50 of the Dirtiest Players in World Football History

Lindsay EanetCorrespondent IDecember 9, 2011

50 of the Dirtiest Players in World Football History

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    The holidays are a time for giving and love and good vibes, which is why today, we will be saluting the game's dirtiest fighters. 

    Here we have a salute to the play-actingest, crotch-kickingest, red-card-receivingest scuzzballs to ever play the beautiful game. As this is a 50-item piece, we've got your standard-issue dirty tacklers, as well as your floppers, divers, play actors, bad-attitude-possessing players and just plain mean ladies and gentlemen.

    If there's anyone we forgot or you have any thoughts on the selection, as always, have at it in the comments. 

Paul Cooper

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    You’ve probably never heard of Paul Cooper (unless you read this, or the original BBC story from whence it came), which is why he was the perfect person to start us off.

    That’s because he’s an amateur player. But Hawick United’s Paul Cooper, who has the very un-terrifying nickname of “Santa,” was sent off in a 2010 match for misconduct, and then racked up an additional five red cards for fighting with the official.
    Apparently, that’s a thing that can happen. Cooper was given a two-year ban for the incident.

Neymar

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    He may be just a kid at 19, so it’ll be a while before he hits the all-time, but the Santos striking sensation already has an insane track record. He’s only been in professional football for three seasons and has already racked up 43 yellow cards and three reds, although the fact that he’s scored about twice as many goals means the managers gagging to woo him from Santos will probably forgive him.

Walter Samuel

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    Samuel is a player that often falls in the debate between merely tough tackling or flat-out dirty, and indeed, he often blurs that line but usually falls on the former. He’s a great defender when he’s on, but his highly physical play often leaves his opponents properly battered.

Erika

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    The Brazilian national team came into the 2011 Women’s World Cup looking like the team to beat, but thanks to Erika, they became known as the team to cheat.

    As the U.S. Women’s National Team were on the offensive and about to take an equalizer, Erika walked a few paces and then flopped to the ground in an outrageously blatant injury fake. It wouldn’t be so bad if it was at least remotely convincing, but it seems Erika’s acting chops come from the school of Tommy Wiseau.

Angel Di María

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    Di María is arguably one of the best wingers in the world right now, a visionary player with loads of talent. But the Argentine international has a bit of a reputation for diving and theatrics, with some folks on the Internet not-so-affectionately referring to him as “Angel Dive María.”

    A rotten tackle that went unnoticed on Juanlu during Real Madrid’s match against Levante this fall was not only a dark mark on the season for the winger, but on Los Merengues themselves as they lost 1-0 to the Valencian side.

Paul Scholes

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    The Manchester United legend’s legacy certainly is not that of a dirty tackler, but that of a creative, complete midfielder who is sorely missed at Old Trafford.

    That being said, Scholes did have a tendency to make some less-than-savory tackles throughout his career. They weren’t always malicious, but they certainly weren’t well-executed. He’s hardly the worst offender on this list, but he’s had enough infractions to earn him a spot, including seven red cards and more than 100 bookings.

Michel Salgado

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    Salgado would have been more at home in an earlier era of football, one with more physicality to it. Now, what would have been labeled as tough-tackling—and even respectable 30 years ago—is considered nasty and cynical.

    As such, Blackburn Rovers has-been Salgado looks like he will go the way of the 8-track and the roller rink.

Michael Ballack

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    A brilliant player in his prime, Michael Ballack’s had a few ugly moments. He was never the worst of the lot, but he’s gotten away with his fair share of dodgy moves when the refs weren’t looking. In a 2009 match between Chelsea and Manchester United, Ballack even admitted he got away with what should have been a foul, a free kick at least, when he delivered a pretty rough body-check to Patrice Evra.

John Terry / Steven Gerrard

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    Both England captains have had their share of unsavory moments on the pitch. Steven Gerrard developed a reputation as a rather bad tackler and a diver during England’s relatively disappointing 2010 World Cup run.

    As for Terry, no, it’s not because he (allegedly) slept with Wayne Bridge’s lady-friend that time. But like any tough centre-back, Terry has occasionally resulted to some less-than-savory tactics, like that time he kicked Luke Varney in the face. Also, this doesn’t really have anything to do with his playing, but if Charlie Sheen thinks you’re radical, it’s not exactly a ringing endorsement.

Joey Barton

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    The English star is a talented midfielder, no doubt, and the antics that contributed most heavily to his thug reputation happened off the pitch as opposed to in-game. But Barton has still had his fair share of dodgy challenges that have seen disciplinary action and contributed to his public image.

    His worst on-pitch offense was likely his horror tackle on Sunderland’s Dickson Etuhu during his first Tyne-Wear derby. He appeared to have raised his foot in a menacing manner and became a British tabloid villain. But the officials did not see the attack at the time, and Barton was not disciplined by the FA for his actions.

Christian Poulsen

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    Liverpool supporters perhaps best remember Poulsen as just being a straight-up transfer flop, but the Danish international has found himself in straight-up dirty territory before. In a 2008 Euro qualifying match, Poulsen straight-up falcon-punched Sweden’s Markus Rosenberg after Rosenberg struck him.

    The general consensus of the account is that Rosenberg started the altercation, but it was Poulsen who did more damage.

Gabriel Heinze

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    Not just a dirty defender, but a poor-quality one at that. The left-back’s career started off alright, but he eventually saw his spot in the Manchester United first team go instead to Patrice Evra. His form was inconsistent, but it was his flopping that was purely expert. Sometimes his dives came with goals at the end, but usually they ended in misery and play-acting.

Didier Drogba

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    Drogba is one of the finest strikers of his generation and one of modern football’s greatest humanitarians and goodwill ambassadors, this is all to be sure. But over the course of his career, Drogs has gotten in quite a few memorable dives and is known to complain when things don’t go his way.

    This doesn’t say as much about dirty play as it does about his instances of poor attitude, but in a May 2010 routing of Wigan Athletic, in which Chelsea won 8-0, Drogba threw a fit after not being allowed to take a penalty. He later scored a hat-trick in that match and secured himself the Golden Boot for that season. Go figure.

Nobby Stiles

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    As amusing as his name is, Nobby Stiles (real name “Norbert”) is not the kind of person you’d want to encounter in a dark alley. The Manchester United defensive midfielder is one of the best to ever play his position, with the crowning moment of his career coming from a stellar, all-game performance in the final of the 1966 World Cup, which saw England’s first and only title.

    At the time, Stiles wouldn’t have probably been considered a dirty player; just a hard man who was relentless in his pursuit of the ball and sometimes hurt people along the way. If he used the same tactics today, dude would be banned from the FA, like, every week.

Kevin Davies

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    Bolton Wanderers captain Kevin Davies is a tricky one to include—his level of dirtiness is certainly up for debate, with plenty of fans viewing it less as dirty and more as highly physical central-forward play. That being said, Davies has had a whole lot of cautionings—99, to be exact, second only to Lee Bowyer in career totals and the most of any active Premiership player, and there’s no way all of those could be considered defensible.

    For the past two seasons now, Davies has been cautioned more than he’s scored, which does not bode well, considering the latter is kind of his job.

Sergio Ramos

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    Ramos is one of the most lauded defenders in the world, a strong, versatile core in the Real Madrid back four and a highly decorated player with a World Cup title to his name.

    But Ramos, tough defender that he is, has picked up quite a few red cards for Real Madrid, holding the club record for the most red cards.

Richard Dunne

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    The Aston Villa man is in a three-way tie for the most red cards in Premier League history with Patrick Vieira and Duncan Ferguson and the most for an active player in the Premiership. But it’s not just Dunne’s rough challenges that get him on this list. Tt’s the fact that he makes them at the worst possible times.

    When Manchester City went to the UEFA Cup quarter-finals in 2009, things looked great until Dunne made a reckless challenge on Hamburger SV’s Mladen Petric. He got sent off, leaving City with only ten men, losing in the end and seeing their UEFA Cup dreams fall to pieces.

Javier Mascherano

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    Masche is a world-class defensive midfielder to be sure, and he’s got the Olympic gold medals and a Champions League cup to back up his credentials. His performances have been so vital to the Argentine national team that Diego Maradona (also on this list) once remarked that his national team was “Mascherano and 10 more.”


    However, while skillful he is, of a clean reputation he is not. He has a pretty strong reputation in La Liga as a diver. In both league and international appearances, he’s seen himself get sent off for some rather unsavory challenges. He was red carded twice during the 2011 Copa América, and while at Liverpool in 2009, he received a four-match ban and a sending-off for a bad challenge on Tal Ben Haim.

Fernando Couto

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    There’s another kind of dirty play which often goes unmentioned—the use of performance-enhancing drugs. Couto, who was part of the “Golden Generation” of Portuguese football and won a number of trophies with Porto, Barcelona and Lazio, found himself in hot water when he was banned after failing a doping test in 2001.

    In addition to the doping, Couto also had a reputation as an often cynical, sometimes dirty tackler who would occasionally resort to kicking to get his man.

Jorge Costa

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    Like Fernando Couto, Jorge Costa was considered part of the “Golden Generation” of Portuguese football and racked up title after title in his 15 seasons on-and-off at Porto. While Costa was at Marítimo on loan, he came under fire for scoring an own goal, and Marítimo supporters accused him of deliberately working on behalf of Porto. Back at Porto, his aggressive style made him a controversial figure throughout his career.

    Later, he was on the receiving end of a controversial blow, after Liberian international George Weah headbutted him, breaking his nose. According to Weah’s account, Costa had been racially abusing him on the pitch, charges Costa denies.

Gennaro Gattuso

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    Call him highly defensive. Call him dirty. Call him an eccentric bloke who dances around in his skivvies while singing about how his ex-manager is a “man of sh**” to the tune of “Guantanamera”—Gennaro Gattuso is certainly one to make an impression.

    The defender has been given the nickname “The Rhino” for his highly imposing, often brutish style of play. Also, anyone with the guts to headbutt and attempt to throttle Joe Jordan is either bold or absolutely insane.

Dani Alves

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    Dani Alves has garnered praise for his defensive abilities and speed and has a cabinet full of silverware to prove his ability. However, even with his skills, Alves has a reputation for diving when things don’t go his way, and he’s gotten a few dirty tackles here and there.

    Most recently, Alves came under fire in a match between Brazil and Mexico, in which he side-rolled Chicharito and sent the little striker flying, getting himself sent off. Then, there was that time where he accidentally lodged his foot into one of his teammate’s heads.

El-Hadji Diouf

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    One of football's most colorful figures, the itinerant, bad-attitude-having, gaudy-Cadillac-driving striker and FIFA 100 member has had trouble sticking with a club in recent years due to his less-than-stellar reputation.

    Diouf was never really a dirty player in the traditional sense of diving and injury-creating dodgy tackles. But his behavior on the pitch—most notably several incidents where he spat at opposing fans, including an 11-year-old child, as well as Portsmouth's Arjan de Zeeuw in a 2004 incident.
    He was involved, along with several other Rangers players, in an altercation with Celtic manager Neil Lennon during the March 2011 Old Firm Derby. But Diouf's lowest moment came in January 2011, when he was accused of taunting Queens Park Rangers' injured player Jamie Mackie on the pitch, chanting "F*** you and f*** your leg!" The epitome of class.

Elizabeth Lambert

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    Usually, it’s awesome when fans start paying attention to women’s sports, but the University of New Mexico’s women’s soccer defender Elizabeth Lambert drew attention to the sport in the worst possible way. In a 2009 match against Brigham Young University, Lambert was sent off for pulling the hair of an opponent, as well as kicking and punching her.

    The incident went viral and made Lambert an instant sporting villain, effectively ending her career and contributing to more bad PR for women’s sports.

Ryan Shawcross

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    Stoke City’s tough-tackling Shawcross is another polarizing figure who some fans see as highly physical and others see as purely dirty. In one of his first appearances for the Potters back in 2007, Shawcross made a horror tackle on Francis Jeffers, which some Sheffield Wednesday players thought would end Jeffers’ career. A 2008 tackle on Emmanuel Adebayor saw the striker spend three weeks on the bench.

    Ironically, his most notorious tackle actually shows how not-such-a-bad-dude Shawcross is. In another bout with Arsenal, this one in 2010, he landed a challenge that broke the tibia and fibula of Aaron Ramsey. Shawcross received a three-match suspension for it, a surprisingly short sentence, Arsenal fans would say.
    But Shawcross’ reaction was perhaps the most memorable: when he saw the extent of the damage he had done to Ramsey, he seemed distressed and left the pitch in tears.

Thierry Henry

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    Thierry Henry had something of a reputation for diving, but one incident above all serves as grounds to put him on this list. Nearly three decades after Maradona soured England’s 1986 World Cup campaign, a new “Hand of God” goal was born. In the 2010 World Cup playoffs between the Republic of Ireland and France, Henry made a handball that set up the winning goal for William Gallas. France won the match 2-1 and advanced to the World Cup, and outrage ensued.

    In Henry’s defense, he handled his “Hand of God” incident quite a bit better than how Maradona handled his. He owned up to his mistake, offered a replay and even considered quitting international football. Following the train wreck that was France’s 2010 World Cup campaign, the latter did happen.

Emmanuel Eboue

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    The former Arsenal man, now at Galatasaray, has a reputation as a diver that has followed him to Turkey. It was in the Premiership, though, that Eboue’s notoriety took off, and no incident better exemplifies it than this 2009 match between Arsenal and Manchester United, in which Eboue went down, cutting in front of Patrice Evra and making no contact with the defender, but making a bizarre dive anyway.

    In a November 2011 match, Besiktas supporters grew so frustrated with Eboue’s diving that they actually pelted water bottles, cigarette lighters and other debris at him. Not that this is ever acceptable fan behavior, and his diving certainly isn’t justification for that, but Eboue’s reputation did come up in the press coverage and discourse surrounding the incident.

Lee Cattermole

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    The longtime Sunderland captain was immortalized by a song-parody chant set to Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal” (“You’ve been hit by—you’ve been struck by—Lee Cattermole!”), and indeed getting hit by/struck by Cattermole is a memorable experience for anyone who crosses his path.

    The hard-tackling midfielder’s fierce reputation off the pitch was cemented by an incident while he was at Middlesbrough where he was banned for three years from entering a pub in Stockton Borough after a drunk and disorderly evening (the ban is still going on).
    Things didn’t get much better for Cattermole when he arrived at the Stadium of Light—in the match after Steve Bruce gave him the captain’s armband, a pair of bookings saw Cattermole get sent off.

Nigel De Jong

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    The Manchester City midfielder gained worldwide notoriety during the final of the 2010 World Cup, where in a move straight out of Mortal Kombat, his foot landed with a thud in Xabi Alonso’s chest. Images and video went viral, and turned de Jong into an instant footballing villain, especially as he wasn’t given a straight red.

    This wasn’t the first time a de Jong tackle had gone horribly wrong. During an international friendly earlier that year, de Jong had made a late challenge that resulted in U.S. Men’s National Team member Stuart Holden suffering a fractured leg. In October of that year, a tackle on Newcastle United’s Hatem Ben Arfa saw the player require surgery for two broken bones.
    What perhaps is the craziest of all of this is that despite some seriously damaging moments, de Jong has only been sent off once in his entire career, for a pair of bookings while playing for Hamburg in the UEFA Cup.
    So maybe he’s not as dirty as we think.

Luis Suárez

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    Ask most Ghana fans, and they’ll probably agree. The “smiling assassin” of Uruguay became the new Maradona when his “Hand of God” move in the World Cup quarterfinals, using his hands to block what would have been the match-winning goal for the Black Stars and getting himself sent off.

    While at Ajax, Suárez excelled as a striker, but also courted controversy on the pitch a number of times, most notably in a November 2010 incident in which he bit PSV Eindhoven’s Otman Bakkal on the shoulder. Ajax suspended him for two matches, and the Dutch media gave him the less-than-flattering nickname “The Cannibal of Ajax.” Hopefully, he won’t have any more Silence of the Lambs moments.

Cristiano Ronaldo

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    Oh, CR7. Dear, dear CR7. The Real Madrid hitman has boatloads of talent and flair and will go down in history as one of the best footballers of his generation.
    Then why, oh why, does he resort to such Shakespearean theatrics? He’s got a reputation as a flopper, a diver and an agitator and his flair for the dramatic ought to have directors knocking at his door.

Pepe

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    He’s been called an animal, a menace, a butcher, a legend. The Real Madrid defender has made his mark at the Bernabéu and probably on quite a few players, thanks to bruises from his nasty tackles. The Portuguese international is a cracking defender, full of strength and athleticism, but his highly physical play often quickly turns to straight-up aggression.

    Pepe’s temper has gotten him into trouble, most notably when he served a 10-match ban for going crazy on Getafe’s Javi Casquero, repeatedly kicking him while he was down.

Sergio Busquets

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    The Barcelona holding midfielder is one of the best in the world in his position right now, helping his club win a sextuple and two Champions League titles in three seasons. So it's a shame to often see him resort to the diving and play-acting for which he has become one of the most notorious—and most maligned—players of his generation.

    His foul-goading hasn't earned him many friends, and one particularly notorious (some would say "Oscar-worthy") move during the 2009-2010 Champions League made him one of the year's biggest sporting villains. In a clash with Inter Milan's Thiago Motta, Busquets took a dive, and in his injury-feigning, the cameras caught him peering through his fingers to see if his tactics had worked. (They had.) Busquets came under fire again during the Supercopa de España over the summer, when he was accused of referring to left-back Marcelo as a monkey. The FA opted not to press charges.

Graeme Souness

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    With his hardy resolve and epic ‘70s ‘stache, Graeme Souness looked like the kind of guy you wouldn’t want to mess with, and his well-roundedness and creativity made him an icon on the pitch. So did his tendency towards the violent tackle.

    In his first appearance at Ibrox, he was sent off after two bookings, one for sending his cleat spikes into George McCluskey’s thigh (“My boot ran up his leg!” he later joked). Later on in his career, during a stint as the manager of Liverpool largely viewed as an unsuccessful one, he became notorious for locking horns with players in the dressing room.

Norman Hunter

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    Part of the same wildly successful but notoriously dirty-playing Leeds United side as Billy Bremner (we’ll get to him), Norman Hunter went down in history as part of the 1966 World Cup-winning squad. Hunter is considered one of the greats of the English game. And then there’s his nickname: Norman “Bites Yer Legs” Hunter.

    He never actually sank his chompers into anyone’s flesh, but plenty of players still suffered injuries to their lower halves at his hands. According to legend, Leeds trainer Les Cocker was informed that Hunter had come back from a match with a broken leg, and Cocker responded, “Whose is it?”
    His most notorious moment, however, came in a brawl with opponent Francis Lee, where both players threw punches and got sent off.

Roy Keane

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    Roy Keane is arguably one of the greatest midfielders of all time, if not certainly one of the greatest Red Devils. The Irish hard man is still a legend at Old Trafford for his skill, passion, leadership and the sort of winning mentality that made him the perfect complement to manager Sir Alex Ferguson.

    Keano’s temper often got him in trouble on and off the pitch, from his notorious outburst at Republic of Ireland coach Mick McCarthy that got him banned from the national team to his on-pitch brawl with fellow list-maker Patrick Vieira to one of the most notorious dirty tackles in history.
    In an act of revenge for Alf-Inge Haaland accusing him of faking an injury years before, Keane deliberately sent a flying kick at his leg. The kick caused a serious knee injury from which Haaland and his career never fully recovered. Years later, in his autobiography, Keane admitted the attack was deliberate.

Ron "Chopper" Harris

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    The guy’s nickname was “Chopper.” That should tell you everything you need to know. You don’t get a nickname like “Chopper” by taking a sunshine-and-rainbows attitude to things.

    The Chelsea defender was one of the Blues’ greatest icons of the 20th century, but his uncompromising style of play and tenacity often got a bit too aggressive. His most notorious display came in the 1970 FA Cup final against an equally-dirty Leeds United squad, where he became a hero by setting up Chelsea’s equalizer and a villain among the Leeds faithful for a shocking tackle on Leeds’ midfielder Eddie Gray with just a few minutes left in the match.

Arjen Robben

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    The Bayern Munich man is an heir-apparent to one of the classiest, most appealing styles of play in the Dutch total football, but his performances in the 2010 World Cup were anything but classy or appealing. The winger was a nominee for the Golden Ball in the tournament that season, but his injury-feigning and flopping didn’t earn him many admirers.

    Robben also has a reputation as a bully to his own teammates, one he earned after choking his Bayern Munich teammate Thomas Müller for being “disrespectful.”
    You know what’s disrespectful, Arjen? Choking your own teammate.  

Patrick Vieira

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    The holding midfielder, best known for his years at Arsenal, Juventus and Inter Milan, was one of the greatest of his generation, gifted with speed and an expert ability to analyze the logistics of the game. But his disciplinary record was also consistently less-than-stellar. His competitive, physical style of play meant some seriously tough tackles and disciplinary action from the officials.

    He racked up 12 red cards throughout his career—nine with the Gunners—along with more than 70 yellows, although the majority were in the beginning of his time with the club and he mellowed out with age and experience. Some of his challenges were more deliberate and tasteless than others, most notably a 2010 match in which he received a three-match ban for kicking Stoke City’s Glenn Whelan in the groin.

Claudio Gentile

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    His teammates on the Italian national team’s backline in the early ‘1980s, including Marco Tardelli and Giuseppe Bergomi, could have just as easily made this list alongside Gentile, but no one quite beats the hardest of the Azzurri’s terrifying hard men, Mr. Claudio Gentile, whose last name was probably the irony of the century.

    Gentile made his mark (literally) when he was in charge of defending the legendary Diego Maradona during the 1982 World Cup. After giving the Argentine a sound whooping, Gentile remarked after the match, “Football is not for ballerinas.” Indeed.

Diego Maradona

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    Three words: Hand. Of. God. It would be pretty difficult to compile a list highlighting some of football’s filthiest moments without a nod to the most notorious handball of them all, the one that dashed England’s World Cup hopes in 1986 and made Maradona a football villain.

    It wouldn’t have been so bad if Maradona himself hadn’t shown so little remorse about it. After he had made the goal with his fist, Maradona famously remarked that it was made “a little with the head of Maradona, and a little with the hand of God.” The fans probably weren’t too keen on that excuse.

Duncan Ferguson

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    There's a reason they called him "Duncan Disorderly." Everton's hard-man striker was certainly a prolific player, scoring more goals in the Premier League than any other Scottish player, but his winning mentality and highly physical, sometimes brutish style of play often got him into trouble.

    Throughout his career, primarily spent with the Toffees and Rangers, "Big Dunc" racked up nine cards and a three-month jail sentence, the latter stemming from an incident in which he headbutted Raith Rovers' John McStay during a 1994 match.

Billy Bremner

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    He was voted Leeds United’s Greatest Player of All Time and is considered an immortal in the English football pantheon, contributing greatly to a period of success at Elland Road. But the hard-fighting Scottish midfielder was part of a Don Revie-helmed Leeds United side known for some seriouly zealous and deviant play.

    His feud with Tottenham Hotspur’s Dave Mackay, best exemplified in a 1966 where Bremner got in a dodgy late challenge on Mackay, who had just returned to play from a second broken leg, created one of English football’s most memorable images.

Andoni Goikoetxea

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    Sometimes, all it takes is one really horrific move to get you into the dirty-playing Hall of Fame. In the case of Athletic Bilbao’s Andoni Goikoetxea, a defender already known for his aggressive tendencies that helped lead the San Mamés outfit to the top of La Liga two seasons running.

    In a 1983 La Liga match at the Camp Nou, Goikoetxea made a horrific tackle on Barcelona’s Diego Maradona, resulting in severe ligament damage for the Argentine headliner and a brawl almost breaking out between the two teams.
    Two years before, he had landed a bad tackle on German international Bernd Schuster, also with the Catalan outfit, and Schuster’s career never fully recovered.
    But it was the Maradona tackle that is the most memorable, earning Goiko the not-so-affectionate nickname of “The Butcher of Bilbao”—a nickname that seemed all the more fitting when it was revealed the defender kept the offending boot on display in a glass case at his home.

Vinnie Jones

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    Before he was The Juggernaut(, Bitch!), Vinnie Jones was part of a very colorful, very notorious Wimbledon F.C. squad known as the “Crazy Gang.” And of the “Crazy Gang,” Vinnie Jones was most certainly the craziest. A mean mamma-jamma of a player, he has one of the highest send-off records in English football history (12 career red cards).

    Jones has had his share of memorable (and infamous) moments, but none can quite compare with when he broke the record for the fastest booking in English football history, when he grabbed Paul Gascoigne where the sun don’t shine just three seconds into a match. Ouch.

Robbie Savage

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    With a name like “Robbie Savage,” there are almost certain cosmic expectations you must fulfill. And boy, did the Welsh hard man/Strictly Come Dancing star fulfill them.

    For a long time, Savage held the Premier League record for most yellow cards distributed, with a whopping total of 87. 87. (What’s even crazier is that that record has since been surpassed.) A passionate player to his core, Savage would stop at nothing to make his play, and that often meant some aggressive, nasty football.

    In his memoir, Savage admitted that he used to get drunk the night before a match to play better. This doesn’t seem like the best idea.

Lee Bowyer

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    The Leeds United hard man is known for his predilection for going commando as well as racking up the most bookings in the history of the modern Premier League with nearly 100 to his name. In his most recent season in the Premier League, Bowyer got himself a three-match ban after he stomped on the knee of Arsenal defender Bacary Sagna while he was down, after catching Sagna in the Achilles tendon on the line in what appeared to be a rather nasty challenge.

    Even when he wasn’t giving dirty tackles, Bowyer’s had some moments of abysmal conduct on the pitch. At Newcastle, he came under fire for brawling with teammate Kieron Dyer, and perhaps lowest of all. At Birmingham City, he was substituted after a reckless challenge and responded to taunts from West Bromwich Albion supporters by calling grandmother Sandra Cox the ‘c-word.’

Mark Van Bommel

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    In terms of internationals from the Netherlands, Nigel de Jong typically gets all the flack for fighting dirty. But no one in the history of the Oranje, and almost no one in the history of football, comes even close to Mark van Bommel. A highly physical, assertive player, van Bommel has a tendency to get a little too rough.
    He particularly came under fire during the 2010 World Cup for a series of nasty challenges, most notably the one that took out Andrés Iniesta in the final.

    Said van Bommel of his physical, controversial tactics in the 2010 World Cup: “Yes, I do the dirty work. And so what? A football team cannot just contain 11 dancers.”

    This season, on his first appearance in the Serie A, a Coppa Italia match with AC Milan, van Bommel was sent off for a dirty challenge.

     

Marco Materazzi

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    While at Inter Milan, tough, tattoo-covered defender Marco Materazzi saw mass amounts of acclaim and silverware (five Scudettos, four Coppa Italias and a Champions League) and he participated in the World Cup-winning Italian team in 2006.

    But Materazzi is also one of Serie A’s most controversial figures of recent memory, particularly because he subscribed so much to the “dark arts” of defending that dude could have changed his name to Voldemort.
    Among his most notorious hits have been his stomping on Benni McCarthy’s shin while fighting for the ball, a nasty elbow on Juan Pablo Sorin that got him sent off and his sending his leg right up Andriy Shevchenko’s crotch.
    Not that anyone should ever be headbutted, and two wrongs don’t really make a right, but after he insulted Zinedine Zidane’s sister, he almost kind of had it coming. Leave family out of it, bro.  

Kevin Muscat

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    Having to pick a single moment that exemplifies the absolute downright filthiness of Kevin Muscat’s playing career is like trying to pick out the most cringe-worthy piece of dialogue in the Twilight saga. You can’t. You can certainly try though.

    At the height of his career, the Australian international centre-back was declared “the most hated man in football” by Birmingham City defender Martin Grainger and frequently disciplined, if not sent off, for reckless and often violent tackles.

    In a career spanning two decades, Muscat racked up 132 yellow cards and 12 red cards and went down as one of football’s biggest villains. In 2001, he managed to seriously injure Craig Bellamy and Christophe Dugarry with reckless challenges. A year later, was sent off just nine minutes into a match for elbowing Michael Boulding in the face.
    This past year, back in the Australian League, Muscat made headlines again when he made a bone-crushing tackle on Adrian Zahra of Melbourne Heart and became football’s top baddie once again.