Soccer is known as the game which has brought millions together. It is the most global sport on the planet; largely because of its simplicity and the fact that you can play the game with very little resources. However, the world of soccer is also one laced with conflict and discord. At professional level it is a fiery and competitive game filled with big egos and differences of opinion, so it should come as little surprise that some players have developed mutual contempt or even hatred of one and another.
There are some players who are renowned for their temperament and argumentative streak, and some of the names on this list will come as little shock to those who follow the sport. Conversely, there are some quieter characters who have harbored dislike for their teammates or opposite number outside of the media limelight, often for bizarre, petty and surprising reasons.
An incredible nine of the 15 entries on this list played alongside one and another at some stage in their careers. For some, their conflicts caused detrimental effects to their team, whilst others kept their differences as strictly off-field matters. Women, politics and racism are three of the most common themes among hatred between soccer players, as well as some seemingly less serious disputes. Here are the top 15 pairs of soccer players who hate each other:
15. Lionel Messi & Cristiano Ronaldo
In at 15th purely because of hatred may be a tad strong for these two, whilst it is very much apt for the next fourteen entries. Having said that, there can be no question that there is some discord between the two greatest players in the world, and it’s probably a good thing that there is too. In most eras, either of these players would have dominated world soccer, but to our fortune, these two have had to constantly strive to be better than one and another, most likely improving both of their games. Ronaldo is often portrayed as the more arrogant of the two, with Messi seemingly having little interest in the rivalry; between them they have won seven Ballon d’Ors, with Messi having won four and Ronaldo three. Any animosity existing does not affect their respect for one another, as liking and respecting someone are two different things.
14. Zlatan Ibrahimovic & Rafael van der Vaart
Zlatan is one of those characters alluded to in the introduction. He is a larger than life type whose approach has earned him a cult following and made him immensely popular, but also paved the way for a few detractors. He is a feisty character on the pitch, and opposition players often like to try and make him see red. Zlatan and van der Vaart were teammates at Ajax when their conflict began, although it was not while playing for Ajax. In a friendly between Sweden and Holland the Dutchman picked up an injury, which he believed Ibrahimovic had exacted on purpose, and told the press as much. Once back at Ajax the two came to a head, with Zlatan threatening to break both his legs.
13. Oliver Kahn & Jens Lehmann
Oliver Kahn and Jens Lehmann were both excellent goalkeepers, and teammates in the German national team. Kahn was generally accepted as the first choice, and Lehmann could not complain, as Kahn was exceptional at the time, but when Jurgen Klinsmann took over the reigns as German manager prior to the 2006 World Cup, he had a different take. Klinsmann declared that there would be no number 1, and both ‘keepers would have to fight for the right to play.
Lehmann got the nod, and Kahn was not happy. The pair sniped at one and another numerous times over the years, with Lehmann claiming he dealt better with pressure and that Kahn was too serious, while Kahn mocked Lehmann when he was dropped for Manuel Almunia by Arsene Wenger.
12. Diego Maradona & Pele
Like the rivalry between Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, the rivalry between these two is born out of their ability. Widely regarded as the two greatest soccer players of all-time, since retirement, the pair have been found making petty comments about one and another, which is sad really. Most of the antagonising has been done by El Diego, although Pele hasn’t helped himself at times either. After Pele spoke of Maradona’s drug abuse, the Argentine replied by claiming that Pele lost his virginity to a man. More recently, the pair were at loggerheads over who was the better player between Messi and Neymar, with most agreeing that Pele came out of that particular debacle looking a tad foolish.
11. Robert Lewandowski & Jakub Błaszczykowski
Teammates at both Borussia Dortmund and the Poland national team, these two have played together for more than seven years, but that hasn’t stopped them having a mutual dislike for one and another. Blaszczykowski has had a remarkable life; he watched his father stab his mother to death as a child, before being raised by his grandparents, and is a devout Catholic, who reads the bible everyday. Some reports suggest that the pair first fell out for political reasons, but whatever it was, they still haven’t made up.
Lewandowski was made Poland captain when Blaszczykowski was injured, and having told the manager he wishes to retain the armband, the Poland manager hasn’t recalled the Dortmund star who has now returned to fitness, supposedly fearing any dressing room discord.
10. Teddy Sheringham & Andy Cole
One of the finest strike partnerships in Premier League history, it is still remarkable to think that in all their time together at Manchester United, Teddy Sheringham and Andy Cole did not get along. The fall-out came when Cole made his England debut, coming on as a substitute for Sheringham. Cole felt that Sheringham snubbed him on the touchline, and never apologized for his actions, and the two never spoke off the field in their four years together at Old Trafford. It seems remarkably petty that such a small incident would cause such a long feud, but Manchester United fans will be pleased that it did not affect their performances together.
9. Roy Keane & Patrick Vieira
Roy Keane made plenty of enemies in an incredibly successful career, but probably the most well-documented and well-known was his long standing rivalry with Patrick Vieira. Some competition was to be expected between the two; after all, Manchester United and Arsenal were the two top teams in England at the time, and both played at the heart of the midfield as tough tacklers and leaders. The most famous incident between the two took place in 2005, oddly enough in the tunnel before a match rather than on the pitch. Keane felt Vieira & co were trying to bully Gary Neville, and he soon leaped to his defense. Their rivalry is a little different to most as it was actually born out of their character similarities.
8. Didier Zokora & Emre Belozoglu
Didier Zokora is the Ivory Coast’s most capped player of all time, with 123 caps for Les Elephants. A combative defensive midfielder, Zokora played for the likes of Tottenham and Sevilla, where he won a League Cup and the Copa del Rey respectively. Emre Belozoglu has equally impressive international capacity, having represented Turkey 94 times.
While the pair were playing in Turkey, in 2012, Belozoglu racially abused Zokora, calling him a “f***ing n*****”. Zokora responded on the pitch, with a series of aggressive challenges on the Turkish international, and the pair never made up. Belozoglu had history in this department, having been accused of racial abuse three times while playing in England, and was sentenced to two months in prison for the Zokora incident.
7. Oleguer Presas & Salva Ballesta
Oleguer Preses, more commonly known simply as Oleguer, is a retired defender who played over 150 times for Barcelona, between 2002 and 2008, winning both La Liga and the Champions League. An economics graduate with strong political views, Oleguer always had left wing sympathies, and believed firmly in an independent Catalan state. Once he started airing these views too strongly, he unsurprisingly found strong opposition.
Those who opposed him included the Barcelona manager, chairman, and Malaga striker Salva Ballesta. Ballesta is known to hold far-right views, some of which could be described as fascist, and the two have had a mutual hatred for one and another since their first fall-out over a newspaper article written by Oleguer in 2007.
6. Luis Suarez & Patrice Evra
Most people are well-aware of the reasons behind the animosity between Luis Suarez and Patrice Evra. Suarez has fallen out with a few players in the game, which is little surprise when one considers his various antics; it is difficult to get on with someone who has their teeth routed into your arm. Suarez’s most intense and ongoing feud is undoubtedly with former Manchester United defender Patrice Evra though. Suarez racially abused Evra during a 1-1 draw between Liverpool and Man Utd in October 2011. Suarez is alleged to have used the word “negrito” on multiple occasions. The Uruguayan claimed that it was an affectionate term, but he was still fined and banned for 8 games; the pair have never made up.
5. Zlatan Ibrahimovic & Oguchi Onyewu
Zlatan is one of two men who one appearance on this list just wouldn’t be enough. His next feud, and his greatest to date, is with USMNT’s powerful defender Oguchi Onyewu. The pair clashed whilst together at AC Milan in November 2010. Both players came together in a quite serious fight in a training session which made national headlines. Zlatan later revealed in his autobiography that Onyewu had been angered by a challenge he had made and confronted him, before things turned nasty. Ibrahimovic described Onyewu as looking more like a heavyweight boxer – at 6 foot 4 inches and over 15 stone – than a footballer, but said he was not afraid to take him on.
4. Mauro Icardi & Maxi Lopez
Soccer’s most famous and most unusual love triangle… Mauro Icardi and Maxi Lopez used to be best friends. They played together at one time and Lopez took Icardi under his wing when he first moved to Italy, but Icardi repaid him by ‘stealing’ his wife. Lopez, aged 31, and Icardi, aged 22, seriously fell out when Icardi began dating Lopez’s ex-wife Wanda Nara in 2013. The pair married in 2014, and Icardi even has a tattoo of Lopez’s children on his arm. Last time the pair faced each other Lopez refused to shake his hand, and ongoing twitter wars suggest they are no closer to renewing their one-time friendship.
3. Joey Barton & James Henry/Thiago Silva/Ousmane Dabo/Basically Everyone
Joey Barton has called out with countless people, both within the game and off the pitch, but the three mentioned are probably his most notable cases. Barton and Henry’s debacle began after a heated game in which the pair put in a number of crunching tackles on one and another. Barton later took to twitter and described Henry as a “Sunday League player”, Henry responded by calling Barton “embarrassing”. Barton also clashed with Thiago Silva during his time in France with Marseille, when Barton said that the Brazil defender resembled a ladyboy.
Ousmane Dabo probably stands as Barton’s most disgraceful fall-out though. Barton was sentenced to four months in prison after assaulting Dabo while the pair were together at Manchester City in 2007. As recently as 2012 Dabo called Barton a “coward”, suggesting there is still bad blood between the two men.
2. John Terry & Wayne Bridge
It is not difficult to see why Wayne Bridge may not be particularly fond of John Terry, after his former Chelsea and England teammate slept with his ex, Vanessa Perroncel. Terry is reported to have gotten Perroncel pregnant, with Perroncel having an abortion. The former England captain had tried to keep the affair a secret by taking out a super-injunction, but that was lifted after just a week and the story soon exploded onto tabloid headlines. When the two next met before a game, Bridge refused to shake Terry’s hand, and he had the sympathy of the majority of English soccer fans, with the possible exception of Chelsea supporters, who have a worship-like level of affection for their ageing center-back.
1. Roy Keane & Alf-Inge Haaland
Roy Keane was one of the most fiery characters in Premier League history, so few will be surprised to see him make a second appearance on this list. In fact, one could quite easily compile a list of 15 players who Keane alone has fallen out with in the game. His most vitriolic and hate-filled rivalry was without doubt that with Alf-Inge Haaland. The feud began in 1997, while Haaland was playing for Leeds United. Keane had attempted to tackle and foul Haaland, but in doing so, actually injured himself. Haaland felt Keane was feigning injury in order to escape punishment from the referee, and berated Keane as he lay injured on the ground.
As it happened, Keane had inured his ACL, a serious injury for a footballer, and the injury put him out of action for over a year. Keane next faced Haaland four years later, in 2001, this time playing for Manchester City. Keane made a horror tackle on Haaland’s knee, and the Norwegian retired less than two years later, never recovering from the injury. Keane maintains that it was an act of vengeance and that he does not regret his actions, showing some seriously deep-routed hatred.