The Premier League's 20 dirtiest players ever
We’re forever hearing managers defend their guilty charges with the line “he’s not that type of player”, but such a defence can only be used so many times. Indeed, throughout Premier League history there have been a number of footballers whose penchant for a card or six have gone before them – including those featured in this slideshow.
Using data from dirtyplayers.co.uk, who award 25 points for a sending-off and five points for a booking, we can reveal the 20 dirtiest players to have played in England’s top flight since 1992. (Figures correct as of Monday 27 November 2017.)
20. Luis Boa Morte
A surprise inclusion perhaps, but the former Arsenal, Southampton, Fulham and West Ham winger certainly wasn’t afraid to stick his foot in. Boa Morte, who spent 14 seasons in the Premier League, accumulated six red cards – only six players have been dismissed more – and was shown a yellow 63 times.
Total dirty points: 465
19. Robbie Savage
“I’m not Pele or Maradona,” Savage once admitted, and it’s certainly true that he was a very different type of player. The combative Welshman, who played in the Premier League for Liverpool, Birmingham, Blackburn and Derby, had his name taken by referees on 89 occasions – but he was only sent off once.
Total dirty points: 470
18. Dennis Wise
Wise may stand at just 5ft 6in, but he was never afraid of a physical battle while representing Chelsea and, briefly, Leicester in the top tier. The fiery midfielder, who had memorable clashes with Patrick Vieira and Muzzy Izzet, was given his marching orders five times in 278 appearances, while also racking up 70 bookings.
Total dirty points: 475
17. Alan Smith
Smith began his career as a striker at Leeds before moving into a midfield role at Manchester United, the club he once claimed he’d never play for. The 19-time England international also spent four Premier League years at Newcastle; by the time he dropped down to League One with MK Dons in 2012, Smith had collected 61 yellow cards and seven reds.
Total dirty points: 480
16. Phil Neville
The younger of the two Neville brothers was also the dirtier: while Phil ranks 16th in this list, Gary doesn’t even make the top 50. Over 500 Premier League appearances brought the former Manchester United and Everton man three sendings-off and 82 bookings, with one of his red cards coming after he handled a Lucas Leiva shot on the line in a Merseyside derby.
Total dirty points: 485
15. John Terry
Terry chose to move to Championship side Aston Villa in summer 2017 because he couldn’t face the prospect of facing former club Chelsea in the Premier League. For now, then, his dirty points remain locked at 495, with six red cards and 69 yellows lifting the ex-England captain into the top 15.
Total dirty points: 495
14. Roy Keane
Many would have expected Keane to rank higher in this list; after all, the former Manchester United and Nottingham Forest hardman was never one to shy away from conflict in his 13-year Premier League career. Keane was certainly sent off more than most, receiving seven red cards in total – the joint-second highest total of all time – but a tally of 69 yellows is topped by 20 other players.
Total dirty points: 520
13. Kevin Nolan
Currently player-manager at Notts County, Nolan will have to avoid using footage of his own Premier League career to stress the importance of staying on your feet and keeping your cool to his charges at Meadow Lane. The ex-Bolton, Newcastle and West Ham midfielder saw red four times in the first division, while also receiving 85 yellow cards in his 401 outings.
Total dirty points: 525
12. Nicky Butt
A tough-tackling midfielder who played for Manchester United, Newcastle and Birmingham in the Premier League, Butt took six early baths between 1992 and 2009. He was also cautioned by referees 77 times, with one such occasion proving particularly costly in a Tyne-Wear derby – Butt conceded a free-kick from which Sunderland’s Kieran Richardson scored the winner.
Total dirty points: 535
11. Joey Barton
Barton made fewer appearances (269) than anyone else in the top 20, but a relative paucity of game time didn’t stop the ex-Manchester City, Newcastle, QPR and Burnley midfielder making the cut. Barton’s six red cards included a bizarre episode for QPR against former club City, when he elbowed Carlos Tevez, kneed Sergio Aguero, headbutted Vincent Kompany and attempted to fight Mario Balotelli.
Total dirty points: 540
10. Kevin Davies
The former Southampton, Blackburn and Bolton target man often felt he was hard done by when it came to referees’ decisions, with Davies regularly penalised for flailing arms (or elbows, depending on your interpretation) when competing for aerial challenges. Despite his protestations, the one-time England international was booked 99 times and given his marching orders twice.
Total dirty points: 545
9. George Boateng
In 384 Premier League appearances for Coventry, Middlesbrough, Aston Villa and Hull, defensive midfielder Boateng had his name taken 85 times. He was also sent off on five occasions, although he did win an appeal after being unfairly shown a red card following a clash of heads with Blackburn’s Morten Gamst Pedersen in 2010.
Total dirty points: 550
8. Wayne Rooney
England fans will remember Rooney’s sendings-off against Portugal (for stamping on Ricardo Carvalho’s unmentionables) and Montenegro (for kicking out at Miodrag Dzudovic), but he’s also suffered disciplinary problems in the Premier League. Indeed, in 469 top-flight games for Everton and Manchester United, Rooney has been hit with 100 cards – 97 yellows and three reds.
Total dirty points: 560
7. Lee Cattermole
Having accumulated 565 dirty points in just 271 appearances, Cattermole possesses the worst point-to-game ratio in Premier League history. The Sunderland midfielder, who also played for Middlesbrough and Wigan in the top flight, is something of a throwback with his black boots and no-nonsense attitude, while some of his tackling – which has brought five red cards and 88 yellows – is rather old-school too.
Total dirty points: 565
6. Richard Dunne
You’ve got to feel sorry for Dunne, the Premier League’s record own-goalscorer who also features prominently in this list. The Irish centre-back played for Everton, Manchester City, Aston Villa and QPR in the first division, collecting eight red cards – another record, albeit shared by two others – and 74 yellows.
Total dirty points: 570
5. Patrick Vieira
Vieira was the driving force behind Arsenal’s most successful period in the Premier League, starring in the title triumphs of 1998, 2002 and 2004. It wasn’t all pretty football, however: the Frenchman was sent off eight times – nobody has been given their marching orders more often – and picked up 76 cautions for the Gunners and Manchester City, with whom he spent the 2010/11 season.
Total dirty points: 580
4. Paul Scholes
An extremely gifted creator, the Manchester United man was never afraid to get involved with the dirty work – the only problem was that he was extremely bad at it. Many chuckled at Scholes’ persistent failure to time his tackles, a defect which earned him 97 yellows and four reds, but Arsene Wenger wasn’t quite so kind, arguing there was a “darker side” to the 11-time Premier League champion.
Total dirty points: 585
3. Scott Parker
Born and bred in London, Parker went on to play for no fewer than five of the capital’s clubs – Charlton, Chelsea, West Ham, Tottenham and Fulham – in the Premier League, while also enjoying a two-year spell at Newcastle between 2005 and 2007. The midfielder was sent off five times in his 368 outings, with his name featuring in the referee’s notebook on a further 92 occasions.
Total dirty points: 585
2. Lee Bowyer
Bowyer infamously had a scrap with Newcastle team-mate Kieron Dyer during a home defeat by Aston Villa in 2005, so it’s no surprise he ranks higher in this list than all but one Premier League player. The ex-Leeds, West Ham and Birmingham midfielder was sent off a further three times, while also collecting 99 bookings during his time in the Premier League.
Total dirty points: 595
1. Gareth Barry
No player has made more Premier League appearances than Barry; equally, no player has been quite as dirty as the current West Brom midfielder, who’s also represented Aston Villa, Manchester City and Everton at this level. Barry’s 119 cautions give him a 20-card lead on second-placed Lee Bowyer and Kevin Davies, while he’s also been sent off six times since 1998.
Total dirty points: 745