There is a fine line between being an aggressive, hard nosed player and a dirty one. With some players it is difficult to distinguish whether or not they are simply playing with grit and determination or whether they are purposefully committing bad tackles and playing outside the laws of the game. This is not always the case however, and throughout history there have been dozens of players which are easy to label as a “dirty player”. Even supporters of the team they play for find themselves struggling to defend them after a wild tackle or unsportsmanlike play, and these are the type of players which are extremely volatile and you never know what is going to happen once the whistle blows.
There is always plenty of talk about dirty players and what constitutes this label. This season we have seen players such as Diego Costa earn himself a reputation after two stamps in a game against Liverpool, as well as some other behaviour that has ruffled plenty of feathers. Stamping is unfortunately quite common in football, and often what earns players this label, but that is child’s play to some of the shocking behaviour by dirty players on the football pitch over the years. Whilst seeing opposing players get in each others faces is good fun, there are also times where it is taken to the extreme and the safety of those on the pitch is in jeopardy. The players that take this to the extreme will strike fear into the opposition (this is their goal), but consequently their reputation will be tarnished and even their teammates might struggle to defend them after their actions.
Here are the 15 dirtiest players in soccer history.
15 Gennaro Gattuso
14 Lee Cattermole
13 Luis Suarez
Unlike the majority of entries on this list, Suarez has not developed a reputation as a tough player; instead it is quite the opposite (he is known for going down rather theatrically). He is still a dirty player however, and this is most evident through high profile incidents where he has bitten an opposing player. Other incidents which have helped to label him as a dirty player include swearing at fans, pulling an opponents hair and kicking players.
12 Billy Bremner
Bremner was the key figure in a notoriously bruising, but successful, Leeds team. Bremner was a hard nosed but highly talented player, and often his temper and challenges were reckless and this is what led him to develop a reputation as a dirty player.
11 Gary Medel
10 Joey Barton
9 Ron “Chopper” Harris
8 Marco Materazzi
The most high profile incident that Materazzi was involved with saw him be head butted by Zinedine Zidane in the 2006 World Cup final, but Materazzi has been involved in plenty more and is also usually the one dishing out the physical blows.
7 Nigel de Jong
6 Vinnie Jones
4 Mark van Bommel
3 Duncan Ferguson
2 Roy Keane
1 Kevin Muscat
Muscat’s reputation exceeds dirty play, and there have been a few alarming incidents which have little to do with football and can only be described as violent behaviour. This includes ending the career of Matty Holmes, which left Holmes needing four operations on his leg after there were initial fears it would need to be amputated. He has also more than left his mark on Craig Bellamy, Christophe Dugarry, Adrian Zahra, Ashley Ward and many more players. Making many enemies during his career, Muscat would be labelled “the most hated man in football” in 2000.
Muscat would consistently put in horror challenges and play well outside the laws of the game, putting many people on the pitch in danger due to his over aggressive and violent play.
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