For many players in the top flight, football is war. Each moment spent on and off the pitch is about conquering the enemy. Hours are spent talking tactics, strategising and finding weaknesses in the opposition’s front line. Skills are honed and weapons polished, from the accuracy of the long ball to the acrobatic wizardry of the header. With guts, glory and the Premier League title at stake, it’s all about winning… at any cost.
The winner takes all mentality sometimes means the rules, handshakes and fair play of the ‘gentleman’s game’ takes a hit. Factor in the natural testosterone-fuelled aggression that drives the best sportsmen and foul play is bound to happen. Losing your head in the heat of battle happens to everyone. But there are a few Premier League players who are serial offenders of the football foul.
Here’s our pick of the 4 dirtiest players currently active in England’s Top Flight:
Manchester United’s precociously talented striker is revered as one of the best players of all-time. In his long and illustrious professional football career, the Swede has bagged dozens of titles, the captaincy of the national side and more Golden Balls and league honours than he can fit into his trophy cabinet. Cerebral, creative and agile, Ibrahimovic is a giant of the game.
The 36-year-old is also known for his arrogance and aggression, both on and off the pitch. He clocked up 54 fouls in the 2016/17 season and was suspended for three games for violent conduct after elbowing a Bournemouth player.
Ibrahimovic has been accused of intentionally injuring other players and his frequent headbutts and two-footed tackles have earned him the title of the most consistently dirty player in the Premier League!
Zaire-born Belgian footballer, Christian Benteke does not have the stature or raw wild aggression of Ibrahimovic but he is officially the player with the most Premier League fouls in the 16/17 season. The promising young striker for Crystal Palace has been called out by the referee a record 81 times.
The statistic has prompted commentators to list his propensity to play dirty as one of his glaring weaknesses. It’s a serious blotch in the copybook of a man who is reputed to have been on Chelsea manager, Antonio Conte’s radar.
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Kenyan national captain and defensive midfielder for Tottenham Hotspur, Victor Wanyama is notable for his solid defense. But the big talking point is the series of fouls he commits just about every game. On his first run out for Spurs against Everton, he was penalised for a foul on Kevin Mirallas.
The trend has continued and climaxed in a recent game against Arsenal, when he and two-time victim Theo Walcott nearly came to blows. His ill-discipline prompted Arsenal manager, Arsene Wegner to question the referee’s decision not to send Wanyama off for his multiple indiscretions. To date, the tall lanky Kenyan has recorded 232 Premier League fouls, 66 of which were committed in the 16/17 season.
Midfielder Paul Pogba generated a mind-blowing transfer fee of £89.3 million when he rejoined Manchester United for the 2016/17 season. The promising young talent, known for his explosive style of play and excellence in the air, was suspended for the season opener against Bournemouth due to two yellow cards collected the previous season in the Copa Italia.
The exciting young French player quickly gained notoriety at Old Trafford by being the player who fouled most regularly in the Premier League, accumulating 62 fouls over the season.