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Top 20 Soccer Players Who Disgraced Themselves

To disgrace oneself is to do something dishonorable which brings shame upon the individual. Soccer players, particularly in the modern day, are constantly under the media spotlight like any other high profile celebrities. If they disgrace themselves on the pitch it will be shown hundreds of times in slow-motion from 15 different camera angles. If they disgrace themselves off the pitch the tabloids will be all over it in a matter of seconds.

Clearly then, there is no hiding for footballers in the current climate, and it's no surprise that many of those who make this list are players of a recent era. None of us are angels and in the heat of things on a football pitch, it is no surprise that players sometimes commit mindless acts. The most common ways in which a player has disgraced themselves on this list is through violence, racism, spitting or scandals.

Soccer players who have committed particularly heinous off-field crimes such as murder or rape are omitted, so as to prevent the list from becoming merely a list of players who have been jailed. Conversely, those who have committed more 'minor' but still damning off-field offences are included. Here are the top 20 soccer players who disgraced themselves:

20 20. Eric Cantona

via thesun.co.uk

Rather generously named Manchester United's greatest ever player by Inside United magazine, Eric Cantona is without doubt a club legend. Sir Alex Ferguson often points to the Frenchman as being the spark which lit the Manchester United flame, inspiring them to become the dominant side in England for a number of years.

19 19. Jamie Vardy

via metro.co.uk

The Premier League top scorer who is on an incredible run of goal scoring form, Jamie Vardy's meteoric rise from non-league football to England international has been well-documented, but it hasn't always been such a fairytale story for Vardy who found himself rather red-faced in August of this year.

18 18. Frank Rijkaard

via nltimes.nl

An intelligent footballer, excellent tackler and marvellous athlete, Frank Rijkaard is widely regarded as one of the best and most well-rounded defensive midfielders of all time. He played almost exclusively for Ajax and AC Milan; winning seven domestic titles and three Champions Leagues, as well as being nominated for the Ballon d'Or twice.

17 17. Diego Maradona

via independent.co.uk

Arguably the greatest footballer of all time, the way in which Diego Maradona transformed largely mediocre Napoli and Argentina teams into world-beaters is quite extraordinary. His vision, control and dribbling abilities are comfortably some of the best ever seen, and Maradona was tied with Pele as FIFA's Player of the Twentieth Century, despite actually winning the public vote.

16 16. Nile Ranger

via lastwordonsports.com

15 15. Adrian Mutu

via telegraph.co.uk

14 14. Leicester City - 2015-16 Preseason

via leicestermercury.co.uk

Pre-season tours can often be filled with incidents but Leicester City's 2015-16 preseason tour made the headlines for all the wrong reasons. The club travelled to Asia for what was intended to be a promotional tour, but ended up as a humiliating and embarrassing one for the club, and left three players disgraced. The young men involved were Adam Smith, Tom Hopper and the manager's son James Pearson.

13 13. Ben Thatcher

via footballburp.com

Ben Thatcher was an English defender, although he played internationally for Wales, who played for Millwall, Wimbledon, Tottenham, Leicester, Man City, Charlton and Ipswich in an 18-year career which saw him also turn out seven times for Wales. Thatcher could have had a respectable career within the game were it not for his vicious elbow on Pedro Mendes in a game against Portsmouth in 2006.

12 12. Pepe

Tim Groothuis/Witters Sport via USA TODAY Sports

Real Madrid defender Pepe is known for his 'robust' challenges, to put it kindly, but his behaviour in a 2009 game against Getafe was simply inexcusable. The Portugal international pushed Getafe midfielder Javier Casquero to the ground, conceding a penalty, and after Casquero fell, Pepe twice kicked him viciously while the Spaniard laid on the ground. Having been sent off, Pepe then pushed Casquero's face into the ground before repeatedly stamping on him and eventually lashing out at another player, Juan Angel Albin. The replays showed the barbarity of the attack and Pepe received a 10 game ban, effectively ending his season.

11 11. 1964 Betting Scandal

via goal.com

10 10. Luis Aragones

via photobucket.com

9 9. John Terry

via thereplublikofmancunia.com

One of the best central defenders of his generation, John Terry's fine defensive capabilities, reading of the game and positioning haven't stopped him becoming a widely disliked figure within English football. The former England captain is a legend and Chelsea but most hated in all other quarters for a number of reasons. Firstly, Terry reportedly mocked an American at Heathrow in 2001, in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. Secondly, Terry had a four-month affair with the former girlfriend of his teammate Wayne Bridge, and thirdly, Terry was charged in 2012 for racially abusing Anton Ferdinand.

8 8. Jonathan Woodgate/Lee Bowyer

Stu Forster /Allsport

7 7. Fritz Korbach

via wikimedia.org

6 6. Roy Keane

via irishmirror.ie

A titan in the history of Manchester United and the Premier League, Roy Keane was born a winner. He made a name for himself at Nottingham Forest before becoming a pivotal figure and eventual captain at Old Trafford under Sir Alex Ferguson. The Irishman won 20 trophies over his career, including seven Premier League titles and the Champions League. However, he was always regarded as a tough, mean and at times downright dirty player, and in 2001 he committed an act almost mutually condemned as too far.

5 5. Luis Suarez

Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Luis Suarez is without doubt one of the best players in the world, but for all his talent, the Uruguayan seemingly cannot stop himself from getting in the headlines for the wrong reasons all too often. With Ajax, Liverpool and now Barcelona, Suarez has become one of the most feared forwards on the planet.

4 4. Emre Belozoglu

via hurriyetdailynews.com

Another player who disgraced themselves through racial abuse, Emre Belozoglu is considered one of the stars of Turkish football, and even made the FIFA 100, Pele's list of the 125 best living players. Aged 35, Belozoglu has won 94 caps for Turkey, finishing third in the 2002 World Cup and has won trophies with five different clubs in four different countries.

3 3. Joey Barton

via eurosport.com

2 2. El Hadji Diouf

via telegraph.co.uk

1 1. Ron Atkinson

via mirror.co.uk

The reason Ron Atkinson tops this list is because he was such a beloved figure of English football prior to disgracing himself. The likes of Suarez, Barton and Diouf were already eminently dislikable before committing more obviously contemptible acts, but not Atkinson. Better known as 'Big Ron', Atkinson only ever played for one club, Oxford United, representing the club more than 500 times. He had rather more success as a manager, doing particularly well at West Brom, and winning trophies with Manchester United, Sheffield Wednesday and Aston Villa.

Big Ron had retired from the world of management when he disgraced himself in 2004. Having turned to punditry, Atkinson was commenting on a game when he believed he was not on transmission. While this was the case in the UK, the audio was still broadcast in the Middle East, where listeners heard the former manager said of Chelsea defender Marcel Desailly "he is what is known in some schools as a f***ing lazy, thick n****". His media work has been severely limited since the incident.

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Top 20 Soccer Players Who Disgraced Themselves