Why always Marlboro? Mario Balotelli and football's most famous smokers

Roberto Mancini is fuming on account of Mario Balotelli's fumes. The Manchester City boss has admitted he wants to “kick his arse” on account of the striker's smoking habit.

“I don’t think he smokes a lot – maybe five or six a day," revealed Mancini. “I told him it’s better you don’t smoke. I’m against ­cigarettes, always. For this reason my son doesn’t smoke.

"It’s not okay but I’m not his father or his mother. If he was my son I would give him a kick up the arse but he’s not."

Quite. but Mario is not the only footballer in history who likes the odd puff. In fact, the Italian hitman in quite esteemed company, as MirrorFootball presents 10 other fag-loving footballers (in the smoking sense of course)...

1) Socrates
The legendary Brazilian captain and World Cup winner got through two packets a day during his playing career and continued to smoke after he retired. Somewhat appropriately, he's now a medical doctor.

2) Paul Gascoigne and Teddy Sheringham
In the run up to Euro 96 both Gazza and Sheri were spotted with tabs on the go. We suspect the reason why they weren't collared by the FA, or indeed the press, for this misdemeanour was because it occurred on the same night as the infamous dentist chair incident.

3) Robert Prosinecki
The former Croatia international was famous in his homeland for being a heavy smoker. He was as well known for his ability to chug away on more than 40 ciggies a day as he was for his midfield prowess. When he joined Portsmouth in 2001 word is that he cut down to 20 a day. Perhaps unsurprisingly, he lasted just one season at Fratton Park.

4) David Ginola
The French love a smoke - if it was an Olympic sport they'd be favourites for gold in 2012 - which is probably why ex-Spurs head-turner and shampoo hawker Ginola enjoyed the odd Gitanes during his playing career. Who says smoking isn't sexy?

5) Zinedine Zidane
Another Frenchie caught with a salmon between his lips was Zidane, who was snapped puffing away ahead of France's 2006 World Cup semi-final against Portugal. The thing is Zizou fronted an anti-smoking campaign in 2002. Doh!

6) Maradona
Maradona, one of the most prolific footballers in history, began to smoke after he retired from the game. He spent 10 days in intensive care in 2004 with breathing problems, which may or may not have been down to smoking. But probably was.

7) Johann Cruyff
Cruyff was smoking 20 cigarettes a day, prior to heart surgery in 1991, at a time when he was coaching Barcelona. He was also often seen lighting up in the RFK locker room as he talked to reporters. Nowadays, the legendary Dutchman fronts a campaign by the Health Department of the Catalan autonomous government against smoking. And to think, it only took him a double heart bypass to see the error of his ways.

8) Slaven Bilic
A couple of years back, Frank Lampard let slip that his former West Ham team-mate and current Croatia boss's pre-match routine involved sparking up. “He did have a few fags before games, he was a smoker at the time," said Lamps. "It didn’t effect Slaven’s performance when he played because he was a cult hero and a top player."

9) Fabien Barthez
The Frenchman was a high-profile smoker during his time in the Prem. After a game for Man United against Southampton in 2003, defeated manager Gordon Strachan was furious when he returned to his non-smoking office and found cigarettes stubbed out in an ashtray. It seemed that the injured Barthez had been in the room after being stretchered off in the second half. Strachan later quipped that he "must have been taken off for smoker's cough".

10) David James
The Portsmouth and England stopper confessed to a 15 year 20-a-day smoking habit in a newspaper column in 2008. "I spent most of my career puffing away on fags: after training, before matches and even on the team coach", he wrote.

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