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03rd May 2023

Stephen Ireland clarifies comments about getting the better of football legends

Robert Redmond

“I can’t then say Messi is the best player I played against because my experience in that game was that he wasn’t good.”

Stephen Ireland has clarified his comments about Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Paul Scholes.

The former Manchester City midfielder said in a video interview that he ‘always got the better’ of Lampard and Gerrard when he played against them in the Premier League. He also said that he was never intimidated playing against Paul Scholes.

Ireland has since clarified his comments by saying that he was speaking about his own experience of playing against these famous players.

The former Republic of Ireland midfielder also said that Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo didn’t excel in the games he played against them.

Stephen Ireland clarifies comments about football legends.

“There’s a lot of players I played with, names you’d expect to be good but they weren’t,” Ireland said in an interview with RH Elite Coaching.

“I’ve played against huge names and on the day they’ve never really got the better of me. I never played against someone and thought, ‘Wow, these are incredible.’

“Steven Gerrard for example, Frank Lampard, every time I played against them I’ve got the better of them, even though they’re incredible players.

“Paul Scholes, I’ve never had a game where I thought, ‘God, I’m out of my depth’, that was never the case.”

Video via RH Elite Coaching.

Ireland on facing Ronaldo and Messi.

Ireland, 36, was criticised on social media for the comments. The former Aston Villa midfielder, who hasn’t played since 2018 after a short spell with Bolton Wanderers, appeared on talkSPORT to clarify his comments.

Ireland stated that he was merely speaking about his own personal experience of facing these legendary players. He admitted that his own career compares unfavourably to the careers of Gerrard, Lampard and Scholes.

For context, Ireland played against Lampard 12 times and won two games. He faced Gerrard 11 times and never won a match, losing six times. He played against Scholes eight times and was on the winning side just once.

The former Stoke City midfielder, however, appeared to double down on his original point by speaking about playing against Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, two of the best footballers ever.

Ireland said that, again, he felt that neither footballer played well when he faced them.

“As a footballer and other footballers probably relate to this, but you get asked a question, don’t you, ‘Who was the best footballer you played against or played with?’ Ireland said on talkSPORT.

“Your experience is different to a fan, or someone who’s watching the game. I played for Man City against Barcelona in a pre-season friendly.

“Messi played, he wasn’t good, we won the game. I can’t then say Messi is the best player I played against because my experience in that game was that he wasn’t good.

“My point was that as much as these lads were unbelievable and legends of the game, and rightly so.

“But when I played against them personally, I never kind of got into the changing rooms afterwards, and thought, ‘Wow they were incredible, or they handed my a*** to me,” he continued.

“I always felt like I competed well enough with them at the moment in that game. Of course, at the stages of their careers, compared to mine, you can’t even compare! It’s day and night, of course.

“Hence why I said, Cesc Fabregas. Every time I played against him, very good. Eden Hazard, very, very good. So, that is my opinion based on that question.”

Ireland’s career.

Ireland started his career with Man City and was named the club’s player of the year for his performances in the 2008/09 season.

The midfielder left Man City for Aston Villa in 2010 before signing for Stoke in 2013.

After playing 70 times for the Potters across five seasons, the midfielder left on a free transfer and signed for Bolton Wanderers.

Ireland failed to make an appearance for Bolton and has not played professionally since.

He made six appearances for the Republic of Ireland, and scored four goals, but never played for his country again after 2007 following the well-documented ‘Granny Gate’ incident.

Read next: Stephen Ireland explains why his Ireland career ended after only six caps.

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