just such a player, and having been instrumental in France’s world cup win in 1998. Of course it also helped that Desailly was also sponsored by the games sponsors Adidas.
John Terry (Pro Evolution Soccer 5 – 2005)
Terry also makes the grade through being a top defender, though you sense his inclusion was only as the juxtaposing counterpoint to the much more commercial friendly striker Thierry Henry – I certainly can’t see Terry pondering the nature of va-va-voom appearing on a car advert any time soon.
Maya Yoshida (Fifa 14 – 2013)
With a game being sold around the world packaging is often adapted to carry more local appeal. For the Japanese version of Fifa 14 main cover star Lionel Messi was joined by two European based Japanese players; Southampton’s Maya Yoshida and captain of Japan’s international team Wolfsburg defensive midfielder Makoto Hasebe.
Mario Basler (Mario Basler presents: Fever Pitch Soccer – 1995/96)
Before Fifa and Pro Evo cornered the market it was common to see games endorsed by particular players, a video game tradition which had been used in other sports, with titles such as Arnold Palmer PGA golf, John Madden [American] Football or Mario Lemieux Hockey. Sold as Head-On Soccer in the US and simply Fever-Pitch Soccer in Australia and Europe the game received the addition of the endorsement of German international winger and 1995 Bundesliga top scorer Mario Basler to become Mario Basler presents: Fever Pitch Soccer.
Carlos Valderrama (International Super Star Soccer ’98)
Being one of the most recognisable midfielders in the game meant that Columbia’s Carlos Valderama was sure to end up on a box cover. His moment duly arrived with The North American release of International Super Star Soccer ’98 on the N64.
Ryan Giggs (Manchester United Premier League Champions – 1994)
Manchester United were a club who were ahead of the curve when it came to the merchandising game. Throughout the 1990s in conjunction with Krisalis Software they released several games Manchester United (1990) Manchester United Europe (1991) Manchester United Premier League Champions (1994) and Manchester United the Double and Manchester United championship Soccer (both 1995)
Ruud Gullit (Sensible Soccer – European Champions edition – 1992)
A tremendously important title back-in-the day. Before Sensi came along football games had been, to be charitable a bit rubbish. Balls were glued to players feet, passing was a nightmare and the graphics were terrible. Sensible Soccer had an independently moving ball, responsive controls and allowed the player via a a tug of the joystick to apply a wicked after touch. sensible software Fittingly the cover star was one of Europe’s top players the Dutch master Ruud Gullit.
Marko (Marko’s Magic Football 1994)
Playing just behind the front two I have Marko, who featured on the box of his own game of Marko’s magic football. Though this was a football game, it was in actual fact a platformer where Marko used his football skills to defeat all manner of bizarre enemies. Unsurprisingly the football-platformer wasn’t a concept which caught on and Marko disappeared into obscurity after the most fleeting of careers.
Romario & Dennis Bergkamp (Sensible World of Soccer – 1994)
Despite some early problems SWOS as it tends to be known gained a massive following. Building on it’s predecessor it perfected the top-down football game, just before it’s obsolescence at the hands of the isometric. Curiously the faces and kit-detail of the trio of players on the box cover have been blurred, possibly in an attempt to avoid paying image rights…. you can though just about make out among them Brazilian legend Romario and Holland’s Dennis Bergkamp.
Alex Ferguson (Alex Ferguson Player Manager 2001)
As popular as the football game is the management sim. The Player Manager series of games attempted to span both these sub-genres with a well developed football sim bolted onto a fairly detailed management sim and who better to put on the cover than Alex Ferguson?
Pierluigi Collina (Pro Evolution Soccer 3 – 2003)
Quite possibly the only ever referee to be featured Pierluigi Collina was, until his retirement, regarded as the best referee of his generation. An instantly recognisable figure due to a severe form of alopecia Collina has also appeared in adverts for Mastercard, Adidas and Vauxhall/Opel