This is a list of players that have caused me to i) swear heavily ii) spill coffee iii) kick whatever’s in front of me (cat included) iv) fume for a whole day.
GK Jens Lehmann
He’s unlucky to still be around: I was not going to include retired players in this list. Lehmann is everything you don’t want to have in between the goalposts, a primadonna, a flapper, a disruptive influence in the dressing room and a German endowed with a poor sense of humour and very big ego.
Memorable moment(s): ruining Arsenal’s last title celebration by causing a penalty against Tottenham for a useless foul; peeing behind the ad hoardings during the Champions League.
DEF Marco Materazzi
What, exactly, is this towering tattooed terrorist doing on a football pitch? Always limited technically, his physique undoubtedly suited the identikit of the ideal Italian centre-back but his low IQ and general lack of intelligence suit those of a mountain goat. Always first to get into talking and physical altercations with everyone possible. Won Italy a World Cup in 2006 without quite knowing how.
Memorable moments: punching Bruno Cirillo after heckling at him all throughout an Inter-Siena match and turning up on TV to say he was “intimidated”; headbutted by Zinedine Zidane in a World Cup final, most of us now seem to think it was deserved; an own goal from the midfield in the match against Empoli.
DEF Jonathan Zebina
Off the pitch he has an interesting affection for arts and culture (he is a painter, it seems); but this Frenchman will surely not get his place in the Louvre of French football. He is clumsy, late on approximately 90% of his challenges, equally dangerous to opponents and teammates. Played at Juventus for many years frustrating his own fans with his petulance and numerous red cards.
Memorable moment: slapping a photographer after being sent off again.
Not sure what’s worse: his being an Inter defender or him being Brazil’s captain? As the Man Who Bears the Funny White Thing Around the Arm of My Favourite National Side, I’ve had to bear Lucio for quite a few years now. Particularly that morning in 2002 where I almost missed a presentation at University to watch him gift Michael Owen with the easiest of goals (Brazil won 2-1). Worse than that, perhaps, is his attitude: I’d forgive his tackles, and a few scissor kicks among those, but his incredible habit of running towards the referees whenever they rule against him is simply not on. But his faith in Jesus is so great that his perfect Christian example is rewarded by not getting so many yellow cards.
Memorable moments: none, he’s a boring sod.
Real Madrid paid Porto through their nose (€30m) for this overrated, easily excitable, highly irritating, slow, pea-headed centre back. I ran out of adjectives. Somehow always in contention for a red card, his forte is the flying kicks/high tackles, aimed with particular vehemence and accuracy at the shin bone and the ankle, especially when Real play Barcelona.
Memorable moments: stamping on an opponent (Casquero of Getafe) after downing him in the penalty area with i) a bad tackle followed by ii) a stamp on the shin and iii) on the lower back. Ten-match ban ensues.
MID Joey Barton
The Oxford English Dictionary has recently reviewed the definition of “cunt” by simply writing down “Joey Barton, Manchester City”. Again, this sod is overrated and weren’t it for his violent reputation no one would be quite sure how to spell his surname. After a 77-day jail term for a fracas outside a McDonalds in Liverpool, he was convicted to a four month suspended sentence for a violent altercation with Man City teammate Ousmane Dabo. Lengthy FA ban ensues. To this day, still behaves like an absolute… c*nt on the pitch. Ask Nasri, Diaby and Gervinho among others for more information.
Memorable moments: CCTV footage of the Liverpool brawl, just for starters.
MID Thiago Motta
Perfect partner for Joey Barton. Whence you’d think he can’t be so bad, this monstrous midfielder possesses an inflated ego, an excellent sense for a mistimed challenge, poor technique and the look of someone whose shotgun has been confiscated. Welcome to the world of Thiago Motta, whose ludicrous football has been rewarded with a call up to the national side (of Italy, not native Brazil). He is one of Jose Mourinho’s ‘best buys’ – a lousy midfielder of medium-low intelligence, ready to get sent off at any time.
Memorable moments: getting sent off in the semifinal between Inter and Barcelona for a useless elbow against Sergio Busquets, whose playacting became largely useless and a recent stamp on Thiago Silva for no apparent reason.
MID Wesley Sneijder
Cannot say he’s overrated, untalented, slow, imbecile or any of these. Sneijder is seriously gifted, with a great technique, vision of play and amazing set pieces. Why is he in the list? He will trudge the length of a pitch to contest a throw in. He feels he has a right to speak to referees whichever way he pleases, often but not always getting yellow cards for this (once a red card for applauding the ref sarcastically during a derby). He is as sanctimonious as they come, come the final whistle, you know he’ll always have something to say.
Memorable moments: his sending off in the Milan derby: the rules are clear for all, Wes.
Media darling and cash machine for the sponsors, we’re treating our children really badly by showing them this turd in football shoes on the telly. I’m not contesting his immense technique; he is, just like Joey Barton, a cunt. For one, his contortions at every missed pass/cross/shot resemble those of a panicked lady whose handbag has been stolen on the Tube. He knows the cameras are constantly on him and uses the airtime knowingly. Does, however, have a mean habit of kicking defenders or stamping while the ref is looking elsewhere, just like a poor nondescript winger from Altrincham would do. Would like to be Beckham but sadly misses out on attitude.
Memorable moments: Getting then teammate Wayne Rooney sent off in England v Portugal, 2006.
ATT Mario Balotelli
Where do I start from? Tall, powerful, quick, decent technique. Throws it all away with his incredible behaviour that has pissed off, in order, Mancini, Mourinho, Materazzi, Moratti and now Mancini again. (Is it a coincidence their names all start with ‘M’?) Perhaps because he is a real mutt, an overgrown boy who needs a driver to go around Manchester because of the traffic fines he constantly earns. When he’s not throwing darts at youth academy students, that is. Seriously, the guy needs a shrink.
Memorable moments: trashing the Inter kit after a spectacular 3-1 victory over Barcelona; a horrific preseason backheel; and this flying kick. Oh I forgot this incident with the bibs.
ATT Nicklas Bendtner
Was doubting whether I should go for Emmanuel Adebayor instead of Bendtner, but hell, Ade does the odd thing worth watching. Bendtner, on the other hand… nothing. Definitely overrates himself and perhaps it’s his arrogant agent-daddy who brought him up like that. On a footballing level he’s never impressed at Arsenal, so, what’s all the fuss about, really? He’s shit, many an Arsenal fan will tell you, and not the guy you want to hang about with in the dressing room, his mates would say. Tall, sturdy and practically useless. Memorable moments: his tangle with Adebayor during a derby (they both played for Arsenal) and caught with his pants down in London.
To complement the above I also chose a few retired players I’ve always hated, mostly guilty of being i) arrogant ii) nasty tacklers iii) overrated and cocky iv) loud.
Nedved, Katanec, Kohler, Vierchowood, Vieira, Keane, Gary Neville, Ferri, Berti, Maradona, Zenga, N’Gotty, Contra, Davids and I’m ashamed to say, Vinnie Jones.