Football is a sport adorned with all manner of personalities.
Most footballers today fit the clean-cut, cliché spouting mould; gracious in victory and defeat.
But every so often, a character emerges who brings a little bit more character to the field. Although usually controversial in their actions, fans love a pantomime villain or an unlikely cult hero to watch out for.
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Here are six of the Premier League’s most controversial characters:
Not a nice character, Diouf joined Liverpool on the back of huge success with his national side. None of that form followed him to Anfield and he was best known for his appalling on and off-field behaviour.
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On a number of occasions he allegedly spat at fans and fellow players including an eleven-year-old child. Neil Warnock branded the Senegalese player: “lower than a sewer Rat,” as QPR manager following his shocking tackle on Jamie Mackie. Warnock then signed Diouf as Leeds boss Barmy.
Joey Barton is certainly an interesting, yet complex character. Looking at his Twitter profile you would think this man was a measured intellectual who likes to share opinions on philosophy, the arts and politics.
Take a look at his footballing career, however, and you will soon change your mind. Joey’s impressive portfolio of controversial misdemeanors include: stubbing a lit cigar out in a youth player's eye, assaulting a 15-year-old fan, breaking a pedestrian's leg by driving into him and knocking teammate Ousmane Dabo unconscious; this lead to a four-month prison sentence. Of course, he has also caused numerous confrontations and even brawls during play.
Perhaps the only likeable character on this list, Balotelli’s extraordinary antics during his time at Manchester City made great tabloid stories.
Frustratingly, however, the Italian is known more for these controversies than the top level of football he is capable of producing.
During his three years at City, Balotelli set his house alight with fireworks, was found carrying £5000 cash in his pocket and drove into an Italian women’s prison to have a look around.
In his most iconic stunt, Balotelli revealed an undershirt which read, “Why always me?” after scoring in the Manchester derby.
Whilst these stories make good reading, Balotelli has fallen out with almost every manager he has worked under; physically fighting Roberto Mancini on one occasion. At 25-years-old, he needs to make up his mind: does he want to be a top footballer or a circus clown?
One of the hottest players in world football, Suarez appears to have calmed down since joining Barcelona.
The Uruguayan is remembered for two very controversial incidents: biting and racism.
His first biting incident occurred before he became a household name at Ajax. In 2010, he bit a PSV player on the shoulder, receiving a fine and banned for two matches.
Two other biting incidents occurred in the Premier League for Liverpool and Uruguay at the World Cup.
By far the biggest controversy of Suarez’s career, though, is the racist exchange with then Manchester United left-back, Patrice Evra. Suarez was found guilty of abusing the Frenchman and banned for eight games.
The incident tarnished the reputation of both Liverpool football club and Kenny Dalglish. The situation was not helped by Suarez’s apparent refusal to shake the hand of Evra during a subsequent game.
Eric Cantona is one of the best players of the Premier League era. However, his career still featured its fair share of controversies.
The Frenchman always had a poor disciplinary record, but his iconic Kung-Fu kick towards a fan was not just career-defining but a moment which stands out in Premier League history. Cantona served a two-week prison sentence for the assault and delivered his famous ‘seagull speech’ to account for his actions.
Another top player defined by an unacceptable racist incident. Terry was not officially charged for racist abuse, due to lack of evidence, but he did receive a four-match ban for foul language directed towards Anton Ferdinand which was racially motivated. Not sure how that works!
Either way his behaviour was appalling. Other JT controversies include mocking American tourists following 9/11, having an affair with teammate Wayne Bridge’s wife, and being accused of selling tours of Stamford Bridge for his own financial gain. Not a classy man, despite his demeanour on the field.
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