Here’s a list of the bad boys of football, who are loved and hated in equal measure, or in case of some, just hated. We look at top 5 pantomime villains of modern football.
1. Pepe (Real Madrid)
Pepe has calmed down in the last few years but his infamous 2009 incident when Real Madrid were playing Getafe cemented his position as one of the most hated footballers in the modern era. The Portuguese defender, signed from FC Porto, pushed Javi Casquero to the ground and followed it up by kicking him. He would also lose his cool with anyone playing the role of peacemaker and later admitted, “I didn’t recognise myself at that moment. I lost control for a few minutes.”
One look at the video of the incident below and you’d understand right away why he said he lost control.
Winding-up ability– 3/5. Pepe gets himself wound up more than he winds others up. One look at the Getafe incident below confirms why attackers have to be scared when up against the ‘maniac’ that Pepe is.
2. Luis Suarez (FC Barcelona)
Barcelona superstar Luis Suarez has a history filled with accusations of racism, diving, cheating etc. He has bitten not one, not two, but three players on the pitch!
The Uruguay star first came into the limelight when he stopped Ghana’s winner from crossing the line in World Cup 2010. It is slightly strange as to how he could have become a villain there, considering that he was sent off after the incident, and couldn’t exactly be blamed for Asamoah Gyan missing the penalty that sent Ghana crashing out.
However, his susbequent actions cleared any doubts in the minds of people who were neutral about him following the incident. Suarez bit PSV midfielder Bakkal, was banned for racially abusing Patrice Evra, bit Ivanovic when playing for Liverpool FC against Chelsea FC in 2012-13 season before biting Chiellini again in the 2014 World Cup for which he had to pay a hefty ban.
Between those bans, he was constantly diving and remonstrating with the referee, making him one of the most hated footballers of modern times.
Wind-up ability 4/5. Defenders hate to play against him. Always buzzing, always on his toes, Suarez is a manager’s and fans’ dream and someone who the opponents players, managers and fans hate to see.
3. Marco Materazzi
The now retired former Italian international executed the most high profile wound-up of all time when he got Zinedine Zidane sent off in the 2006 World Cup final. It has never become clear as to what Materazzi said that brought about the headbutt from Zidane, but it was reported that it was something unpleasant about the Frenchman’s sister.
Years later, Materazzi opened up about the incident in 2014. He said: “It was the last thing I expected. Had I anticipated it and raised my hands, odds are we would both have been sent off. I have no idea what went through his mind. I do know that my conscience is clear. What I said wasn’t very nice perhaps, but it was no different from the trash talking that takes place at any level of football, from the schoolyard to, as we saw, the World Cup final. I’m sure he heard far worse many, many times.”
Wind-up ability: 5/5. Materazzi’s ability to wind up the great Zizou was arguably the biggest turning point of the final. And anything that wins a team the World Cup has to be rated highly, as is the ability of Materazzi to draw that kind of response from the characteristically calm Zidane.
4. Joey Barton (Burnley)
‘Welcome sweet and tender hooligan’, was the banner that the Marseille fans held to welcome Joey Barton at the French club at the start of the 2012-13 season. Such is his reputation.
The former City midfielder jabbed a cigar in the eye of a young teammate, Jamie Tandy and badly damaged Ousmane Dabo on the training ground. He loses his temper frequently on the pitch, and his rants on Twitter make one wonder if he thinks too much of himself as a footballer. He currently plays for Burnley, a city he criticized with gusto just last year.
Wind-up ability: 3/5. The English Pepe, might not be as out of control on the pitch, but more than makes up for it off it. He is known to irritate people on social media and wind up teammates on the training ground. But he could take a cue from Luis Suarez or Marco Materazzi and at least channel his angst in the right direction, if at all that can be called ‘right’.
5. Diego Costa (Chelsea FC)
The list would not be complete without football world’s most recent favourite pantomime villain. Diego Costa has changed his national team after having played in a friendly for them. He dives, elbows, feigns, gestures for cards and looks quite like a villain too.
His former manager at Real Valladolid, Jose Luis Mendilibar, described Costa as someone having a mala leche about him, which is Spanish for “bad milk”.
His antics since moving to the Premier League includes stamping on Emre Can, taunting Seamus Coleman after scoring a goal, and the latest act against Arsenal FC which earned him a three-game ban when he got Gabriel sent off.