Player Rivalries: Best of Enemies


Club rivalries are passed down through the generations; every Spurs fans knows that Arsenal are the enemy, Barcelona look at Real Madrid with contempt, whilst River Plate and Boca Juniors fans were born to fight each other.

However player rivalries also exist in the game, as team-mates fallout, international selection decisions breed derision and players clash against each other on the pitch.

Here are Soccerlens’ top player rivalries:

Patrick Vieira & Roy Keane

In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s Arsenal and Manchester United battled for Premier League superiority, and the rivalry between the country’s two best teams at the time threatened to boil over. This rivalry has epitomised by the on-field (and in-tunnel) confrontations between each club’s combative midfielder, captain and leader.

A great spectacle for the onlooker and two never-say-die and talented footballers who refused to take a backward step.

David Batty & Graeme Le Saux

Player Rivalries: Best of Enemies

Two fiery characters on the pitch, Batty and Le Saux came to blows at Blackburn when the side were losing against Spartak Moscow in the Champions League in 1995. Le Saux threw a punch at the combative midfielder during play, and the pair were later disciplined by the club.

Santaigo Canizares & Roberto Ayala

Player Rivalries: Best of Enemies

Part of the Valencia rearguard in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, goalkeeper Canizares and centre back Djukic openly hated each other. Despite excelling in Spain and on the continent, the pair did not talk at all off the pitch, despite playing for the Mestalla-based club together for five years.

Joey Barton & Newcastle United/Karl Henry/Gervinho/Bradley Johnson/The World

Player Rivalries: Best of Enemies

Arguably one of the most argumentative and controversial characters in the modern game, Joey Barton has personal grudges and gripes with half the Premier League. Whilst at Manchester City he was found guilty of assaulting team-mate Ousemane Dabo in training, and handed a four-month suspended prison sentence.

He hit out at former employers Newcastle United after being shipped on and has been caught up in altercations with Gervinho, Bradley Johnson and Karl Henry all this season; Barton’s rivalries are literally too long to list.

Pele & Maradona

Player Rivalries: Best of Enemies

Two of the best players to have every played the game, Pele and Maradona’s dislike for each other stems around the fervour of the Brazil-Argentina rivalry.

The debate rages on to who the best player to every play the game is, with these two leading contenders, and they have publicly slated each other in the media over the years. Nowadays the rivalry is based on the merits of their countrymen, as Pele looks for a Brazilian superstar (latest one is Neymar) who can rival the brilliance of Argentina’s Lionel Messi.

Cristiano Ronaldo & Lionel Messi

Player Rivalries: Best of Enemies

The two best active players in the game, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have fought it out for Ballon d’Or accolades and superiority in Spain and the continent for Real Madrid and Barcelona over the last five years. The pair face each other directly on a regular basis in El Clasico fixtures, and although there isn’t much venom in their personal battle, it is a great rivalry between two superb competitors.

Luis Suarez & Patrice Evra

Player Rivalries: Best of Enemies

One of the talking points of the season, Liverpool and Manchester United’s hatred for each other was taken to another level when Luis Suarez racially abused Patrice Evra in October’s 1-1 draw. The Uruguayan was banned for eight games, only to return and refuse to shake Evra’s hand the next time the teams met.

Andy Cole & Teddy Sheringham

Player Rivalries: Best of Enemies

Cole has spoken of his hatred towards former club and international team-mate Sheringham on numerous occasions. In 1995, Cole made his England debut by coming off the bench in a friendly against Uruguay, replacing Sheringham.

To Cole’s surprise, Sheringham refused to shake his hand or offer any support, and a 15-year-feud ensued. The pair played together in attack for Manchester United on countless occasions, but did not talk off the pitch.

John Terry & Wayne Bridge

Player Rivalries: Best of Enemies

Another refused handshake, this time by Wayne Bridge on John Terry. The Chelsea skipper had a four-month affair with team-mate and friend Bridge’s girlfriend Vanessa Perroncel; Bridge later went on to quit international football over the scandal and was sold by Chelsea.

Jerome Boateng & Kevin-Prince Boateng

Player Rivalries: Best of Enemies

Brothers Jerome and Kevin-Prince Boateng fell out in 2010 after the latter injured the prior’s international team-mate Michael Ballack in a club fixture between Portsmouth and Chelsea. After a heated war of words in the media, the pair went on to settle their differences over a year later.

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