World Football's 15 Biggest Villains of 2011
2012 is just around the corner, which means an Olympics, a Euro tournament, the Champions League knockout stages and the end of the world (according to the Mayans and some people somewhere with a basement full of canned beans and tinfoil hats).
There have been plenty of moments of brilliance in this past year of football, and plenty of people who have done not-so-brilliant things.
Today, we salute the latter and bring you the 15 biggest world football villains of 2011. If we missed someone you think deserves a dishonorable mention, as always, have at it in the comments.
American owners in the Premiership have found their way into the "Villains" column quite a bit over the past few years: the Glazers at Manchester United; Hicks and Gillett at Liverpool.
In 2011, it turns out the biggest American owner villain is also, well, a Villain.
Manager Alex McLeish could have very well made the list in Lerner's stead, as he's come under fire for less-than-well-thought-out tactics and facilitating mediocre, boring football. But let's not forget the man who brought McLeish to Villa Park, a controversial decision in and of itself, as McLeish came in from crosstown rivals Birmingham City, and if there's one thing football hates, it's a Judas move.
As the club has lost promising key players like Ashley Young, James Milner and Stewart Downing and manager Martin O'Neill left despite Lerner's heavy investment, things have not panned out favorably as of late for the club.
Villa could still finish in the top half, but if the club and its supporters want to return to the football of which Villa has proved capable in the past, the change may have to come from the top down.
The Besiktas Fans Who Threw Things at Emmanuel Eboue
But straight-up throwing water bottles and cigarette lighters at a player? Not cool, Besiktas supporters.
Of course, it was only a very small number of fans of the Turkish Süper Lig side at a heated match between local rivals Besiktas and Galatasaray who did the deeds in question, and they contend it had nothing to do with the player's race, but with Eboue's tendency for play-acting.
Regardless of whether or not that is true, there is really no acceptable justification for rational human adults throwing objects at other human adults with an intent to harm them.
Like its male counterpart in 2010, the 2011 Women's World Cup was home to plenty of dirty play, shoddy officiating and downright awful flopping. But it was Brazil's Erika that took the flop to a whole new level, actually waiting until no one was looking to stage her fall and pretend to writhe in pain.
Even her writhing wasn't all that convincing.
That performance was worthy of a Razzie, and it cost the Brazilians greatly, as the ref awarded extra time and Abby Wambach fired home the equalizer.
Tévez's poor attitude was like a grey north England raincloud over Manchester City's otherwise stellar Premiership season.
Although attempts were made at resolving his misery at the Etihad—his family came over from Argentina, for example—the tension with Roberto Mancini kept building. Tévez couldn't find his footing within the team and the bad blood came to a boil when he refused to come off the bench against Bayern Munich.
Follow that up with going AWOL and flying back to Argentina before a big meeting, and you've got the makings of one of the year's biggest bridge-burnings. Whether Tévez is really a villain, a victim or something else entirely is certainly up for debate—as is his destination come January—but what is for sure is that his time at the Etihad is most definitely up.
Like Tévez, Rafa Marquez's problem was primarily the result of a piss-poor attitude. The New York Red Bulls defender's 'tude was so bad, even his own fans booed him during one match every time he touched the ball.
He picked fights, failed to demonstrate a strong work ethic and his level of play left much to be desired.
And what did he do to dispel the haters? Instead of facing up to his own mistakes and trying to improve, Marquez blamed his teammates and claimed superiority:
"I'm focusing on really performance at my highest level. That doesn't mean that the whole back line can perform at that same level, so that's a problem. I think this is a team game, and unfortunately there isn't an equal level between my teammates and I."
There are pretty much three inevitabilities in this life: death, taxes and Kevin Muscat doing something horrible on the pitch.
In January 2011, one of football's most notorious bad boys extended his rap sheet with a horror tackle on Adrian Zahra of Melbourne Heart, ending in a send-off and an eight-game suspension for Muscat and serious knee damage for Zahra.
Watch the video and try not to cringe.
Footballers-turned-pundits are a hit-and-miss lot, with some able to provide truly excellent insight on the game and its many dimensions and others serving as the dregs. Former Aston Villa and Wolverhampton Wanderers star Andy Gray was sacked from Sky Sports in January after making disparaging comments about female referee Sian Massey.
Gray insinuated that he couldn't trust Massey and that he didn't think women knew anything about the offside rule.
Granted, there are probably quite a few officials who don't fully understand the offside rule, regardless of gender, but Gray's comments didn't exactly win him any friends among female football fans.
From The Guardian's account:
"Burton said "apparently, a female lino today, bit of a looker", with Gray responding: "A female linesman?"
"He [a Sky Sports crew member] says she [Massey] is all right," Burton continued, "now I don't know if I should trust his judgment on that?"
Gray then said: "No, I wouldn't. I definitely wouldn't ... I can see her from here," before swearing and adding: "What do women know about the offside rule?"
The Real Madrid manager is certainly a hero with Merengues supporters right now, as Mourinho's side has gone unbeaten in 14 matches, sits at the top of La Liga and went five for five in the Champions League group stage.
His gift as a manager is undeniable, but his notorious bad temper got him in serious trouble during the Supercopa de España back in August.
Match tensions came to a head after a dodgy tackle from Marcelo took out Cesc Fábregas, and Mourinho got involved. When things escalated, he was caught on camera poking Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova in the eye and getting suspended for two matches.
River Plate's Barra Bravas
Relegation sucks. It's devastating and demoralizing for players and fans. And when you have a club with an impassioned support such as that of storied Buenos Aires outfit River Plate dealing with the shock of relegation—especially for the first time in more than a century of history—bad things are bound to happen.
And they did. More than 50 people were injured in the riots that ensued inside and outside the Monumental following the loss, as fires, flipping cars and fights ensued.
As with any severe reactionary violent moments like this, it shouldn't be and isn't a reflection of the club or its fans as a whole, but a reminder of the destruction that often accompanies the darker side of football fandom.
It wasn't the transfer from Arsenal to Manchester City that sealed Nasri's status on the Gunners' rhymes-with-split list this season; it was how he handled it.
As his exit was being made, as opposed to showing gratitude and make a classy departure, Nasri decided to take one last jab at the fans who supported him at the Emirates in the press.
As he told The Guardian in August:
"The City supporters are really passionate and it reminds me of [playing for] Marseille.
Arsenal have good fans but they are not that passionate since they moved from Highbury to the Emirates. The crowd at City are amazing and that's what you want as a player – a good atmosphere."
Another villain that emerged out of an increasingly volatile running of El Clásico was Barcelona defensive midfielder Sergio Busquets.
Busquets had already had something of a villainous reputation, accused throughout the Champions League of diving and play acting—tensions over a 2010 Champions League incident in which Inter's Thiago Motta was sent off and cameras revealed Busquets looking through his fingers to see if the red card had come through are still evident.
Busquets further sealed his La Liga baddie status back in May, accused of calling Real Madrid defender Marcelo "mono" (spanish for "monkey") during a Clásico clash.
The charges against Busquets were dropped, but it further galvanized tension to an already explosive rivalry.
As of the end of May 2011, it's a likelihood that the majority of football fans never, ever want to hear the word "super-injunction" ever again.
When Big Brother star Imogen Thomas threatened to leak information about their extramarital affair, the Manchester United star tried to sue Twitter and impose a super-injunction to prevent her from revealing the truth.
A member of Parliament used parliamentary privilege to reveal the name, and the British tabloids had a field day with football's newest Lothario.
John Terry and Luis Suárez
The Liverpool and Chelsea stars are innocent until proven guilty, which neither have been yet, so prior to any further discussion, it's important to make that distinction and remind readers they haven't been officially charged with the acts of which they have been accused.
That being said, the racist remarks Luis Suárez and John Terry were accused to have made at Patrice Evra and Anton Ferdinand, respectively, created major controversy within the Premier League and sparked an international debate about race relations in football and vilified the two accused parties.
The incidents: Suárez reportedly called Evra "negrito" and Terry called Ferdinand a "f***ing black c**t."
The fact is that both players already didn't have stellar reputations. Suárez gained notoriety for his handball incident in the World Cup quarterfinals and biting Otman Bakkal, among other things. Terry was cast as a villain in the British press for his alleged affair with Wayne Bridge's girlfriend.
Even if they didn't make those comments about Evra and Ferdinand, there are a whole host of people who will still believe they did.
Like there's any real surprise here. Blatter could probably top this list every year running until the day he finally leaves FIFA, but toward the end of 2011, he really stunk up the place.
First, there were the FIFA elections held over the summer in the wake of corruption scandals. They held flat-out paranoid secrecy, in which Blatter ran unopposed despite mass calls from fans from his removal or a vote of no confidence.
In the wake of the controversial decisions over the locations of the next two World Cups, allegations began pouring out and several high-ranking organization officers were removed for corruption, most notably Mohammed bin Hammam, who had been caught bribing delegations to bring the 2022 World Cup to Qatar.
When asked if he thought there was a corruption crisis within FIFA, he denied it ("Crisis? What is a crisis?") and said only the "FIFA Family" could remove him from power.
Blatter made even more enemies last month when, in the wake of the Terry and Suárez incidents, he gave the insulting suggestion that players should just "shake hands" if incidents of racial abuse come up.
When Rio Ferdinand, a player who has certainly experienced disparaging abuse abroad and whose brother Anton was allegedly the target of John Terry's racist remarks, called him out for ignorance, Blatter got on his sanctimonious high horse and posted a picture of him with civil rights activist Tokyo Sexwale, like that somehow negates all of the racist abuse football players and fans have to endure and solves all of the problems that still do exist.
Dude is just the worst.