10 Most Unpredictable Footballers of All Time

Mohamed Al-Hendy@Mo_HendyCorrespondent IMarch 15, 2012

10 Most Unpredictable Footballers of All Time

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    Football is an unpredictable game. Every weekend, at least a couple of big teams will lose to comparatively smaller ones, making the game much more exciting.

    After all, if the best teams always beat those weaker than them, why would we even bother watching?

    Similarly, just like football is unpredictable, many footballers are unpredictable themselves.

    Many things can make a footballer unpredictable—sometimes a player can be unpredictable on the pitch, with his performances and level of play, and other times, a player can be unpredictable off the pitch, with his strange habits and behaviors.

    Sometimes, we are given the opportunity to witness players who are unpredictable both on and off the pitch, and that is when things get really interesting.

    Here, we'll take a walk through the careers of the 10 most unpredictable footballers of all time.

Djibril Cisse

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    Djibril Cisse is eccentric just based on his looks. He's changed his hairstyle more times than anyone can possibly remember and had the balls to wear a dress while in Greece.

    But Cisse is also unpredictable on the pitch. Just when everyone thought he was washed up upon transferring from Sunderland to Greece, Cisse surprised everyone by becoming arguably the best player in Greece during his spell with Panathanaikos.

    Of course, as with all unpredictable players, Cisse does have a tendency to be badly unpredictable on the pitch as well. Just recently, his reaction to a Roger Johnson foul saw him sent off against Wolves and cost his team three relatively easy points.

    Ultimately, Cisse's career never reached the peaks it probably could have due to his multiple leg breaks, but his unpredictability still ensures that whatever team he is playing for always has the chance to surprise its opposition.

    He has proven throughout his career to have the capacity to reach the level of the best strikers in the world, and that is what has convinced many a team to take a gamble on him.

Eric Cantona

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    What can be said about Eric Cantona that hasn't already been said by many a Manchester United fan?

    Probably nothing.

    Eric Cantona is best remembered by non-Manchester United fans like myself for the crazy stuff—karate-kicking a Crystal Palace fan in the face and then delivering this eternal quote

    "When the seagulls follow the trawler, it is because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea." 

    But there's no denying that he was an amazing footballer, capable of surprising you with just about anything. And that's why Manchester United fans to this day regard him as their greatest player ever.


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    “On the pitch, absolutely magic…"

    That was what Barry Robson had to say when asked about Romario during the pair's spell with PSV Eindhoven. The preface was not accidental however. Robson used this to indicate his displeasure with Romario off the pitch.

    At his best, Romario was legendary. He scored 19 goals for PSV Eindhoven in his first half-season with the club and would remain a prolific scorer until he was sold to FC Barcelona.

    There, Romario's career reached its peak—he scored 30 league goals, won La Liga with Barcelona and carried his form into the 1994 World Cup, where he won the Golden Ball.

    These honors would lead to his selection as the 1994 FIFA World Player of the Year.

    However, just as soon as Romario had hit the highest point of any footballers career, he quickly found himself brought back to earth.

    He showed up three weeks late from his post-World Cup holiday and could not recapture the form that made him the best footballer in the world in 1994. By Christmas time, he was transferred back to Brazil.

    In Brazil, Romario seemed to have an issue with nearly every coach who coached him.

    Vanderlei Luxemburgo was let go by Flamengo when he clashed with the Brazilian striker, but on the national level, Romario found himself clashing with both Mario Zagallo and Luiz Felipe Scolari, and in this case, it was he who found himself dropped.

    As a result, Romario's legacy was hurt by his absence from the 1998 and 2002 World Cups, both of which were World Cups he could've made a significant difference in.

    Now, as a politician, Romario still creates all sorts of mayhem in Brazil, just in a different arena.


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    Guti did enough off the pitch to earn himself the title of one of the most unpredictable players of all time.

    But that's not why he's here.

    It's because on the pitch, Guti had the ability to absolutely take over the game and wow you in a way no other player could.

    Case in point: This.

    There was a reason that Guti was one of the few Real Madrid youth products to go on practically their entire career with Madrid. Guti oozed class, class that allowed him to pick up playing time no matter what world-class players were brought in at Madrid.

    The only problem in Guti's path to greatness was his consistency. For as much as Guti was creative and talented, he was bad-tempered and poorly disciplined. In his years as a regular starter for Madrid, Guti averaged around 10 yellow cards and one red card per season.

    Due to his discipline issues, Guti was unceremoniously dumped by Mourinho upon his arrival at the club and is currently unemployed after being released by Besiktas.

    A poor ending to the career of one of most unpredictable, yet under-appreciated, Real Madrid players ever.

Craig Bellamy

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    I wonder, is it fair to say Mario Balotelli is like a younger Craig Bellamy? Or would that be too harsh?

    Craig Bellamy has had one unpredictable career. He's been accused of violence on a number of occasions but never convicted, which is why his playing career has gone on uninterrupted.

    But even football-wise, he's had many ups and downs.

    He was crucial member of Manchester City's squad in 2009-10, yet was made surplus to requirements by Roberto Mancini and dropped from the squad of Champions League contenders to Cardiff City, a middle-to-upper table team in the Championship.

    And after a summer in which he looked doomed to spend the 2011-12 season in the Manchester City reserves, Bellamy was able to return to one of the EPL's best clubs, Liverpool, where he first developed a reputation as an unpredictable character.

    To add to the unpredictability of Bellamy, he's a huge social activist, having started the Craig Bellamy Foundation in Sierra Leone, which offers children the chance to "achieve their potential through sport and education."

    Is the Bellamy/Balotelli link making more sense now?

Antonio Cassano

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    Antonio Cassano may be warmly regarded by AC Milan fans and the Italian national team manager now, but for much of his career, this was not the case.

    From the beginning of his career, Cassano had a problem with authority. He regularly clashed with Fabio Capello at Roma and then again at Real Madrid and picked up many bookings for dissent, famously getting sent off in the 2003 Italian Cup Final.

    Even at Sampdoria, Cassano discipline issues continued, and after a period of improved behavior, his petulance returned, as he reportedly called the club chairman an "old sh*t" when invited to the club's award ceremony.

    At AC Milan, Cassano's discipline has significantly improved, but with the club loaded with forwards in the form of Alexander Pato, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Robinho, Maxi Lopez and Stephen El Shaarawy, it's hard to see him getting too much playing time after he recovers from his heart surgery.

    Cassano still has world-class talent, but had he shown it more often in place of his immaturity on and off the pitch, he could've had a much brighter career.

George Best

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    I've already written about George Best, but B/R's Ken Lawrence wraps up George Best's career much better than I do, so I'll reference his slide here:

    The Stretford End would chant : “Maradona good, Pele better, George Best!”

    The Belfast Boy was a killer on the pitch and the original lady killer off it. He was the first true poster boy of the game, the “fifth Beatle,” his appeal spanning generations—the girls as crazy about his looks as the boys were about the way he dazzled defences. Best was unbelievably gifted.

    When he was discovered by Northern Ireland scout Bob Bishop, he sent this telegram to Sir Matt Busby : “I think I’ve found a genius,” and the then 15-year-old went on to make 470 appearances for United, scoring 179 goals. Superstardom killed him.

    He became an alcoholic, a problem boy, a heartache for Busby, his family and millions of fans. He was only 27 when he played his last game for United, versus QPR on January 1, 1974, the days of scoring six against Northampton already history.

    His legend, however, will never die.

Mario Balotelli

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    I for one am glad that we have a guy like Mario Balotelli to make football that much more interesting for us.

    He scores with consummate ease, always seems to have a shirt ready to display when he does score and is always doing all sorts of crazy things when playing off the pitch.

    There was a genuine concern when Balotelli was at Inter Milan that he would never fulfill his potential, but such concerns have largely been pushed aside as Balotelli's temperament seems to have improved considerably at Manchester City.

    This doesn't mean that his discipline is now perfect; he still picks up needless red cards (see the Liverpool match) and can make dumb, temperamental tackles in important games (see the Spurs match).

    But as unpredictable as Balotelli has been, the future looks bright for the young Italian.

Rene Higuita

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    Courtesy of Ed Wyman:

    Colombian legend René Higuita is best known for inventing the Scorpion Kick and was hugely popular due to his eccentric style of play.

    However, Higuita did not just create controversy with his revolutionary style of goalkeeping. In 1993, the goalkeeper found himself in jail after assisting in a kidnapping.

    Higuita delivered the ransom and ensured the safe return of the victim but received money for doing so. In Colombia, it is illegal to profit from a kidnapping, so Higuita ended up spending seven months in jail.

    In 2004, the Colombian tested positive for cocaine and did not play again until 2005. However, Higuita is best remembered for the controversy he created on the pitch, a testament to his footballing ability, as well as his entertainment value, given his off-field problems.


Jens Lehmann

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    We finish with the king of the crazies: Jens Lehmann.

    Prior to arriving at Arsenal, Lehmann already had developed a reputation for erratic behavior. At Schalke, he is remembered for fleeing the stadium after a poor performance against Bayer Leverkusen, and at Borussia Dortmund, he is remembered for earning the record of most red cards ever given to any player—not goalkeeper—in the Bundesliga.

    At Arsenal, Jens Lehmann was not too undisciplined, but the strange behavior definitely persisted. His quarrels with Didier Drogba were always entertaining, and his acting was first-class as well.

    But above all his shenanigans and unpredictable behavior, Jens Lehmann was a quality goalkeeper, and his performances in the 2003-04 Invincibles season or the 2005-06 Champions League run, in which he record 10 consecutive clean sheets, won't soon be forgotten.

Honorable Mentions

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    For various reasons, these guys didn't make the top 10. An argument could certainly be made that they've displayed quite unpredictable behavior throughout their careers, and if the list was extended out further, they'd almost certainly be included:

    Joey Barton

    Roy Keane

    Ashley Cole


    Paul Gascoigne

    Feel free to suggest other names you think should be on this list, and thanks for reading!


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