As well as the loved players, football has had plenty of those who people love to hate – indeed, in several cases, they have been one and the same.
We’ve compiled a team of individuals so many observers get a kick out of giving a kicking, and it actually ended up being pretty decent.
The former Germany shot-stopper was seen as a hero by Arsenal fans as a member of the ‘Invincibles’ side – but thoroughly disliked elsewhere in the game due to his perceived arrogance.
Widely regarded as the finest right-back of his generation – and someone not shy of showing his club loyalties. The former England and Manchester United player was in hot water with the Football Association in 2006 due to the way he celebrated the Red Devils’ late winner against Liverpool in front of the Merseyside outfit’s fans.
Over the course of his fine career, the Portugal and Real Madrid centre-back has developed a firm reputation as a dirty player – something his apparent stamp on Lionel Messi in 2012, which he apologised for and insisted had been unintentional, certainly did not help. Previously received a 10-match ban after kicking Getafe’s Javier Casquero while the midfielder was on the ground.
The Chelsea captain and former England skipper has both numerous honours and controversies on his CV. He memorably gave his detractors ammunition while collecting silverware in 2012, having changed into his full kit as the Blues were presented with the Champions League trophy – despite having not played in the final.
Terry’s ex-Chelsea and England team-mate is another man who has combined great success with various popularity-harming antics over the years. Those who accuse the left-back of being greedy often refer to the way Cole spoke in his 2006 autobiography of his “anger” at being offered £55,000 a week rather than £60,000 by his first club Arsenal.
Few would question that Neville’s former United colleague is an outrageously good player – or that he has the looks to match. But what many find not so endearing about Ronaldo is the way he seems acutely aware of the aesthetic aspect – as demonstrated by his topless celebration in Real Madrid’s Champions League final triumph last year. And no England fans will be forgetting any time soon the Portugal man’s infamous wink at the 2006 World Cup either…
Some might say that Savage conducts himself like someone who thinks his looks rival Cristiano Ronaldo’s – and that he is misguided in doing so. That, combined with the reputation he had himself as something of a dirty player, plus his outspoken manner, mean the former Leicester, Birmingham, Blackburn, Derby and Wales midfielder – generally loved by fans of those sides when he played for them – certainly has his ‘haters’.
A hugely successful and well-respected player with a managerial career that is going the same way – but Southampton boss Koeman is another man who England fans in particular associate with the role of the villain. As Holland captain, he helped end the Three Lions’ chances of making the 1994 World Cup by scoring a free-kick that he had been allowed to re-take – and which came moments after an incident which many felt should have seen him sent off for a foul on David Platt.
Handball. 'Nuff said.
Someone else who Premier League football fans have both revered and reviled. When Suarez departed Liverpool for Barcelona last summer, the Uruguay forward was the deserved holder of the Premier League’s Player of the Year awards, but also serving a lengthy ban having at the World Cup once again showcased his unfortunate habit of biting opponents – just one of a variety of types of controversy he has courted.
Although nowhere near the level of Maradona or Suarez talent-wise, the Senegal forward has carved out a decent career and been credited at times for doing a very useful job in English football, most notably at Bolton. But, again, he is a player who has been involved in a string of controversies, and is perhaps best known for an unpleasant mouth-related tendency of his own – spitting, both at opposition fans and players. Was once unfavourably compared to a sewer rat by Neil Warnock.
Ron “Chopper” Harris