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10 football players with criminal records

Joey Barton
Rohith Nair

Joey Barton

Football players are supposed to be model professionals and behave as such so that they are well respected both on and off the pitch. They are characters meant to be emulated by the old and the young, right?

Not if you consider this lot! With all due respect to their skills and talent on the pitch, they have not exactly been on their best behaviour off the pitch. Here is a list of 10 players who have been arrested at least once in their career.

Joey Barton

Perhaps one of the most controversial players in modern day football, Joey Barton is known more for his violent behaviour (both on and off the pitch) than his skills on a football pitch. Once a winner of the Young Player of the Year award at Manchester City; Barton’s career went downhill due to many altercations. From hacking opposition players, to poking a teammate’s eye with a lit cigar, to breaking a pedestrian’s leg, it is a long list of offences that has ruined his reputation.

The first time Barton was convicted was after a brutal assault in Liverpool. After having drunk a lot of lager (more than 10 pints), he got into an altercation with some youths in a restaurant which culminated in Barton knocking a man to the ground, straddling him and punching him over and over again. He then attacked a teenager by punching him and even breaking his teeth. Barton was sentenced to six months in jail for the “violent and cowardly act”. However, he served only two and a half months of this sentence and was released.

The second sentence was four months long after he admitted to assaulting his teammate Ousmane Dabo at the Manchester City training ground. Dabo had pressed charges against Barton after Dabo was struck from behind and then repeatedly struck in the face while he was on the ground, leading him to lose consciousness and suffer a detached retina. Barton also had to do 200 hours of community service and was even banned by the FA.

Eric Cantona arrives at a hotel in Saint Albans in London to appear before a Football Association disciplinary commission

Eric Cantona arrives at a hotel in Saint Albans in London to appear before a Football Association disciplinary commission.

Eric Cantona

When Manchester United played Crystal Palace in 1995, few people remember why Eric Cantona was sent off by the referee (he was sent off for kicking Crystal Palace defender Richard Shaw). But everyone remembers what transpired immediately after the red card.

As Cantona made his way towards the tunnel, a Palace fan named Matthew Simmons confronted the French forward and abused him with some highly derogatory words. Cantona was certainly not amused as he launched himself into the crowd and directed a Kung-Fu kick at Simmons. He did not stop there as he went on to punch the fan a number of times.

Cantona was arrested for assault. His sentence was two weeks in prison which was later overturned after an appeal. He ended up doing 120 hours of community service. He later admitted that it was a mistake but still labelled it “a great feeling” and that it was a moment that fans would treasure for a long time.

Tony Adams

Tony Adams

Tony Adams

The Arsenal defender and captain fought a prolonged battle with alcoholism. It was something that cast a shadow on his career since the 1980s when he was involved in night club brawls, fights with fans, falling down a flight of stairs which led to 29 stitches on his head and even playing a match whilst drunk.

And it reached a nadir in 1990 when he crashed his car into a wall in Essex. The breathalyser test revealed that his blood alcohol level was more than four times the legal limit. He was arrested and sentenced to four months in jail. But he was freed after serving just half that sentence.

It would take a few more episodes of unruly behaviour before he admitted to his problem and sought help to overcome it. He would later pen an autobiography Addicted where he wrote in detail about his battle with alcoholism.

Jermaine Pennant playing with an electronic tag on his ankle.

Jermaine Pennant playing with an electronic tag on his ankle.

Jermaine Pennant

Pennant has played for a number of esteemed clubs in England such as Arsenal, Liverpool, Birmingham City and Portsmouth. But it is a career not without some off the field issues accompanying it. One of the bizarre stories that come to mind is when he accumulated five months worth of parking tickets when he parked his Porsche at a railway station in Zaragoza (where he played in 2009-2010). His excuse? He’d “forgotten” about the car he owned!

But it was at Birmingham City when he was caught by the long arm of the law. After a failed relationship led to a drinking binge, he got behind the wheel of a Mercedes and was involved in a minor crash. He was given a suspended sentence after pleading guilty to drink-driving, driving while disqualified, and driving without insurance. He was released after 30 days and served the rest of the sentence by wearing an electronic tag to keep track of his whereabouts. He even played a match for Birmingham with the tag in his sock.

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Rene Higuita performing his famous Scorpion Kick

Rene Higuita showcasing his famous Scorpion Kick.

Rene Higuita

While Rene ‘El Loco’ Higuita is credited for creating the Scorpion Kick, he is also infamous for being involved in a kidnapping deal – something that is very prevalent among drug cartels in Colombia.

What made the story much more dramatic was the fact that drug barons Pablo Escobar and Carlos Molina were also involved. Higuita acted as the go-between and delivered the ransom money to secure the release of Molina’s daughter, for which he was paid more than $60,000. But Colombian law prohibits anyone from profiting from kidnapping and Higuita was imprisoned.

As a result, he was not fit to play in the 1994 World Cup. When he was asked about the case, he said, “I’m a footballer, I didn’t know anything about kidnapping laws.”

Vinnie Jones

Vinnie Jones

Vinnie Jones

Be it the football pitch or on the silver screen, Vinnie Jones is one intimidating character (famous for grabbing Paul Gascoigne by the testicles)! Having played for clubs like Chelsea, Leeds United, Wimbledon (the famous Crazy Gang) and Queens Park rangers, the ex-Welsh football player has had his fair share of controversies in his career.

But when he was at Queens Park Rangers, he was found guilty of assault and criminal damage when he attacked his neighbour. He first banged on the neighbour’s door before smashing a window. When his neighbour opened the door; Jones bit him on the head, punched him, kicked him and then stamped on him. But some evidence pointed to the contrary and Jones was fined and sentenced to 100 hours of community service.

Patrick Kluivert

Patrick Kluivert

Patrick Kluivert

The former Dutch football player was a renowned striker who played for the likes of Ajax, AC Milan, Barcelona, Newcastle United and Valencia. He even played for the Dutch national team for a decade and was until recently the all-time leading goal scorer for the Oranje.

But early in his career at Ajax, 19-year-old Kluivert was involved in a fatal car crash which killed a theatre director, Marten Putman (who was also an Ajax fan). Kluivert was driving his BMW 20 mph above the speed limit and slammed into Putman’s car. He died on the spot and Kluivert was charged with manslaughter and sentenced to 240 hours of community service.

Kluivert suffered a lot after the accident and went into depression after he received death threats from fans and intense media scrutiny.

George Best

George Best

George Best

The greatest player from Northern Ireland and one of Manchester United’s legends of the game, Best was not exactly a model professional off the pitch. A celebrity status demanded an extravagant lifestyle and he “spent a lot of money on booze, birds and fast cars”. He too suffered from alcoholism and many controversies in his life stemmed from that problem.

Best’s wife Alex had claimed that the footballer used to punch her in the face many a time. He was once arrested and charged with assault after he injured a waitress at a nightclub. She ended up with a fractured nose but he won the case in court.

Best was also arrested when he stole a fur coat, passport and cheque book from an American model Miss World winner Marjorie Wallace, but again he was later cleared of all charges. He has also been charged with drink driving, assaulting the police and failing to answer bail, for which he was sentenced for three months.

Marlon King

Marlon King arrives at the City of Westminster Magistrates Court to face charges of sexual assault.

Marlon King

The Jamaican striker has a long list of infractions that is almost unbelievable for a football player. He has been convicted for a total of 14 offences like theft, criminal damage, deception, speeding, drink driving and assault on women.

His first stint in prison was an 18 month sentence in 2002 for possessing stolen goods. The goods were in his BMW that he drove. He was playing for Gillingham at the time who continued to pay his salary while he was in jail. But they helped in his appeal and brought down the sentence to just nine months. He was released after five.

In 2008, while he was at Wigan Athletic, he was arrested and convicted for sexual assault and causing harm when he punched a 20-year-old student. He was given another 18 month sentence and even placed on the sex offenders list for seven years.

In 2013, he was arrested twice for automobile accidents – the first a car crash that severely injured one person and the second for a hit-and-run incident which also injured one man.

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Alleged Al-Qaeda militant, Tunisian Nizar Trabelsi arrives at the Brussels justice palace to introduce a summary procedure against Belgian State to protest his sentence.

Alleged Al-Qaeda militant, Tunisian Nizar Trabelsi arrives at the Brussels justice palace to introduce a summary procedure against Belgian State to protest his sentence.

Nizar Trabelsi

Not many people would have heard of Tunisian born Nizar Trabelsi. He is a former football player who once played for Fortuna Düsseldorf in Germany.

But in 2001, he was suspected of having links to terrorist outfit al-Qaeda and was even linked to Osama Bin Laden. He was arrested two days after the 9/11 attacks and was sentenced to 10 years in prison after a plot was uncovered where he was to be a suicide bomber intending to blow up two planes bound for the United States. He was even suspected of a failed attempt to blow up the US embassy in Paris.

He was recently extradited to the United States to face charges of being involved in a conspiracy to kill American citizens abroad, conspiring to use weapons of mass destruction and supporting a terrorist organisation.

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Edited by Staff Editor

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