Most Feared Football Players of All Time
Just who are the hardest, scariest and most intimidating football players of all time, the men who really make you quake in your boots every time you even see them on the field?
Well, if football’s hard men may now be a relative thing of the past due to the now tougher laws in the game stamping down (unfortunate phrase to use I know!) on even the merest suggestion of foul play, then between the '70s and '90s almost every team had a least one hatchet man in their side.
So we rank the most feared football players of all time, giving each protagonist a score out of 10, with one being the least intimidating. If any of you are squeamish, then I suggest you look away now…
Miguel Angel Nadal (1/10)
Unlike his calm, gentile and always smiling nephew Rafa, Miguel Angel Nadal was an animal on the pitch, which is why the one-time Barcelona and Spain centre-back was given the moniker “The Beast."
Gennaro Gattuso (2/10)
Gennaro Gattuso is an Italy and Milan warrior who learned the rough stuff while spending a season with the Scottish Rangers in the late '90s. It served the midfield player well when he perhaps unwisely decided to take on Spurs assistant coach Joe Jordan in a touchline head-to-head during a UEFA Champions League contest at San Siro in 2011.
Pepe, the Portuguese man of war, just loves a good old scrap, although it has been known to get the Real Madrid defender in the odd spot of bother over the years.
And none more so than when the 30-year-old got hit with a 10-game ban by the Spanish Football Association after he kicked Getafe’s Francisco Casquero and raked his studs over the player’s back. He then decided to punch Juan Albin in the ensuing melee, all because the referee dared to give the visitors a penalty at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.
Claudio Gentile (4/10)
Claudio Gentile was a Juventus and Azzurri centre-back during the '70s and early '80s. He was perhaps the player for whom the term man-to-man marking was made, as anyone who watched the Italian’s smothering job that helped shut out Argentina’s Diego Maradona in the 1982 World Cup would attest to.
Stuart Pearce (5/10)
There was a reason Stuart Pearce, the former Nottingham Forest and England left back, was nicknamed “Psycho” during his playing days, and it was certainly not because of his love of the Oscar-nominated movie. It had more to do with his ferocious and no-nonsense tackling style and all-round intimidating presence on the field.
Billy Bremner (6/10)
Billy Bremner was one of the game’s first really true hard men, as seen during his infamous punch-up with Liverpool striker Kevin Keegan during the 1974 Charity Shield at Wembley. It resulted in the Leeds United midfield player being dismissed for his actions, although that did not stop the diminutive ginger-haired Scot from continuing to be manager Don Revie’s chief enforcer on the pitch.
Andoni Goikoetxea (7/10)
Andoni Goikoetxea is the man with the scariest nickname of all time, although the Athletic Bilbao and Spain central defender rightly earned his moniker, “The Butcher of Bilbao,” after committing the most ferocious tackle ever seen on a football field. During the tackle, which happened in a league match at Camp Nou in September 1983, he tore the ligaments in Diego Maradona’s ankle. What’s more, the Spaniard then framed and displayed the boot that very nearly ended the Argentinian’s career.
Ron Harris (8/10)
The phrase “they don’t make them like that anymore” springs to mind when talking about Ron Harris, an ex-Chelsea captain, who played a whopping 795 matches for the Blues between 1961 and 1980. Harris, a central defender, will forever be known simply as “Chopper” because of his penchant for carving down opposition players when in full flow.
Graeme Souness (9/10)
Graeme Souness, the Scot who put the "X" into X-rated tackling in the 80s, somehow managed to get sent off when trying to be on his very best behaviour in his first-ever match as player-manager of the Glasgow Rangers in August 1986.
The midfield hatchet man was booked straight from the kick-off following a crude, late and high challenge on Hibernian’s Billy Kirkwood. Later in the first half, he saw red after raking his studs down the back of George McCluskey’s leg during a 21-man brawl.