It’s 21 years to the day that Patrick Vieira passed the ball to Ryan Giggs in the middle of the Villa Park pitch and the Welsh Wizard dazzled the Arsenal defence like they were the spouse of a close relative before smashing home a dramatic extra-time winner that would launch Man United on their way to a historic treble that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer still can’t quite shut up about.
Almost as famous as the goal itself is the usually taciturn winger’s chest-baring celebration, where the baby-faced forward revealed himself to be all man beneath the United shirt.
Or part-man, part-yeti, to be more precise.
But how does his hirsute reveal weigh up against some of the all-time hairiest hombres to grace the field of professional football?
Using the most sophisticated technology known to planet earth – the human mind – we’ve weighed up Giggsy’s claim against the furriest footballers we could think of.
And Joe Allen too, cos, well, he’s Welsh too and still looks weird with all that hair.
Joe Allen (Wales)
One season you’re just regular Joe Allen, the Welsh Xavi whose mum would struggle to pick out of a line-up, and then you come back for preseason training looking like Carlito Brigante. It’s an impressive transformation, but what was he doing in the years before this make-over we have to ask? Does this overnight conversion really measure up to the years honing his tufty shoulders by Allen’s fellow countryman? Does it f**k.
Winner: Much like Welsh friendlies, Giggs barely needs to turn up. Landslide for Ryan
Mile Jedinak (Australia)
An exponent of the ‘clean-cut hair counter-balanced by massive shovel of beard’, the Aussie makes a game effort in the face of the Welshman’s curly torso carpet, but it’s hardly a contest despite the admittedly striking facial foliage.
Winner: Beard, schmeard. Giggs all day
Trifon Ivanov (Bulgaria)
The now sadly departed heart-and-soul of Bulgaria’s 1994 World Cup semi-final side, Ivanov’s hair fare combined both scruffy beard with a mullet the Tiger King would be proud of, and is a worthy challenger to Giggsy’s fuzzy chest, but falls short for the lack of full, bold, Elvis-like sideburns to complete the absolutely stone mad look.
Winner: Giggs, owing to impressive sideburn dedication
Gabriel Batistuta (Argentina)
Batigol was known for two things throughout his career: unparalleled goalscoring in the world’s most defensive league, and originating the “Rachel” haircut later popularised by Jennifer Aniston in Friends. As with the Fiorentina teams of his peak, he loses out once again here, on the basis that he never fully committed to the beard.
Winner: Giggs for consistent five-o-clock shadow stubble rather than irregular beardy flirtations
A strong look, the Brazilian was noted for his free-thinking ways and outspoken views and this manifested in his flowing locks and beard as a central figure in Brazil’s famed 1982 World Cup team. There is an apocryphal story which states that the midfield maestro collected a GAA medal while studying to be a doctor at Trinity College in Dublin, which is ironic because this look would not appear out-of-place at a gaeilc games venue in any time or place.
Winner Giggs, by a whisker
— When Football Was Better (@FootballInT80s) June 4, 2014
Kevin Keegan (England)
The toughest contest so far, Keegan, by sheer volume of hair generated through his trademark perm, has the United hero on the back foot early, but the fatal flaw in the Englishman’s gameplan – he is 100% body hair-free from the neck down, as evidenced in his advertising work from his peak-hair career era – costs him dearly in the final analysis.
Winner: Giggs, following a stewards inquiry of Keegan’s waxed backside
Paul Breitner (Germany)
A clear challenger for hairiest footballer to have ever lived, Breitner’s batshit barnet efforts excelled at a time – the seventies and early eighties – when even the most bog-standard footballer had a hair-do you could sculpt a flock of flamingoes from if you made the effort. Lining out for Bayern, Madrid and Germany, the full-back/midfielder showed top-class hairy-ness rivalled only by certain breeds of dog and Chewbacca in the Star Wars movies, who he is said to have partially inspired
Winner: Breitner, AET (After Eyebrow-Plucking Time)
Carlos Valderrama (Colombia)
Few have become as iconic for their mops as they are for their footballing chops, but Carlos Valderrama was not only one of the classiest midfield operators you could ever hope to see, he was also a force of nature in football’s countdown of coiffures. Many have imitated, but none have come close to topping the blonde ringlets of the Colombian playmaker – and even if they did, there was always the matching moustache to which there was no answer.
Winner: Body hair can only take you so far. Valderrama, always