This season, Ashley Young has continued to attract headlines for the wrong reasons.
Against Real Sociedad the English winger has drawn more attention to his reputation as a diver, but who are the five other Premier League stars (past and present) who match his infamy for diving?
ITV4’s documentary told the £85million man’s uplifting tale of an honest, hardworking British lad who transformed himself from Tottenham’s reserve left back to the best player in the Premier League.
There is no doubt about the Welshman’s work ethic, but his honesty is questionable. Bale has not been vilified by the media to the extent of others on this list, but he has been caught by the authorities more often than the rest. In a 2012/13 season of incredible statistics, one is more shocking than his goal tally.
At one stage in December 2012, the number of yellow cards shown to Bale for simulation (four) was same as the number shown to the entire roster of French Ligue 1 players combined.
He also accountable for over 20% of all bookings for diving in the English Premier League. At times he was the victim of his own reputation and unstoppable (and seemingly uncontrollable) speed, but often Bale just took a dive.
There are many hatchet men in the history of football, who have revelled in their reputation for macho violence and an intimating aura. Yet few players admit to diving and only Jurgen Klinsmann has proudly embraced his reputation as though it were a badge of honour.
Klinsmann arrived at Tottenham Hotspur via AS Monaco in 1994. He was met with a mass hate campaign, with fans around the country mistrusting of the German who had often proven a thorn in England’s side and more infamously was known for his talents in the field of simulation.
His debut goal against Sheffield Wednesday, was followed by one of the most iconic celebrations, gleefully and humorously imitating one of his own notorious dives.
In his early United years, Ronaldo’s bedazzling dribbling and sequences of skill often earned comparisons with a dancer or (more insultingly) a ballerina. Indeed, there was something of a repetitive routine when he was in possession: stepover, stepover, stepover, fall.
At times the fall was as a consequence of the sort of brutality that Adnan Januzaj recently received from Sascha Riether. At others, it was the faintest or non-existent touch.
Ronaldo’s subsequent transformation into the most ruthless attacking specimen on earth was partly due to curtailing much of his teenage theatrics. Yet, even now, the 28-year-old serial Ballon d’Or runner-up has a tendency for a strop or fall when things are not going his way.
A couple of weeks ago, the old pros jumped on the chance to re-establish his “diver” reputation as he overreacted to Chellini’s flailing arm. For the record, despite numerous dives in the Premier League, he did not “dive to get Rooney sent off” in the World Cup 2006, as Graeme Souness claimed. Rooney stamped on Carvalho. Ronaldo winked.
In his own words, “against Cristiano, every time it’s polemic,” but his often questionable balance is one of the key reasons “someones don’t like” him.
A mountain of strength, a beast of man, a bully of a striker who could overpower any victim that Premier League managers put in his way.
Yet, the six foot plus muscular physique stood as firmly as a tower of Jenga when confronted with even the tiniest brush of wind in the penalty box.
In any Chelsea game between his arrival in 2004 and his triumphant Champions League winning exit, you were just as likely to see Didier power in a header as spend five minutes rolling around in feigned agony.
Most ridiculous was he and Jens Lehmann’s pantomime routine of soft pushes followed by dramatic dives. There was also the time he subliminally let slip to the BBC “sometimes I dive” before immediately retracting “I don’t dive.”
Fantastic player and athletic specimen who should never have had to resort to such play acting.
When not majestically finishing the sweeping counter-attacks of the Invincibles or botching pre-planned, Cruyff-inspired penalties with Thierry Henry, Pires was keeping it on the deck.
Not just the ball but also himself. The French winger takes number one more for the malevolent ingenuity that went into his dives than the frequency of them. The 2002 double winner infamously preserved Arsenal’s eventual 49 game unbeaten run with a dive against Portsmouth in 2003. The impact of the fall was of course brutal, earning the equalising penalty, but it is the execution that warrants mention.
Pires was an innovator of the dark art of diving, inventing the “flick your leg against the opponent’s leg and fall” move that Ashley Young imitated earlier this season, and manipulating the “if there’s contact...” argument in his favour. “Hey Bobby, what’s the French word for simulation?
Note: Luis Suarez is not included, not because I do not acknowledge his penchant for diving, but because of one key difference: For the other men in this list, diving is the key fault in their behaviour that undermines our love and appreciation of their incredible talents.
For Suarez, it is just one weapon in his sadistic arsenal of cheating methods to be chosen at random when one of his red mists occurs. If, in the heat of competition and out of desperation for a result, Ronaldo et al are going to cheat, it will be with a sly fall and appeal to the referee.
Suarez in the same situation must choose between biting, scoring a goal with his hand, stopping a goal with his hand; diving is somewhere in his bag of tricks, but there’s so much more than that too. Great player, by the way.
Write for GiveMeSport! Sign-up to the GMS Writing Academy here: http://gms.to/1a2u3KU