15 Great Soccer Players Who Were Terrible Human Beings
Playing football at the highest level is a balancing act that only the best of the best can truly master. Trying to stay at the pinnacle is not an easy task to accomplish, but when it’s done right, it is a truly masterful feat to behold.
Watching your favorite footballers create a wonderful goal from nothing, lift a golden trophy for your team or conjure a universal moment of magic that takes your breath away, makes you appreciate the finer things in the beautiful game so much more than you might normally do.
However, it can also swing the other way as soccer players who behave badly bring the game into serious disrepute – indeed, it’s very often the minority, a select few, who manage to muddy the clean waters of the sport with some truly awful antics and acts of atrocious horror.
Here, we will look at some football icons who somehow managed to drift away from the path of righteousness, calm and brilliance that is supposed to make up the simplicity of the game to wind up veering into lanes of serious anger, misdirected energy and very unwise, dangerous decisions that often put themselves and others in harm’s way.
Real Madrid’s Pepe is one of the most despised figures in the global game – and he’s not just the target of Barcelona fans, either. No, the Los Blancos defender has managed to make enemies outside the El Clasico derby with some reprehensibly violent behaviour against some other top clubs – none less so than Getafe.
The Brazilian defender was once handed a seriously hefty 10-match ban after going on an outrageous rampage against a couple of the Azulones players. Back in 2009, he conceded an 87th-minute penalty after pushing an opponent to the ground, kicking him as he did so before also striking another in the face. The club attempted to appeal the ban, but their protests were turned down. It was the sort of behaviour you’d expect from a petulant child. Moreover, his sickening tendency to playact and confuse cheating with cynicism just makes him a difficult player to like.
- VINNIE JONES
The hard-hitting mean man of British football rose to fame as part of Wimbledon’s memorable “Crazy Gang” who won the FA Cup in 1988 after a meteoric rise from non-league football. A lot of pundits liked his no-nonsense style, his ability to deliver a crunching tackle when it was needed and the way he gave his all, and more, to the cause. However, there have been times he allowed his mad streak to get the better of him away from the confines of the pitch.
Most shockingly, back in 2003, he was sentenced to only 80 hours of community service after going on a drunken rampage on board a plane, terrorizing and threatening to murder the entire crew. According to witnesses at the time, he yelled ‘Go and pour the fing coffee like you are paid to. I can get you murdered, I can get the whole crew murdered for £3,000.’ Despicable behaviour indeed.
- ERIC CANTONA
An idol among the hefty Old Trafford annals, Eric Cantona was also quite revered during his stay with Leeds United at Elland Road. A Manchester United legend, Cantona had it all – arguably the first great foreign import to the Premier League, he had the charisma, the character and, most importantly of all, the audacious skill to back it all up.
Alas, the French star, who came to be known as Le Roi by his admirers, had an unstable element to his character and he allowed it to overwhelm him at Selhurst Park in January 1995 when he produced a heinous kung-fu attack on a defenceless spectator, Matthew Simmons, in the stands apparently for a torrent of abuse directed his way. After appealing a two-week prison sentence, Cantona was instead ordered to do 120 hours community service and was fined £30,000 by the club. It remains one of the most shocking events in British football.
- TONY ADAMS
Tony Adams is one of the most revered figures in the history of Arsenal football club. After all, the retired defender won a huge amount during his time with the north London club. In all, he claimed four English top-flight titles, three FA Cups and six other titles including the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup. An outstanding talent, his defensive contributions and leadership skills have meant he is often listed as a beacon of inspiration to so many and fans still regularly list him as one of their all-time favourite pros.
However, he is just a human being after all and he experienced an unfortunate slip-up back in December 1990 after he was jailed for four months after being caught drink-driving four times over the legal limit. It was a regrettable error, but one he has recovered well from ever since – he even received an MBE years later.