Soccer is renowned for breeding jerks. Guys with little or no education start playing the sport at a young age and their lack of maturity is evident. Huge sums of money are thrown their way, and because of their immaturity and naiveté, many walk around with an attitude the size of Long Island, throwing their cash around at anything and everything and thinking that they’re untouchable. Some eventually do mature, but others are content to sail through life being jerks. All you’ve got to do nowadays is turn on the news and there’ll be stories about one soccer player or another who’s gotten into hot water because of his misdemeanors.
It’s one thing to make a mistake, but these guys seem to be committing the same errors time and time again. Being a jerk is ingrained in their personalities.
At the other end of the scale, there are plenty of footballers who are real-life sweethearts, model professionals and are great ambassadors for the sport because of their activities on and off the pitch. These players are genuinely nice guys, making the fact that many of these pros are probably earning our lifetime earnings in a month a little easier to take.
Here are ten soccer players who are real jerks and ten who are sweethearts.
20 Sweetheart: Cristiano Ronaldo
He may get stroppy if he doesn’t score, and may occasionally throw tantrums on the pitch, but that’s because he wants to break scoring records and dominate the world of football – he hasn’t shied away from making that clear. Ronaldo was once petulant, but he’s grown up a lot at Real Madrid and has recognized his responsibilities – being the biggest footballing superstar in the world and all that.
Because Ronaldo’s so hungry for goals and success, his antics on the pitch can sometimes be misconstrued.
In reality, Ronaldo’s in no way a jerk; he is actually a sweetheart. He’s the richest player in the world by a country mile and donates vast sums of his wealth to charities. He’s among the first to help out relief efforts around the globe and thinks nothing of auctioning off his memorabilia to help those in need. Kids touch his heart; if you’re a kid and you’re sick, find a way to get in touch with Ronaldo and he’ll think nothing of paying for your treatment and doing everything possible to help you out. He’s a philanthropist at heart and is one of the world’s most charitable sportsmen.
Aside from his charitable donations, just look at the way Ronaldo conducts himself with his fans and it’s evident that he’s a good man. There have been instances when fans have rushed onto the pitch during games just to shake Ronaldo’s hand. Most players would have socked them, but Ronaldo has actually signed shirts and escorted these pitch invaders from the pitch with his arms around them. Just little things like this indicate that Ronaldo – although he may be cocky – is a real-life sweetheart.
19 Jerk: Luis Suarez
Suarez is the king of jerks, there’s no question about that. There’s no questioning his striking ability, but that aside, he’s displayed traits which suggest that there’s something seriously wrong with his personality. There isn’t just one misdemeanor when it comes to Suarez; there’s a ton, and what he’s been found guilty of doing is just abhorrent.
If you follow soccer at all, you’ve probably watched or at least followed the World Cups. Therefore you probably heard of the biting incident, in which Suarez took a bite out of Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini’s shoulder. But what you might not know is that that wasn’t an isolated incident. Chiellini was actually Suarez’s third bite victim; it’s astonishing that this man is still allowed on the pitch, let alone near another human being.
He’s also been charged by the FA for racial abuse. No matter how good a football player he is, he’s just not normal – actually, calling him a jerk would be the understatement of all understatements.
18 Sweetheart: Lionel Messi
Ronaldo and Messi are in constant tussle for the right to be known as the best player in the world. Ronaldo’s more of a hard worker – he busts his bum to get to the top and wants everybody to know that he wants to be the best. Messi, on the other hand, just goes about his business quietly, is more reserved and possesses an astonishing amount of natural talent.
As they’re both the top players in world football, it’s unsurprising that they’re also both the richest – when taking into account contract clauses and various add-ons on top of their footballing salaries.
Messi’s quiet by nature. He’s never seen gesticulating wildly on the football field, swearing at the ref or getting involved in confrontations, and he’s respected by the masses for it. He just goes about his business quietly, and does what he loves to do best.
The only scandal that Messi’s ever been involved in is suspected tax evasion – but let’s put this down to his accountant’s wrongdoings.
Messi donates heavily to charity. He helps vulnerable children, those with medical difficulties, and is a patron of numerous charitable organizations. He’s just an all-round good guy – a sweetheart.
17 Jerk: John Terry
John Terry is – or was – a great defender for both Chelsea and the England national team, although his career of late has been plagued by injuries and looks to be winding to a close.
He may be a solid center-back, one of England’s best ever defenders, but that’s no excuse for what he’s done.
We all know that many footballers can’t keep it in their pants, but what Terry did to his former Chelsea and England teammate was despicable. He had an affair – while he was still married by the way – with Wayne Bridge’s wife. He also got her pregnant and paid for an abortion and a cover up to try and gag the press – what a charming man. It’s no surprise Bridge snubbed Terry’s attempted handshakes several times whenever they met on the pitch after that incident.
There was also an incident in which he was mocking Americans mourning the 9/11 attacks. His most recent misdemeanor was his racial abuse of Anton Ferdinand, for which he was found guilty and charged by the FA. Like I’ve said, a charming man.
16 Sweetheart: Didier Drogba
Drogba has recently got into some controversy in Canada for refusing to play, but that’s pretty much the only blemish on his otherwise spotless record. He’s renowned for being a bullish striker – strong as an ox – and not one to back down from a confrontation, but he’s never the instigator, and despite his hardcore, serious personality, he’s an all-round good guy off the pitch.
Drogba’s stoutly spiritual and contributes huge sums of money to an array of different charities. He does a lot of work in Africa, especially for his country of origin – Ivory Coast – and has actually been instrumental in bringing peace and some level of prosperity to the nation. During the country’s civil war, Drogba pleaded to the combatants to lay down their arms and he made a concerted effort to stop the war. His efforts resulted in the start of the peace process. The United Nations Development Programme was so impressed with what he’d done in Africa as a whole that they got him on board as a spokesperson.
His charitable work has just continued over the years; as a result of his philanthropic efforts, Time Magazine named him as one of the world's 100 most influential people.
15 Jerk: Igor Denisov
This is something that in the year 2016, we shouldn’t have to talk about, but racism in football is still rife; even in some of the world’s biggest leagues, there are still incidences of racism, and despite the concerted efforts of players and the FA to stamp it out, some fans and players still possess a huge amount of racial ignorance.
Igor Denisov hated the fact that Hulk and Axel were joining his team – Russian side, Zenit St. Petersburg. He was one of many who protested the world-class signings, and demanded a pay increase (Axel and Hulk are both black by the way). Although Igor made all this fuss because of their wages, there were tons of reports coming out of Russia stating that the real issue was because the new players weren’t native Russians, and were black.
Igor’s also had tons of other controversial moments during his playing career due to his poor behavior. He’s had bust-ups with coaches and players and just generally thinks he’s better than he is and that he demands respect, which he certainly does not.
14 Sweetheart: Mesut Ozil
Mesut Ozil is not your run-of-the-mill footballer. He possesses an amazing level of visual awareness, has silky skills, finesse and improvisation, and is a deadly finisher – certainly one of the best players currently in the PL. He’s been compared to the footballing legend, Zinedine Zidane – that’s high praise enough.
Why is he a sweetheart? Firstly he’s stayed away from controversy throughout his career. He also donates heavily to charity; he’s not one of these guys who feels the need to buy flashy cars and spend their cash on anything and everything – he’d rather give his earnings to people less fortunate. This was demonstrated in the 2014 World Cup. He gave away every penny he earned at the World Cup to hospitals in Brazil as a thank you to the country for being so hospitable. He’s also helped people caught up in the conflict of the Syrian War, and not just by throwing some cash their way. He’s actually gone out to visit refugee camps, spending time with those affected.
13 Jerk: Wayne Rooney
As one of England’s and Man United’s best ever strikers, Rooney’s career has taken a dip of late under the management of Jose Mourinho. He’s lost some of his spark going forward, and has currently dropped back into a more midfield role, but he’s still considered to be one of the deadliest strikers in world football going forward.
When Rooney left Everton for United for £25.6 million as an 18-year-old, the money and fame must have got to his head -- either that or he’s just a real jerk.
Some people call it passion, but Rooney doesn’t hold back from letting people know what he feels like on the pitch. He’s one of these guys who’s effing and blinding more than most – I sometimes wish refs would just have the guts to tell him to shut up or send him off. This behavior’s questionable, but a lot of people do it, so that’s not the main reason why Rooney’s on this list.
He finds a place on this list because of his antics in 2010. He was involved in a sex scandal wherein he slept with three sex workers in a hotel, paying £1,000 for their services. His wife at the time was five months pregnant, but remarkably, Coleen Rooney forgave Wayne for his indiscretions and they’re still happily married – well, maybe not happily, but they’re still married.
12 Sweetheart: Juan Mata
Juan Mata’s another one of these guys who’s softly spoken, plays the game because he loves to do so and doesn’t get preoccupied with things that are outside of his control. He was a fantastic acquisition to the Man United side, and we’re all eager to see how his relationship with the likes of Pogba and Ibrahimovic builds over the coming seasons.
He’s also a highly intelligent man,which is evident on match days with his performances on the pitch and his post-match interviews.
His level of preparation for match days is unprecedented; he actually reads up on opposition teams and players he’s preparing to face – yes, reads – and then rattles off statistics that you’d have thought were lost in the history books. He genuinely cares about all-things football, which is great to see.
Mata’s just an all-round nice guy. He loves interacting with fans, in person and on the internet. He does things like ask for music recommendations and then actually goes and creates a music playlist with fans’ suggestions. Another thing he’s been doing in Manchester is casually rocking up to ordinary places of work around the city – places that keep the city running. He turns up to businesses out of the blue just to shake hands and have a chat with the workers. And of course, he’s incredibly charitable and is a true philanthropist. You just can’t not like Juan Mata!
11 Jerk: Karim Benzema
Karim Benzema isn’t the most stylish player in the world. He can look rather ungainly on the pitch, but having said that, there’s no questioning his striking prowess and his appetite for goals. The fact that he’s managed to establish himself as a permanent fixture of a star-studded Real Madrid side over the years speaks volumes of this player’s ability.
Benzema might be good on the pitch, but off it is another story. In 2010, it was revealed that Benzema was involved in a prostitution ring and that he’d had a sexual rendezvous with an underage girl. He was subsequently arrested for solicitation of a minor prostitute.
Five years later, he was again arrested by French authorities, this time for blackmailing fellow French international, Mathieu Valbuena. Again, it had to do with sex. Apparently, Benzema had gotten his hands on Valbuena’s sex-tape and then blackmailed him with it, threatening to release the video if Valbuena didn’t cough up £100,000. Valbuena later went to the police, and Benzema was ousted from the national team and could still yet face a five-year prison sentence.
10 Sweetheart: Gareth Barry
Gareth Barry may not be the best, most naturally gifted player in the world, but he’s a solid acquisition to any team; he’s a versatile midfielder – a real workhorse, and has consequently spent over 18 years at the top in the PL.
Barry’s a man who goes about his work quietly. There’s no flair or exuberance in terms of his playing style, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. He likes to keep a low profile and hasn’t been caught up in any controversial moments – that were his doing – during his long career to date. He’s the same Gareth Barry off the pitch that he is on it.
When the media got to know of his charitable donations in 2011, they were all over it. Barry contributes to a number of different charities and has done so throughout his career. But this one instance demonstrates that he really is a sweetheart. In 2011, he found out about a charity named Sun and Happiness. They help the poor and the sick, and after finding out about all their work, he donated his luxury villa in Spain to the charity and has made it available to kids.
9 Jerk: Antonio Cassano
This guy’s just a bit odd. Some of the things Cassano has done leaves you scratching your head.
Cassano’s a creative striker – what’s known as a fantasista in his native Italy. There’s no doubting his ability, but in Italy, where he’s played for the majority of his career, he’s gained a reputation for his inconsistency and unpredictability. He’s also got a short fuse. This poor behavior and lack of discipline has gotten Cassano into plenty of strife over the years; there are many from which to choose, but there are a couple of incidents that stand out.
While giving a press conference during the Euro 2012 tournament, he said he didn’t want gay Italian players on the team: “If there are queers here, that’s their business.” He was subsequently fined for his homophobic comments, but the €15,000 fine was laughable – peanuts for someone on Cassano’s salary.
In 2013, Cassano was involved in another incident during which his temper got the better of him. He was involved in a full-blown locker room brawl with his coach, Andrea Stramaccioni, and he had to be physically restrained and pulled off his Inter Milan boss.
Cassano has acted childish throughout his career, is immature and is just an all-round jerk – he therefore finds a deserved place on this list.
8 Sweetheart: Michael Essien
This versatile midfielder is another tough guy on the pitch. He doesn’t hold back when he goes in for a tackle. He’s solid in defense and can do a job going forward. Essien made a name for himself at Chelsea, which is where he earned the nickname, the Bison – in reference to his physical presence and great amount of energy.
Essien came from humble beginnings – his is certainly a rags to riches story. He therefore knows the value of money, and gives away large amounts of his wealth to charities.
He formed his own charity based in his native region of Ghana – The Michael Essien Foundation, which is run by government officials. The charity basically helps the area with everything, including food, water, public spaces, education, healthcare, etc. Several prominent names in football, such as Rio Ferdinand, Samuel Eto’o and Fernando Torres, have come on board to show their support, and he’s won several awards for his charitable efforts too.
He also supports and is responsible for the successes of numerous other charitable causes, such as Game For Hope. Essien is certainly a deserved winner of the Humanitarian Campaigner of the Year 2015 award. A number of footballers give generously to charity, but not many have done what Essien’s done.
7 Jerk: Joey Barton
This guy is kind of England’s Antonio Cassano. Controversy has followed him throughout his career, and his antics have certainly contributed to him failing to live up to his full potential. He’s a talented player, has played for some top clubs during his career, and should have definitely had more than a solitary international cap.
Let’s start off by discussing his usage of Twitter. Barton is prominent user of this social media platform and uses it to expel his views on various things from gay marriage to politics. His tweets have also landed him in plenty of hot water over the years; not that Barton cares – he gets a kick out of it.
But Barton isn’t just a jerk when he’s hiding behind a computer screen. He’s had numerous controversial moments in football due to disciplinary problems. The FA probably has their own division just for dealing with Barton and his misdemeanors. He’s been sent to prison for common assault, has also assaulted a fellow teammate during a training ground flare-up, and has been charged for attacking Morten Gamst Pedersen and three other players in 2012. All of this is just the tip of the iceberg. His brother’s also currently serving a life sentence for racially motivated murder. The Bartons have some issues – calling Joey a jerk might be a bit of an understatement.
6 Sweetheart: Samuel Eto’o
Cameroonian international Samuel Eto’o is the most decorated player hailing from Africa of all time. He holds numerous records, and since 2004, when he joined Barcelona, he’s been scoring goals for fun. After leaving La Liga, he didn’t enjoy a great time of it in the PL, but has now joined Turkish side, Antalyaspor, and has rediscovered his goal-scoring form and is once again a force with which to be reckoned.
Eto’o has had to contend with a lot during the course of his career; due to his success, he’s been the target of haters and racists but has always handled himself with professionalism. Aside from this grief and the awful things that have been heaped upon him, Eto’o loves nothing more than giving back and helping those less fortunate than him. His very own foundation has helped and protected numerous young people in some of the most disadvantaged places in the world, and he also gives heavily to other charities.
Eto’o, being one of the biggest and most popular stars in football, managed to arrange what’s on paper the best football match ever, with a host of stars, including Messi. Unfortunately, the match never took place due to unrest in Turkey, but it’s still in the pipeline.
Eto’o gives heavily to charity, but also gives up his time to take part in community projects wherever he’s playing. He loves spending time with locals, and just enjoys the art of giving.
5 Jerk: Mario Balotelli
Stupid, jerk, childish, immature – these are all words that can be used to describe so-called Super Mario.
In terms of his footballing accomplishments, it’s got be said that he’s wasted his talent. He’s shown glimpses of brilliance, he’s certainly mercurial, but his crazy antics have prevented him from becoming one of the best strikers in the world.
There’s a difference between being a jerk and just being stupid; Balotelli’s both. In terms of being a jerk, Balotelli’s been accused of racism and anti-Semitism, some of his red cards should have landed him in jail, and he’s had numerous bust-ups with coaches and players; that’s probably one of the reasons why he’s been moved around so much because people can only tolerate so much of him for a certain amount of time.
But the number one reason he’s a jerk is because of his showboating. During his time with Man City, the club was playing L.A. Galaxy in a friendly match. Balotelli was through on goal and pretty much had an open goal, but decided to showboat and try and back-heel the ball into the goal instead. He failed to score, but that wasn’t the point. Even if he had scored, it still showed a tremendous amount of disrespect to the American side, to the fans and to the game in general. He was hauled off by his boss minutes after the incident, and even his own players showed distaste at Balotelli’s showboating antics. Then he had the audacity to throw a tantrum on the bench!
Much of what Balotelli does is just stupid, but some incidents have shown us that he’s a jerk as well.
4 Sweetheart: Dirk Kuyt
Kuyt’s one of these guys who’s a workhorse, who will put in one hundred percent for every side. He made his name known to the world during his six seasons with Liverpool, during which he made 208 appearances and netted 51 times – not bad for a winger/attacking midfielder who was mainly used as a sub.
Due to his accomplishments on the pitch, it’s no surprise that he’s pretty well off. Today, he’s back in his home country – the Netherlands – playing for the prominent Rotterdam-based club, Feyenoord. The Dutch media love Kuyt and his wife because they’re both so down-to-earth. They don’t display a snotty attitude that’s commonplace with successful footballers and their wives. One thing that’s remarkable is that Dirk’s wife continued to work in an old people’s home when Dirk had made it big in football!
She’s not your typical WAG and Kuyt’s not your typical footballer. They still carry out a lot of charity work, mainly through his Dirk Kuyt Foundation. He’s remained level-headed despite his success, and is just a really nice guy.
3 Jerk: Mamadou Sakho
French international, Sakho, isn’t the world’s best center-back or even close to being so. At the age of 26, he should be in the prime of his career, but his career has taken a drastic nosedive of late. That’s mainly because he’s a jerk and has got his comeuppance.
Before the start of this 2016-17 PL season, Sakho went to The States with Liverpool to partake in some pre-season friendlies, but manager Jürgen Klopp was disgusted with his attitude and conduct. Sakho felt that he was above everyone else and that the rules imposed on the squad didn’t apply to him. Apparently, he was just running rogue and doing what he wanted, in addition to being a general nuisance – missing flights and mandatory squad activities. Klopp sent Sakho home and he hasn’t played for the senior squad since. Instead, he’s playing for the Liverpool reserves – Sakho must have angered Klopp and the management.
Sakho’s been involved in other controversial incidences too; he’s posed in the anti-Semitic quenelle gesture, but somehow avoided punishment, claiming he didn’t know what he was doing. This just demonstrates that Sakho’s another guy who’s a jerk, immature and has shown a tremendous amount of naivete during the course of his career. Because of all this his career is now floundering.
2 Sweetheart: Antonio Di Natale
Antonio Di Natale announced his retirement from football a few months back after a long and illustrious career spanning 12 years with Italian Serie A side, Udinese. Yes, he’s retired, but he has to make this list as he’s the biggest sweetheart out there.
To tell you all why, I’m first going to have to tell you about an incident that’s truly tragic, a real tear-jerker. It involves a guy called Piermario Morosini. Morosini didn’t have the greatest life – pretty much his entire life was a struggle as he had to contend with plenty of hardships. His mom died when he was 15, followed by his dad a couple of years later. Then his disabled brother died shortly after his dad. He was left on his own, still a teenager, to take care of himself and his only surviving relative – his disabled sister. Despite all of this, he got into football. After being bought by Udinese in 2009, he was sent out on loan to a number of different Serie B sides. In 2012, while he was on loan with Livorno, he met his untimely death on the pitch. He clutched his chest and stumbled to the ground several times during the match against Pescara before he lost consciousness and died later in hospital. Understandably the match was called off and the players left the pitch in floods of tears.
Where does Antonio Di Natale come in? Morosini was Di Natale’s teammate, albeit briefly, and so Di Natale decided to help Morosini’s only surviving relative – his disabled sister – who now had no one. He pledged that he would support her – financially and otherwise – and be there for her, which he has and no doubt will continue to do.
1 Jerk: Sergio Busquets
Spanish international and Barcelona defensive midfielder, Sergio Busquets does whatever he has to – or feels the need to do – to get the job done, to carry out his defensive duties to a high standard, but this means his nastiness comes through time to time. We get to see the real side of his personality in the heat of battle.
Busquets is hard-working, possesses defensive acuity and has the technical nous to influence games from the middle of the park. That’s all well and good. But in 2011, during the biggest rivalry in world football – the El Clasico – we saw an ugly side to Busquets. He called Real Madrid’s Marcelo a monkey, and did so several times. Marcelo was understandably distraught, but amazingly, Busquets escaped without so much as a slap on the wrist. Any half decent lip-readers watching the video can see that Busquets called Marcelo a Mono (Spanish for monkey) – disgusting behavior from someone who many deem to be one of the best defensive midfielders in world football.