Football

Europe's worst disciplinary records

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Sanchez (left) has 14 yellow cards this term (©GettyImages)
Sanchez (left) has 14 yellow cards this term (©GettyImages).

La Liga may be able to boast about the fact that it possesses some of the best players in the world, but it's also home to some of the dirtiest players in Europe.

Because Spanish clubs have some of the worst disciplinary records on the continent this season. No less than seven of this top 10 hail from La Liga, with the top two - Espanyol and Valencia - into a different league altogether, at least when it comes to disciplinary records.

Ever watched a match in Spain and thought "this referee's a bit card happy"? Well, the stats support that eye test conclusion as La Liga teams dominant the top 10.

Serie 'A' has three entrants, but such is the Spanish-Italian dominance that no Premier League, Bundesliga or Ligue 1 side feature.

In fact, you have to go as far down as the 36th team in Europe to find a club from Germany - VfB Stuttgart with 60 yellow cards and five reds. 

At number 38 Ajaccio of Ligue 1 register the first piece of French interest, while you must go all the way down to number 42 to find a Premier League team - Aston Villa with 64 yellows and 2 reds.

So much for visions of a red-faced Andy Wilkinson barrelling into your £15m striker while Tony Pulis pops a blood vessel on the sideline. It seems the real nasty stuff goes on abroad. 

On a side note, Stoke have the second worst record in the Premier League (58 yellows, three reds), but more on the English top flight later.

A significant portion of the difference can be attributed to differing refereeing styles. The most obvious example being that a handball offence in Spain is a straight yellow card, regardless of circumstance.

As becomes evident watching Champions League football, interpretation across Europe varies widely.

Case in point would be Nani's sending off against Real Madrid at Old Trafford earlier this month.

In the Premier League that would rarely be a red card. A yellow certainly, but rarely a red. Two decisions in one match earlier this season between West Ham and Everton saw two red cards for similar incidents later rescinded.

But abroad, whether in La Liga or Ligue 1, it would not be a surprise to see such a decision. The laws of the game are open to subtle interpretations, the consequences of which are clear to see in this table.

In Italy and Spain in particular, the game is refereed in a completely different style to Germany or England. 

That contributes to wild variations in the number of yellow and red cards between the leagues.

Top of the pile across Europe's top five leagues is Espanyol. The Spanish club have received a massive 109 yellow cards and eight reds. And the Barcelona-based team have four players with at least 10 yellows in league games only - Victor Sanchez their worst offender with 14 so far this term.

Incidentally, 14 is the highest total for any one player so far this season, a figure also reached by Benat of Betis, Damia of Osasuna and Daniele Conti of Cagliari.

In second place Valencia, with 97 yellows and seven reds, give Espanyol a run for their money. Hotshot Spain striker and club top scorer Roberto Soldado is the dirtiest player here with nine yellow cards - but he's also scored 14 goals.

It's certainly the case that the old adage "that's a striker's tackle" rings true in southern Spain, as Jonas, Valencia's other main forward, has three bookings, Nelson Valdez has four and Sofiane Feghouli has five.

The first Serie 'A' entrant comes in at number 3. Atalanta, currently in 16th place in the league and hovering eight points above the relegation zone, have been plagued by disciplinary problems, receiving a shocking 10 red cards this season.

Two of the team's players, Carlos Carmona and Federico Peluso have two reds each. Carmona also has eight yellows - naughty boy.

Atalanta have handed starts to 30 different players in Serie 'A' this season - 23 have at least one booking.

Anyway, you came here for a quick glance at the top 10, and here you go - the top 10 European teams with the worst disciplinary records…

10. Getafe | La Liga | 83 yellows - 6 reds | Worst offender - Alexis 

9. Osasuna | La Liga | 82 yellows - 7 reds | Worst offender - Damia

8. Real Betis | La Liga | 85 yellows - 6 reds | Worst offender - Benat

7. Pescara | Serie 'A' | 82 yellows - 8 reds | Worst offender - Damiano Zanon

6. Cagliari | Serie 'A' |  83 yellows - 8 reds | Worst offender - Daniele Conti

5. Rayo Vallecano | La Liga | 99 yellows - 4 reds | Worst offender - Javi Fuego

4. Zaragoza | La Liga | 86 yellows - 9 reds | Worst offender - Cristian Sapunaru

3. Atalanta | Serie 'A' | 86 yellows - 10 reds | Worst offender - Carlos Carmona

2. Valencia | La Liga | 97 yellows - 7 reds | Worst offender - Roberto Soldado

1. Espanyol | La Liga | 109 yellows - 8 reds | Worst offender - Victor Sanchez

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