The Power of looks (beauty) in player quality and Exposure (Marketability) in modern football
I don’t know if this sounds strange but I am fully convinced that footballers considered ‘handsome’ by the public are usually rated higher than those who aren‘t because boys rather see them as role models and copy their styles thus their footballing ability is also rated more.
I think there’s definitely an aesthetic aspect to who people rate as footballers. I don’t think it’s always the case but I think there’s a lot of players looked at unfavorably because they are “ugly”. In terms of marketability, obviously good-looking people will have more exposure in commercials and have more fanboys. Never forget the RM official who turned down Ronaldinho because he was “too ugly”.
Ribery would have been considered way better if he had the looks of Dybala for example. That’s Dybala winning a World Cup with his only shot on target being the penalty in the shootouts. He has that back street boys look that gained him millions of followers, especially amongst teenage girls etc.
I think It’s a psychological trend that we tend to assume that attractiveness = moral/overall “goodness” so it’s not a stretch to say we do the same when rating athletes. Especially since we also correlate attractiveness with physical health. If Joao Felix looked like Sadio Mané he wouldn’t get half the hype. Not taking away any ability from Joao Felix and not saying Sadio Mané is not handsome but you know know what I mean.
Young good looking/handsome and charismatic footballers have the hype potential of being the poster boys. Football marketing makes it easy for them (without discrediting their talent though), players like Joao Felix won’t be considered as footballers in the 2000’s this early at their age.
Back in the early 2000’s before the 2010’s, I remember just Beckham and Kaka’ being the only notable poster figures respectively. But the Zidane and Ronaldinho had one job; play football. The trend peaked with the 2010’s generation with the Neymar hype from Santos at 17, who was already a global icon with marketable attributes. We have the 2020 generations with more of it too now with the Musialas, Bellingham, Pedri, Gavi etc.
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