10 Most Hated Footballers in the World
For every force of good there is in football, there is an equal force of bad to provide balance. A yin to their yang. For every hero, a villain.
As much fun as it is to see the sport's most treasured icons succeed, audiences can sometimes take equal pleasure in seeing a star plummet from the heavens and fall to the depths below.
We've compiled a list of those who, whether it be for their antics on or off the pitch, have developed an unenviable reputation in the game, not just among certain sets of fans or clubs, but by the entire football population.
Disagree with our ranking or feel there's any big omissions? Let us know in the forum below.
Homosexuality is a subject coming under growing acceptance in football, but there are those who still resist.
In the buildup to Euro 2012, Antonio Cassano proved (at least temporarily) that he's not the biggest fan of gay athletes being a part of the Azzurri, with Marcus Christenson of the Guardian quoting the Serie A journeyman as saying, "Queers in the national team? That's their business. But I hope not."
The former Inter and Milan forward would then go on to make an attempt in making up for his comments, but the damage was largely done, it seems.
Often the case in any sport, it's the biggest and the best athletes that tend to draw the ire of most. After all, the only thing some fans delight in more than seeing the rise of a superstar is seeing them fall.
Cristiano Ronaldo is undoubtedly a candidate to be named the best footballer in the world, but sometimes, it harms someone of such stature to have a personality as big as their talents, which the Portuguese captain certainly does.
Famed as much for his diving habits as his scoring proficiency in the Premier League, Didier Drogba will find it difficult to live down his knack for theatrics after so many years of building a reputation.
The former Chelsea favourite is up there with the worst when it comes to simulation, and at points in his career, he seemed to forget that just about every motion he made was being caught on camera.
10. Zlatan Ibrahimovic
If ever there was a player who had "the Marmite effect" on spectators, it's Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the player people love to hate and hate to love.
For the past decade, the Swedish sensation has made it his business to become one of the most entertaining personalities the sport has ever produced—but not always for the bettering of his profile.
Whether it's turning down a trial at Arsenal at 17, criticising Pep Guardiola or bragging about his vast wealth, all per Joe Mewis of Mirror Football, it's relatively easy to see how Ibrahimovic might get on someone's bad side.
9. Mario Balotelli
Although his controversy has petered off since moving to Milan in January 2013, Mario Balotelli undoubtedly remains one of the more hated figures in football.
Haunted by the demons of his past actions, the former Manchester City striker will never quite shake the repercussions of setting fireworks off in his own house, throwing darts at a youth-team player or pointlessly back-heeling a glorious opportunity wide, per Simon Rice of The Independent and the Press Association.
Of course, the Italian does have his loveable side.
The side that's capable of giving £1,000 to a homeless man, gatecrashing Inter's managerial announcement of Andrea Stramaccioni and lighting up the pitch at Euro 2012 with some of the best finishing you're likely to see.
The question with Balotelli is: when all's said and done, will the pros outweigh the cons?
8. Sergio Busquets
Simulation remains a very pertinent issue at the elite level of football, but there are those certain bastions of the "art" that keep it alive and thriving more than any others.
It's certain that Sergio Busquets falls into that category, which is slightly ironic considering the Spaniard plays in a box-to-box role not as frequently associated with diving as other positions.
Still, the Barcelona midfielder has earned the disdain of many within the sport and, like Drogba, seems to forget that the world is always watching in those slight moments of contact—or lack thereof.
One who's perhaps famed for the opposite of simulation is Real Madrid's Pepe, known for his more barbaric approach to things than the contact-less crime of diving.
As the video above shows, the Portuguese defender is capable of incredibly violent acts on the pitch, the likes of which will certainly satiate the needs of those who say football is becoming a less and less physical sport.
After stamping on Lionel Messi's hand in 2012, Pepe apologised to the Barcelona star, per the Daily Mail, claiming the offence was "unintentional."
We'll leave that up for debate.
6. Emre Belozoglu
One of the other plagues that football unfortunately plays habitat to remains racism, like anti-homosexuality, a topic that's still supported by certain pockets of the population.
In the 2011-12 Super Lig campaign, Fenerbahce's Emre Belozoglu was captured mouthing what appeared to be the racial slur in the direction of Trabzonspor midfielder Didier Zokora.
As can be seen in the video above, teammates and player alike stood up in defence of Zokora, who chose to snub the handshake efforts of Emre—and rightfully so.
A player can apologise in regret, but in an age where the slightest murmur is recorded for the ages, it's debatable as to whether one can ever live down crimes such as this.
5. Ashley Cole
Stamford Bridge has played home to a number of England's most controversial figures in its time, not least of whom is the Blues' current left-back, Ashley Cole.
Cole is also one of several Premier League players who's been photographed smoking on occasion, and as the Guardian's Amelia Hill and Dominic Fifield report, fell into some hot water in 2011 for shooting a Chelsea trainee with an air rifle.
While there's no doubting his talent as one of the best defenders in the English top flight, there's few who would truly say they adore Cole.
4. El Hadji Diouf
No matter where he goes or what division he plies his trade in, El Hadji Diouf manages to keep popping up in the public sphere and never for the most amicable reasons.
As the Telegraph have chronicled, the past decade has seen the Senegalese journeyman lambasted for spitting at opposition fans and players, making racist comments towards ball boys, diving and drink-driving.
More recently, the forward has been brought into court, per the Mirror, for unpaid house damages as well as getting beaten up in a Senegalese nightclub, according to Richard Arrowsmith of Mirror Football.
For some players, courting this kind of controversy is just a way of life, but it doesn't mean we, as spectators, have to appreciate it.
3. Joey Barton
One player who genuinely seems to revel in making headlines simply for the sake of it is Joey Barton, England's resident Twitter voice on all things interesting.
It could be criticising Sir Alex Ferguson's ability as a coach or simply criticising Roy Hodgson's England a little vigorously, but the former Manchester City and Newcastle bad boy is never likely to shirk his outspoken ways.
At least expressing his views over social media is a step down from the antics that saw Barton become renowned for controversy earlier in his career, when he served 74 days in jail for an assault he handed out in Liverpool, per BBC News and the Telegraph.
2. John Terry
They say that the bond between teammates is something akin to brotherhood, an unshakable link that can never be broken.
John Terry went some way towards proving that's certainly not the case for all when, as Amanda Perthen, Ian Gallagher, Andy Chapman and James Millbank of the Daily Mail Online reported in 2010, he impregnated Vanessa Perroncel, the girlfriend of then-Chelsea teammate Wayne Bridge.
After arranging for the abortion and the affair becoming public knowledge, Terry, who was married, became labelled as a piranha, forever regarded as something of a villain in the English game.
As if that wasn't bad enough, 2012 saw Terry apologise for the racist abuse he had spouted at QPR's Anton Ferdinand in 2011, per Charles Sale of the Daily Mail Online, incurring a £220,000 fine and an FA ban to go along with it.
It doesn't help that the former England centre-back's family hasn't helped the Terry image. His father was caught up in a racism controversy of his own earlier this summer, per Melanie Hall of the Telegraph.
1. Luis Suarez
It could have all gone so well for Luis Suarez.
A prolific scoring talisman proving himself at Ajax around the start of the 21st century, and all he had to do was keep his mouth shut and keep scoring as he was to pave the way for a glittering career at both the club and the international level.
However, in recent years, it's the Uruguayan's mouth that's landed him in the most hot water, not least of which was his two offences for biting—the first of which is shown in the video above.
The other form of trouble linked with Suarez's mouth is more verbal, an eight-match ban and £40,000 fine being earned for the apparent racial abuse of Manchester United's Patrice Evra in 2011, per the Guardian.
Elsewhere, the South American has also used his appendages to court trouble, maliciously hand-balling in the 2010 World Cup while on duty with Uruguay, an offence that would eventually see Ghana out of the South African competition.
No matter how he goes about his public rehabilitation and attempts to remodel himself in the public's eye, Suarez remains the most largely vilified figure in the sport.