Top 20 Soccer Players with Attitude Problems

It has become a common critique and borderline cliche to brand a footballer as having a 'bad attitude'. The phrase, or one of similar meaning, is often thrown about merely after a player has had a dis

It has become a common critique and borderline cliche to brand a footballer as having a 'bad attitude'. The phrase, or one of similar meaning, is often thrown about merely after a player has had a disagreement with a player/coach, rejected a contract or acted foolishly on or off the pitch. In truth, most players do not have bad attitudes, as if they did, it is unlikely they would ever make it in the fiercely competitive world of professional football.

As always though, there are some exceptions, and some of the most notable of these feature on this list. Given that making it as a pro tends to requires an incredible amount of sacrifice, hard work and mental toughness, it is noticeable that those who have managed to play at the highest level despite having poor attitudes are often blessed with large amounts of skill, technique and natural ability.

In bygone eras it was possible to reach the top with ability alone, but not in the modern day. Many of these players have failed or are failing to reach their true potential because of their attitude. Here are the top 20 footballers with attitude problems:

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20 Royston Drenthe


It is all too easy to forget just how highly rated Royston Drenthe was at one time. Having already become a Feyenoord regular he made a huge impression at the 2007 U-21 European Championship's, in which the Netherland's won the tournament and Drenthe was named best player. He immediately became one of the hottest prospects in Europe, joining Real Madrid for around $20 million that summer. Drenthe fell out with the management at both Hercules and Everton, even admitting, "My attitude and poor mentality ruined my career there." He now plays in the Arabian Gulf League.

19 Carlos Tevez


Carlos Tevez is one of very few modern day players to have genuinely made it at the highest level despite having multiple attitude-related problems and fall-outs. An unusual case on this list, as most players poor attitudes can be seen both on and off the pitch, whilst Tevez's are only off the field; on it, he is as committed as they come. Tevez has fallen out with a number of people in football, but his most notable case was whilst he was with Manchester City, when he refused to warm-up before fleeing to Argentina for much of the season. With 20 trophies to his name already, Tevez is now back with Boca Juniors.

18 Adriano

AP Photo/Luca Bruno

Famed for his incredible shot power and almost comical inconsistency, Adriano had all the tools to become a world class forward, but instead used them to become a world class tool. Luis Figo best summed it up when he said "Adriano is the classic example of how to destroy your talent," adding "Talent is secondary though, if you do not balance it with dedication and professionalism - two things he completely lacked." Adriano's poor attitude has allowed him to become very unfit, and in the last 4 years he has played less than 20 matches. Now aged 33, he is without a club.

17 Zakaria Bakkali


Another very highly-rated youngster who emerged through the Eredevisie, Zakaria Bakkali emerged with PSV as an extremely talented youngster. He became the youngest player in history to score a hat-trick in the Eredevisie, at the age of 17, but that didn't stop him falling out with the club. Dropped from the first team, Bakkali was then banned from training with the reserve team due to his bad attitude. He joined Valencia in the summer and has since played 9 games for the La Liga club.

16 Ricardo Quaresma


A very skillful player, Ricardo Quaresma could have become an international superstar. Having shown his ability with Sporting in Portugal, Quaresma joined Barcelona at the age of 20, at which age he was considered on par with Cristiano Ronaldo. Since then, the two players have had very different career trajectories for one main reason; their attitudes. Now aged 32, Quaresma has acknowledged his mistakes, saying "Talent alone is not enough to have a great career," and saying he had an "idiotic attitude" at Barcelona.

15 Emmanuel Adebayor


Emmanuel Adebayor is clearly a very good footballer. Only Cristiano Ronaldo scored more goals than him in the 2007-08 Premier League season, showing what the Togolese striker was capable of when on-form. After his big money move to Man City, the first inklings of Adebayor's attitude problems became clear. His goal celebration and stamp against his former club receiving much backlash. Adebayor seems to play brilliantly when needing to earn a contract before tailing off, a display of his lack of desire and lack of application at times.

14 Nicklas Bendtner


Self-belief and confidence can be very important to make it in football, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Cristiano Ronaldo perfect examples of that. However, there is a major difference between belief and delusion, and Nicklas Bendtner seems to lean far more towards the latter. The former Arsenal forward once claimed that within five years he would be top scorer in the Premier League and at the World Cup, as well as saying he believed he was one of the best strikers in the world. Aged 27, Bendtner has scored two league goals in the last two seasons and this one.

13 Jermaine Pennant


Jermaine Pennant has had problems both within and outside of football; the talented and pacy right winger has never managed to pin himself down at a team for particularly long, having played more games for Stoke City than any other team. Pennant has been charged with drink-driving and played with a tag, plaguing what once looked like a very promising career. Pennant's last three clubs have been in the Championship and Indian Super League, and he has been a free agent since leaving Wigan, still only 32.

12 Pierre van Hooijdonk


Former Netherlands striker Pierre van Hooijdonk scored goals all over Europe and for his country, playing for the likes of Benfica and Feyenoord and winning 46 caps for Holland. The Dutchman was often accused of having a poor attitude and being something of a mercenary though, particularly whilst he was at Celtic, when he rejected the clubs contract offer saying "£7,000 a week might be enough for the homeless to live on, but not an international striker." With his next club, Nottingham Forest, Hooijdonk went on an 11 game strike, complaining that his teammates weren't up to standard.

11 Joey Barton


Few players are as renowned for their attitude and antics as Burnley midfielder Joey Barton. The one-time England international undoubtedly has talent, but he has always carried so much baggage that it seemed unlikely he would ever reach the top. Aged 33, Barton has played for Manchester City, Newcastle, Q.P.R., Marseille and currently Burnley, his third season in the second tier. Barton has had a number of disciplinary problems which age doesn't seem to have tempered.

10 Hatem Ben-Arfa


Technically one of the finest players of his generation, Hatem Ben-Arfa is genuinely world class in terms of his skill, technique and flair. Unfortunately, he does not have a world class attitude to match. Had Ben-Arfa been as driven as some within the game, he could quite possibly have reached the very top. Now back in France with Nice, Ben-Arfa is replicating some of the form which saw him take the Premier League by storm at one time and has been recalled to the France national team. Whilst with both Newcastle and Hull City, Ben-Arfa fell out with Alan Pardew and Steve Bruce for his lack of application and professionalism.

9 Mido


Egyptian forward Mido was blessed with a number of attributes which made him a dangerous forward, but a little like Adriano, he didn't have the work ethic to put them all together and become a real star. Big, powerful and strong but still technically very capable, Mido made a big early impression with Tottenham but his attitude problems soon came to the fore. On the verge of signing for Kayserispor in 2010, the Turkish side pulled out of the deal saying "Mido might be a good player but he is arrogant and has serious attitude problems," summing up the opinion of many people within football already.

8 El Hadji Diouf


Following the 2002 World Cup, El Hadji Diouf was one of the most sought after players in the world. Liverpool became his next destination, and he was involved in a number of spitting incidents and other such transgressions. Diouf's career has been plagued by controversies and attitude problems, preventing him from ever becoming a top player. He showed glimpses of quality with Liverpool, Bolton, Sunderland and Blackburn, but never consistently strong performances. Aged 34, Diouf is now playing in Malaysia for Sabah.

7 Nile Ranger


As a youngster Nile Ranger was touted for big things at Newcastle United. He made his debut at 18, and went on to play 30 games in all competitions that season. However, Ranger had off the field trouble from the age of 15, when he sentenced to spend time in a Young Offenders Institute. Still only 24, Ranger has had a plethora of problems with the law, fellow players, managers and even people on social media, all leading to him being considered a 'bad egg'. The former England youth international is currently with third tier Blackpool.

6 Amr Zaki


Another Egyptian, Amr Zaki is often considered a Premier League one-season wonder, when in fact he is more accurately a half-season wonder. The fiery forward lit up the Premier League when he first joined Wigan, but soon faded away as controversy took over. After taking part in international duty, Zaki failed to return to England for club football, without informing manager Steve Bruce.

His manager described him as the worst professional he had ever worked with, and a loan move to Hull City failed to breathe new life into his quickly fading time in England. Zaki retired in 2015 at the age of 32, having played less than 20 games in the last three years.

5 Nicolas Anelka


Nicolas Anelka was blessed with incredible technique, and having turned out for the likes of PSG, Arsenal, Real Madrid, Liverpool, Man City, Chelsea and Juventus, as well as winning 69 caps for his country, it is difficult to say Anelka didn't have quite the career he was capable of, but in many ways it was true. Nicknamed 'Le Sulk' amid transfer speculation at Arsenal, it was a name that would last and be justified on many occasions over his career when the Frenchman's poor attitude shone. Anelka is now working as player-manager in the ISL with Mumbai City.

4 Ravel Morrison


Sir Alex Ferguson once told Rio Ferdinand that Ravel Morrison was the most talented 16-year-old he had ever seen; high praise indeed from a man who saw some of the some of the finest players in modern history come through the ranks at Manchester United. However, Morrison had multiple problems off the field, particularly with the law, and it soon became clear he would not realize his potential at Old Trafford. He showed glimpses of just how good he could be at West Ham, before old habits repeated themselves. Aged 22, Morrison joined Lazio in the summer and is at the age where he really needs to knuckle down and prove himself in Serie A.

3 Antonio Cassano

Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

When your short temper is so notorious it creates a phrase which becomes common parlance, you know you might have an issue, and that's exactly what happened with Italian playmaker and second striker Antonio Cassano. The phrase 'Cassanata' was the term in use, and all too often as a result of Cassano's antics. As is the case with so many of the players on this list, technically Cassano was simply magnificent.

His vision, technique and skill were second to none, but a transfer to Real Madrid was a huge mistake in his career. Although Cassano has played for some of the biggest clubs in Europe and represented his country at major tournaments, he has not reached the heights his ability ought to have.

2 Adel Taarabt


It was known during his early years at both Tottenham and Q.P.R. that Adel Taarabt had some attitude problems, but in the 2010-11 he scored 19 goals in 44 games from attacking midfield to inspire the Hoops to win the Championship title, and it appeared he may have turned a corner. That wasn't the case though, and Taarabt's old problems quickly resurfaced. He is prone to throwing tantrums and has been accused of a lack of fitness and hard work by managers. Taarabt joined Benfica in the summer but is yet to appear for the Portuguese giants.

1 Mario Balotelli

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Mario Balotelli is still young, aged only 25, but having had more lives than a cat, one wonders how many more opportunities the Italian has to prove that he isn't a petulant, egotistical child. Roberto Mancini is widely considered to be the man who got the best out of Balotelli, coaching him at both Inter Milan and Man City, but even he couldn't tame Mario, pictured clashing physically with him in training on one occasion. Balotelli's lack of professionalism and discipline is clear, both on and off the field.

Ballotelli returned to English football and the Premier League with Liverpool in 2014, but was a spectacular flop. He looked disinterested and ineffective in almost the entirety of his season at Anfield, and was immediately loaned back to AC Milan this summer. Since the return, Balotelli has scored once in three games, and will have to prove his attitude has improved to make Italy's team for the 2016 European Championship.

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Top 20 Soccer Players with Attitude Problems