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Football's Hard Men XI

Ashish Thakur
Modified 20 Mar 2019

Some players just want to win games, and no matter what it takes to do, they just relish winning. Some tackle hard, some abuse opponents and some simply injure opposition.

Here is a football team that consists of wrestlers more than footballers – Hard Men XI. They’re aggressive, they’re dangerous, they’re simply killers! I promise you wouldn’t dare to play against them.

Formation: 3-1-3-3

Goalkeeper: Jens Lehmann

Usually, goalkeepers aren’t a part of the headlines until they make some ridiculously amazing saves. Well, that wasn’t the case with the German international, Jens Lehmann. The 43-year-old retired keeper is considered as one of the most aggressive goalkeepers in the history of the game. Lehmann was physically strong. He was always ready to injure his opponent while catching, chasing or snatching the ball away from his opponent.

Right Centre-defender: Sergio Ramos

Sergio Ramos is the  kind of player who is booked more often than not. One of the finest defenders in the world, the Spaniard has won ample trophies throughout his career, including two UEFA Euro trophies and one FIFA World Cup trophy. However, the Real Madrid defender has a  darkside in his game. At times, he commits irresponsible ugly tackles and pretends fake injury to put his opponent into trouble. Till date, Ramos has picked up 111 yellow cards and 12 red cards. Ramos even once slapped his national teammate Puyol during an El Classico in the April of 2011!

Centre-defender: Pepe

Pepe is undoubtedly one of the most dangerous football players. He stamps, he tackles hard, he kicks opposition players on and off the ball, he swears at opposition and the list would just go on! Born in Brazil, the Portuguese is brilliant in what he does, which is defending, but unfortunately, in an ugly way. If you’ve seen his horrifying red card for the game against Getafe, you probably would call him an assassin rather than a defender. He was banned for 10 matches for the incident. Pepe is the kind of player likely to be red carded every time he steps on to the pitch.

Left Centre-defender: Nemanja Vidic


Club captain of Manchester United, Nemanja Vidic is the strongest component of the club’s defence. The 31-year-old Serbian has all the qualities of being a captain: brave, leader, intelligent and of course, aggressive. He’s a kind of player that strikers fear to play against. No matter if you are his opponent, team-mate or a match referee, he’ll make you understand your mistake by simply swearing at you! The reason why people don’t take him granted is because of his rash and ugly side of play.

Central Defensive-midfielder: Filipe Melo

Filipe Melo(right) stamping Arjen Robben in 2010 FIFA World Cup quarterfinals.
Courageous act!
Playing for the Turkish club Galatasary, Filipe Melo has a aggressive attitude. The Brazilian isn’t the most popular figure of all, although he did created headlines in the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The 29-year-old defensive midfielder was seen stamping Arjen Robben in the quarterfinals of the tournament against Netherlands. Nevertheless, he was shown a straight red card by the match referee which costed the match for Brazil. Netherlands went on to win the game 2-1 which saw Brazil’s exit. Oops!

Right Midfielder: Gennaro Gattuso


I won’t dare to say a word about him!
Gennaro Gattuso is probably the most aggressive football player, simple as that! From hard tacking to slapping Ibrahimovic in the year 2003 to pushing Tottenham coach Joe Jordan away by the throat in the year 2011. Gattuso is one of the most physically strong football player. Regarded as one of the best defensive midfielder, his hard tackling quality, swearing at referees and opposition players, unpredictability makes him undisputedly the most aggressive footballer.

Centre Midfielder: Roy Keane

Then Manchester United captain Roy Keane takes a swing at Newcastle captain Alan Shearer.
Why? Does he even needs a reason for it?
Aggression is all what Roy Keane is about! The former Manchester United skipper is considered as one of the greatest midfielders to play in the Premier League. Apart from scoring, passing or defending, Keane has committed dozens of ridiculous mistakes throughout his career. Something that Manchester United fans don’t admire and aren’t proud about it. The Irish central midfielder was dominant, hard tackler, loud and aggressive which made him a bad boy of British football in all kind of aspects. Nobody could ever guess what his next ‘mistake’ would be. Sometimes, he would start swearing at opponents even before the start of the match. Remember, Patrick Viera?

Left Midfielder: Joey Barton


Is he really a footballer?
Currently, Joey Barton is the most unpredictable footballer. He isn’t physically strong but he has ability to embarrass his opponent and entertain the fans even without a football in his feet. Probably the most undisciplined footballer, the bad boy of English football is currently loaned to French club Marseille. Unlike Pepe or Filipe Melo, Barton is also active in humiliating people off the pitch by tweeting non-sense about football players like Neymar Jr or Thiago Silva. Barton is capable of rash tackling, swearing, slapping or punching, kicking opponents on and off the ball and even abuse them on their body parts! the 30-year-old midfielder is a entertainer for fans but is a big headache to playing against. The lad isn’t afraid to get booked!

Left Forward: Duncan Ferguson

Big Dunc attempting to kill his opponent, as always!
Hard men XI would have been left incomplete without Duncan Ferguson. Standing 6 ft 4 in tall, the former Everton striker was one of the most physically strong footballer and is considered as one of the dangerous opponent of all time. Throughout his career, Ferguson has punched, kicked, headbutted, strangled and committed almost every single way to injure his opponent. The Scot once punched a burglar breaking into his house. The burglar spent three days in hospital. Due to his style of play, he is nicknamed as ‘Big Dunc’ and ‘Duncan Disorderly’.

Centre Forward: Zlatan Ibrahimovic

6 ft 5 in (1.95 m) tall. Enough Said!
Ibrahimovic is physically strong. The 31-year-old striker is 6’5” tall and may turn aggressive at times due to his hot-tempered attitude. The opposition defenders should be aware of the fact that the Swede captain holds a black belt in Taekwondo. At times, he surprises everyone by scoring some extra-ordinary goals. But his style of play isn’t the cleanest. He is capable of hard tackling and using his strong body to score goals. Ibrahimovic has also been a part of numerous on-pitch burst-ups with his opponents like Joey Barton while playing against Marseille and Gattuso in his time at Ajax. Off the pitch, Zlatan makes headlines more than often. He has used some shocking words to describe many footballers including the likes of his former team-mate Lionel Messi and has also criticized FC Barcelona‘s style of play.


Right Forward: Mario Balotelli

He’s aggressive when he wants.
Mario Balotelli is always a part of the back-pages. And mostly for the wrong reasons! Undoubtedly, he is a talented footballer. He can dribble, he can pass, he can score and of course he can tackle, rashly! For now, Balotelli’s tackles have been a topic people relish to talk about. He could commit a shocking foul in any minute of the game and could get sent off. So far in his senior career, ‘Super Mario’ has been a part of ample of incidents. Which include wearing Milan jersey while attending for a Italian TV, even though being Inter player then or training ground burst up with any team-mate or even the manager of the club. He was banned for four matches by the FA for stamping on Tottenham player Scott Parker’s head which was considered as one of the dangerous act. Balotelli is undoubtedly one of the hard man in the world football and a pure entertainer. We can expect a lot more from the Italian in coming years!


Dani Alves, Carles Puyol, Paul Scholes, Kevin Nolan, Wayne Rooney, Andy Carroll, Didier Drogba.

Published 19 Apr 2013, 22:36 IST
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