While some restrictions are now being lifted, the UK – for the most part – remains in lockdown in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. And while the majority of people have abided by the rules set by the UK government, a minority have slipped up. Unfortunately for fans of the Premier League, a number of football stars have been amongst those guilty of flaunting lockdown rules.
Attending illegal parties, breaking social distancing rules, and getting illicit haircuts are just some of the controversies that Premier League stars have become embroiled in.
When the action restarts next week then, the following five Premier League players will be looking to erase their lockdown controversies from the memories of the fans.
#1 Jack Grealish (Aston Villa)
Aston Villa’s captain and most outstanding player, Jack Grealish has enjoyed a brilliant 2019-20 Premier League campaign thus far. Despite his club slipping into a relegation dogfight, the 24-year old has received rave reviews for his performances. In 26 appearances in the Premier League, he’s scored seven goals and registered six assists, and has been tipped for an England call-up in the near future.
However, Grealish was one of the first Premier League players to find himself at the centre of attention for the wrong reasons during the lockdown. On March 30th, reports emerged that the Villa captain had been involved in a car accident while attempting to make a quick getaway from a friend’s flat.
The midfielder was pictured looking dishevelled, apparently passing his details onto the owner of a parked car that his Range Rover had collided with.
Worse for Grealish, the incident came less than a week after UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson had told people that they had to stay at home. And less than 24 hours after the Villa star had tweeted to reiterate that message.
The 24-year old later tweeted an apology, and in the weeks that have followed the incident seems to have been dealt with. But with detractors questioning his professionalism, Grealish will definitely be hoping his on-pitch performances in the Premier League can erase the memory of this controversy when the Premier League campaign restarts.
#2 Moise Kean (Everton)
Eyebrows were raised when Everton were able to sign Italian striker Moise Kean and bring him to the Premier League last summer from Juventus for a fee of €27.5m. Rated as one of the best young players in Europe, Kean had scored six goals for the Old Lady in Serie A in 2018-19. And quite why they were willing to let the 20-year old go seemed like a mystery.
Nearly a year down the line, Juve’s decision to allow the striker to leave seems justified. The 20-year old has struggled tremendously - especially in the Premier League - since arriving at Goodison Park. He has only scored one goal thus far in 22 appearances in the Premier League. What’s more, his commitment has been called into question. And in November he found himself dropped from the Toffees’ squad after arriving late to a team meeting.
It should probably come as no surprise then to learn that the Italian is amongst the Premier League stars to court controversy during the lockdown. Around a month after the UK government had introduced the restrictions, a video emerged of Kean seemingly enjoying a party at his house with friends.
The striker’s actions showed a blatant disregard for the lockdown rules. The instructions clearly stated that no gatherings inside with people from different households should take place. When the incident became public, Everton were reportedly horrified at Kean’s behaviour. The club subsequently fined him two weeks’ wages.
Whether the incident will be the catalyst for Kean to turn his career around and live up to his potential is anyone’s guess. If he can do so then Everton will undoubtedly have gained a highly talented player. If he can’t though, he might go down as an all-time bust. It’s a question that may be answered when the action restarts in the Premier League next week.
#3 Kyle Walker (Manchester City)
As a veteran of the Premier League at the age of 30, Kyle Walker wouldn’t have been the type of player expected to become embroiled in lockdown controversy. However, the Manchester City right-back has found himself in the press for the wrong reasons twice in recent months.
Firstly, the England international was forced to issue an apology after reports emerged that he’d reportedly hosted a ‘s** party’ at his Cheshire flat in early April. Whether the truth was quite as seedy as the tabloids alleged is anyone’s guess. But the City star still admitted that his behaviour had let people down.
Shockingly though, just a month later, the two-time Premier League winner reportedly breached the lockdown rules again. This time he was alleged to have visited his sister and parents in Sheffield – again breaking the rules set out by the UK’s government.
This time Walker was unapologetic, stating that he felt he was being harassed by the UK’s press. While he may have had a point – it’s true that photographers shouldn’t be able to invade his family’s privacy. The incident will surely have frustrated the defending Premier League champions and their fans.
In the weeks that have followed, Walker’s name has not been in the press. But following these two incidents, he’ll almost certainly have a point to prove when the Premier League resumes.
#4 Serge Aurier (Tottenham Hotspur)
Premier League outfit Tottenham Hotspur and their players have been in the press for the wrong reasons on a number of occasions during the lockdown. Even manager Jose Mourinho appeared to have broken the rules. He was pictured apparently leading a private training session with midfielder Tanguy Ndombele during the period in which nobody from separate households was supposed to be meeting.
But no Spurs player appears to have flaunted the rules quite so badly as right-back Serge Aurier. The Ivorian international reportedly broke lockdown rules for the third time in late May – and revealed it on his Instagram page.
Aurier was pictured receiving a haircut from a barber, despite the fact that the UK’s rules require all hairdressers and barbers to remain closed.
Prior to this, the right-back’s Instagram had exposed him breaking lockdown rules twice before. The first time he was seen jogging with a friend, and on the second occasion, he was shown training alongside teammate Moussa Sissoko.
On that instance, both Spurs players were forced to issue an apology for their actions.
While the club were apparently investigating Aurier over his actions, no further disciplinary measures have been reported. But after a season full of inconsistent performances in the Premier League, the Ivorian may now be on a short leash in North London. He’ll need to perform at his best if he wants to restore his reputation when the Premier League campaign restarts this month.
#5 Callum Hudson-Odoi (Chelsea)
On Monday 18th May, it was reported that the 19-year old winger had been arrested in the early hours after police had responded to an emergency at his home. The reports suggested that he’d been taken into custody after reports that a woman was unwell.
While the reasons for his arrest remain a point of contention, it’s certainly clear that he breached lockdown rules by having a visitor in the first place.
Chelsea declined to comment on the incident at the time while Hudson-Odoi’s representative stated that the winger was innocent of any accusations. However, with enquiries continuing, we likely haven’t heard the last of this issue.
The 19-year-old recently inked a new contract at Stamford Bridge. It goes without saying then that he will want to ensure that it’s his performances on the pitch that get him back in the press when matches in the Premier League resume next week.