Football Features

Eight top players who mastered the ‘love to hate’ persona

By Squawka News

Published: 12:00, 22 November 2020 | Updated: 16:51, 23 November 2020

We all have those footballers that just we dislike for whatever reason.

It’s hard to forget those specific moments in matches that had us raging. An injury to your star player? Your team cheated out of a crucial victory? A late goal conceded?

Some of the world’s best players can be sly in their ways to win football matches. That’s one of the things that has got them to the very top. World class footballers don’t take losing well, but some take it worse than others.

But who are the players that football fans just love to hate, and why?

1. Sergio Ramos

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Sergio Ramos is one of the best centre-backs in modern footballing history and has been a rock in defence for Real Madrid ever since signing from Sevilla. But he is also a master of the footballing dark arts.

In 2018 he experienced the wrath of Liverpool fans for his part in Mohamed Salah’s injury in the Champions League final which Real Madrid went on to win. It started a spat with Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp which evolved into Ramos calling the German out for his lack of trophy wins (though that has since changed).

Ramos has now added a new level of “trolling” to his game in taking Real Madrid’s penalties and sometimes going for panenkas because he knows he is just that good. The Spaniard, who recently reached 100 goals for Real Madrid, has, of course, been around for long enough to know what he is doing. We have seen his mischievous antics in plenty of El Clásico ties down the years and he is probably the villain of European football.

2. Diego Costa

Plenty of Premier League and La Liga players are more than likely to have been subject to some typical Diego Costa behaviour at some point.

That, to be fair, can be anything from stamping and flailing arms to some general ‘roughing up’. Costa is probably the king of roughing up the opposing sides’ defenders.

A top striker, nonetheless, but one that former Chelsea boss Antonio Conte decided he couldn’t deal with during his time at Stamford Bridge. Their falling out lead to a return to Atletico Madrid for the Spain forward and, you could argue, the beginning of the demise of Conte’s reign with the Blues. Back under Simeone, when fit Costa continues to be the menace we all love (to hate).

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3. Ander Herrera

When Ander Herrera joined Manchester United from Athletic Bilbao in 2014, there can’t have been too many Red Devils fans expected to see his bad side, but he definitely earned his way into this category.

It peaked during Jose Mourinho’s time at Old Trafford when Herrera was constantly snapping at opponents’ ankles and constantly in the referee’s ear when appealing for decisions to go his way.

He was pretty much always the subject of plenty of opposing fans’ moans and groans during his United career, but those same supporters will surely have wished they had someone like the Spaniard in their team.

4. Luis Suarez

Luis Suarez, of course, made a name for himself as one of Europe’s most wild footballers during his time at Liverpool. People that know him personally say that off the pitch he is the nicest person you will meet. On it, he’s a totally different animal.

The Atletico Madrid striker will do absolutely anything and everything to give his team an advantage. He’s admitted on plenty of occasions that he doesn’t handle losing well. An incredible player whose career has been dominated with controversy. Many fans still have him in their bad books for various reasons.

5. Sergio Busquets

Busquets is, to many, the snidest of Barcelona’s players. There have been plenty of El Clásico ties in recent years that have, at some point, involved Busquets play acting and trying to fool the referee.

Another incredibly talented footballer, without whom Barcelona would not have been nearly as strong a force as they were under Pep Guardiola, but the play-acting can be a bit much. His peak at the referee whilst on the ground with his hands on his face in Barcelona’s Champions League semi-final clash with Inter Milan in 2010 will live long in the memory.

6. Neymar

Neymar is a wonderful footballer, one of the best in the world despite having spent a lot of the past few seasons being injured.

But in 2018 he faced criticism by many for going to ground far too easily during the World Cup. In Brazil’s group game against Costa Rica, the referee awarded a penalty after Neymar went down in the box. Replays showed little contact and VAR overturned the decision.

The PSG forward defended himself claiming he often needed ‘four or five hours’ of ice treatment after matches, but that wasn’t enough to cool the criticism and the Neymar became a bit of a laughing stock. Even now, when PSG struggle while Neymar is on the pitch the Brazilian is often the subject of rival fans’ jibes.

7. Pepe

The Pepe-Ramos centre-back pairing at Real Madrid was one of the most formidable in Europe for some time and both were always incredibly difficult to handle for referees, too. Pepe has since moved on, to Besiktas and now Porto, but the Portuguese still shows he has a mischievous side now and then.

The most eye-opening Pepe incident from down the years was probably his sending off for Real Madrid against Getafe in 2009. This was the definition of losing your rag.

After conceding a late penalty, the defender proceeded to kick Javi Casquero twice, knee him in the back, stamp on him twice and then lose his temper with pretty much everyone else on the pitch. Nasty.

8. Marouane Fellaini

Fellaini was one who would always act innocent around the referee, but many an opponent has been on the end of one of those flailing arms or elbows. He could also be nasty in the tackle.

But it’s a different trait that sees Fellaini make the cut here: those annoying goals you can’t do anything about. There are very few midfield players like Fellaini. Mourinho effectively used him as an option to throw on to the pitch for the last 15 minutes when United need a goal and, more often than not, it worked.

There’s not a lot you can do about it, either. Stick a ball towards the back post in the dying embers of a game and you can be sure that Fellaini will be there or thereabouts. Very, very annoying.