It's great being an armchair soccer fan. You can sit in a pub on the weekend, lubricating your digestive system with pint after pint while criticizing every little mistake being made on the pitch by some of the world's most talented athletes.
"Ahh he should've taken a shot", you scream at the movie sized TV screen in your local pub or sports bar. Then he does take the shot next time - "Ahh he should've passed it, Jackson was in heaps of space". Then your team goes a goal behind. "This manager is garbage, I can't believe he hasn't been fired yet. And we might as well throw a few bales of hay back there in defense, they'd do a better job than this lot." All of a sudden there's an equalizer and things look a bit more rosy. "We really should be beating this team they're not very good, if we just hang onto the ball for a few minutes we can grab a winner." Then it comes, the manager is a tactical hero, your misfiring strikers are the best in the world and those defenders have done another fine job.
It's a rollercoaster and for many fans it's what they live for. Men and women who work a typical nine to five spend their week looking forward to that big game at the weekend. They idolize players who earn obscene amounts of money every year. They cheer when the team is winning, sometimes they cry when they're losing. Players misbehave, or switch clubs, and all of a sudden the hero becomes the villain. Sometimes it's the managers that grate. They make disparaging comments, or they come across as arrogant and condescending. Occasionally administrators prove corrupt as we've seen very recently with FIFA, leaving the very fabric of the game in tatters.
Soccer fans are an unforgiving lot who love to hate. Here are the 15 most despised men in the soccer world.
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15 Diego Costa
We're not sure who despises Chelsea forward Diego Costa more - opposition fans, or opposition defenders. When he's in form he's a classic center forward and one of the most effective in world soccer. But it's the way he goes about his business that gripes on just about everyone who isn't in Chelsea's corner.
Costa's behavior in the past has included stamping on opponents, striking them in the face, kicking out at defenders and even allegedly spitting in his hand and throwing it towards an opposition player. He's also prone to going to ground very easily, and blowing up at referees when they fail to blow their whistle. Just this year he had a training ground altercation with teammate Oscar. Costa isn't exactly dripping with charisma.
14 Randy Lerner
The former Cleveland Browns owner entered the soccer world about 10 years ago buying up the majority of Aston Villa in the English Premier League. He gradually accumulated full ownership of the club and remains in that position, despite efforts to sell the club in more recent times.
Villa fans have a particular dislike for Lerner, especially now their club sits dead last in the EPL and look nailed on for a disastrous relegation come season's end. Lerner appointed fellow American Tom Fox as CEO in 2014 and during a recent interview when asked about Villa's plight, Fox enraged fans further saying he was happy with how well the club's off field revenue streams were performing. Not what success starved Villa fans wanted to hear. Lerner doesn't even give his manager the final say on transfers. The historic club now faces years in the wilderness in England's lower leagues, barring a miracle this season.
13 Joey Barton
A talented midfielder with a penchant towards horrible behavior on and off the football pitch. In 2004 he stabbed a lit cigar into a youth team player at a Manchester City Christmas party, earning himself a fine totaling six weeks of wages. Three years later he was charged with assaulting another teammate this time at training, and also jailed in a separate incident when arrested for assault and affray in Liverpool. Then in 2012 he received a 12 match suspension, the longest in the Premier League since Eric Cantona kicked a Crystal Palace spectator, after receiving a red card for elbowing Carlos Tevez. The ban would not have been nearly as severe had he not kicked Sergio Aguero and attempted to headbutt Vincent Kompany on his way off the pitch.
Barton later used his painfully hyperactive Twitter account to claim one of his teammates suggested he 'try to take 1 of theirs with me'. He's certainly not one of soccer's favorite sons.
12 Fabio Grosso
The name Fabio Grosso is forever etched into Australian folklore as the man who ended the country's best ever run at a World Cup. The year was 2006 and the Socceroos were playing in their first World Cup in 32 years. They'd negotiated a tricky group stage and landed eventual champions Italy in the round of 16. It was all looking pretty good. Italy was down to 10 men, and the 0-0 scoreline was winding its way into extra time. That was until Grosso's acrobatic tumble in the penalty box over Socceroos defender Lucas Neill. The referee fell for it, blew his whistle and Italy won with the last kick of the game. Mention Grosso's name in Australian soccer circles next time you're in the country just to witness the reaction.
11 Florentino Perez
President of Real Madrid and the man responsible for the turmoil which seems to have engulfed the club since its last Champions League win two seasons back. The latest manager to feel his wrath was Rafael Benitez, sacked at the start of this year just seven months into a three year contract. In a recent bid to win fans over, Perez sent out Real Madrid's 65,000 members a twin DVD package which he described as "Two unforgettable films which unite all Madridstas". We highly doubt it'll win over the fans.
Perez, like the fans, isn't happy unless Real are winning not only domestically but in Europe as well. The problem is the fans are in no real position to influence results, unlike their fearless president.
10 Sepp Blatter
The face of FIFA over which he presided as president from 1998 until last year where he was forced to resign in disgrace. Currently serving an eight year suspension after being found guilty of making a 'disloyal payment' of $2m to former UEFA head Michel Platini in 2011. Platini is also now serving an eight year ban.
The most damning fact of all about Blatter seems to be that absolutely no one around the world seemed shocked when the FIFA corruption case broke last year, a case stemming from an investigation from the FBI and the IRS Criminal Investigation Division. Perhaps it had something to do with FIFA awarding the 2022 World Cup to the rich but rather scorching Middle East nation Qatar. There was certainly a global sense of good riddance when Blatter was finally punished.
9 Mike Ashley
Newcastle United's all conquering overseer Mike Ashley has promised not to leave the club until it wins some silverware. Yet he's spent lengthy periods of his tenure selling off the club's best players. The result has been back to back relegation scraps. Last season they survived on the final day. This time around the Magpies might not be so fortunate.
Ashley's coaching structure at Newcastle makes it very hard for the manager, currently Steve McLaren, to sign the players he wants. And the always parochial Newcastle fans are restless. This was a club that almost won the league 20 years ago. Ashley's ownership has led to several thousand of them boycotting Premier League games.
The Sports Direct boss is also involved with Scottish club Rangers and the fans aren't happy up in Glasgow either. Supporters are fuming at how much Sports Direct product Ashley has sold to the club, and the expense of it all. Perhaps Ashley is in the wrong sport.
8 Jose Mourinho
Smug, arrogant, petty, rude, self absorbed, hypocritical, manipulative, brilliant. Each one of them applies to Jose Mourinho, one of the finest managers we've seen this century but also one of the most divisive. Opposition fans can't stand him, and revel in seeing the Portuguese fail. They took great heart in his recent sacking from Chelsea. His methods are super effective, a bulging trophy cabinet is testament to that, but he doesn't usually last more than three years at the same place before angering almost everyone around him.
Towards the end of his first stint in charge at Chelsea he fell out with owner Roman Abramovich. After a successful stint at Inter Milan he had three years at Real Madrid, leaving soon after he fell out with the likes of Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos and Pepe. Then he was back at Chelsea, bagging his players in the lead up to his sacking late last year. He's burned a lot of bridges.
7 Massimo Cellino
The eccentric Italian owner of Leeds United certainly does things his own way, usually not with the blessing of his fans or his managers. When Uwe Rosler was sacked in October he became the fifth managerial casualty under Cellino since he took over at Leeds 17 months prior. At his old club Cagliari, Cellino went through an astonishing 36 managers in 22 years. That's quite a trail of destruction.
But what about the fans? He managed to upset them too, almost immediately after turning up at the club. One of his first orders of business was to dismiss popular manager Brian McDermott, forcing Cellino to be locked inside Elland Road at the club's next home game to protect him from fans. He then pleaded with McDermott to return. Fast forward a year and a half and fans were still not happy with the direction the former English giants are heading under Cellino, so much so they have set up a bid to buy their club off the controversial Italian. In late October Cellino agreed to sell off his stake before a total backflip less than a week later, deciding he would remain in charge.
Did we mention he's also a convicted criminal back in Italy? Enough said.
6 Ched Evans
Convicted rapist Ched Evans caused a huge stir when trying to return to the soccer pitch following his release from prison in late 2014. The ex Wales international served half of a five year sentence, and continues to maintain his innocence almost four years after being found guilty of raping a 19-year-old.
The general public haven't been as forgiving as Evans had hoped. When his old club Sheffield United allowed him to train with them again following his prison release, there was massive outcry throughout the UK soccer community. So intense was the media storm surrounding Evans it led to four Sheffield United patrons resigning their positions at the club, singers Paul Heaton and Dave Berry, TV presenter Charlie Webster and health expert Lindsay Graham. Olympic gold medal winner Jessica Ennis-Hill also said she'd ask for her name to be removed from one of the grandstands at the club should Evans be offered a new contract. Incidentally the stand was renamed midway through last year following a new sponsorship deal. Evans still hasn't managed to resurrect his professional career.
5 John Terry
The former England captain and ultra successful Chelsea defender is far from an exemplary human being. The most despicable of his indiscretions was the affair he engaged in with teammate Wayne Bridge's girlfriend. It led to Bridge quitting the England team, and Terry being stripped of his captaincy.
Other controversies that have followed Terry throughout his career include alleged racist comments on field, cheating on his partner with several other women including one particular incident in a car park, parking in disabled spots and assaulting a nightclub bouncer which he later claimed was in self defense. Soccer fans, besides the diehard Chelsea lot, had enough of Terry long ago.
4 Louis van Gaal
One of the finest managers of the modern era, although you wouldn't know it by picking up a newspaper anywhere in the UK. To say his one and a half year tenure at Manchester United has been miserable would be an understatement. Despite a coveted top four finish in the Premier League last season, van Gaal's rein has been dominated by bad press and a throng of frustrated Man U supporters unhappy with their team's style of play under the Dutchman. Several former players have also weighed into the debate claiming Man U is a shadow of its former self, and that the club now plays boring football.
It doesn't help that van Gaal comes across in the media as surly and bristly, occasionally berating journalists or leaving press conferences early. After Tuesday night's 3-3 draw with Newcastle he appeared to call one journalist fat after leaving his post match media conference. Van Gaal is unloved by media, Man U fans, opposition fans, former players and many neutral observers. In fairness to him, he does have the respect of his fellow management peers given his superb record in the game prior to his Man U stint.
3 Luis Suarez
Most people dislike Luis Suarez because he's a serial biter, but there's so much more to him than simply chewing on opposition flesh. Just a week ago he provoked a tunnel confrontation after a Barcelona victory. In October of 2011 he was accused of racially abusing defender Patrice Evra, and compounded the issue by refusing to shake the Frenchman's hand in a subsequent game.
At the 2010 World Cup he cost Ghana a place in the semi final when blocking a winning goal bound header on the line with his hands. He was sent off, but the ensuing penalty was missed and Uruguay ultimately prevailed. The great injustice of it all is that Suarez now plays for Barcelona, the club he's idolized since he was a boy.
2 Sol Campbell
Sol Campbell has not been forgiven or forgotten by Tottenham fans despite almost 15 years passing since his move to bitter north London rivals Arsenal. The defender went on to win two league titles and three FA Cups with the Gunners and Spurs fans have never even considered forgiving the man capped 73 times for England. Still regularly heard at White Hart Lane is the following chant:
(to the tune of Hey Baby I Wanna Know If You'll Be My Girl)
Hey, Sol Campbell (Ju-das)
I wanna know why you're such a c***
Forgiving and forgetting still looks to be a long way off.
1 Cristiano Ronaldo
There's a case of tall poppy syndrome here, although Cristiano Ronaldo certainly doesn't help his cause with his antics on and off the field. There's no arguing Ronaldo is one of the finest players we've ever seen, and he has a cabinet deservedly crammed full of team and individual honors accumulated over his scintillating career. But he also possesses one of the greatest egos the soccer world has seen, portrayed rather accurately in the recently released film 'Ronaldo'.
It's this combination of sublime skill, and full awareness of how good he is that supporters cannot stand. He's even been derided in the past by Portuguese fans cheering on their national team. His ability is a joy to behold, his personality on the other hand is not.
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