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5 most controversial figures in football history

Florentino Perez is the president of Real Madrid
Florentino Perez is the president of Real Madrid
Abhinav Anand
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Football is a global game, and many characters have played the sport to varying degrees of success.

While talent on the field is one thing, certain individuals tend to divide opinion by their actions or statements. From footballers and managers to owners and club presidents, these people tend to attract controversy like a magnet.

With so many people keeping a keen eye on the sport, it is hard to escape scrutiny. The recent European Super League once again highlighted this fact.

With all this in mind, we take a look at the 5 most controversial figures in football history.


#5 Eric Cantona

Eric Cantona is a Manchester United legend
Eric Cantona is a Manchester United legend

One of Manchester United's greatest footballers, Eric Cantona's career was often marked by controversy.

Cantona's arrival from Leeds United in 1992 transformed Manchester United. His technical skills, creativity and goalscoring ability were all crucial, but it was his strong personality and leadership ability that proved to be key to the Red Devils' success.

In 1995, the France international attracted intense criticism after kung-fu kicking a Crystal Palace fan who abused him. He was banned for eight months from playing football, and it took some cajoling from Sir Alex Ferguson to make sure that he could play for Manchester United again.

Cantona has made some strange statements throughout his life, including the famous seagulls and trawlers line he said at a press conference after his infamous kick:

"When the seagulls follow the trawler, it's because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea. Thank you very much."

An enigmatic figure, Cantona is considered a Manchester United legend due to his contributions to the club.


#4 Jose Mourinho

Jose Mourinho was most recently the manager of Tottenham Hotspur
Jose Mourinho was most recently the manager of Tottenham Hotspur

One of the most successful managers in the history of football, Jose Mourinho has not enjoyed the best of times in recent years.

While the Portuguese has enjoyed a trophy-laden career, he has not shied away from controversy.

As Chelsea manager, he did not enjoy a good relationship with Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger and once called the Frenchman a "specialist in failure."

As Real Madrid boss, Mourinho once gouged the eye of Barcelona assistant manager Tito Vilanova.

The 58-year-old has often been criticised for not supporting his players and for focussing on winning trophies rather than playing attractive football.

His most recent managerial spell was with Tottenham Hotspur. He was sacked by the club a few days ago.

Tottenham Hotspur are the first club that Mourinho departed without winning a trophy.


Also Read: 5 things that led to the downfall of the European Super League

#3 Diego Maradona

Diego Maradona was a vibrant figure
Diego Maradona was a vibrant figure

Diego Armando Maradona is regarded as an inspirational figure in football.

While he enjoyed a stellar footballing career, he was quite a controversial figure. His genius was often complemented by his erratic behaviour.

The Argentine was addicted to cocaine and had several health issues due to his lifestyle.

Argentina's game against England in the quarter-finals of the 1986 FIFA World Cup perfectly encapsulated Maradona.

Argentina beat England 2-1, courtesy of a Maradona brace. His first goal was the infamous "Hand of God," where he used his hand to guide the ball into the net.

The second one was described as the "Goal of the Century." Maradona's incredible technical ability was on display as he ran 60 yards with the ball, passed four opponents and slotted the ball into the net.


#2 Florentino Perez

Florentino Perez is the president of Real Madrid
Florentino Perez is the president of Real Madrid

The Real Madrid president maintained a low profile before his involvement in the controversial European Super League cast the spotlight back at him.

Perez became Los Blancos president for the first time in 2000 and oversaw the start of Real Madrid's "Galacticos" era. Superstar footballers like Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldo, David Beckham and Michael Owen arrived to play for the club, but Perez's policy stuttered after a good start, and he resigned in 2006.

He once again became president in 2009 and signed Cristiano Ronaldo in a world-record deal from Manchester United. While Real Madrid have been incredibly successful under his reign, his role in the European Super League has created immense controversy.

His comments regarding the European Super League caused uproar, and it remains to be seen what Perez's views are now, with many clubs having withdrawn from the competition.


#1 Josep Maria Bartomeu

Josep Maria Bartomeu is not a fan favourite at Barcelona
Josep Maria Bartomeu is not a fan favourite at Barcelona

Josep Maria Bartomeu is not a fan favourite at Barcelona, despite serving as the club's president from 2014 to 2020.

The Spaniard was involved in several controversial player moves. However, it was the Barcagate scandal that created the most controversy.

Bartomeu was accused of hiring a PR company to paint a positive image of himself, while damaging the reputations of star players like Lionel Messi and Gerard Pique.

Bartomeu resigned in 2020, and a heavy police investigation followed. Barcelona now have a new president at the helm in the form of Joan Laporta.


Also Read: 5 best U-25 goalkeepers in the world

Edited by Rachel Syiemlieh
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