Could Usain Bolt Have a Second Career as a Pro Soccer Player?

Lead Photo: Usain Bolt poses with a United shirt prior to the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Fulham at Old Trafford.
Usain Bolt poses with a United shirt prior to the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Fulham at Old Trafford.
Read more

Is Usain Bolt set to replace Romelu Lukaku at Manchester United? Would Jose Mourinho double down? Probably not, but it is fun to imagine: the man who devours chicken nuggets spearheading the attack at Old Trafford. Bolt’s fascination with soccer is well-documented (as is his love of Chivas), and this time it is Burton Albion F.C. who are flirting with the Jamaican, albeit in what could just be a PR move.

If you’re asking yourself “Burton Who?” right about now, it appears the move is working. The Brewers, their nickname stemming from Burton Upon Trent’s brewing heritage dating back hundreds of years, ply their trade in the Championship, also known as the second tier of English soccer. At the weekend Burton were defeated 2-0 by Middlesborough.

“I’m sure we would (offer a trial) and that the manager would,” said Burton chairman Ben Robinson. “He’s quick, if nothing else! He’s done great for his sport athletics and if you look at Adam Gemili who was in the 4x100m relay he played football when he was younger.We would be very interested, obviously.”

Last Saturday, Bolt–the most captivating athlete of our time–sped away for one last time at the athletics world championships. He smiled, chasing gold and immortality but with little chest-slapping exuberance. His mission was simple: to crown Jamaica relay champions, trumping the much heralded American team, including the antagonist Justin Gatlin. It was not to be.

The superhero was aging. Those quicksilver feet creaked. His body creaked, all uptight and tense. His goatee grin was a grimace. His hamstring snapped. Bolt, the face of modern athletics, proved human after all. Not even the Jamaican could outrun Father Time.  His triple treble at the 2016 Rio Olympics proved to be his last ‘tour de force.’

At the age of thirty, Bolt is no longer a force of nature, but could he still succeed at kicking a soccer ball in the twilight of his sporting career–as a winger, or higher up the pitch as a number nine? He has the speed and velocity, but does he have the required skill set and endurance for 90 minutes at the highest level? Video footage suggests Bolt’s mastery of the beautiful game is at best average.

Perhaps Bolt’s manager summed up best the athlete’s predicament. “Can a sprinter who is 30-years-old play in the Bundesliga or the Premier League?” asked Ricky Simms. “Realistically that is a step too far. If he had six or nine months playing and training with a team then he could play at some level whether that is League One or League Two.”

While awaiting a trial that may never come from Burton, Bolt is already going to step out onto the field wearing the Manchester United red kit. In early September, he will line up alongside Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes in a legends match against FC Barcelona, an event to raise money for the Manchester United foundation. It may simply be a testimonial game, but it should at least offer a clue if the fastest man who has ever lived can cut it at Burton or any other club.