If you google ‘football’s chubbiest players’, it won’t be long before you stumble across a picture of Jan Molby.
It’s fair enough – big Jan was exactly that – but it’s also a shame because, despite his fluctuating weight, the Dane was a proper player. You don’t rack up nearly 300 games for Liverpool without being very, very good. And he was.
Captain of his hometown club Kolding IF at the tender age of 19, he was soon snapped up by Ajax, helping a team featuring legends such as Johan Cruyff and Marco van Basten to the Dutch Championship in 1983.
Reds manager Joe Fagan gave him a 10-day trial in August 1984 and a £225,000 deal was soon struck to make the move to Anfield permanent.
Molby was often the star of the show during Liverpool’s double-winning season of 1985/86, with 21 goals in 58 matches. In a tactical ploy devised by player-manager Kenny Dalglish, the Dane was often employed as a third central defender early on in a match before pushing further forward alongside Steve McMahon in midfield as the game progressed.
The campaign came to a glorious end with victory over Everton in the FA Cup final. Molby was involved in the build up to all of Liverpool's goals in a famous 3-1 win.
Liverpool celebrate their 3-1 win over Everton in 1985/86
Jan on the ball in the build up to one of Liverpool's goals
His qualities can't be condensed into numbers and statistics. He had a swagger that couldn’t be measured, a classy elegance that couldn't be quantified. Jan was a Rolls Royce, albeit one in need of a service and some fine tuning.
He may have spent most of his various injury rehabilitations in the boozer, and those famously baggy 90s shirts may have been stretched at the seams courtesy of his girth – but that was part of the reason we loved him. Jan was an everyman: the slightly overweight fella pulling the strings in the middle of the park to whom the slightly overweight fans on the terraces could relate.
Jan for Liverpool circa '96
He would remain on Merseyside for ten years – long enough for his Scandinavian accent to develop a decidedly Scouse tone – before taking over as player manager at Swansea at the age of just 32.
Molby’s top level playing career probably ended three or four years too soon – but the game was changing and there no longer seemed like there was room for a bloke who preferred a pint and a packet of pork scratchings to extra sessions in the gym.
It’s a shame, of course, but at least we got to enjoy a decade of vintage Jan – running the show on the pitch and living the life he wanted to live off it.
Words by Josh Warwick