Top 5: Villains of the Premier League – Featuring Luis Suarez, Roy Keane & More…
As Luis Suarez dominates the airwaves for his antics, Tom Gatehouse compiles a Top 5 of some of the most villainous players to ever grace the Premier League.
It has been hard to find breathing space following the Luis Suarez ‘nibble’. Such is the furore and massive fallout that websites, papers and conversation have been hooked on the topic.
Is the 10 match ban too harsh a punishment? Will the Uruguayan play for Liverpool again, or will he move on to pastures new? Is anger management the best way to go for the troubled striker?
Many such questions and more flood the airwaves, and it brings to mind a further puzzler: is Luis Suarez the most villainous player of the new Premier League era?
There are many contributing factors in the process of creating a reviled figure in football; be it simulation, violence, aggressive tactics or even the taunting of the fans. But there is often one, distinguishing moment that turns a player into a monster in the eyes of the punters.
This is a Top 5 of the shocking and despicable; a collection of players capable of tackles that make us grimace, sinister violence that leave us outraged, and downright craziness that leave us baffled.
Everyone is capable of making a bad tackle, and even the most affable of player could be vilified for flying in a little too energetically. This list is however, reserved for those who make or made a habit of bringing a little violence onto the field with them.
Villains are like heroes in the sense that they are ever-present in sport, which means that this list would be practically infinite if one was to delve back too far! Let’s keep it short and sweet, or rather, abrupt and sour in the case of these players.
5. Ben Thatcher, Man City, Defender
Let us start then with the inclusion of ex-City defender, Thatcher, who caused bitter outrage with his ‘assault’ on the then Portsmouth midfielder, Pedro Mendes.
A clunky, brute of a defender, his footballing talents lay with his physicality rather than in his feet. A true one trick pony/rhino, his disgusting attack on Mendes left the public in shock due to its callous and malicious nature. Charging into the midfielder as the ball ran out of play, Thatcher launched an elbow into the jaw of the Portuguese. Mendes needed oxygen pitch side, and suffered a seizure on the way to the hospital; such was the force of the blow.
There should be no place in modern football for a player such as Thatcher, a sad example of the brutality that can exist in the highest levels of professional sport.
4. Marco Materazzi, Everton/Inter Milan, Defender
Everton fans will remember the mad Italian, who forged a successful career for himself by butchering opponents. Famous for the ‘Zidane head-butt’ incident that shook the world of football in 2006, Materazzi is the epitome of an overly aggressive centre-back, using a combination of intimidation and outright violence to ensure his side’s victory.
Now retired, he spent the bulk of his time playing for Italian giants, Inter Milan, and was a firm favourite of former boss Jose Mourinho during his tenure there.
Mad as a bee, his is certainly worthy of a place on this list, and there will be a fair few strikers that will be thankful that Materazzi has hung up his boots, or ‘weapons’ in his case.
3. Luis Suarez, Liverpool, Striker
Flying in at number three is the man of the moment, Luis ‘Hannibal’ Suarez. Although he has only been selling his brand of crazy on Merseyside for little over two years, he earns his place not for his stunning bite on Branislav Ivanovic, but for a whole host of misdemeanours ranging from the sinister to the downright despicable.
A journalist’s dream, and currently the FA’s nightmare, it remains to be seen if the buck-toothed maniac will be at Liverpool next season. I’m sure many fans and players alike would like to see the back of him.
2. Roy Keane, Man Utd, Midfielder
He may have been a brilliant leader and captain for the most successful English team in history, but there is no getting away from the fact that Roy Keane was often a very nasty player.
‘Mr Intimidation’ himself, his tough regime with the armband heralded a plethora of nasty exchanges with opposition and referees. From Patrick Vieira, to Alan Shearer, no one was immune to Keane’s ‘charm’. His treatment of referees arguably began the debate over how best to protect the man with the whistle from overly aggressive players.
And, lest we forget, ‘Keano’ ended the career of Man City midfielder, Alf Inge-Haaland, with a vendetta-fuelled lunge on his knee. Obviously intentional, Haaland can still feel twinges in the knee many years after he was forced into retirement.
The worst thing about the incident? Keane’s admission in his autobiography, and the complete lack of remorse for his action:
‘I’d waited long enough. I f****** hit him hard. The ball was there (I think). Take that you c***.
‘And don’t ever stand over me sneering about fake injuries. Even in the dressing room afterwards, I had no remorse. My attitude was, f*** him.
‘What goes around, comes around. He got his just rewards. He f***** me over and my attitude is an eye for an eye’ (source: Guardian)
1. Joey Barton, Man City/Marseille, Midfielder
Who else but Joseph? Utterly maniacal, hilariously evil, and totally divorced from reality, Joey Barton has had more run-ins with controversy than Suarez has had birthdays.
He tops this list of villains due to his habitual disregard of the rules of the game. Punches, head-butts, sly kicks, neck grabs; the lot! Barton’s repertoire even extends to when he is off the pitch; assaulting members of the public on drunken nights out, and attacking teammates during training sessions.
Now playing for Marseille, Barton is still up to his old tricks, despite his attempts to blend into his more cultural surroundings. Calling PSG defender, Thiago Silva a ‘fat lady-boy’, and enquiring sarcastically whether he is ‘post or pre op’ was an obvious highlight. His twitter account is essential viewing, as it has become a no-holds-barred affair for Barton to vent spleen at his fellow pros.
Barton is actually a decent player, with a good eye for a set piece. This is why he is playing for one of the biggest clubs in France, in a loan move that may well be made permanent come the summer. But it doesn’t matter where Joey Barton moves to, there can no doubt that his reputation as the villain will follow him for the rest of his career; and he loves it.
Who would you liked to see on the list? Leave your suggestions in the comments section below.
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