Over the last 20 years the Premier League has been blessed with players who just have that bit more about them than the average customer. From the hard tacklers to the quirky personalities, the Premier League has been blessed with entertainers, now let’s look at the top ten Premier League characters.
10. Craig Bellamy
Love him or loathe him, Craig Bellamy is undoubtedly one of the biggest characters in the Premier League. A tremendously talented football player, who certainly has not achieved what his ability allowed for, unfortunately Bellamy has too often fallen foul of disciplinary action or injury limiting his playing time. The late Sir Bobby Robson labelled him the ‘gobbiest’ player he had ever worked with. Bellamy’s most controversial incident perhaps came in 2007 when he allegedly confronted John Arne Riise with a golf club before an away game at Barcelona. Bellamy was fined £80,000 by the club but made amends as both the Welshman and Riise scored in a 2-1 victory.
9. Stuart Pearce
Positively nuts in his commitment to the cause, his nickname ‘Psycho’ tells half the story. Stuart Pearce gave everything for club and country throughout his career and was an outstanding left back. Perhaps best remembered for his penalty miss for England against Germany at Italia 90, and subsequent penalty he scored at Euro 1996 against Spain, Pearce embodied passion on the football pitch. Kevin Keegan once stated that Pearce ‘emerged, running out of the mist, wearing nothing but a pair of underpants and a towel wrapped round his head. That’s why they call him Psycho.’
8. David Luiz
For the Sideshow Bob hair alone, David Luiz deserves his place on this list. Yet, there is so much more to the Brazilian. Maybe it’s his recent habit of ‘giving luck’ to teammates in a pre match ritual by touching their foreheads, eyes closed in concentration. Maybe it’s that he is disturbingly attacking centre back, indeed Luiz is more likely to be found on a bamboozling run down the left wing than he is to be making a last ditch tackle. Or maybe it’s that he cannot seem to take life too seriously, indeed his post match interview with Fernando Torres and Frank Lampard is comedy gold. Luiz will need to cut the mistakes from his game if he is remain a cult hero to Chelsea fans, but currently for the neutral he is a joy to watch.
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7. Paolo Di Canio
An enigma, Paolo Di Canio made headlines throughout his time in the Premier League. It was at Sheffield Wednesday that the Italian started his career in English football and it was not long before he courted controversy, with Di Canio fined and suspended for 11 games after he pushed referee Paul Alcock to the ground. Di Canio moved to West Ham and was consistently one of the Hammers best players in his time at the club, two moments in particular stand out. His scissor kick volley against Wimbledon in 2000 and his outstanding act of fair play against Everton in 2001. Against Everton Di Canio snubbed an open goal, catching the ball from a cross after Everton goalkeeper Paul Gerrard had went down injured. Di Canio was awarded a FIFA Fair Play Award for the incident.
6. Dennis Wise
At five foot 6 Dennis Wise was hardly one of the Premier League’s intimidating players, yet Wise was not one to shirk a battle in centre midfield. Sir Alex Ferguson once stated that Wise ‘could start a fight in an empty house’, he was probably right. Wise amassed 65 yellow and 5 red cards in the Premier League and was never far from trouble. Wise was convicted of assaulting a taxi driver in 1995 and was sacked by Leicester following breaking teammate Callum Davidson’s jaw. Despite his dirty side, Wise was extremely successful as captain in his time at Chelsea, winning two FA Cups, a League Cup and the UEFA Cup Winners Cup.
5. Joey Barton
Is Joey Barton the most outspoken player in the Premier League today? Many would argue that he is, with Twitter a valuable tool at the disposal of the opinionated Mancunian who has over 800,000 followers. Barton has never been far from controversy, publicly denouncing those selected for the England squad on numerous occasions in the belief that he himself should be in the squad, yet thus far Barton has amassed just one cap for English. Barton has spent time in prison and his career at Manchester City was brought to an end following a training ground assault on teammate Ousmane Dabo. Despite these poor marks on his character, Barton is undoubtedly one of the biggest characters in today’s game.
4. Eric Cantona
A unique specimen of a footballer, Eric Cantona will forever be looked back upon as one of the best players and biggest characters to grace the Premier League. His time in English football saw him win five league titles in 6 seasons and he was twice voted PFA Player of the Year. Cantona oozed arrogance on the pitch; he really was a class apart. Unfortunately Cantona may be remembered best for his assault on a fan at Crystal Palace, in the infamous Kung Fu kick incident. Perhaps even more bizarre was his press conference regarding the incident, where Cantona stated, ‘When the seagulls follow the trawler, it’s because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea. Thank you very much’ before getting up to leave.
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3. Roy Keane
The most successful captain in Manchester United’s history, Roy Keane gave everything to the cause in the heart of midfield. Keane spent 12 years at Old Trafford, 8 of which were spent as captain. He was the definition of box-to-box midfielder both scoring goals and contributing defensively. It was Keane’s leadership and questionable disciplinary record that earn him his place in this countdown however. On the one hand, Keane’s never say die attitude was his best quality, on the other it was his worst. He held a long standing rivalry with Arsenal’s Patrick Vieira which led to numerous confrontations between the pair. It will be his knee high tackle on Alf Inge Haaland that many remember him for though, a tackle that Keane talked about in his autobiography as premeditated.
2. Vinnie Jones
Football’s archetypal hard man, Vinnie Jones has even fashioned out his post football career on the image he obtained during his playing days. In 7 Premier League seasons Jones managed 7 red cards and 39 yellows. Amongst Jones’ honours is the record for the quickest yellow card, when Jones’ was cautioned after just 3 seconds playing for Chelsea back in 1992. A better player than many would admit, Jones spent his career at the top with Wimbledon, Leeds, Sheffield United and Chelsea. In 1998 Jones’ appeared in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and as they say the rest is history, with Jones since appearing in numerous films.
1. Mario Balotelli
What can be said about ‘Super Mario’ Balotelli that has not already been said? The striker is clearly a top class footballer but his behaviour both on the field and off it is notoriously erratic. Balotelli endured a torrid relationship with Jose Mourinho before reuniting with first boss Roberto Mancini at Manchester City. Since joining City Balotelli’s notable exploits include confronting a school bully after asking why a young City fan was not in school, giving £1,000 to a homeless man following a trip to the casino, throwing darts at youth team players at the clubs training ground and becoming the face of a fireworks safety campaign following a fire in his home, cause by, you guessed it – fireworks. At just 21 suppose Balotelli will continue to astound, indeed as the planner for City’s Christmas do, expect the unexpected.
Do you agree with the top 10? Comment to me on Twitter @CamHumphries