Former Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri’s unusual habit of chewing on an unlit cigarette butt on the touchline was widely reported during his tenure at Stamford Bridge. However, fans have spotted that he’s not the only Blues staff member to favour nicotine products.

Club legend and current academy coach Ashley Cole was recently snapped in the US ‘dipping’ from a small pouch of snus, a smokeless tobacco product. Snus is claimed by some experts to offer short-term benefits to alertness, as well as mental and physical toughness. It’s no surprise, therefore, that the Swedish product has slowly gained popularity amongst Premier League footballers and other professional athletes since being introduced to UK sports by Scandinavian players in the 1990s.

The product is consumed by placing it against the user’s upper lip and gums and absorbed directly into the bloodstream, with tobacco-free versions of snus also now on sale, including Zyn nicotine pouches. It is seen as a less harmful alternative to cigarettes and provides a level of convenience and discretion to professional sports stars that other tobacco products are unable to provide; for instance, in stadiums or training facilities, where smoking may carry negative social and health consequences.

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Cole was often seen lighting up throughout his playing career, and the former Chelsea, Derby and LA Galaxy defender joins a growing number of players switching cigarettes for smokeless alternatives. England forward Jamie Vardy is perhaps one of the highest-profile names known to consume snus, having switched to the product after smoking during his non-league days at Fleetwood. He was seen carrying around a tin of the stimulant while on duty for his country at the 2016 European Championships, and has claimed that it helps him “chill out”. The 33-year-old is also known to drink Red Bull as part of his pre-match ritual.

It’s thought that hundreds of other professional footballers, from the lofty heights of the Premier League all the way down to the bottom of the pyramid, favour snus, with Charlie Adam stating in 2018 that it is the “in thing”, and preferred across the Championship, League One, League Two and the Scottish leagues.