The 15 Biggest Current Feuds in World Football: Pele vs Maradona and More

Ed Wyman@@edwymanCorrespondent IAugust 2, 2011

The 15 Biggest Current Feuds in World Football: Pele vs Maradona and More

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    There is a lot of pressure in the world of football. The money, the fine margins and the bodies on the line all create a degree of tension  that engenders feuds and rivalries that often take years to resolve, if they ever are at all.

    Such feuds can develop between any combination of players, managers, clubs, organisational committees and groups of fans. So, here are some of the major feuds in world football today. They include violent rivalries, constant media jabbing and legal problems.

    I am sure that I will not have included some, so let me know in the comments below.  

Birmingham vs Aston Villa

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    Intra-city rivalries are often the most intense as fans can often live in close proximity, and therefore, chances to antagonise each other are far more frequent. In such cases, the spirit of us vs them begins on the playground.

    Birmingham vs Aston Villa is no exception, as last season showed.

    Last season saw some serious crowd trouble after Birmingham beat Villa, with a pitch invasion and missiles thrown, as well as fighting on the streets.

    Although Birmingham will be playing in the Championship next season, the move of Alex McLeish across Birmingham has not gone down at all well with Birmingham fans, quite understandably and in all likelihood, will not have been a particularly popular appointment with the purple half of the city. 

Zinedine Zidane vs Marco Materazzi

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    Perhaps one of the most famous feuds in world football took just a minute to go from inception to physical violence.

    Zinedine Zidane, one of the all-time greats, didn't take kindly to Marco Materazzi's comments about his sister and delivered a head-butt to the chest that has provided the world with an iconic image (see above).

    Zidane, understandably, is regularly asked about the incident and has refused to apologise, although he has admitted he should have been sent off.

    Shortly after the incident, Materazzi indicated he would be willing to make peace with the French superstar, but Zidane doesn't appear to be ready to forgive, apologise and forget.

Carlos Tevez vs Manchester City

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    Carlos Tevez has been brilliant for Manchester City since making the move across the city in 2009. The statistics speak for themselves, 43 goals in 63 league games is an incredible record that speaks for itself. 

    However, twice in less than a year, Carlos Tevez has handed in transfer requests, citing home sickness. This hasn't gone down too well with City fans, especially considering that after a potential move to Corinthians, in Brazil, fell through, the striker has been linked to Inter Milan, hardly closer to home.

    Roberto Mancini has said he is ready to start again with Tevez when he comes back to training, but his patience must be running thin, as must that of City supporters, especially considering the recent arrival of Sergio Aguero.

    In the past there have been touchline spats over substitution decisions, an attitude from the captain that seems to be a part of a wider discipline problem at the Manchester club. 

    This is a feud that isn't too serious yet, more of a Cold War, but it could well develop into something far more complicated if the Argentinian doesn't get his way or shut up.

Mario Balotelli vs Inter Milan

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    Since rising to prominence with Inter Milan, Mario Balotelli has been a constant source of amusement (Bibitelli) and anger. Balotelli's actions whilst at Inter made him rather unpopular.

    At the end of a match against Barcelona, the striker threw his shirt to the ground due to being booed by fans. This show of disrespect didn't go down well with anyone, including his teammates. Some of the fans even tried to attack him.

    Balotelli also got into hot water when he wore an AC Milan shirt on an Italian tv show while he was still at Inter. He supported AC Milan as a boy and has hinted that if he does leave Manchester City, a not unlikely proposition given his dislike of the city and his homesickness, it could well be for AC Milan.

    Balotelli recently scored against his old club in a preseason friendly and following the match said he "would like to" play for AC.

    If he does move back to the city of Milan and plays for AC, he can expect plenty of abuse when he faces Inter Milan. This is a feud that could well get a lot more intense. 

Sir Alex Ferguson vs BBC

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    Sir Alex is always game for a fight and has got into a fair few feuds in the past.

    After the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) aired a programme in 2004 claiming that Ferguson's son, Jason, a football agent, traded off his father's name and used his relationship with his father to exploit the transfer market for his own benefit, Ferguson enacted a boycott on all interviews with the Beeb, with his assistants filling in for him. 

    Conspicuous by his absence, the Manchester United manager looked set to end his boycott last season after it came compulsory for managers to provide interviews with rights holders.

    Fergie didn't end the embargo and United have started to pay the fines that he receives. According to The Guardian, every time he fails to appear, the fine rises. 

    Ferguson had a meeting with the BBC late last season but has yet to appear for a post-match interview with the organisation. 

Silvio Berlusconi vs the Law

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    Berlusconi is Italy's prime minister and one of the nation's richest men. Part of that wealth has helped him become owner of AC Milan, one of Europe's most successful clubs. So, while this slide isn't entirely football related, Berlusconi is certainly a footballing figure.

    Here is a link to a table, from Wikipedia, that provides a summary of the trials Berlusconi has faced or is facing.

    As you can see, the extent of the 74-year-old's problems are quite severe. One of his trials was even football related. He was accused of secretly paying Torino FC €5 million in order to bring Gianluigi Letini to AC Milan.

    However, changes to financial laws, approved by his government, meant that the trial was dropped. AC Milan were also involved in the 2006 Italian football scandal, although Berlusconi wasn't implicated, his vice president was charged, and AC Milan were nearly excluded from the Champions League, a competition they went on to win.

    Berlusconi recently got into legal trouble for his relationship with a teenage girl. There is an ongoing investigation.


Roman Abramovic vs Unsuccessful Managers

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    Roman Abramovic is not a man who tolerates failure. His formula at the moment seems to be fairly simple. Pick a top manager, give him some money, if he doesn't win the league, fire him.

    It's a tactic that isn't hugely productive. Managers have little incentive to invest in youth, although Andres Villa-Boas has said he will look for younger players, it gives players no stability and negates the attractiveness of a particular manager to prospective players.

    Mourinho, despite winning six trophies in three years, left the club early in the 2007-08 season after failing to win the league (Abramovic and Mourinho had a poor relationship due to internal power struggles as well).

    Avram Grant was fired after failing to win the Champions League or the Premier League, with Chelsea finishing as runners-up in both. His replacement, World Cup winner Scolari, lasted only seven months before being sacked after a poor run of form.

    Carlo Ancelotti lasted longer but was eventually sent packing after failing to retain the Premier League.

    Abramovic is the common denominator in all this, and it is easily apparent that he does not tolerate failure and is not willing to wait for success. All in all, it is obvious that Chelsea's owner will not let unsuccessful managers survive. 

Nicolas Anelka vs France

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    France's 2010 World Cup didn't go well, to say the least.

    Nicolas Anelka's spat with Raymond Domenech, which began after a tactical disagreement during halftime of the game against Mexico, turned into a major incident as the French players refused to train following Anelka's dismissal from the squad.

    Anelka was promptly handed an 18 match ban by the French Football Federation, a ban that was essentially designed to prevent him playing for France again. Anelka has said the ban made him laugh as he'd already decided to retire and has since said he doesn't miss playing for the national side.

    Needless to say, many French fans aren't best pleased with the Chelsea striker's actions, and neither is the French football association.

Arsene Wenger vs Sir Alex Ferguson

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    Since 1996, when Arsene Wenger took over at Arsenal, his relationship with Sir Alex Ferguson has been frosty at best. Arsene Wenger started it all by claiming that the fixture list was unfairly biased toward Manchester United.

    Since then, they have been battling each other verbally as they look to take their teams to the top of English football.

    The high point of their rivalry came in 2004 with Pizzagate. After losing to Manchester United and, in the process, ending their 49-game unbeaten run, an Arsenal player threw pizza at the Manchester United team in the tunnel. Wenger would later call Ruud van Nistelrooy "a cheat."

    Their relationship has improved in recent times, partly due to the retirement of the players pushing the feud to a higher level, and partly due to  other targets for both men's abuse. However, it seems unlikely that this relationship is as happy as they might have you think.

    All it will take is one controversial on pitch incident and we could see a return to "the bad old days."

    Their rivalry has little to do with competing for honours, so Arsenal's weakened position will have little impact on the direction of the feud. 

The English FA vs FIFA

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    Beyond the football pitch, football is all down to politics. That is the source of the FA's dispute with FIFA, a feud which has seen the FA complain about everything from goal line technology to corruption within FIFA.

    Unsurprisingly, FIFA hasn't taken this well. Accusations of anti-English strategies haven't gone down well, nor has the FA's constantly dissenting voice, demanding delayed elections and pursuing corruption charges.

    At one point, the FA even said it could break away from FIFA, probably more a heat of the moment reaction but one that has led to plenty of questions being asked about the role of the FA in the world of football.

    It wouldn't be such a problem if the FA had some serious backing, but it really doesn't have much at all. It's proposed boycott failed dismally as 186 nations voted for Blatter out of a total of 208, with one of the abstentions a mistake.

    The recent banning of Bin Hammam, Warner's resignation and calls to reconsider Qatar as the host for 2022 mean that this feud is far from over.

Manchester United vs Manchester City

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    The rivalry between Manchester United and Manchester City has always been a strong one, but the increased success of Manchester City in recent years has seen the matches between the two sides become more tense than they have been in a long time.

    Carlos Tevez's controversial move across the city was undoubtedly a source of tension, while City's big spending has proved unpopular with all, including Manchester United, a team who themselves have spent big numerous times. 

    City's long hunt for a trophy (35 years) ended last season with their FA Cup triumph, while their third place finish and the Champions League football it brings, will only make the relationship between the two sides worse as they fight it out for more and more of the top honours.

    Add in two passionate fan bases within a single city, and this is an intense and long running feud.

    United's fans could often be seen with a flag counting the years since City's last trophy, as the photo suggests, City fans have been none too pleased!

Rangers vs Celtic

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    The Old Firm rivalry is one of the most intense in football, and one of the most violent. According to research done by a think tank, violent crime increases by nine times in Glasgow on weekends when the city's two teams clash. 

    Last season was a particularly explosive affair. As usual, the teams met regularly, both in the league and competitions as the two sides battled it out for plenty of glory and silver.

    This combined with the pressure of Walter Smith's final season, the arrival of the provocative El Hadji Diouf and the competitive matches to make for some poor sportsmanship, violence and death threats.

    The situation was so bad that a peace conference was organised by the Scottish first minister.

    Little will change next season as the two responsible for the touchline bust up that was one of the worst points of the rivalry, Ally McCoist and Neil Lennon, remain prominent and the fans are as passionate and in some cases, as crazy, as ever.

Real Madrid vs Barcelona

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    El Clásico, the matches played between Real Madrid and Barcelona, have always created controversy, and it is a rivalry that has long been continued off the field.

    The politics involved are complicated to say the least. Franco's pro Spanish unity, anti-Catalan, regime helped take the rivalry beyond football; it became a question of identity.

    Since Franco's downfall, the rivalry has remained strong with controversy in more recent times. There was Figo's shocking move from Barcelona to Real Madrid (Figo had the head of a pig thrown at him), and in 2011, the sequence of four matches in 18 days escalated the emotions involved.

    Accusations of bad sportsmanship and referee bias were traded and the matches saw four red cards. Mourinho received a ban from UEFA and stopped talking to the press, legal proceedings were filed and there have been suggestions that animosity between the two sides could harm the national side's performances.

    Mourinho was already involved in something of a war with Barcelona before arriving at Real Madrid. While at Inter he traded insults with Pep Guardiola, and the sprinkler incident hardly went down well.

Cristiano Ronaldo vs Messi

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    While there may not be much of a feud between the two, beyond trying to outdo each other on the football field, there is a feud of a truly incredible scale being conducted everywhere from classrooms to offices to websites such as this.

    Google "Messi Ronaldo" and many of the results will be about who is better. Walk down a street in Asia and look at the shirts on sale. Choose the wrong one, and the seller will probably try to explain why his favourite is better. 

    One thing is for sure. These two players are unquestionably the best in the world right now. They both scored 53 times last season for their respective clubs and have some of the best ball control ever seen on a football field.

    It's all made worse as the issue becomes tangled up with the Barcelona vs Real Madrid feud. As long as these two continue to be the best at what they do, fans of both clubs to be found the world over, as well as just about all football fans in general, will want to weigh in on who's the best.  

Pele vs Maradona

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    Two of the football's all-time greats just can't get along. Pele and Maradona have virtually never seen eye to eye.

    It seems they are almost constantly at each others throats, making nasty comments to each other in the media where each one makes jabs at the other about everything from sexuality through to drugs and back through being two-faced. 

    FIFA didn't help the matter with their Internet vote in 2000 to decide who the greatest player was. Maradona pulled ahead of Pele, which FIFA weren't too happy about, so they created a committee to decide the winner.

    They picked Pele, but, in order to prevent Maradona fans going mental, they decided to split the award between the pair. This, from the start an entirely pointless award, merely raised the intensity of the feud.

    Recently, Pele has questioned Maradona's motives for taking the Argentinian job, while Maradona has claimed that Pele didn't want an African World Cup.

    The feud is also carried out by fans all over the world. Pele vs Maradona is one of the great footballing questions.

    Just look on any of the profile pages on Bleacher Report. It's one of the questions, alongside Senna vs Schumacher and Tiger vs Nicklaus. Everyone has an opinion when it comes to this feud, me included, but the answer is not only non-existent but also irrelevant.

    This is a feud that will never end.  

A Few More

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    Mike Ashley vs Newcastle

    Harry Redknapp vs the law

    "Soccer" vs "World Football"

    Millwall vs West Ham

    Inter Milan vs Juventus

    Liverpool vs Manchester United

    FIFA vs Corruption

    Lazio vs Roma

    Nacional vs Penarol