Understandably perhaps, the misbehaved footballers have a bad reputation, but as players are in the public eye more than ever, more “bad boys” are being unearthed and are important to clubs.
One of the clubs attracting a lot of attention for harbouring problem players are Manchester City, none more so than their historic Premier League winning season. The main culprits of course, Carlos Tevez and one Mario Balotelli.
During the 2011/12 season, maverick Italian Mario Balotelli never stopped hitting the headlines, whether the stories were fact or fiction. The bonkers forward set fireworks off in his own bathroom, threw darts at members of the youth team and had training ground bust ups with captain Vincent Kompany, Jerome Boateng, Micah Richards and fellow bad boy Carlos Tevez. Plus many more things. Manager Roberto Mancini (who would also have a scrap with Mario the following season) stuck with him though and Balotelli repaid him with 13 goals in 23 games, including one with his shoulder; and who set up Aguero’s iconic last gasp goal?
If Roberto Mancini didn’t have enough on his plate that season he also had to cope with Carlos Tevez going AWOL after refusing to come on during a Champions League match against Bayern Munich in September 2011. After a lengthy dispute between the two parties and Mancini claiming Tevez would never play for the club again, the Argentine returned in February 2012. The controversial decision to bring Tevez back is arguably the reason City won their first title, setting up the winner in his return to the fold in a 2-1 win over Chelsea and his link up play with fellow countryman Aguero propelled City to the top.
Another Premier League club with a reputation for the controversial player is Chelsea. John Terry and Ashley Cole are no stranger to the tabloids due to their off the field relationships with women and Cole shooting a youth team member with an air rifle and even more controversial, Terry’s race charge. Despite the never ending trouble these two cause though Chelsea haven’t stopped winning silverware, 4 FA Cups, 1 league title and 1 Champions League since the pair have been at the club, with Terry club captain of course.
Arguably the Premiership’s most controversial figure is Liverpool’s Luis Suarez. The Uruguayan has chomped down on Branislav Ivanovic, racially abused Patrice Evra and picked up a reputation for diving but is widely considered to be the best player in the league and if you asked any Liverpool fan is Suarez worth the hassle, you’d get an overwhelming yes.
One of the premier league’s first bad boys was bonkers Italian Paolo Di Canio who arrived in England at Sheffield Wednesday following a period at Celtic where he became a fan favourite. It was during his time with the Owls where he famously pushed referee Paul Alcock which saw him banned for 11 matches. He still finished as Wednesday’s top scorer. West Ham signed him soon after soon and Di Canio showed why, becoming a cult figure at Upton Park, scoring one of the best goals the league has ever seen and winning a fair play award for catching the ball instead of scoring when Everton Goalkeeper Paul Gerrard was down injured. He still had his controversial moments but Di Canio was the sort of player who was inspired by these. His best moment in a Hammers shirt came in a match against Bradford in 2000. When 2-4 down, Di Canio requested to come off following a number of penalty appeals were turned down. He stayed on and single handedly dragged West Ham kicking and screaming to a 5-4 win, including fighting a young Frank Lampard over who would take a penalty. Paolo won.
Di Canio’s controversies have continued in his managerial career, ill fated times at both Swindon and Sunderland have affected his career but not his ego. His spell on Weir-side was ill fated from the start, endless questions on his alleged fascist politics that were all but ignored in Swindon was quickly followed by Phil Bardsley being caught into a casino, Di Canio banning everything from Ketchup to Ice and a player revolt against him. His worst moment as Swindon boss came after a Carling Cup loss against Southampton when he had a scrap with striker Leon Clarke.
Clarke himself has a negative reputation, his disagreement with Di Canio came after he stormed off the pitch at full time claiming he wouldn’t train the following day, he never played for Swindon again following the fight. Clarke also caused trouble at Coventry, he scored 23 in 34 for the Sky Blues, 18 this season but he angered Cov fans when he handed in a transfer request shortly before deadline day this year. He left for Wolves. A great striker at League 1 level but is he worth the headaches?
The Football League’s biggest problem is arguably Nile Ranger. A man who’s never been in the good books even when he was breaking into the game. He was imprisoned in a Young Offender’s institute for 11 Weeks following an armed robbery as a 15 year old and his behaviour has failed to improve. He’s still only 22 and since he’s been charged with being drunk and disorderly in Newcastle’s Cathedral Square (2011), posing in a picture with a gun (also 2011), made a homophobic comment on Twitter (2012), charged with breaking down a door (also 2012), convicted with assault in 2013 and is also awaiting a court case after being accused of rape. He denies the charges. Despite all this though he is currently at a club, Swindon, and has missed numerous training sessions which almost led to his contract being terminated, an apology was enough to stay at the club. His off the field antics have annoyed fans but Ranger is one of the main reasons Swindon are chasing the League 1 play-offs.
So the football bad boys, they give their managers plenty to think about but a lot of them are the reasons that managers achieve success. Something more people might have to consider.
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