Top 11 Worst Tackles
1. BENJAMIN MASSING on Claudio Caniggia, 1990
Obviously we don't want to encourage bad fouls – that's the last thing we want to do – and so we hope this list doesn't come across as a recommendation checklist rather than a horrifying countdown of how not to tackle.
That said, we must come clean here and admit, in the knowledge that the victim wasn't too badly hurt, that our No.1 clip is hilarious.
It’s hard to suppress a snigger when you watch Cameroon’s Benjamin Massing assault Argentina’s Claudio Caniggia in the 1990 World Cup, because you can see it coming from so far away.
The Argentina striker does well to evade two attempts at ending his run illegally, but there is no escape from Massing, who comes flying in like a torpedo. It can at best be described as an agricultural challenge, and at worst a criminal offence. People are put inside police vans on Saturday nights all over the country for lesser crimes.
As if the tackle itself wasn't enough to merit legendary slapstick status, the perpetrator protesting his innocence while fetching the boot that came flying off during the challenge finishes the job.
But ultimately, Massing's tackle is more than a football funny. The inevitability of the foul is a metaphor for something much greater. It's just unavoidable. Three things are certain in life: you're born, you die and somewhere, Benjamin Massing is coming for you.
2. JAMES MORRISON on Cristiano Ronaldo, 2007
Some bad tackles are the result of over-enthusiasm (Claro), resentment (Keane) or hopelessness (see no1). Some are just inexplicable (Schumacher). But Middlesbrough's James Morrison’s attempt to stop Manchester United’s Cristiano Ronaldo was born of sheer frustration.
The youngster decided Ronaldo’s time-wasting was not very gentlemanly, so followed the old adage: "If you can’t beat them, join them." The 20-year-old responded with an almighty hack on the Portuguese winger, fully knowing it would be a free-kick but deciding that would probably be less boring.
Don’t say you wouldn’t have done the same.
3. NUNO CLARO on Georgian Paun, 2009
Harald Schumacher? Pah. In every sense, this puts the German barmpot to shame.
Nuno Claro’s chest-smashing karate kick is reminiscent of Nigel De Jong’s World Cup 2010 final horror tackle on Xabi Alonso, which narrowly failed to make this list. There are two reasons why this pipped it.
Firstly, because CFR Cluj’s Claro is a goalkeeper, as opposed to a midfield bruiser, you don’t expect it from him (ignoring the Schumacher debacle).
Secondly, and ultimately more importantly, rather than De Jong’s rather conservative standing start, Claro appears to be running at a speed of about 100mph towards his intended target – the unfortunate Georgian Paun of Astra Ploiesti.
Frankly it's amazing Paun survived.
4. HARALD SCHUMACHER on Patrick Battiston, 1982
There’s only space for one face-high shoulder-charge in this list, and this infamous example takes it.
German goalkeeper Harald Schumacher’s outrageous ‘collision’ with French defender Patrick Battiston has been brought up time and time again since it happened in the 1982 World Cup – and it’s clear to see why. The foul left Battiston missing three teeth, unconscious, and he later slipped into a coma.
To add insult to (severe) injury, the referee deemed the challenge a fair one, and awarded Germany a goal kick.
Schumacher even topped a poll run by a French newspaper in search of the French public’s least popular German, beating one Adolf Hitler into second place.
Battiston made a full recovery and even faced the keeper again in a future World Cup, but made sure to stay away from him during the game.
And yet this isn't the highest-placed foul by a keeper in our list...
5. OLE GUNNAR SOLSKJAER on Rob Lee, 1998
Nobody got hurt, there were no studs showing, and most people found the whole thing quite funny. But it doesn’t stop Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s ‘last man’ tackle on Newcastle’s Rob Lee being the true benchmark for a cynical foul.
There’s no doubt that Solskjaer is going for ‘man’ not ‘ball’ as he charges back to prevent Lee running through on goal, with the score 1-1. The foul was so blatant that even Uriah Rennie managed to spot it, and promptly dismiss the Manchester United striker.
The very definition of 'professional foul', Solskjaer's highly deliberate lunge is indefensible, which is probably why Raimond van der Gouw runs over to remonstrate with the referee, then decides not to bother.
And despite the Norwegian's selflessness, getting himself a ban so his team could salvage an important point in the title race, David Beckham doesn't seem too impressed either.
6. KEVIN MUSCAT on Adrian Zahra, 2011
Like Souness before him, perhaps the most shocking thing about Kevin Muscat's so-called tackle isn't its lunging brutality, but instead the guilty party's refusal to believe it was an illegal move (though it's possible Souness acknowledged the foul and was only trying to justify it).
It's an extraordinary attempt at a tackle, more suited to Gladiators or pro wrestling than football. But after snapping Melbourne Heart's Adrian Zahra in half – he missed the rest of the season as a result – Melbourne Victory captain Muscat protests he got the ball. A dubious claim indeed: he is, in fact, about eight feet away from the ball.
Then, the former Millwall man decided to unleash a vicious tirade of abuse at the referee who rightfully sent him off.
7. GRAEME SOUNESS on Gheorghe Rotariu, 1988
Let's go back in time a bit now and pay a tribute of sorts to a Liverpool legend – though it's not a moment to make the Graeme Souness highlights package.
It's not two-footed and it's not a lunge, but it is a horror show. Launching into poor old Gheorge Rotariu – who somehow went on to play the full 90 minutes – Souness nearly achieves a soul-destroying combination of castration, play-acting and innocence all in the space of 10 seconds.
Going round players is not the angry Scotsman's style – he goes through them. And go through the hapless Romanian he does, studs and all.
But hey, don't blame him. He was fouled, guv! Look at his leg! LOOK AT HIS LEG!
8. ROY KEANE on Alf-Inge Haaland, 2001
It's one of the most infamous tackles of the Premier League era – perhaps of all time.
There’s nothing like a bit of back-story for a bad tackle, and Roy Keane obliges. The Manchester United midfielder injured himself tackling Leeds United player Alf-Inge Haaland, who then claimed Keane was faking it. He wasn’t, and missed the rest of the 1997-8 season.
Fast forward to April 2001 and the Irishman, biding his time like a Bond villain, finally takes revenge. His hideous challenge on Haaland, then at Manchester City, was a deliberate and pre-meditated act, as revealed in Keane’s autobiography:
"I'd waited long enough. I f**king hit him hard. The ball was there (I think). Take that you c**t."
9. COELHO on Kerlon, 2007
This one is reminiscent of Bernard Massing taking out Claudio Caniggia in the way Atletico Mineiro’s Coelho sees brutality as the only way to end Kerlon’s run – but with an added dose of spite.
The Cruzeiro trickster – now at Inter Milan, dontcherknow – bounced the ball on his head as part of his silly ‘seal dribble’ trick, albeit only after trying and failing the first time to juggle it onto his bonce (perhaps our favourite part of the video). Watching your opponent 'do the seal' is doubtless infuriating, but Coelho’s way of concluding it with a forearm smash was beyond the pale.
The Brazilian FA thought as much and banned him for four months. The suspension was reduced to five games after an appeal, though, which probably included the words: "Come on, you wouldn't do the same?"
Seal clubbing, Samba Boys style.
10. PAUL GASCOIGNE on Gary Charles, 1991
In at No.10 with a good, old-fashioned clump is Tottenham’s Paul Gascoigne, for an abysmal tackle in the 1991 FA Cup Final against Nottingham Forest.
In a rare outing of natural justice, it was the Spurs player who came off much the worse from the challenge; his thundering tackle on Gary Charles led to the England man rupturing his cruciate ligaments, and scuppered his end-of-season move to Lazio.
He eventually moved to the Italian club, but not before missing the complete 1991-2 season while recovering. Some argue that Gazza's decline began with this foul.
Gary Charles was fine. Sort of.
11. COMMINS MENAPI on Riki van Steeden, 2007
(Don't worry: they're not all this gutwrenching.)
Most people think New Zealand is a relatively soporific place. Shame nobody told Waitakere United striker Commins Menapi of the Solomon Islands before he unleashed this shocking tackle on Auckland City’s Riki van Steeden.
The Auckland player had been sent off in these two sides’ previous encounter – adding weight to the theory that strikers can't tackle – so there was definitely a feeling of unfinished business lingering in the atmosphere surrounding this New Zealand Football Championship Grand Final.
Menapi was elbowed in the head early in the game, which evidently left him seeing red. Twice, that is, after he was promptly dismissed for this foul and banned for six games. Steeden? A broken leg for his troubles.