13 of the most unhinged players to play in the Prem: Repka, Lehmann, Di Canio…
Tick, tick tick… Whenever these madmen stepped onto the pitch, you knew something bad was about to happen.
From Jaap Stam to Robert Huth, the Premier League has seen its fair share of hard bastards.
Those players were the immovable objects, the tough tacklers and the expert intimidators of English football.
But while hard bastards usually control their aggression with a degree of discipline, there’s another breed of footballer that does the exact opposite.
We’re talking about the unhinged.
Some players hear the whistle blow and, like Pavlov’s dogs, take it as a cue to shove, kick and bite their opponents, holding little regard for the success or failure of their team.
For better or worse, these guys exploded whenever they took to the pitch.
Paolo Di Canio
Over seven years in the Premier League, Paolo Di Canio was the loosest of canons.
He shoved a referee, fought with managers and, strangest of all, picked up the ball to protect an opposition goalkeeper.
You can’t imagine he gave much thought to any of those things.
Kicked a fan, didn’t he.
Eric Cantona’s madness was his genius, and you really have to appreciate how every red card he ever received was a work of art.
That horrifying leap for Auxerre deserves a celebration as much as his Sunderland chip.
There’s an argument to be made that Joey Barton sort-of knew what he was doing whenever he acted like a shitebag to wind up opponents.
The thing is, it nearly always worked against him, and Barton was probably at his most useful when whipping in crosses with his mouth shut.
On paper, three separate biting incidents suggest the cold-blooded indifference of a serial killer. In reality, however, Luis Suarez was, and remains, just a massive idiot.
Still, he scored some goals.
David Seaman: “I enjoy fishing; my best ever catch was a 36-pound carp.”
El Hadji Diouf
A forward who could control neither his temper nor his phlegm, El Hadji Diouf didn’t endear himself to Premier League fans.
Sam Allardyce eventually got the best out of him as Bolton finished sixth in the 2004–05 season, but Diouf never really mellowed out.
Lovable rogue Kevin Muscat was labelled “the most hated man in football” by Birmingham’s Martin Grainger and a “lowlife” by Ian Wright.
The Australian caused serious injuries to a host of opponents, including Craig Bellamy, Christophe Dugarry and Charlton’s Matty Holmes, who successfully sued Muscat for £750,000.
Karma? Not really: Muscat played on to the ripe old age of 38, the shit.
Hard, dirty or just a bit rubbish, midfielder Michael Brown had as much discipline as he had neck, which is to say not very much.
A career highlight? Two yellow cards in a minute against Spurs for two equally crap tackles.
In 2019, Czech defender Tomas Repka was jailed for fraud after selling a car he didn’t actually own.
That might be in the top 10 maddest things he’s ever done.
As a Premier League player for West Ham, Repka was red-carded on his debut, suspended, then red-carded again in his next match.
The Hammers loved him, obviously.
One of the most stylish footballers of the 90s and 00s, midfielder Edgar Davids was anything but cool on the pitch.
The Pitbull saved most of his violence for Juventus, Barnet and — naturally — Soccer Aid matches, but he also got a red card in the last ever North London derby at Highbury.
And that was after he ignored an injured Emmanuel Eboue to set up Robbie Keane for the opening goal.
Wily midfielder Lee Cattermole introduced himself to the Premier League by bursting into tears after his Middlesbrough side lost heavily to Aston Villa.
Gareth Southgate managed to console him, and Cattermole spent the next decade resolutely tucking his shirt in and committing all sorts of ridiculous fouls, massively endearing himself to Sunderland fans in the process.
He now plays in Holland, where he was booked for his first ever foul in the Eredivisie.
Never change, Lee.
An aggressive player by nature, Lee Bowyer’s attitude was often a valuable asset to his team.
He was, for example, a key part of the Leeds side that reached European semi-finals in consecutive seasons.
Scuffling with a team-mate, though? Less valuable.
It’s been about four years since Serge Aurier live-streamed his belief that PSG manager Laurent Blanc sucked Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s balls.
Spurs fans will tell you that the full-back exercises a similar level of caution and common sense on the pitch.