There’s a particular line of thinking which suggests that ‘everybody likes a dust-up’ once in a while, no more so than this decuplet of scrappers, snarlers, biters, scratchers and degenerate ne’er-do-wells.
Soccerlens presents: The top 10 fighting footballers (in no particular order…)
1. Luis Suarez:
In late November, Ajax forward Suarez was handed a weighty seven-match ban by the KNVB for leaving an imprint of his rather equine dentistry on PSV defender Otman Bakkal‘s clavicle fleshy when the two clubs met the week previous.
The Uruguayan scoundrel had already accepted a two-match suspension from Ajax after the club reviewed video footage of the incident, but the Dutch disciplinary authorities deemed the ‘unneccesarily violent’ incident to be serious enough to warrant additional sanctioning.
Suarez then blamed ‘tiredness’ for the assault.
2. Joey Barton:
Where to start? When not lashing out petulantly at Norwegian wingers, delivering ‘frenzied’ training-ground attacks to the backs of his teammates’ heads, doing time at her Majesties’ pleasure, stubbing cigars out in youth-team players’ eyes, grabbing his balls and calling opposing strikers ‘poofs’… etc… etc, Barton can be found (using CCTV) thrashing the living daylights out of teenagers in Liverpool city centre.
Will he ever clean up his act? Will he b*ll*cks.
3. Frank Rijkaard:
He’s a gobber, is our Frank. After 20 minutes of the second-round Italia ’90 game between Holland and Germany, the tousled Dutchman went in rather industriously on German striker Rudi Voller and the spat – if you’ll excuse the pun – escalated from there.
Having already seen an unsuccessful phlegm missile sail wide of the mark, Rijkaard took umbrage at Voller’s lunge at Dutch ‘keeper Hans van Breukelen and, after a heated confrontation which saw both players sent-off, let fly with a sneaky second globule that arched through the ether before nestling sweetly within Voller’s dense mullet.
4. Eric Cantona:
The Manchester United pseud karate-kicked a goading spectator in the face. What more needs to be said?
5. Jermain Defoe:
Nurse, we have another biter. Having been unscrupulously felled by West Ham midfielder Javier Mascherano in 2006, Tottenham striker Defoe vented his frustration in the only way his tiny brain could fathom – by having a piqued nibble on the Argentine’s bicep.
After Mascherano have finished his ‘shark-attack’ charade, the Spurs hotshot was booked – but only for ‘aggressive behaviour’, leaving the FA powerless to administer any post-game discipline.
6. Roy Keane:
It was Keane’s relentless commitment that got him to the top, but it was his malevolent, distant and utterly myopic anger that constantly threatened to undermine him at every turn – perhaps the best example of which being his horrific, pre-meditated ‘revenge assault’ on Man City midfielder Alfe-Inge Haaland in 2001.
Back in 1997, Haaland (then of Leeds) spent an entire match trying to incite Keane into picking up a booking or two. In his attempts to trip the Norwegian, Keane caught his studs in the Elland Road turf and severed his cruciate ligament.
In his now-infamous autobiography, Keane remembers the incident with vivid intensity:
“I actually heard my cruciate ligament snap. The pain was instant and agonising. Haaland stood over me shouting, ‘Get up, stop faking it’. Few days passed when I didn’t think about Alfie Haaland.”
Four long years later, Keane saw his chance for revenge:
“Now he had the ball on the far touchline. Alfie was taking the p*ss. I’d waited long enough. I hit him hard….Take that. And don’t ever stand over me again sneering about fake injuries.
I didn’t wait for [David] Elleray to show the card. I turned and walked to the dressing room.”
If that’s not serial killer thinking, then I don’t know what is.
7. Lee Bowyer:
The seemingly reformed/matured Birmingham midfielder’s early-career rap sheet is chock full with a myriad of offences of varying magnitude.
Bowyer has tested positive for cannabis, been fined for throwing a chair in McDonald’s, fined for a ‘breach of club discipline’ whilst at Leeds, accused (and later acquitted) of grievous bodily harm relating to a fight with an Asian student, charged with affray and banned for six matches on two separate occasions but his crowning glory was to come in 2005.
With Newcastle already down to ten men and 3-0 down to Aston Villa in front of a baying home crowd, Bowyer attacked teammate Kieron Dyer in the middle of the St James’ pitch before the sparring pair were separated by team-mates.
Bowyer received one of the aforementioned ‘six week’ fines, then both players were forced to appear at a humiliating press conference in order to apologise to the Toon support.
8. David Navarro:
During Valencia’s knock-out Champions League tie with Inter Milan in 2007, unused substitute Navarro emerged during an on-pitch brawl brought on by Nicola Burdisso‘s swipe at Los Che defender Claudio Marchena – and swiftly belted the Argentinian centre-back in the face, breaking his nose in the process.
Cue a ‘Benny Hill-style’ chase down the tunnel.
9. Craig Bellamy:
Since 2000, lippy Welsh forward Bellamy has moved between eight different clubs, failing to convincingly settle at any – which should come as no surprise, considering he is one of the most fractious and intrinsically unlikeable characters to grace the modern game.
In 2007, during his 12-month stint at Liverpool, Bellamy was so irked by teammates John Aarne Riise’s refusal to partake in a round of pre-season karaoke, that the incensed striker took the logical step of bursting into the left-back’s hotel room in the middle of the night and setting about him with a golf club – an assault he then replicated whilst celebrating his goal against Barcelona in the very next game.
10. Diego Maradona:
Back in May of 1984, El Diego Loco (who was playing for Barcelona at the time) took it upon himself to exact justice on the entire Athletic Bilbao squad during the Spanish Cup final for the heinous injury he had sustained nearly six months earlier, thanks to Basque defender Andoni ‘The Butcher’ Goikoetxea – who shattered the diminutive Argentinian’s ankle with a vicious, pre-meditated foul during September of the previous year.
The fight really erupted when the irate Maradona swung his knee into the neck of Miguel Sola, leaving the Bilbao midfielder unconscious, which duly precipitated all manner of hellish scenes – which left the Bernabeu pitch smeared in blood.