Former French football team goalkeeper Fabien Barthez gets ready to take the start of the Porsche Carrera Cup on the Nogaro ring, southwestern France on March 23, 2008.  Barthez ended his football professionnal career last April with Nantes team.  AFP PHOTO LIONEL BONAVENTURE (Photo credit should read LIONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP/Getty Images)

Jack of All Trades: 9 Players Who Were Great at Other Sports

Football is easily one of the most popular sports in the world. Whether you play the game or just enjoy watching it, finding someone who is passionate about football is never a challenge.

Often the thrill of the competition is the driving factor behind a sport's popularity, meaning many fans enjoy the competitiveness of other sports. Professional footballers are no different. 

Whilst their playing career is dominated by football, players have the chance to indulge themselves in another hobby once their career is over, or even before their football career has started. Here are nine footballers who did exactly that...

9. Bixente Lizarazu - Jiu-Jitsu

After his retirement in 2006, Lizarazu found himself missing the thrill of competition. The Frenchman tried many sports, such as surfing and the skeleton (he had aspirations of representing his country at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver), but eventually settled on Brazilian jiu-jisu.

His determination and competitive nature saw him take to the sport very quickly. The World Cup and European Championship winner began training in 2008, and had replicated his successes in jiu-jitsu only one year later.

In what was his first competitive setting, Lizarazu shone at the 2009 European Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Open, winning the entire competition and becoming European champion. He has continued his training and was awarded him black belt in 2016 at the age of 46.

8. Lev Yashin - Ice Hockey

The only goalkeeper to ever be awarded the Ballon d'Or, Yashin's ability in goal was sublime, keeping over 270 clean sheets in his career.

When he was a young player at Dynamo Moscow, he also played in goal for the club's ice hockey side, often crediting the sport for his quick reflexes. He was very successful in ice hockey, winning the USSR Cup in 1953.

Yashin was close to being called up for the national team, but Dynamo Moscow promoted him to their first team in 1953 after Valter Sanaya left the club. He went on to become one of the greatest goalkeepers in the history of the sport, justifying his decision to choose football.

7. Tim Wiese - WWE

At 6'4, Wiese always looked physically imposing. However, towards the end of his career, he began bodybuilding, but it could be argued that he became obsessed. He added a huge amount of muscle and was eventually deemed unsuitable for football, as he would not be fast enough.

After being released in 2014, Wiese was offered a deal to train with World Wrestling Entertainment and began work at the WWE's development centre in 2016. He was afforded his wrestling debut later that year during a live event in Munich, in which he was on the winning side of a tag team match.

He quickly signed a contract with German minnows SSV Dillingen to return to football, and hinted that he may be looking for a permanent return to football.

6. Gabriel Batistuta - Polo

One of the most prolific strikers in the history of the Serie A, as well as the Argentinian national team, Batistuta eventually hung up his boots in 2005 after an illustrious career.

He took up polo after his footballing days were over, training with the number one ranked polo player in the world, Adolfo Cambiaso. He took to the sport well, and his passion grew. He currently owns a polo team in Argentina called La Gloria Polo.

His body suffered greatly as a result of his footballing days, with his knees and ankles failing him later in life, and he was forced to quit polo as a result of his mobility issues.

5. Phil Neville - Cricket

Phil Neville was always surrounded by sport as a child. His mother Jill - General Manager of Bury FC - played netball when she was younger, whilst his twin sister has also played and coached netball professionally. Neville always played football, but was a keen cricketer during his school days.

He played cricket for Lancashire's second XI and was also the captain of England's Under-15 side. He played alongside cricketing legend Andrew Flintoff.

However, Manchester United came calling for Neville, who was unable to resist their allure. He is still very passionate about cricket and has frequently said that he plans to return to cricket in the future, professionally or otherwise.

4. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain - Cricket & Rugby

Oxlade-Chamberlain was picked up by Southampton's academy at the age of seven, but things almost turned out very differently for him.

He attended St. John's College in Portsmouth on a sports scholarship, where he played rugby and cricket. He admitted in an interview with The Sun that he would have accepted a trial for London Irish, if he had not already been committed to Southampton.

"My senior school didn't play football. It was a rugby and cricket school and as I was on a sports scholarship, I was forced to play rugby. I played scrum-half or full-back and I was all right at it. I got a trial for London Irish but couldn't do it because Southampton wouldn't let me."

He was also offered trials with Hampshire Cricket Club, but again declined because of his footballing aspirations.

3. Leon McKenzie - Boxing

The former Norwich and Crystal Palace striker retired from the game in 2013, and has been very outspoken about his struggles with mental health issues. He admitted to attempting to commit suicide whilst playing for Charlton.

Following his suicide attempt, his father, former boxing champion Clinton McKenzie, encouraged him to join in at his boxing club. He trained Leon in the sport soon after his retirement from football. 

He won his first professional fight and managed to win a championship in 2015. He managed to win eight fights during his career, but lost his final two before retiring in 2017. He still continues to work for mental health causes, hoping to inspire sufferers. 

2. Ilhan Mansiz - Figure Skating

Mansiz was part of the Turkish side who made it to the semi final of the 2002 World Cup (in which Mansiz performed a rainbow flick over Roberto Carlos), and was prolific in Turkish football. However, he was involved in a car crash in 2007 which severly damaged his knee. He underwent seven surgeries to try return to football, but was physically unable to take the strain.

After his career was brought to an abrupt end, he learned to ice skate alongside his girlfriend, who is a professional skater, for a Turkish television show. The pair won the show, and Mansiz aspired to represent Turkey at the 2014 European Championships and the Winter Olympics.

However, qualification did not go to plan, as Mansiz and his girlfriend finished last in qualification. Nonetheless, he continues to compete in figure skating.

1. Fabien Barthez - Motorsport

The former Monaco and Manchester United goalkeeper enjoyed a very successful career, amassing a huge amount of trophies for both club and country. He officially retired from football in 2007, and decided to pursue a career in his second major passion, motorsport.

He began competing in 2008, racing at a handful of events in France. He performed admirably and continued to train, eventually being crowned French GT Champion in 2013 after finally managing to win.

He set up his own racing team in 2016 called Panis Barthez Competition alongside former driver Olivier Panis, and still continues to be very active in the sport. He competes regularly and is often one of the stronger racers.