Soccer, or football depending on where in the world you are and/or whatever you like to call the sport, is truly the world's game. Fans from just about every corner of the globe go out of the way to actively follow competitions such as the Premier League, La Liga, Serie A and the Champions League, and thus the best players in the world are beloved by millions of individuals who spend money on merchandise such as jerseys. The growth of the popularity of football in countries such as the United States and Australia have made the world's best footballers as marketable as ever. Those tremendous athletes are utilized by companies in international commercials and other advertisements.
Just as with any form of entertainment that features big personalities making small fortunes on a yearly basis, there are players in the world of soccer who are downright hated by fans and by critics. The majority of the footballers mentioned in this piece have the goods to feature for some of the best sides in the world, but their talents go unappreciated for reasons that often baffle fans of those players. Included in the list is the individual who is widely respected as the best overall player on the planet today, a man who has plenty of fans and also numerous detractors wherever he goes.
20 Gareth Bale
Welcome to the list, Gareth Bale! Bale began inching his way toward cracking into such a piece a couple of years back when he was accused of diving on multiple occasions while featuring for Tottenham Hotspur. His big-money move to Real Madrid in the summer of 2013 did his reputation no favors among pockets of supporters, and he was booed during home matches this past European season less than a year after he notched game-winning goals that helped Real win the Copa del Rey and the Champions League. It has been heavily rumored that Real may ship Bale back to the Premier League during the summer of 2015.
19 John Terry
It was not all that long ago when the Chelsea defender would have, by some, been called the most hated soccer player in the world. There was the story about John Terry allegedly having an affair with the girlfriend of a teammate, and then he was accused of racist abuse against Anton Ferdinand. Time heals all wounds, or so the saying goes, and Terry has, for the most part, been an admirable player and ambassador for Chelsea over the past several seasons. With that said, some fans will always view Terry as a deplorable figure worthy of scorn.
Any young athlete touted to be the “next big thing” of his sport is going to have those who hope that he is an overrated flop and that he fails. Fans and other observers have seen the best and worst of Neymar over the years, as he has matched some scintillating play with obvious and disgusting dives that are worthy of a punishment more harsh than just a standard yellow card. Neymar is also mirroring the life of a famous Barcelona teammate (mentioned later in this piece) in that the Brazilian is involved in a case regarding allegations of tax fraud.
17 Emmanuel Adebayor
The song has, for years, remained the same regarding Emmanuel Adebayor: He lands a new home in the soccer world and then the striker scores goals, he begins to gain a reputation for not putting in the necessary work in training sessions and during matches (i.e. “Lazybayor”), and the process repeats itself once again. Adebayor's run with Tottenham Hotspur has been a roller coaster ride filled with hits and misses, and Spurs gave him a leave for personal reasons after he revealed via Facebook that family problems had led to him contemplating suicide.
16 Wayne Rooney
The story was always going to end one of two ways with Wayne Rooney: He was either going to be the savior of English football and a once-in-a-generation talent, or he was going to be known to be an overrated Manchester United talent who did not work hard enough and who was made fun of for receding hairlines. Rooney cannot be blamed for taking advantage of the opportunities presented to him over the years, but it is the fact that he will likely never reach the unrealistic that some had for him that has made him a hated soccer player who deserves to be mentioned here.
15 Fernando Torres
Perhaps the time has come when everybody can forget the bad days of Fernando Torres and allow him to finish out his playing days in Spain. While Torres is not categorized as a “dirty” player as are several of the athletes featured in this piece, he is perceived by some to be one of the biggest flops in the history of the Premier League following his move from Liverpool to Chelsea. Torres never proved to be worth the money even though he did net some vital goals for the Blues in European play, and his time in the English top-flight was largely forgettable.
14 Carlos Tevez
Say what you will about his talent. Carlos Tevez has clearly never met a club he will not play for so long as the price is right. Tevez once ditched Manchester United to play for crosstown rivals Manchester City, he feuded with City boss Robert Mancini and he made great money while doing so, and Tevez then linked up with Serie A champions Juventus. The 31-year old should, in theory, be happy to be part of the club that will take on Barcelona in the 2015 Champions League Final, but there are rumors out there that he could return to the Premier League: For the right price, of course.
13 Ashley Cole
There was a time in the previous decade when some would have looked at Ashley Cole as one of the best fullbacks in the world of soccer. You likely will not hear anybody call him a five-star human anytime soon, though. Cole was labeled as being a greedy player following negotiations that saw him leave Arsenal for Chelsea back in 2006. His marriage to pop star Cheryl Tweedy ended in February 2010 following multiple reports that the player had been unfaithful. Cole has been linked with a move to Major League Soccer over the past couple of summers, but no deal has ever been finalized. Perhaps even MLS does not want to meet his wage demands.
Ramires is, depending on how you view the Chelsea man, either a workhorse who does not shy away from taking risks and leaving it all on the pitch, or he is a footballer who has gotten progressively dirtier during his days in the Premier League. He has been accused of taking dives during games, he once attempted to throw an elbow at an opponent, and his tackle on Karim El Ahmadi during a match against Aston Villa back in March of 2014 was called “one of the worst I've ever seen” by pundit Jamie Redknapp. “This is horrendous, there's no other way to describe it,” Redknapp also stated about that tackle.
11 Diego Costa
Diego Costa is everything that fans both love and hate out of professional athletes. He has been known to talk trash to opponents during matches. Costa has not been shy about getting into physical altercations, even risking potential red cards in the process. He has even gone so far to stomp on opponents. Costa earned himself a reputation for being dirty while with Atletico Madrid, and he did well to carry that over to his days with Chelsea. You may love him if he is on your favorite team, but fans of rival clubs are far more likely to hate him.
On top of that, Brazilian fans have taken a dislike to Costa after he decided to change National teams and play for the Spanish National team, though he was born in Brazil and player in friendlies for them.
10 Robin van Persie
Robin van Persie could have been a hero who helped Arsenal end what was a long and painful trophy drought, but he instead left the club for the greener pastures of Manchester United. That he hoisted the Premier League trophy with United made him even more hated among fans of the Gunners, and van Persie has now become an enemy among some United followers due in part to his “made of glass” reputation. Van Persie, who is on the verge of entering the twilight of his career, could be making a move to Serie A champs Juventus as soon as the summer of 2015.
9 Sergio Busquets
Ricardo Bernard once referred to Sergio Busquets as “The Loveable Cheater” in a piece for the Grantland website. “Loveable” is a term of endearment not everybody would use to describe the Barcelona man. Busquets has a long history of throwing himself to the ground and faking injuries in attempts to win red cards against opponents, and just as bothersome as his antics is the fact that he has gotten away with these Broadway-worthy gimmicks. He was also once accused of making racist remarks against an opponent.
8 Joey Barton
Opinions on Joey Barton vary per fan, and they also change per whatever antics has been up as of late. Barton can be an entertaining figure who is good for a laugh whenever he is going on a rant or putting out his latest “hot takes” via Twitter. The midfielder who is set to make an exit from Queens Park Rangers this coming summer has also been called a thug, a label that he has earned after committing violence acts on more than one individual. It is now possible that Barton's days in the Premier League and in European top-flight football, in general, have come to an end.
There is nothing wrong with a player laying it all on the line and even getting a bit physical during competitive matches. Pepe has repeatedly crossed that invisible boundary over the years, and he has a long history of committing crunching and violent acts worthy of earning him bans. Former Barcelona player Seydou Keita once accused Pepe of making racist comments during a game, and Pepe spat at Keita when the two met at the 2011 Spanish Supercopa. Pepe can truly only blame himself for being such a hated figure in the soccer community
6 Lionel Messi
A footballer who is a top star for the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid can guarantee two things: He will be adored by legions of fans and he will also be hated by many who either dislike the club for which he plays or who find unlikable parts of his game. Lionel Messi is not a saint. He has found himself involved in a tax evasion case that has made international headlines, and Messi has been accused of diving by those who are seemingly happy to point out that his sterling reputation is not as deserved as some think. Messi nevertheless is likely to remain the face of the FIFA video game franchise for years to come.
5 Zlatan Ibrahimovic
He has been said to be enigmatic and eccentric. Zlatan Ibrahimovic has proven himself to be capable of hitting highlight reel goals seemingly at will, but the veteran front man has also drawn boos from home crowds unimpressed with the effort – or lack thereof – he has shown during matches. Ibrahimovic then raised some eyes among Paris Saint-Germain followers and others in the country when he was accused of using an expletive to describe France. Add in that he is seen by some as a mercenary who plays more for checks than he does for his teams, and it is easy to understand why the popular goal-scorer is also hated by plenty.
4 Mario Balotelli
The forward is entertaining for neutrals who enjoy following his antics on and off of the pitch, but Mario Balotelli has been downright infuriating for his managers and also for fans who support the team's he has featured for over the years. Balotelli's work ethic and his commitment to the cause have been questioned by managers on multiple occasions, and there were whispers in the fall of 2014 that Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers was already tired of the player's antics just months after he linked up with the Premier League outfit. The 24-year old may find himself playing for yet another new team by the time September of 2015 arrives.
3 Arjen Robben
Nobody can deny the abundance of talent had by Arjen Robben. The Bayern Munich and Netherlands Men's National Team star was arguably the top player at the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Robben makes it so high in this year's edition of the list because of the numerous blatant dives that he has committed during matches on both the domestic and international levels. Just look-up “Arjen Robben dive” via the Internet search engine of your choice to locate example after example of Robben shamelessly throwing himself to the floor. There is no place for such antics at any level of the sport.
2 Luis Suarez
Luis Suarez was, to his credit, largely on his best behavior following making the move from Liverpool to Barcelona in the summer of 2014. One season cannot, however, erase all of the negative marks that have crowded Suarez's resume as a professional. There was the ugly racism row that involved Suarez hurling abuse toward Patrice Evra. The talented front man has also been visibly guilty of biting opposing players no fewer than three times, most recently at the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Suarez still has a ways to go before he can even begin fixing his reputation.
1 Cristiano Ronaldo
Great athletes are hated. LeBron James, Tom Brady, Alex Rodriguez, Sidney Crosby and so many others have dealt with it as has Ronaldo through the years. This is not to suggest that Ronaldo is blameless in the matter. He has visibly not celebrated goals scored by his teammates that he could have possibly netted, he has grown a reputation for being a “crybaby” when begging for calls during matches, and he has been accused of diving during games on multiple occasions. Ronaldo also happens to be the best player in the world, which makes him an easy target for fans who can only wish that such a superstar would feature for their favorite clubs.