World Football's 20 Biggest Prima Donnas

Ryan Bailey@ryanjaybaileyFeatured ColumnistJanuary 2, 2014

World Football's 20 Biggest Prima Donnas

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    Football is a game where ordinary men who happen to have the ability to kick a ball are showered with praise, global adulation and grotesque quantities of cash. Inevitably, this kind of lifestyle is going to lead to some diva-style behaviour.

    Here, Bleacher Report takes a run through world football's 20 biggest prima donnas. Take a look and make your suggestions for absent temperamental egomaniacs in the comments.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic

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    In the dictionary, the term "prima donna" is accompanied by a picture of Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

    The talented Swede thinks he is god's gift to the beautiful game—a fact proven by his assertion that the World Cup wouldn't be worth watching without him and that he doesn't need a Ballon d'Or trophy to know he is the greatest. 

    Aside from his bulging ego, Zlatan has shown plenty of prima donna behaviour in a career that has seen him play in five different leagues. He bickered with Pep Guardiola at Barcelona when the Spaniard had the audacity not to play him to his full potential, leading Uli Hoeness to label him a "bitter prima donna."

Cristiano Ronaldo

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    He cries when results don't go his way; he has been accused of diving and petulance on the field; he once changed his hairstyle at half time; he is supremely arrogant and he made us cringe by saying he was "sad" with his multi-million Euro contract at Real Madrid.

    If he didn't have astounding talent and a marketing-friendly persona, Cristiano Ronaldo would be utterly insufferable.

Samuel Eto'o

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    Samuel Eto'o's well-documented greed and self-absorption prohibited him from joining Manchester City in 2009, but he managed to become the world's best paid player at Anzhi Makhachkala instead. There, his prima donna tendencies threatened to break the team apart, as explained by his former colleague Roberto Carlos:

    I've known Eto'o since he was 16. He's a good person and I've always liked him, but he always thinks of himself, not the group, which can be really damaging.

    It's quite confusing and odd when a footballer, instead of playing, is interested in bringing in players who are his friends. He did everything at Anzhi, except play football.

    The Chelsea striker's presence in the Cameroon national set-up has also been known to cause upsets, thanks to his renowned self-conceit.

Carlos Tevez

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    To the casual observer, Carlos Tevez's footwear appears to be the correct size. However, his behaviour has shown that the Argentinean is far too big for his boots.

    The Juventus forward's most disgraceful prima donna act came in September 2011, when he appeared to refuse to come on as a substitute in a Champions League game against Bayern Munich. Yes, a man who is paid thousands to play in the kind of game that most of us can only dream of decided it was beneath him.

    To make matters even worse, Tevez then proceeded to take an unauthorised vacation from the club, heading back to Argentina for several months—in the middle of the season—to practise his golf swing. 

    If there was any justice in the professional game, this act would have killed Tevez's career. But as we know, deep character flaws and unprofessional behaviour are universally tolerated in this industry provided the player has talent.

Radamel Falcao

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    Colombian sensation Radamel Falcao is a phenomenal striker with a body that wouldn't look out of place on the cover of Men's Health and hair that always looks like he has just stepped from the set of a shampoo commercial. 

    The Monaco man has all the aesthetic makings of a prima donna, and once showed these traits poking through when he demanded that the pre-match warm-up music at the Vicente Calderon was changed to something more to his liking.

Didier Drogba

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    By most accounts, Didier Drogba is a fantastic leader, a gentleman who runs his own charity foundation and whom Jose Mourinho holds in extremely high regard.  

    The Ivorian, however, is prone to bouts of petulance and is no stranger to the art of simulation. Carlo Ancelotti once denounced Drogba's prima donna reputation, but antics such as his Tom Henning Ovrebo rant suggests otherwise.

Antonio Cassano

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    Antonio Cassano's long history of petulance, selfishness and diva behaviour can be summarised by a quote from the man himself:

    I thought I was the new Maradona. I felt like I could win matches all on my own, and out on the pitch I only ever thought of myself.

    The Italian term "cassanata" was actually coined for the Parma striker, in light of his childish tendencies. Cassano has fought with virtually every manager he has worked under, can be very stroppy on the field and has become better known for his outlandish character than any skill he has shown with a ball at his feet.

Mario Balotelli

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    As they were preparing to become strike partners at Euro 2012, Antonio Cassano noted that Mario Balotelli "reminded him of himself." He may have been referring to the Milan forward's tenacity in front of goal, but the description also applies to his incredulous self-regarding behaviour. 

    Aside from their shared predilection for outrageous antics away from the field, Super Mario also has a tendency to disappear into himself, to sulk and to throw his toys out of the pram when things don't go his way.


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    Like so many Brazilians before him, Robinho was touted as the "next Pele" when he first arrived in Europe, but his talents have not blossomed in the manner many expected. The diminutive forward has become more well known for his petulance and difficult behaviour. 

    Real Madrid president Ramon Calderon claimed the Brazilian cried in his office as he pleaded for a transfer to Chelsea (which later turned into a move to Manchester City); he has had frequent tantrums on the field and he accused City of having a "small-time mentality." 

Luis Suarez

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    There is little doubt that Luis Suarez is the most in-form striker in Europe right now, but few would contest the fact that he is a player with a number of character flaws. 

    Aside from his penchants for simulation, cheating and biting, Suarez has exhibited plenty of prima donna qualities.

    Perhaps his most detestable and introverted act was the national newspaper interview he gave over the summer attempting to engineer a move away from Liverpool. This calculated manipulation of the media came hot on the heels of a string of complaints about how the media had persecuted him.


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    Neymar isn't the biggest prima donna on this list, but a cursory glance at his Instagram feed shows a dangerous level of obsession with his own self image.

    At Santos, the prolific Brazilian had 11 personal sponsors and a prima donna reputation, based on his tendency to go on dizzying solo runs rather than use the assistance of his team-mates.

    At Barcelona, however, the 21-year-old has shown his selfless side, contributing more assists than goals so far this season.

Sepp Blatter

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    FIFA's astoundingly foolish president Sepp Blatter may be described as many things (sexist; racist; homophobic; corrupt; unfit for office; etc.) but he also has some prima donna traits.

    Why else would the 77-year-old insist on standing for re-election in three separate elections, despite widespread condemnation of his leadership from the global football community? 

    Blatter's 2011 denial that there was any kind of corruption crisis within his organisation displayed either blind optimism, ignorance or an egotistical belief that he is infallible.

Nicklas Bendtner

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    Many players on this list have earned the right to a certain degree of prima donna behaviour. Based on current form, Nicklas Bendtner has no excuse for being exceedingly vain and difficult to work with.

    The not-so-great Dane is the most self-confident man in football—according to tests carried out by Arsenal, he is literally unable to acknowledge that any mistake on the field is his fault; such are his off-the-charts levels of admiration for his own abilities. 

    Add this vanity to an unfulfilled belief that he should be the world's best striker and countless off-the field altercations with the law and you have a man whose ego is writing cheques his feet cannot cash. 

Jose Mourinho

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    Of all the managers in world football, the one who evokes the strongest musk of prima donna is surely Jose Mourinho.

    A man who dubs himself "The Special One" is never likely to be short on self-confidence, and the Portuguese coach has the trophy case to back it up.

    However, he has also displayed plenty of unnecessary arrogance over the years: he famously shushed Liverpool fans at the 2005 League Cup Final, he snubbed the Ballon d'Or ceremony when he thought he wouldn't win (while also labelling it a fix) and just this weekend he gave a typically brazen description of Luis Suarez in a post-match press conference.

Diego Simeone

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    Most English fans will look unfavourably upon Atletico Madrid manager Diego Simeone for his part in David Beckham's dismissal at the 1998 World Cup, but many Spanish fans also tire of the Argentinean due to his tendency to whine and complain about absolutely everything.

    One of Simeone's most famous complaints was reiterated earlier this season, when he once again declared La Liga to be "boring" because of the Barca-Real duopoly. 

    With Atleti five points clear of their Madrid neighbours and even on points with Barcelona going into the winter break, one would think this attitude has dissipated.

Ashley Cole

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    Ashley Cole has earned a reputation as one of the beautiful game's most self-entitled priggish players, thanks mainly to the section of his autobiography that will haunt him forever:

    'Ash! Are you listening?' said a virtually hyperventilating Jonathan. 'I'm here in the office and David Dein is saying they aren't going to give you £60k a week. They've agreed £55k and this is their best and final offer. Are you happy with that?'

    When I heard Jonathan (Barnett) repeat the figure of £55k, I nearly swerved off the road. 'He is taking the piss, Jonathan!' I yelled down the phone. I was so incensed. I was trembling with anger. I couldn't believe what I’d heard.

    Cole's reputation was further damaged by his treatment of former wife and "nation's sweetheart" Cheryl Cole. 

Emmanuel Adebayor

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    Emmanuel Adebayor is back in favour at Tottenham Hotspur under Tim Sherwood, which means his prima donna tendencies might be curbed for the time being.

    At Manchester City in 2011, he elected not to train—risking a £300,000 fine—and got in trouble at Arsenal for fighting with aforementioned team-mate Nicklas Bendtner.

Joey Barton

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    With a hair-trigger temper that has led to numerous fights with team-mates and opposition—including one moment where he stubbed out a cigar in a colleague's eye—it's safe to say that Joey Barton is a difficult person to work with.

    Since reinventing himself as a hipster and becoming Twitter's self-appointed voice piece for the western world, Barton has shown that he is not afraid to slander his peers and conveniently overlook his own plentiful shortcomings. 

    His insistence that he would not play Championship football at QPR (and subsequent reneging of this principle) perfectly summarises his prima donna tendencies.


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    Barcelona's Xavi Hernandez may not expect the red carpet to be rolled out in front of him like some others in this list, but he is truly the king of complaining.

    In addition to haranguing the referee about every little injustice, the Spanish midfielder is a fan of formal press bleating. In particular, he bemoaned Celtic and Chelsea's brand of "anti-football."

Nicolas Anelka

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    Finishing this list on an ego-high is one of the biggest prima donnas in the modern game: Nicolas Anelka.

    The man nicknamed "Le Sulk" has enjoyed plenty of career highlights and has played for six different Premier League clubs—but his high number of employers is merely a reflection of the difficulty he poses as a colleague. 

    He spectacularly fell out with his manager at both Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain; he was sent home from France's shambolic 2010 World Cup campaign for his central role in a squad coup; he left Chinese side Shanghai Shenhua after refusing to perform a customary bow and he is in trouble right now for a defiant and controversial goal celebration

    Anelka's egotism is on a much higher plane than most other players: He even had the audacity to blame manager Avram Grant for his Champions League Final penalty miss in 2008. 

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