5 Famous Soccer Players With PhDs (Doctorate Degrees) 

Gary Neville soccer players with PhD
Image: Nick Harrison

Soccer is a sport that requires physical and mental abilities to excel.

While many players focus solely on their athletic skills, some have pursued higher education and earned advanced degrees, including PhDs. 

Doctors of Philosophy, or Doctorates as they are simply called, is the highest level of academic achievement awarded by a university to anyone in a field of formal learning. 

Most PhDs are awarded for outstanding work and research in a field of study, while some others are given honorary doctorates for outstanding work in the community or society as a whole.

Today, this post will profile the soccer players with PhDs, highlighting some of the notable players who have achieved this impressive feat.

1. Sócrates 

Sócrates footballers who were doctors

The late Brazilian soccer legend is, without a doubt, one of the most naturally gifted and intelligent players ever to have played the beautiful game.

He is regarded as one of the greatest soccer players of all time.

Sócrates, as he was simply called, was not just your run-of-the-mill footballer.

The 1982 and 1986 World Cup star was an accomplished medical doctor.

Sócrates held a bachelor’s degree in medicine from the University of São Paulo, which is rare for someone in his profession.

He obtained this degree while simultaneously playing soccer. He is one of the few soccer players who were doctors.

After retiring from soccer, he practiced medicine in Ribeirão Preto.

Apart from getting a degree in medicine, he also acquired a Ph.D. in the same medical field later on in his life after retirement. 

2. Felix Owolabi

Felix Owolabi
Felix Owolabi. Nigeria African Cup of Nations – Final – Nigeria v Algeria 22-03-1980 . (Photo by Peter Robinson/PA Images via Getty Images)

Felix Owolabi is a retired Nigerian professional footballer who featured prominently for the senior national team in the 1970s and early 1980s.

He primarily played as a left winger and was part of the Nigerian team that won the African Cup of Nations in 1980 and finished third place in the 1978 edition.

Apart from being a good soccer player, Felix was also keenly interested in furthering his academic studies. 

He was later able to obtain his first degrees and even went as far as getting a Ph.D. in Physical Education from the University of Ibadan, Nigeria.

3. Marcus Rashford

Marcus Rashford soccer players with a PhD
(Photo by Tom Purslow/Manchester United via Getty Images)

Marcus Rashford is a popular soccer player who plays as a forward for Manchester United and the England national team. 

He is regarded as one of the brightest soccer talents in England; however, he is among the soccer players with a Ph.D.

The forward is renowned for his charitable work around causes that focus on Child Education and Nutrition.

Off the pitch, Rashford has been an outspoken advocate for social justice and has used his platform to campaign for issues such as child poverty and hunger in the UK.

He has also established the Marcus Rashford Foundation, which aims to provide support and opportunities to disadvantaged young people in the UK. 

Rashford also gained special recognition for his outspokenness and advocacy that made the British government implement a policy to cater to the feeding and care of disadvantaged children within Britain during the COVID-19-enforced lockdown period in 2020.

His activism has earned him widespread praise and recognition, including being awarded an MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire).

At the age of just 23, he received a Doctorate Degree from the University of Manchester in recognition of his exceptional philanthropic efforts, publicized campaign against child poverty outside of soccer, and remarkable sporting accomplishments on the field.

4. Vincent Kompany

Vincent Kompany soccer players who want to college
(Photo by Ashley Allen/Getty Images)

Vincent Kompany is a former professional footballer from Belgium who is widely regarded as one of the best defenders of his generation.

He spent most of his career playing for Manchester City in the English Premier League, 

Kompany was also a stalwart of the Belgium national team, earning 89 caps and captaining the team to third place in the 2018 FIFA World Cup. 

The Manchester City legend is blessed with a cerebral mind not just for football but for the academic world as well.

He is one of the top soccer players who went to college.

In 2017, the former Belgian international Vincent Kompany graduated from Alliance Manchester Business School with a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA).

Then in 2019, Vincent Kompany was awarded an honorary doctorate by The University of Manchester.

5. Gary Neville 

Gary Neville soccer players with PhD
Image: Nick Harrison

With a total of 20 trophies, including eight Premier League titles and two Champions League titles, Gary Neville has earned himself a place among the most successful English and European footballers of all time.

He was a one-club man who played as a right-back for Manchester United.

Following his retirement from football in 2011, Neville ventured into punditry, working as a commentator for Sky Sports before taking on the role of head coach at Valencia in 2015.

Although he was dismissed by the club the following year, he resumed his position as a pundit at Sky Sports later in 2016.

Additionally, he served as an assistant manager for the England national team from 2012 to 2016.

In July 2014, Gary Neville was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Salford for sustainability work.

The University of Salford conferred him a Ph.D. for his work promoting the importance of sustainability in the sports and property development industries.


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