In football, and sports in general, crazy can be good. If you are a player that has a little bit of crazy in you, it can give you the edge over the competition as they will always be on their toes and unsure on what you will do next. A crazy player is more likely to stick their head in dangerous areas to win the ball, put in tackles that others would shy away from and of course try audacious efforts that are so crazy, that they might just actually work. A slightly wild player will also be able to fire up the dressing room, pump up the crowd and get into their opponents head. This is one side of the coin.
On the other side, crazy can be bad. Crazy players are volatile and will often get themselves into trouble. This could be lunging into a challenge that should have been left, lashing out at an opponent, saying something not too kind to the referee or making an inappropriate comment in the press. Crazy players can be a manager's nightmare as they are unpredictable and more likely to question authority, plus their eccentricities will often extend off the field of play too. These players will often face suspensions and fines, as well as ostracise themselves from a club and fall out of favour with management.
For fans, crazy is entertaining. The unpredictable nature of these characters means that often you will be watching them even if they are not part of the action. If they play for your team, these crazy players have the ability to thrill, as well as cause despair and frustration. The sport is much improved with these characters in the game, and they can turn the dullest of matches into a game full of drama and spice in the blink of an eye. As this list will demonstrate however, sometimes these players are violent and their actions cannot be condoned.
Here are the 15 craziest players of all-time.
15 Rene Higuita
Nicknamed El Loco, or “The Madman”, Rene Higuita was an obvious choice for this list. The Columbian keeper is perhaps the most unreliable and unpredictable goalkeeper of all time, which of course only endeared him more to the crowd. Usually teams will want a disciplined, level headed player between the posts, but this was not his style. He loved nothing more than to evacuate his goal and take attackers on with his dribbling skills, meaning that the team was often playing with 11 outfield players.
Higuita has become a household name due to his audacious and completely unnecessary scorpion kick against England in 1995, where instead of simply catching the ball, he jumped forwards and positioned his feet above his head to clear the ball away. He lived up to his nickname off the pitch too, undergoing huge amounts of cosmetic surgery on live television. El Loco reasoned “I am tired of being ugly Rene, I want to be handsome Rene.”
14 Stuart Pearce
Nicknamed “Psycho”, Stuart Pearce is highly respected in the football world, having played as player-manager and going on to coach Man City, the England U21 squad and even the national team as caretaker for a short period of time. He earned his nickname and reputation through his fierce determination and uncompromising style of play, which made him feared by many and particularly Matt le Tissier, who stated that Pearce was his “scariest opponent”. A devotee of punk rock and formidable player in his time, “Psycho” was rough around the edges and certainly a player, or manager, you wouldn’t want to tangle with.
13 Jens Lehmann
Your goalkeeper should always instil confidence in the back four and be a calming presence, which certainly was not Jens Lehmann. Despite his craziness, Lehmann enjoyed a successful career and was a part of the famous Arsenal “Invincibles” side, so he must have been doing something right. He did have a habit of making calamitous mistakes however, meaning that you never knew what you were going to get with the German. A few of “Crazy Jens’” best moments include his wild challenge which resulted in a red card during the 2006 CL final, pushing players over, diving and then immediately getting up once realising he isn’t getting a free kick and the craziest Lehmann moment was during a CL tie.
Cameras caught him urinating by the side of his goal during play, and once the other team then started an attack and he leapt back onto action despite him clearly not fully relieving himself. Lehmann had moments of brilliance and moments of madness, making him a highly entertaining and unpredictable player.
12 Ron “Chopper” Harris
For a man with the nickname “Chopper”, Ron Harris was unsurprisingly one crazy character on the football pitch. He is considered to be one of the toughest defenders to ever play the game and has made more appearances for Chelsea than anyone else (795). His craziness on the pitch struck fear into opponents, as he would always put in a heavy challenge when others would shy away and this consequently saw him injure a player or two.
His most famous “chop” came in the replay of the 1970 FA Cup final when his incredibly late and high challenge crunched Leeds player Eddie Gray after just eight minutes, making Gray little more than a bystander the rest of the match. They don’t make players like Ron “Chopper” Harris anymore, and in a sport becoming increasingly less physical I’m sure he doesn’t like what he sees in today’s game.
11 Paolo Di Canio
Paulo Di Canio recently showed that he still has some crazy in him during his stint as Sunderland manager, and this brought back many fond memories of the eccentric Italian’s playing days. A player of unquestionable and mesmerizing talent, this was often overshadowed by his fiery temperament and moments of madness on the pitch.
Di Canio’s former boss Harry Redknapp previously recalled a classic moment (complete with an excellent impersonation), where Di Canio threw a tantrum and refused to play by sitting on the pitch with his legs and arms crossed despite the opposition dribbling around him. The crowd then began chanting Di Canio’s name, who leapt up and would go on to score a hat-trick to win the game. In another moment of madness, Di Canio got into a fight, was shown a red and then bizarrely pushed the referee to the ground.
10 Antonio Cassano
Italian forward Antonio Cassano is as crazy as they come, and he has an incredibly short fuse to go along with this which makes him an unpredictable character. Italian journalists often use the term “Cassanata”, which is used to describe behavior that is incompatible with team football and this was coined by his former coach Fabio Capello. Over his career, Cassano has been caught doing impersonations of his manager, he has thrown his shirt at the referee after being dismissed, taken his entire kit off during a game, thrown tantrums during games, berated his coach, had a locker room brawl and much, much more. He may be crazy and a coach’s nightmare, but he is also a highly talented player.
9 Kevin Muscat
Most of the players on this list are crazy in an entertaining manner, even if they are perhaps a little bit too aggressive in their approach. Kevin Muscat goes way above this, and over his career he put in some despicable and horrific challenges which usually puts him on top dirtiest or most hated players’ lists. His crazy behavior was purely violent, including incidents where a terrible challenge resulted in a player needing four surgeries on their leg with initial fears it would have to be amputated. He has also elbowed players in the face, he started a 21 player melee, stamped on players, and in 2011 he put in a disgraceful challenge on Adrian Zahra which is considered to be one of the worst tackles in football history. Muscat fortunately is no longer a player as there is no place in the sport for the tackles that he became notorious for.
8 Paul Gascoigne
There is of course a great deal of concern for Gazza’s well being after his long battle with alcoholism, and the entire football world has a soft spot for the charismatic and incredibly talented star. Both on and off the pitch he was wild, unpredictable and incredibly entertaining. In addition to his great skill, he became a fan favorite for moments such as showing the referee a yellow card (and consequently being booked himself), playing a pretend flute during in front of Celtic fans, burping into a microphone on live television, his memorable “dentist chair” goal celebration plus plenty more cheeky and highly entertaining moments. There are also the darker times, but his crazy behavior, lovable personality and breathtaking talent means that he always has the love of the football world behind him.
7 Roy Keane
Whilst Roy Keane’s unpredictable playing days are behind him, he remains an intimidating figure in the world of football. The Irishman is famous for scaring reporters, verbally abusing his Ireland manager Mick McCarthy by stating “I didn’t rate you as a player, I don’t rate you as a manager, and I don’t rate you as a person. You’re a f**ng w***er and you stick your World Cup up you’re a**”. Among dozens of other antics, Keane is perhaps best remembered for his shocking revenge challenge on Alf-Inge Haland, where he later admitted he had tried to hurt him and that it was a premeditated assault. Keane was, and still is, crazy and extremely volatile.
6 Eric Cantona
The first thing that will spring to mind when you mention Eric Cantona is his wild, bizarre kung-fu style kick on a fan in a match against Crystal Palace in 1995. One fan summed up the incident and Cantona’s nature by saying “the game had restarted and we should have been watching that, but Eric was the sort of figure you couldn’t take your eyes off, he was such a presence. I remember thinking at the time – and I don’t think this is false memory syndrome – something’s going to kick off here.” He then further cemented his status as a crazy player in a press conference when referring to the incident, when the Frenchman famously stated “When the seagulls follow the trawler, it's because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea. Thank you very much.”
Real Madrid defender Pepe strikes fear into just about everyone he encounters, as history has proven that he could flip at any given moment. A tirade of verbal abuse is the best you could hope for, as he has frequently lashed out and acted almost like an animal towards opponents. There are shocking YouTube videos that document his crazy actions, but his most famous incident occurred in 2009 against Getafe, where the defender conceded a penalty and then proceeded to twice kick Casquero before striking Albin in the face. He received a 10 match ban, but this has done little to curtail his actions as he still seems on the brink of exploding with rage in each game.
4 Diego Maradona
One of the sport's greatest talents and biggest characters, Diego Maradona has a long history of crazy behavior both on and off the pitch. A few of his eye catching antics include firing an air rifle at reporters outside his house, his astonishing and disgraceful kicking rampage against Athletic Bilbao, his wild celebration in front of the camera where his pupils gave away his drug use (cocaine), and of course the “hand of god” in the 1986 World Cup where he intentionally used his hand to score a decisive goal against England and then claimed it was revenge for the Falklands War. Due to his crazy antics, Maradona is never far away from the headlines.
3 Vinnie Jones
These days Vinnie Jones is best remembered as a “Hollywood Hard Man”, but prior to this he wasn’t pretending to be intimidating and he was famous for his crazy behavior on the pitch. Jones was the key figure in the Wimbledon team that became known as the “Crazy Gang”, and they were named this due to their wild, physical and unorganized style of play in addition to their eccentric behavior. Jones was sent off a whopping 12 times in his career and players feared coming up against him. One lasting image is of Jones grabbing fellow crazy man Paul Gascoigne’s testicles while defending him in an F.A Cup tie. Jones claims the pair have a spiritual connection; he sure has a funny way of showing it.
2 Mario Balotelli
Although he has had a disastrous spell at Liverpool, Balotelli has managed to (largely) stay out of the headlines this season. Throughout his career he has famously made the headlines for all kinds of crazy antics, both on and off the pitch. Over the years, Super Mario has astonished the football world by smoking in the bathroom of a train, getting into a training ground skirmish with his manager, throwing darts at youth players, setting off fireworks in his bathroom and plenty more bizarre antics. Love him or hate him, there is no denying that he is one of the craziest players of all time and he certainly keeps the newspapers busy.
1 Joey Barton
Similarly to Balotelli, Joey Barton has a knack for making the headlines for some pretty crazy behavior. Barton also has a nasty violent streak in him that makes him crazier than most, and this disgraceful acts such as assaulting a man and a teenager, assaulting a teammate that resulted in a detached retina, attempting to beat up three Man City players and putting a cigarette out on a youth player. His ramblings on Twitter or something to behold as he sees himself as some kind of philosopher, but as entertaining as he can be, it is important to remember that Barton has acted despicably in the past and he has a lot of bad crazy in him.