Football's true wind-up merchants and pantomime villainsEvery football fan has at least one player that they just love to hate, whether it’s due to their overly physical style, confrontational nature or propensity to dive and cheat their way through matches. Mr. Robert ‘Robbie’ William Savage is mine, in case you’re wondering.

But even though some footballers are just downright detestable, the football world needs characters like them to balance everything out. A good movie is nothing without a bad guy, after all, and the same can be said for our very own beautiful game.

Some guys are so good at winding up opposition fans and players and sometimes even their own teammates, that they have established a reputation for themselves as being ultimate footballing pantomime villains.

Below is a collection of 11 players, some of whom make for entertaining wind-up merchants and pantomime villains. Others committed actually immoral acts. In any case, prepare yourself to become increasingly angry while reading.

1. Marco Materazzi

Current club: Retired

Most notorious moment: Getting Zinedine Zidane sent off in the 2006 World Cup final. 

Villain rating: 9/10


A World Cup winner and serial title collector with Inter Milan, Marco Materazzi will forever be remembered for the part he played in getting Zinedine Zidane sent off in his final ever game – the 2006 World Cup final.

The words uttered by the no-nonsense Italian defender to Zidane will perhaps never come to light but they must have been pretty bad for Zizou to launch his head straight into Materazzi’s chest like an enraged bull. It was a sad end to an incredible career. Marco, you’re a big spoilsport.

2. Pepe

Current club: Real Madrid

Most notorious moment: Receiving a ten-match ban after kicking, stamping and punching two Getafe players in 2009.

Villain rating: 9/10


In his early days at Real Madrid, Pepe behaved like an uncaged animal, launching into vicious tackles and kicking anyone who happened to be in his path. His sending off against Getafe in 2009, when he booted Javier Casquero multiple times on the floor and then punched his teammate Juan Albin for having the temerity to ask him why will go down in history as one of the worst red cards ever.

These days, the Portuguese stopper is generally more composed, but he remains very much a villainous character regardless due to his propensity to feign injury at any possible opportunity.

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3. Luis Suarez

Current club: Barcelona

Most notorious moment: Being charged for racially abusing Patrice Evra.

Villain rating: 10/10

Suarez Evra

It says plenty about Luis Suarez’s character that biting an opponent on three separate occasions doesn’t come close to being the most notorious moment of his career; the FA’s charge for using a racial slur against Patrice Evra tops that list.

After receiving an eight-match ban for that incident, Suarez then elected to not shake the Frenchman’s hand when they crossed the following season to reinforce his enemy No.1 status in the eyes of the Old Trafford faithful.

Without wishing to tempt fate, the Uruguayan has seemed to calm down a bit since joining Barcelona four years ago.

4. Diego Costa

Current club: Atletico Madrid

Most notorious moment: Getting Gabriel Paulista sent off in a match against Arsenal.

Villain rating: 9/10

Costa Gabriel

Is there a bigger active troll in football than Diego Costa? You’d be hard-pressed to find one. The Brazilian-born Spanish forward permanently has the angry look of a man whose just discovered a parking ticket on his car.

While scoring goals is his forte, Costa’s game has become equally synonymous with his off-the-ball scuffles with opposition defenders, dramatic tumbles in the box and constant remonstrating with the referee. Somehow, though, he’s only been sent off four times… He knows what he’s doing.

5. John Terry

Current club: Chelsea

Most notorious moment: Being charged for racially abusing Anton Ferdinand in 2012 and being blanked by Wayne Bridge for a pre-match handshake.

Villain rating: 10/10


John Terry was found to have racially abused the then QPR defender Anton Ferdinand by the FA in 2012. He was also charged by the Crown Prosecution Service but Terry, who denies abusing Ferdinand but admitted to uttering the offensive term in question, was acquitted.

That incident was by no means the first scandal in which Terry has been involved. In 2010 it was alleged he had an affair with the ex-girlfriend of former teammate Wayne Bridge, who then refused to shake his hand during a game between Manchester City and Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

It is fair to say Terry’s not the most popular. Apart from with Chelsea supporters.

6. Sergio Busquets

Current club: Barcelona

Most notorious moment: Theatrically rolling around the floor to get Thiago Motta sent off in the 2010 Champions League semi-final. 

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Villain rating: 7.5/10

Busquets Motta

Sergio Busquets isn’t a particularly dirty or nasty player – as highlighted by the fact that he has only been sent off twice during his Barcelona career – but certain instances of histrionics have made him a true pantomime villain.

The deep-lying midfielder’s worst act of cheating came during the 2010 Champions League semi-final defeat to Inter when he went down as though he’d been shot after a slight touch by Thiago Motta, resulting in him being sent off and consequently missing the final (leading to the above reaction).

It’s not even really the rolling around on the floor that made this moment iconic. It was the blatant peak to see whether his ploy had worked.

7. Jose Mourinho

Current club: Manchester United

Most notorious moment: Eye gouging Tito Vilanova while in charge of Real Madrid in 2011. 

Villain rating: 9/10


Supporters of the club he’s managing tend to love him, but supporters of everyone else seem to despise him. The most divisive figure in football is not even a player, he’s a manager. Of course, we’re talking about the one and only Jose Mourinho.

Mourinho’s constant jibes towards other managers (namely Arsene Wenger), his incredible outburst towards the Chelsea medical staff for doing their job in 2015 and various touchlines bust-ups have led to him being regularly cast as the villain of the piece wherever he has managed.

8. El Hadji Diouf

Current club: Retired

Most notorious moment: Spitting at a Celtic fan while playing for Liverpool in 2003. 

Villain rating: 10/10


A real nasty piece of work, Mr Diouf. The Senegalese striker caused controversy wherever he went during a career that was largely spent in the North of England but it was his while at Liverpool that he committed the greatest sin of all.

While football fans should be called out more for the bile they direct at footballers at any opportunity, Diouf’s reaction to some heckles from a Celtic supporter was to spit on him – a move that resulted in a whopping £60,000 fine.

9. David Luiz

Current club: Chelsea

Most notorious moment: Feigning injury to get Rafael sent off during his first stint at Chelsea.

Villain rating: 8/10


Don’t let that adorable curly mop of hair fool you; David Luiz is a man who loves engaging in football’s dark arts. Subtlely dirty and physical, Luiz also has the propensity to roll around on the floor following the smallest touch of contact, as his Brazilian compatriot Rafael da Silva knows only too well.

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Sir Alex Ferguson was left fuming after Rafael was dismissed for hacking down David Luiz near the corner flag in the 88th minute of a 1-0 defeat to Chelsea at Old Trafford. Cameras even caught the Brazilian smiling while rolling around on the floor.

“He then rolls about like a dying swan,” Ferguson later told the BBC, “and that convinces the referee. He was smiling. That is bad. What kind of professional is that?” The Chelsea player said he was smiling at the jeering United fans in the crowd.

We’ll just leave this here, so you can make your own mind up…

10. Diego Simeone

Current club: Atletico Madrid (manager)

Most notorious moment: Dramatically falling over to get David Beckham sent off at the 1998 World Cup.

Villain rating: 9/10


I mean, just look at him. With his slicked back hair and all black suit ensemble, Diego Simeone looks like a mob boss and you get the feeling he positively plays up to the part of pantomime villain.

During his playing days, the tough-tackling midfielder made himself infamous to English fans after he hit the deck following an insignificant touch from David Beckham’s errant leg. These days as a manager, meanwhile, you can find him pushing referees and chucking balls on the pitch to stop opposition counter-attacks. As you do.

11. Joey Barton

Current club: Fleetwood Town (manager)

Most notorious moment: There’s too many to choose from…

Villain rating: 11/10


You didn’t think we’d leave him out, did you? To be fair to old Joseph, he seems to have mellowed a bit as the years have passed but his misdemeanours from earlier in his career will always follow him around.

Among other things, Barton has landed himself in hot water for stubbing a cigar out in someone’s eye, assaulting one of his teammates and having a fight with a fan during a pre-season tour.

He’s now managing Fleetwood Town in League Two.

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