The Premier League isn’t what it used to be. With the introduction of new camera angles, a fourth official and VAR, footballers cannot get away with what they used to when the Premier League first started. Additionally, the repercussions involved as well as the money now flooding the sport has meant today’s footballers are a completely different breed altogether.
Here’s a run-down of the Premier League’s ultimate bad boys…
10. David Batty
David Batty was an uncompromising midfield general who had no love for the game outside of his work hours. Maybe it was this very workman–like approach that set Batty apart from his peers. He didn’t take any nonsense on the pitch, even engaging in fisticuffs with team-mate Graeme Le Saux during a Champions League tie for Blackburn against Spartak Moscow.
Although Batty didn’t get the credit he deserved for his all-round passing ability, he was as tough as nails and that went a long way during his playing days. He ended his career with two league winner’s medals with Leeds United and Blackburn.
9. Craig Bellamy
The fiery Welshman is on this list because he took pride in belittling defenders during his playing career. He could rip defenders to shreds with his words, and was notorious for telling them how bad they were during matches.
He was a polarising figure, but had the qualities to back up his harsh words. Even when Bellamy was coming through the ranks, former trainee Stuart Manley described him as “A nasty man. A horrible little git.”
8. Patrick Vieira
His sheer athleticism was frightening enough, but the Frenchman was another midfielder who loved to roll up his sleeves and have a good old tussle.
He had big battles with Roy Keane and Steven Gerrard throughout the years. He was a feared enforcer. So it may come as a surprise – and probably why he isn’t higher on this list – that he once was humbled by none other than Phil Neville in a match against Everton. Phil got his own back for his brother that day, after Viera was accused of picking on Gary Neville in the tunnel before a match but more on that later.
7. Diego Costa
Never has a man looked more like a 50-year-old in a 29-year-old’s body than Diego Costa. His rugged looks certainly fit his on-field persona. And let’s be honest, Costa doesn’t look like anything really bothers him.
If he missed a penalty in the World Cup final, would he actually lose sleep over it? Probably not. He’s also a mean son of a gun. His career has been littered with red cards; much to the anger of former Chelsea bosses Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte. One of his worst moments for the Blues came when he allegedly bit Gareth Barry in an FA Cup game.
6. Mario Balotelli
“Why Always Me?” That was the slogan Super Mario had printed on a blue shirt whilst playing for Manchester City. The mad Italian was like a ballistic missile when he saw red. The minute he got booked, it seemed inevitable that he would be getting his marching orders soon after.
But where there is madness, there is often genius, and Balotelli certainly provided some delightful moments during his time with City. None more so than the pass that played in Sergio Agüero in injury time to snatch the title from Manchester United in the 2011/12 season. Balotelli went crazy many times during his days at the Etihad but it was the arguments he had with Roberto Mancini in full view of the cameras that remain the most memorable.
5. Paolo di Canio
The fiery Italian has graced the Premier League as a player and manager. As a manager he expected his players to tow the line at all times not giving them a single day off in the process. Yet as a player, he caused controversy on numerous occasions.
His finest moment, you ask? Well that came playing for Sheffield Wednesday in 1998 against Arsenal. He was sent off for a second bookable offence and then decided to push referee Paul Alcock to the floor. It would result in a lengthy ban, and it took a while before Di Canio was seen in a good light by the British press again.
4. Luis Suarez
Old bitey liked scoring goals as much as he liked the taste of human flesh on a Saturday afternoon. He “allegedly” bit Patrice Evra and Branislav Ivanovic. The Player’s Association demanded the Uruguayan have counselling to cure his addiction. Prior to these two incidents he had also bitten PSV’s Otman Bakkal while representing Ajax and Giorgio Chiellini while playing for his country. While Suarez never bit off more than he could chew during his Premier League days, he seems to have calmed down nowadays in La Liga for Barcelona.
3. Eric Cantona
Eric Cantona was a maverick, and enigma. He was Fergie’s leading light when he joined from Leeds United at the start of the very first Premier League campaign in 1992/93.
There was just something about the Frenchman – he was unlike anything British football had ever seen. But while he exuded class on the pitch, there was a devil in him, too.
He had a spate of red cards during his time in England, yet there was one incident that stood out above the rest. On a rainy night in London, United were playing Crystal Palace. Cantona received his marching orders, and as he was trudging off the field, he caught sight of a Palace fan verbally abusing him on the touchline.
In a matter of seconds, Cantona aimed a kung fu kick at the fan, threw a couple of punches, and before anyone could pick their jaws up from the floor, journalists were frantically scribbling down tomorrow’s headlines.
2. El Hadji Diouf
Where do we start with this one? Aside from his garish clothing, laid-back attitude and general tardiness, reports suggest Diouf was a nightmare to manage. He received an insane amount of fines, and suspensions during his time in England and Scotland. His most notorious bans include when he spat on former Portsmouth captain Arjan De Zeeuw.
But one of the worst incidents and what makes him such a bad boy was when he leaned over an injured Jamie Mackie, going on a verbal tirade. What Diouf didn’t know at the time was that Mackie had broken his leg. After the game, Neil Warnock labelled Diouf a “sewer rat”. In true Warnock fashion, he signed Diouf for Leeds less than 12-months after the incident.
1. Roy Keane
Captain fantastic. He was an absolute colossus of a midfielder who didn’t get enough plaudits for his playing ability during his days with Manchester United. Keane had it all.
During his pomp, he was one of the best in the world, and he commanded respect. He had so many high profile battles, none more so that with Arsenal’s captain Patrick Vieira – everyone remembers their bust up in the tunnel when the Frenchman was accused of bullying Gary Neville.
There was also the altercation he had with Alan Shearer when he was sent off against Newcastle. But arguably the most famous was his challenge on Alfie Inge Haaland in that fateful Manchester derby. Haaland had injured Keane a couple of years prior and mocked him while he was on the ground. Keane didn’t forget. And when he got the chance, he ended Haaland’s career with one devastating tackle.
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