Nine footballers who famously went AWOL

Nine footballers who famously went AWOL

The life of a modern footballer is so simple. There’s nothing to it. Turn up with your God-given talent, train, play, collect a ridiculously big wage packet, repeat. What a doddle.

Only for some the lure of a bigger club or other such snags can upset their routine and rhythm.

Despite having what many would describe as a dream job, sometimes they just don’t fancy it and stick two fingers up to their employers. Here are nine examples of players that threw their toys out of the pram and went AWOL.

1. Hatem Ben Arfa

Hatem Ben Arfa

The French midfielder’s talent is obvious. With the ball at his feet he’s marvelous to watch. Mesmerising even. But what about the hard work or the nitty gritty, I hear you ask? Forget it. Ben Arfa doesn’t track back – it’s as simple as that. He flat out refuses to.

A rift with Alan Pardew led to a loan move to Hull City earlier during the 2014/15 season, the winger’s last-chance saloon in many people’s eyes. We were only a couple of months down the line before he messed it right up. Steve Bruce didn’t even know where he was.

The elusive Ben Arfa has now eventually turned up in Paris (unharmed) and bounced back with a vengeance at Nice, where he scored 17 goals in 34 Ligue 1 appearances. He managed to fall out of favour at his next club (Paris Saint-Germain), though, and has since joined Rennes.

2. Carlos Tevez

9. Carlos Tevez - Manchester City to Juventus (£12m)

The Argentinian striker is one of those players you cannot help but be drawn to when he’s on the field. He plays like he’s still on the streets of his homeland, battling for every ball like he needs to win it to survive. He possesses the natural drive that cannot be taught or replicated.

But, being the hot-head that he is, he can turn off that effort like a tap. While at Manchester City he refused to come on as a substitute against Bayern Munich (lunacy!), and Tevez quickly turned into a villain thereafter.

Roberto Mancini declared the forward would never play under his management again. Cue a three-month stint playing golf in Argentina for Tevez and a massive climb down by the Italian. Player-power personified.

3. Amir Zaki

“I just feel it’s time that we went public on just what a nightmare he has been to deal with,” Bruce told Wigan’s club website. Why? Because former Egyptian footballer-at-large Amir Zaki returned back from international duty late for the fourth time in a single season.

Wigan were faxed a message from one of the Egypt national team’s doctors informing them the player had sustained a hamstring injury but recived no scan to support this. Zaki celebrated his 26th birthday the week before Brucie’s rant. You do the math.

Bruce (making his second appearance in this article, the poor guy) added: “I can honestly say that in all my time in football I have never worked with someone as unprofessional.

“I have already fined him the maximum allowed but this just seems to have no effect.”

4. Rafinha

LB - Rafinha (Bayern Munich)

Rafinha dispossessing Ryan Giggs

Playing for your national side is an honour few enjoy during their careers. So it was no surprise when Rafinha was desperate to represent La Selecao in the Beijing Olympics. OK, it might not be the most prestigious tournament, but who’s to say he shouldn’t have gone?

Schalke. That’s who. The big spoil sports.

The Bundesliga outfit were desperate not to allow the defender make the trip to China but he did anyway. A whopping fine of €700,000 followed after a 35-day absence. All he got for his efforts was a lousy silver medal.

Club versus country to the extreme.

5. Youssef Rossi

Sometimes a reputation precedes a player, but Rossi was deservedly blacklisted for digging his heels in at Dunfermline. The Morocco international was signed for a nominal fee from French side Rennes in 2000 and was touted to be a success.

However, his poor attitude became all too apparent. His older brother, who was also the defender’s agent, constantly tried to secure a lucrative move elsewhere while Rossi himself simply downed tools.

He went missing for over a year but couldn’t move due to a Fifa ban preventing him from doing so. He was forced to return in order to secure a transfer to his homeland with Raja Casablanca. Quite why they wanted him, I’m not sure.

6. Mohamed Sissoko

Momo Sissoko Everton

If you’re going to lie, make sure that you have your story straight. Sissoko certainly did not.

In 2005, the midfielder told Valencia that he was off to play in a friendly for Mali against Kenya. Then he declared they had won the game 1-0, but fear not, he hadn’t been overworked as he was substituted early in the second half.

Everyone’s happy, right?

Well the Spanish side weren’t once they checked the fixtures and realised the game had never been played… Someone’s telling porkies.

7. Anton Ferdinand

The former West Ham United defender was not the quickest of cats or even the sharpest tool in the shed. In 2007, he requested permission from manager Alan Curbishley to visit his ill grandmother. Ah, the old fail-safe grandmother excuse. Stephen Ireland knows all about that one.

Kind-hearted Curbs sanctioned the leave, but then found out his centre-back had jetted off to America for an all-night party to celebrate his 22nd birthday.

Ferdinand subsequently missed the 4-0 defeat to Charlton Athletic, but I doubt he would have done anything to alter the scoreline, to be honest.

8. Pierre van Hooijdonk

Nottingham Forest won the Division One title in 1998 due to the Dutchman’s prolific partnership with Kevin Campbell. However, Campbell was shipped out to Trabzonspor but the club didn’t replace him in the eyes of Van Hooijdonk. Broken promises in regards to reinvestment irked the Dutch forward and he went on strike.

He was eventually persuaded to return by October, but relegation was looming and manager Dave Bassett was sacked.

Forest finished the campaign bottom of the table. Cheers for that, Pierre. I’m sure the Forest fans have forgotten about this one.

Van Hooijdonk would later tell FourFourTwo of Bassett, “He was a rat, a snake, and he still keeps saying things about me. He is the worst I’ve come across.” So we can all safely assume they managed to patch things up at some stage.

9. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

Here’s a more contemporary name.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang won the Bundesliga’s golden boot at Robert Lewandowski’s expense in the 2016/17 season, but wouldn’t see out the next one at Dortmund.

It all came to a head when the Gabon international skipped team meetings and training sessions amid links with Premier League side Arsenal, who themselves were dealing with a wantaway forward in the form of Alexis Sanchez. Aubameyang was even dropped from the BVB squad for several matches in January.

He eventually got his £55m move to the Emirates and later apologised to the Dortmund fans by saying, “Maybe it wasn’t the best way but everyone knows that Auba is crazy – and yes, I’m a crazy boy!” That’s alright, then… we guess.