Ranked! The 50 most hated people in football

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50-41 • 40-31 • 30-21 • 20-11 • 10-1

20. Paolo Di Canio

Renowned hot-head Di Canio courted controversy during his playing career, most notably when he shoved referee Paul Alcock into a comical slow-motion fall in 1998. Alcock had just about hit the ground by the time Di Canio’s 11-game ban was served. He carried that emotion into his managerial career with Swindon and Sunderland, but the touchline performance always felt a bit forced.

Yet that’s not the main reason for the hate. Di Canio occupies an uncomfortable position as both a Premier League legend and a fascist sympathiser. He’s got a tattoo of the West Ham crest on his left arm – and did have some incredible moments at Upton Park. But on his right arm are the letters ‘DUX’, an allusion to dictator Benito Mussolini, who Di Canio has previously described as “deeply misunderstood”.

The clincher is probably the tattoo on his back, which features a fascist emblem and a portrait of Mussolini. If only he’d gone for Mark Noble.

Words: Amit Kawala

19. Ashley Cole

A magnificent left-back who, in shunning a new deal at Arsenal in order to seek employment at the oil-moneyed arrivistes across town, became a symbol of Premier League avarice – even if his medal collection proves there was more to the move than a large pile of roubles.

Either way, Cole was guilty of awful PR if nothing else, his infamous account of the episode in his autobiography betraying a hilarious lack of perspective and creating a money-grabbing persona. This was further honed over the years by a litany of childish skirmishes with referees, journalists and, of course, shooting a work experience student.

Words: Alex Hess

18. Diego Costa

If Jose Mourinho is a manager who draws his motivation from creating conflict, then it's only appropriate that the talismanic player of his second spell at Chelsea was a striker whose autobiography is entitled The Art of War. Plenty of strikers like a personal battle with their marker but Costa made it his life’s work to amass as many blood-spattered battlefield victories as possible.

Enemies accrued during his time in England include Emre Can, Gareth Barry (!), the entire Arsenal defence and, with Shakespearean inevitability, Mourinho himself. You suspect there’s plenty more to come, given that a reunion with Diego Simeone awaits.

Words: Alex Hess

17. Mike Ashley

Among other, lawyer-teasing descriptions, Ashley is the archetypal football owner to be feared. Fan bases can be intimidating, particularly when they don’t get their own way or believe that their club is being mined for used for clandestine purposes. Ashley didn’t care.

Newcastle’s owner for more than a decade now has seen protestations over the hoardings, the renaming of St James’ Park and the many dreadful transfer and recruitment decisions, and waved them all off with a dismissive smirk.

A man so brazenly uninterested in tradition that it’s almost admirable. Unless he owns your football club.

Words: Seb Stafford-Bloor

16. Luis Suarez

Unless you played unhealthy amounts of Football Manager in the mid-2000s or regularly watch the Eredivisie (which, let’s be honest, you don’t), your introduction to pantomime villain Luis Suarez was probably the 2010 World Cup and that deliberate handball on the line against Ghana.

Asamoah Gyan smashed his penalty against the bar, Suarez celebrated like a man who’d just been pardoned from death row, and then a year later he pitched up at Liverpool. Here are a selection of the sub-headings from Suarez’s Wikipedia entry:

  • First biting incident
  • Racial abuse incident
  • Second biting incident
  • 2013/14 season, Player of the Year
  • 2014 FIFA World Cup, third biting incident

And that, in a nutshell, is the issue. Suarez is so, so good – among a handful of truly world-class strikers, but he draws scorn because he can’t seem to control his behavior at times, and because of the dastardly streak that colours his every move.

Words: Amit Kawala