The 17 Most Insane Players in Football History

Charlie MelmanCorrespondent IIAugust 22, 2012

The 17 Most Insane Players in Football History

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    Like many sports, football has had its fair share of crazy players through the years.

    The difference between the beautiful game and other sports, however, is that people from nearly every country on earth can converge in a few regions, where they are allowed to play with abandon on a football pitch.

    That is a recipe for craziness, and every league has seen enigmas whose actions defy explanation and who seem to belong in therapy, rather than on a club team.

    Out of those many insane current and former individuals, here are 15 who embody the term, for one reason or another, more than the rest.

    And, as I'm sure I've left some good ones out, feel free to have a go at me in the comments.

Diego Maradona

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    Diego Maradona was one of the most eccentric and unpredictable men in the history of football, but that's partially what made him such an amazing player.

    He was always willing to pick a fight with someone bigger than him, as you can see, and he was never one to lose.

    Maradona was a man who never once shied away from the more dangerous parts of the regions in which he played, allegedly creating connections with the mafia in Italy, fathering an illegitimate son and using cocaine for years.

    And once, while being hounded by reporters, he fired at them with a compressed air rifle in order to force them to respect his privacy.

Roy Keane

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    Manchester United's longtime captain Roy Keane was, for a long period, one of the most dangerous men in football.

    That was because he seemed to play with the vengeful nature of someone who can plant their studs onto another man's knee and walk away without feeling remorse.

    His disciplinary record is longer than my arm and, for the act of retaliation you can see here, Keane eventually received an eight-match ban and £155,000 in fines.

    While he tried to curb his irascible demeanor later in his career, he still maintained a fierce rivalry with Patrick Vieira that occasionally turned violent.

Hope Solo

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    Hope Solo has never been afraid to show the world just how fervent she is in her views and has been labeled a headcase for doing so.

    In addition to the fiery passion she displays in goal for the U.S. Women’s National Team, Solo has found herself at the center of controversy many times during her career.

    In 2007, she publicly called out her manager for making what she believed to be a boneheaded decision and, without provocation, she positively ripped NBC’s Brandi Chastain on Twitter during the London Olympics.

    That fearlessness, coupled with the almost frightening determination Solo shows when playing, makes her a player I would never want to cross in a game.

Ron "Chopper" Harris

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    The fact that this man has a nickname that befits a serial killer should really tell you a lot about the way Chelsea's all-time appearance leader played.

    One of the most feared players of his era, like many others on this list, Harris showed no reservations when lunging in on an opponent simply to, quite literally, make his mark.

    Arguably, the pinnacle of his career, in this respect, was in the notorious 1970 FA Cup final replay against an equally nasty Leeds United squad. Just eight minutes into the match, he flew in late on playmaker Eddie Gray to virtually take him out of the rest of the match.

    And this went on at Stamford Bridge for just about 19 years, without interruption.

Emmanuel Eboue

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    During his time at Arsenal, Emmanuel Eboue became known as much for seemingly inexplicable plays as for his various antics both in the dressing room and in public.

    Eboue is something of a cult figure at Arsenal, and every player since his departure who has filled the role of dressing room clown is compared to his predecessor, who, despite some atrocious performances for the Gunners, managed to never lose his spirit.

    The Ivorian utility player was such an enigma that a popular chant amongst Arsenal fans when he played for the Gunners was “You’ve only come to see Eboue.” And, on certain days, he was the most interesting act on the pitch.

El-Hadji Diouf

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    Diouf has always been a good player whose insanity and volatility have prevented him from succeeding at a big club or staying on one team for an extended period of time.

    In every country he has played, controversy has followed him.

    In France, he was convicted of driving without a license, and in England he developed the rather unsavory habit of spitting in the faces of fans, opposing players and even ball boys. He has also used racist slurs against those awful kids on the touchline and gotten into his fair share of brawls.

    If not by his long rap sheet, you can tell that he has a few screws loose just by that haircut.

Gennaro Gattuso

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    Gattuso has always been a somewhat nutty character, and he takes his avant-garde approach to life off the pitch with him when he competes for AC Milan.

    Often, you will see him during matches screaming with his eyes bugging out of his head at officials and picking fights with players simply because he can.

    After winning the title last season with Milan, he showed just how eccentric he is when he stripped down to his skivvies and gleefully sang that his manager Leonardo was a "man of sh**" to the tune of Guantanamera.

    A bit high on the weird scale, I must say.

Nicklas Bendtner

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    If you ask Bendtner, he is the greatest striker to ever play the game of football, and to suggest otherwise is merely proof that he knows the extent of his talents better than anyone else.

    Despite a fairly average career at Arsenal and Sunderland, the Dane has been adamant that he will seal a lucrative move away from the North London club this summer, but the offers have hardly poured in.

    That’s unlikely to dent Bendtner’s ego, which has enabled him to ask out Danish royalty and has scored literally off the charts on tests. Once, after an examination by a sports psychologist, it was determined that, on a scale of 1-9, his level of self-confidence was a 10.

    No, I am not kidding. 

Paolo Di Canio

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    Paolo Di Canio had a tremendous amount of footballing talent, which allowed him to score incredible goals like this and make himself a legend at West Ham United.

    However, he is also an outspoken and unapologetic fascist, and has been since childhood.

    While playing for Lazio, he gave the controversial Roman salute to the clubs fans as a supposed sign of respect. When he was suspended and forced to pay a fine, he proclaimed that he will never stop making the gesture, which gives him "a sense of belonging."

    He has also declared his admiration for Benito Mussolini, and has "Il Duce" tattooed on his right bicep.

Brek Shea

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    I didn’t know quite how nuts Brek Shea is before this MLS season, but the FC Dallas star has proven to be quite an irascible man.

    When he has lost his temper in recent weeks, the meltdowns have been epic, and sufficiently noteworthy to put off what many see as a logical move to Europe.

    In one instance, Shea kicked the ball at an assistant referee to express his dissatisfaction with a call, for which he received a three-match ban, and he has lashed out at his fellow players on more than one occasion.

Luis Suarez

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    We are all aware of the controversy that Luis Suarez has gotten himself into during the past year, and those who watch the Uruguayan play know that his pugnacious attitude is reflected in his style on the pitch.

    While trying to get in Patrice Evra’s head during a match against Manchester United last season, Suarez used racist slurs and, while under investigation, refused to shake Evra’s hand during a subsequent match.

    He doesn’t reconcile when he plays, either, as you’ll commonly see him diving in rashly and throwing himself at defenders to win balls and score goals.

Andoni Goikoetxea

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    Here's all you need to know about Andoni Goikoetxea to be sure that he is certifiably insane: after he shredded Diego Maradona's ankle in this challenge, he kept the boot he had used maim his opponent at home in a glass case so that he could say "That was the boot I used to crock the great Diego!"

    That seems like the behavior of someone who actually enjoys playing a violent brand of football, rather than one who is genuinely apologetic for his act of aggression.

    It was this awful challenge that earned him the nickname "The Butcher of Bilbao," and the hard man lived up to his name with a later challenge on Bernd Schuster from which the German never fully recovered.

Carlos Tevez

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    Perhaps the only striker in the world who thinks more highly of himself than the great Nicklas Bendtner is Carlos Tevez.

    Because he was appalled at the paltry salary he was making last season and wanted a move, the fiery Tevez, who already proved his mettle by switching sides in Manchester and taunting his former team about it, sat out two-thirds of the season and played golf in Argentina.

    We got more stories from his camp about why he was AWOL than games City won last season. And his fiery attitude on the pitch was not dulled when he finally came back.

Kevin Muscat

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    If Kevin Muscat made any of his infamous tackles outside the touchlines of a football pitch, he would be serving a prison term instead of a few suspensions.

    With a streak of utterly dangerous insanity in him, Muscat has earned a reputation as one of the dirtiest players in football, principally because he seems to be unaffected when he maims his opponents.

    You can see in this tackle that there was absolutely no effort to play the ball; all Muscat wanted to do was violently take a player out, as he likes to do.

    Perhaps American football would have been a better choice for him, although many of his antics are illegal in that physical game, as well.

Eric Cantona

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    Everything about Eric Cantona's brief but breathtaking career was more eventful than those of players with much longer tenures in professional football.

    Always an outspoken and loud leader, Cantona was never content to do his talking with his play, and his short temper led to some memorable spurts of insanity.

    Most notably, in 1995 Cantona responded to the jibes of a Crystal Palace supporter by doing a flying kung-fu kick into the man's chest and planting his studs into the man's skin.

    One might think that Cantona would have been contrite following this incredible rush of blood to the head, but the Frenchman later said that attacking the man was "a great feeling" and one that he is happy for fans to remember.

Joey Barton

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    Joey Barton is a thug who should not be allowed on a football pitch, and, while the FA have not banned him, his most recent lengthy ban comes fairly close.

    Over the years, the irascible Englishman has been in and out of prison for assault, and that really tells you all you need to know about how this man's mind works.

    Barton will, without hesitation or provocation, plant his studs on any part of his opponents and then pick fights with them, often getting into violent altercations and getting himself sent off.

    While he's tried to mellow out somewhat in recent years, his efforts have been to no avail. You simply can't take the pure, unadulterated crazy out of a man who has had it his entire life.

Mario Balotelli

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    Balotelli is the undisputed King of Crazy in football right now; the Sultan of Silliness; the Ruler of the Ridiculous.

    He has done countless things both on and off the pitch to enhance his image as an insane but immensely talented striker who just can’t get out of his own way.

    Incidents include: driving onto a Manchester university’s campus unannounced to hang out and use the bathroom; throwing darts at reserve team players; crashing a press conference while at Inter Milan; setting his house on fire; trying to backheel an easy goal against the LA Galaxy; getting assorted oily fish placed in the plush interior of his Bugatti; and, ironically, revealing a t-shirt that asked “Why always me?” after scoring a goal.

    I don’t know exactly why, Mario. Perhaps it’s just your odd nature. But, regardless, you are, without a doubt, the craziest player in football.