World of Sport

Football’s most shocking players

World of Sport

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El Hadji Diouf's antics in a Blackburn shirt at the weekend have seen him vilified, with phrases such as "the most despicable footballer in Britain" being bandied around.

But is he really? We've gone through the archives to bring you some of the players from the past who'd give Diouf a run for his money.

You might hate them, or you might love them for their sheer pantomime villainy - and you may remain in awe of their footballing talents.

But you cannot deny that this rogues gallery contains football's worst ever bad boys.

We kick things off with the Blackburn star whose shocking outburst inspired us in the first place:

1. El-Hadji Diouf

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As QPR's Jamie Mackie lay writhing in agony at the weekend with a double leg break, Blackburn's Senegalese forward approached the striker to dish out some verbal abuse. "Even his team-mates were embarrassed by what he was saying," Mackie said afterwards, with QPR boss Neil Warnock adding, "I was going to call him a sewer rat - but that might be insulting to sewer rats."

It's not the first time that Diouf has caused controversy, however. His rap sheet includes not one but three fines for spitting, once at Celtic supporters, once at Portsmouth's Arjan de Zeeuw, and once - almost unbelievably - at an 11-year-old Middlesbrough fan. Add to that his unashamed admissions of having dived to win penalties and getting himself sent off intentionally, and you have one player you'd love to avoid getting stuck in a lift with.

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2. Roy Keane

Keano is just one of life's born charmers. Who can forget, for example, his early exit from Ireland's World Cup squad in 2002, when he gave manager Mick McCarthy the following sentimental, rosy-eyed message:  

"I didn't rate you as a player, I don't rate you as a manager, and I don't rate you as a person. You're a f****** w***** and you can stick your World Cup up your a***. The only reason I have any dealings with you is that somehow you are the manager of my country! You can stick it up your b******s."

But it was his clashes with Alf-Inge Haaland which showed him at his best. Keane had injured himself badly while tackling Haaland in 1997 (pictured), with the Norwegian rubbing salt in the wound - and the nine-month recuperation - by standing over the Irishman and shouting at him for feigning injury.

Keane, taking the old adage about revenge being 'a dish best served cold' to heart, waited four years before taking retribution, doing so with a knee-high challenge that saw him sent off instantly.

Writing in his autobiography, Keane was almost gleeful in his description of the revenge.

"I'd waited long enough. I f****** hit him hard. My attitude was, f*** him. What goes around comes around. He got his just rewards. He f***** me over and my attitude is an eye for an eye."

Haaland retired through an unrelated injury the year after.

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3. Rivaldo

Footballers perform intentional fouls in World Cup play all the time. Take Luis Suarez's cynical handball on the line to help his side into the World Cup semi-finals last year, for example, or Diego Maradona handballing England out at the same stage of the World Cup back in 1986.

Yet somehow, for all but the victims of the crime, it is easier to forgive ultra-competitive players for straying over the line of decency in the heat of battle when the stakes are so high at the knockout stages.

There can be no such excuse for the despicable behaviour of Brazilian star Rivaldo in 2002. Brazil had already come from a goal behind to avoid the prospect of a shock defeat by Turkey in their opening match. Perhaps still frustrated at the late penalty that had put Brazil 2-1 ahead, Hakan Unsal kicked the ball straight at the Brazilian as he waited to take an injury time corner. The ball hit Rivaldo on the leg - but he fell to the turf holding his face as if he'd been picked out by a sniper on the stadium roof. Korean ref Kim Young Joo sent the Turk off - and Rivaldo was unapologetic despite later receiving a hefty fine from FIFA: "I am not sorry about anything," he said. "Obviously the ball didn't hit me in the face, but I was still the victim."

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4. Billy Bremner

Chelsea's legendary Ron 'Chopper' Harris might be more famous, but Billy Bremner gets the nod for leading the side reputed to be the dirtiest team ever: Don Revie's Leeds in the 1960s and 70s.

Bremner played for Leeds from 1959 to 1976, and was the skipper of the famous title-winning sides of 1969 and 1974 and a superb player. But when it came to playing dirty football, he led from the front.  Along with fellow hard nuts such as Norman Hunter, Bremner turned Leeds into a sort of footballing Rottweiler: ferocious and unbeatable, giving them a distinct advantage even before they walked on the pitch.

Such was his fiery nature that he once rounded angrily on a Brazil player who tapped him on the shoulder at the end of an international match - and was mortified later when told that his opponent had actually been complimenting him on his play.

Because for all his reputation, you should never forget Bremner's skill - he is perhaps Leeds' greatest ever player. As Alf Ramsey once told him: "You're a dirty little so-and-so, but you can play."

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Photo 1 - Newcastle United's English Midfielder Joey Barton Celebrates AFP/Getty Images
5. Joey Barton

Newcastle's current vintage play with the sort of dash and flair that gets even neutral fans behind them, and resurgent midfield star Barton has been at the heart of their impressive displays.

With all the glowing reports about his on-pitch displays, he still seems only seconds from controversy - but his recent antics pale by comparison with his former rap-sheet.

Namely: stubbing out a cigar in team-mate Jamie Tandy's eye at the Manchester City Christmas party; assaulting City team-mate Ousmane Dabo so violently that he had to be hospitalised; getting into a fight with a 15-year-old fan on a pre-season tour of Thailand; and being given a six-month jail term for assault and affray following a late-night incident in McDonalds.

Oh, and he was also investigated by police for mooning Everton fans during a match at Goodison Park. Hey, he might not be classy - but he's never dull.

Honourable mentions:

William Gallas - for allegedly threatening to score an own-goal on purpose in order to force his sale by Chelsea

Zinedine Zidane - for losing his rag and headbutting Marco Materazzi in the World Cup final at the exact moment his country needed him the most

Thierry Henry - for handballing Ireland out of the World Cup play-offs in November 2008

Eric Cantona - for kung-fu kicking a Crystal Palace fan

Cristiano Ronaldo - for inciting the referee to send off Manchester United team-mate Wayne Rooney during the 2006 World Cup - then winking at the bench to share his joy that the tactic had worked

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