Mario Balotelli returns to the Premier League this season after completing a £16 million move to Liverpool. Balotelli’s first stint in the Premier League was an entertaining one for football fans. He scored some great goals for Manchester City but also caused controversy for stunts such as letting off fireworks in his bathroom.
To say Balotelli is the only controversial player to play in the Premier League would be a grave understatement. Sarah Fitzpatrick takes a look at the Bad Boys XI of the Premier League.
GK – Jens Lehmann
Jens Lehmann was between the sticks for Arsenal between 2003 and 2008 and it wouldn’t be wrong to he was a few fries short of a happy meal. During his time at Arsenal, the goalkeeper stamped on players, threw water over a referee and was often involved in arguments with opponents and even his own team mates at times.
The German was also known for being eccentric which was shown through his comments towards team mate Manuel Almunia by claiming, “he does not have my class”.
Lehmann was also involved in a diving controversy with Chelsea striker Didier Drogba as the two appeared to take part in a diving competition against each other during a fiery fixture between their clubs.
To top it all off, the German then became the first ever goalkeeper to be sent off in a Champions League final during Arsenal’s loss to Barcelona in 2006.
RB- Gary Neville
The consistent former Manchester United right back wasn’t known for many eccentric controversies off field but instead for rash and hard tackles on opponents on the pitch. The defender also had a mouth on him which opponents would often find hard not to react to which led to him being known as a wind up merchant in the football world.
The gobby defender loved a derby game against Liverpool and landed himself in the headlines for all the wrong reasons as he celebrated quite ridiculously in front of the Liverpool fans after a win over the old enemy.
The defender is probably the least controversial in this XI but was a figure that opposition fans loved to hate.
CB- John Terry
Chelsea’s John Terry is both a loud mouth and a player known to go in hard on opponents. During a fixture against Aston Villa many a season ago, the defender made a ridiculous tackle on James Milner where he slid in and caught Milner’s shin with his studs but was only given a yellow.
The defender was also charged with alleged racism against Anton Ferdinand and was given a four match ban as well as a fine by the FA.
The Chelsea defender also had his share of controversy off the field as he was caught having an affair with former team-mate Wayne Bridge’s ex which led to Bridge refusing to shake hands with Terry before the two faced each other in a Premier League tie.
Craig Bellamy has been quite vocal about his own feelings towards Terry.
CB- Rio Ferdinand
Ferdinand is known for being quite vocal on and off the pitch as he isn’t one to back down during a confrontation as well as often sharing his opinions on Twitter. The defender was fined £45,000 by the FA for criticising Ashley Cole on Twitter but is most famous for missing a drugs test during his time at Manchester United.
The defender missed the drugs test in September 2003 and was banned from playing for his club Manchester United for eight months.
LB – Ashley Cole
Ashley Cole is one of those footballers that no matter what he does, people love to hate him. The Roma defender was caught up in a transfer saga with Chelsea where he was fined £75k for being involved in the tapping up scandal.
Cole then turned his back on Arsenal and claimed that “Arsenal fed me to the sharks” and he then eventually moved on to Chelsea.
Off the field, Cole was in the tabloids for all the wrong reasons as he was caught cheating on his then wife Cheryl Cole multiple times and the defender was left red faced as well as divorced.
MID – Vinnie Jones
The now Hollywood actor is a hard man in his movies but was once a hard man in real life during his time as a footballer. The tough midfielder never pulled out of tackles and attempted to get one up on opponents through fear and intimidation. The midfielder was a scary prospect for any opponent which helped in fit in well with ‘The Crazy Gang’ at Wimbledon.
The midfielder was sent off 12 times in his career as well as making a record as the quickest ever booking as he was booked after three seconds in a fixture.
Jones’ is most famous for grabbing Paul Gascoigne by his crown jewels to put him off while marking him in a fixture which is now a famous image of football.
MID – Roy Keane
Roy Keane was a bad boy for many reasons such as rash tackles, always complaining to the ref as well as always getting involved in controversy. During his time at Manchester United, he was sent off eleven times including a red during a FA Cup Semi Final for stamping on Gareth Southgate who was playing for Crystal Palace.
Keane also criticised the lack of vocal support from the United fans on one occasion as he said,
“Away from home our fans are fantastic, I’d call them hardcore fans. At home they have a few drinks and probably the prawn sandwiches and they don’t realise what is going on out on the pitch. I don’t think some of the people who come to Old Trafford can spell football never mind understand it”.
In 2001, Keane was again in trouble for a revenge tackle on Alf-Inge Haaland and he later admitted in his autobiography that he purposely attempted to hurt the player.
MID- Joey Barton
QPR hardman Barton is known for losing his temper easily and for constantly being in trouble. In 2007, Barton admitted assaulting then team mate Ousmane Dabo which was the first of three times the midfielder would be charged with violent conduct by the FA.
His second offence came when he punched Morten Gamst Pedersen in the stomach while his third came when he attacked three players on the final day of the season in 2011-12.
The midfielder has also spent time behind bars as his violent behaviour saw him spending 77 days in prison before the rest of his sentence was suspended.
FW- Paolo Di Canio
Di Canio spent time at Sheffield Wednesday, West Ham and Charlton and he caused much controversy during his stints in the Premier League. The feisty forward was quite vocal and passionate on the pitch which often led to trouble such as when he was sent off by referee Paul Alcock in 1998 and Di Canio was then witnessed pushing Alcock to the ground although the referee seemed to go down quite easily.
This push on Alcock led to an 11 match ban for Di Canio but he managed to change his behaviour and won a FIFA fair play award in 2001 for shunning a goal scoring opportunity because Everton keeper Paul Gerrard was down injured.
The controversy returned in 2003 as Di Canio had a public row with then manager Glenn Roeder.
FW- Eric Cantona
Cantona is known by Manchester United fans as a legend, but is known by everyone else for being a complete nutter.
After his move to Manchester United, Cantona caused major controversy time and time again. In 1993/94 the forward was sent off twice in two consecutive games which led to a five game ban.
Cantona was also known for spitting at a Leeds fan and was fined £1,000 by the FA. However, his biggest controversy came in a fixture against Crystal Palace as he reacted to another sending off by launching a kick towards a Palace fan. The forward was heavily punished as he was given an eight month football ban, a two-week prison sentence and he served 120 hours of community service.
FW- Luis Suarez
Suarez made a big money move to Barcelona this summer but along with his incredible talent comes a lot of trouble. In his early days at Liverpool, Suarez was given a fine and an eight match ban by the FA for alleged racism towards Patrice Evra during a fixture against Manchester United.
It didn’t stop there as the tricky forward was seen biting Chelsea defender Ivanovic in 2013 and it resulted in another fine and a 10 match ban.
The forward was seen to have mended his ways by having a well behaved 2013-14 for Liverpool but then went to the World Cup and bit defender Giorgio Chiellini in a fixture against Italy which resulted in a four month ban for the Uruguayan.
Honourable Mentions: Duncan Ferguson, Carlos Tevez, Robbie Savage, El Hadji Diouf, Lee Bowyer and Lee Cattermole all narrowly missed out on the starting XI but were strong candidates for the team due to past ‘endeavours’.
Sarah Fitzpatrick, Pundit Arena.