10) Robinho (Manchester City)
There is an argument that Robinho was the most important transfer in Premier League history. Roman Abramovich’s arrival at Chelsea had ignited a spending frenzy, but this was different. This was Manchester City’s new owners turning up on day one with a bona fide world star. This was “we mean business” in Brazilian footballer form.
Unfortunately, Robinho didn’t mean business; he meant party. “I’m sorry for having been late,” he once told Real Madrid after arriving late back from international duty. “But I’m not apologising for the party. Parties are normal with Brazil after we’ve won a match and that night we had won 5–0.” It later turned out that Robinho had asked for 40 condoms to be delivered to said party.
Robinho was a disappointment in almost every way, enjoying Manchester’s nightlife and journeying back to Brazil at regular intervals. Fifteen months later, City had had enough.
9) Peter Beagrie (Everton, Manchester City, Bradford)
Beagrie is probably the last player you would expect to find on this list, but merits inclusion solely on the basis of a phenomenal anecdote about an Everton pre-season tour in 1991.
Beagrie and his teammates went on a night out after playing Real Sociedad in a friendly, and in the early hours he flagged down a local on a motorbike. Somehow, Beagrie persuaded the gentleman to give him a lift back to his hotel.
When arriving at the hotel, Beagrie could not find the night porter. His measured response was to commandeer the motorbike, drive it up the steps of the hotel and straight through a plate glass window. Beagrie required 50 stitches, and was reprimanded by the club. It was the wrong hotel.
8) Mario Balotelli (Manchester City, Liverpool)
Out-of-time maverick, immature waste or media-hyped, crucified, troubled star? Everyone’s got an opinion on Balotelli – the real answer probably sits somewhere in between all three. Yet there is no doubt that Mario is big business. Never has ‘man goes shopping’ been more click-worthy.
Balotelli’s mishaps are infamous and numerous. The best include a £300,000 fine for throwing darts at youth players, appearing on TV wearing a Milan shirt while playing for Inter, setting his house on fire by letting off fireworks indoors, handing out £50 notes to strangers in Manchester and buying a giant trampoline, a Vespa and a Scalectrix when sent out by his mother to buy house essentials. We just wish he was a bit better at the football thing.
7) Joey Barton (Manchester City, Newcastle, QPR)
Barton might now be everybody’s favourite philosopher, but most of us still remember him being a complete Kant. Has the king of second chances finally taken his opportunity to improve?
So, deep breath…Barton was arrested after allegedly ripping out a taxi’s radio because the driver refused to go to a drive-thru McDonalds. Barton was sent to prison for six months for common assault and affray in which he broke a teenager’s teeth. Barton left Ousmane Dabo with a detached retina after a training ground fight. Barton accused the Attorney General of making a martyr of him for passing comment on the John Terry/Anton Ferdinand trial before its conclusion. Barton was sent home from a pre-season tour of Thailand for allegedly assaulting a 15-year-old Everton fan. Barton stubbed out a cigar in the eye of Manchester City youngster James Tandy. He’s definitely just misunderstood.
Still, at least he is now doing an autobiography and can make some money out of the stories.
6) Vinnie Jones (Chelsea, Wimbledon)
Some players are known for a “hard man” image, but Jones made two careers out of it. Holding the record for the quickest ever booking in a match and sent off 12 times in his career, Jones’ off-field exploits hardly pale into insignificance. He was at the very heart of Wimbledon’s Crazy Gang culture.
The stories now seem part of a long-lost era, before banter became b*nter but worse. The team set fire to Alan Cork’s car as an insurance fraud joke after Cork wasn’t given a pay rise. Jones recalls telling Kenny Dalglish he would “rip off his ear and spit in the hole” in the tunnel before the FA Cup final as a means of intimidating Dalglish’s players. He was also involved in an air rage incident in 2003, and convicted of actual bodily harm in 1998. Thin line between camaraderie and just being a d*ck, isn’t there?
“You either grew a backbone very quickly or you dissolved as a man,” said Jones of life at Wimbledon. Or, y’know, go and play somewhere else.
5) Gary Medel (Cardiff City)
Medel’s time in England now feels really weird, a bizarre 35-game spell in Cardiff City’s relegation season sandwiched by regular first-team football at Sevilla and Internazionale. More shameful still is that we never really experienced the full range of antics from the man Chileans call ‘Pitbull’.
In 2007, during a match for Chile U20 vs Argentina U20, Medel was sent off. Police has to use a taser on him in the car park of the stadium because they could find no other way to calm him down. There have been arrests for drink driving and alleged death threats, plus a pretty frank admission that had he not been a footballer he would have sold drugs. You’re meant to say postman or PE teacher, fella.
“I am a nice kind of crazy,” Medel said when arriving at Cardiff, and it’s true that he toned down his behaviour. Probably just as well, on balance.
4) Paul Gascoigne (Middlesbrough, Everton)
At some point, when I’m feeling strong enough, we will have a Portrait of an Icon on Gazza. It was a career and life taken to the edge of ruin by poor guidance, a childlike mind and an inability to say ‘No’. The tales of Gascoigne’s exploits are beyond painful, but bear repeating. We will start with the hellish and end with the disgusting.
1) At Middlesbrough, Gascoigne shared a house with Paul Merson. They would play a drinking game which involved drinking glasses of red wine and sleeping pills, with the winner the one to remain awake the longest. This was played two days before a Premier League fixture.
2) Said Gascoigne on TFI Friday in 1998: “I found some mince pies in the fridge, scraped the meat out and then put cat’s poo in. When Five Bellies came back, he was starving so I gave him a mince pie. The smell was unbelievable but Jimmy didn’t realise because he was too drunk. He said it was one of the best he’d ever had – and fought with me for another.”
There are about 50 other similar stories. It makes you want to hold him tight and cry.
3) Mark Bosnich (Aston Villa, Manchester United, Chelsea)
Now a pundit for Australian TV, it’s fair to say that Bosnich must have calmed down in order to hold that gig. This is the player Alex Ferguson described as a “terrible professional”, admitting, “I just couldn’t make an impact on him”.
The goalkeeper was banned for nine months after testing positive for cocaine when at Chelsea, and made the abhorrent decision to offer a Nazi salute to Tottenham supporters. His second marriage almost didn’t take place after he almost failed to reach the altar, released on bail hours before the wedding following an incident at a strip club. Thankfully, Bosnich received treatment for his cocaine addiction.
Bosnich also has form in an alternative arena, appearing in a video with Dwight Yorke at his Villa teammate’s house in which both had sex with (sort of obliged to say ‘romped’, here) a number of girls. The video was discovered when Yorke threw it out and it was found by a member of the public.
2) Paolo di Canio (Sheffield Wednesday, West Ham, Charlton)
A man who brings mayhem wherever he travels, England’s first example of Di Canio’s absurdity came when he pushed referee Paul Alcock to the floor, later memorably describing Alcock’s fall as “like a drunken clown”.
While playing for Lazio’s youth team, Di Canio became an ultra, describing how he had been tear-gassed and beaten by police during crowd trouble. At Celtic, he accused referees of being biased because “90% of them are protestant”. Di Canio’s own beliefs (he claims to be a fascist, not racist) are at best questionable and at worst downright disgusting. I’d lean towards the latter.
Let’s end with a quote from Di Canio on a meal with Lazio’s chairman: “Inside the restaurant, I feel my anger rising. I start to scream like a madman. I turn the buffet table over. I start throwing things. The room is full of flying objects: plates, bottles and forks. Everything is flying; anything I can lay my hands on, I throw.” We’ve not got even got onto Paolo as a manager.
1) Faustino Asprilla (Newcastle United)
A man who missed the 1993 Cup Winners’ Cup Final for Parma after getting injured in a fight with a bus driver. A man who has a range of condoms named after him. A man who walked out of the Colombia squad at the 1994 World Cup and was sent home in 1998. A man who agreed to sign for Darlington but then fled the country the day before the move. A man who used to invite strangers off the street round to his house in Newcastle for parties. A man who put a porn film on the team bus TV before introducing one of the actresses on screen as his new girlfriend.
I can only fully recommend that you follow Asprilla on Twitter to get a small window into his bonkers life. This is a man who recently posted a video of himself in an inflatable dinosaur costume while riding on the back of a horse playing football.