Footballing superstar Antoine Griezmann has said that if he were gay, he would come out publicly.
But the Atletico Madrid striker, widely agreed to be one of the top five players in the world, said players may be too scared of “bad people in football” to do so.
Speaking to French publication El Pais, Griezmann was asked why football players did not come out as gay.
He responded by saying that “in football, it is not usual because we have to appear to be hard and the strong.
“And we are afraid of what they may say.
“I have nothing against it: I respect everyone,” he added, as reported by Mail Online.
The French international, whose worth has been estimated at a minimum of £85 million, was then questioned about whether he would come out if he were gay.
“There are many bad people in football,” he replied.
“And they may be afraid to go to the stadiums and get abused.
“I think I would,” he said, qualifying that by admitting: “It’s easier to say that when you do not have to go through it.”
Griezmann also said that while he had never been kissed by a teammate after scoring a goal, he would “do it in a year in which I won the World Cup or the Champions League.
“It depends on the happiness that you have.”
The question of why there are no gay footballers in the Premier League has grown more pressing in recent years, with authorities, toxic masculinity, a lack of role models and fans’ reactions all presented as contributing factors.
Since Justin Fashanu came out in 1990, there has been a dearth of footballers who have come out while playing in the UK.
Liam Davis became the first out gay male footballer to play at Wembley Stadium in May, and said “a lot of people” will come out after someone breaks the Premier League seal.
Earlier this year, Eddie Howe – who manages Premier League side Bournemouth – said he would sign a gay player without hesitation.
He reasoned that “the football and the footballer’s character are the things that define a career, not sexuality.”
And in March, Manchester United became the first sports team to partner with Stonewall, explaining that the club intended “to tackle LGBT issues in sport and society”.
But last month at Stonewall’s Rainbow Laces summit at Old Trafford, FA chairman Greg Clarke said men’s football in the UK was “probably a couple of decades” behind the women’s game in terms of LGBT representation.
And the lack of representation is also an issue in other European leagues.
There are no current out gay male footballers in any top leagues around the continent, with LA Galaxy midfielder Robbie Rogers in the US and Swedish second division player Anton Hysen the most prominent globally.