Paul Pogba has found himself in the headlines once again this week following the latest ill-advised comments from agent Mino Raiola, who bizarrely decided to declare that the midfielder’s Manchester United career was ‘over’ in an interview with an Italian publication.
It’s not the first time that Raiola had meddled publicly in proceedings between club and player, having regularly taken aim at Manchester United and manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in recent years.
Pogba’s silence on the issue is a damning indictment of a player who has provided more headaches than moments of magic since signing in a world-record deal four-and-a-half years ago, the France international having largely flattered to deceive in addition to disrespecting his current employers.
The 27-year-old has routinely fluttered his eyelashes in the direction of Real Madrid and Juventus, with this week’s latest controversy leading even his staunchest defenders to turn against the midfielder.
Jose Mourinho once reportedly branded the player as a ‘virus’ in the dressing room and it looks likely the star will leave in the near future, though few will be sad to see him depart.
Following the latest controversies we’ve looked at some other players who soured relations, here is a starting XI of players who royally pissed off their own fans:
Goalkeeper: Charles Itandje – Liverpool
The Hillsborough disaster remains one of football’s darkest days and a fixture which changed the course of English football forever, as 96 Liverpool fans tragically lost their lives in a stadium crush during an FA semi-final between the Reds and Nottingham Forest.
It was an event that devastated the city of Liverpool and sparked a three-decade battle for justice, with anyone associated with the club and wider community well aware of the trauma caused on that harrowing day and the many years since.
All, of course, except Charles Itandje who became public enemy number one for his inappropriate actions during the annual memorial service in 2009, in which the reserve goalkeeper was filmed laughing and dancing.
The Cameroonian was subsequently suspended for 14 days and fined the maximum two weeks’ wages, whilst he never played another game for the club at any level before his release.
Itandje later gave an interview claiming the reaction was overboard before issuing a second apology, one that did little to repair his reputation as one idiotic and insensitive p****.
Right-back: Emmanuel Eboue – Arsenal
Ah, Emmanuel Eboue.
Many of those featured in this side irked their fanbase for acts of complete stupidity or worse, but the former Arsenal full-back makes the cut here for simply being not very good at football.
Eboue famously came on as a substitute for the injured Samir Nasri in a clash against Wigan in 2008, before proceeding to produce one of the most inept performances in Premier League history.
We’ve all had our bad days, but this was particularly bad as Eboue resembled a competition winner with his boots on the wrong feet at the Emirates, before Arsene Wenger withdrew him amid a chorus of boos from the Arsenal fans with the score finely posed at 1-0.
An act of mercy or a savage embarrassment, we’ll let you decide.
Centre-back: William Gallas – Arsenal
Arsenal feature once again at centre-back with the inclusion of William Gallas, who despite being a fine player never really made himself a popular figure at a succession of London clubs.
It was once claimed Gallas had threatened to score own goals in a bid to force an exit from Chelsea, eventually getting his wish with a move to Arsenal where he was later appointed as club captain.
Premier League fans have witnessed some iconic and inspirational captains through the years, though Gallas was far from the lion-hearted style of Roy Keane, John Terry or Steven Gerrard.
During a clash with Birmingham City in 2008, Gallas reacted to a late penalty for the opposition in bizarre fashion, channelling his inner Temur Ketsbaia and attacking the advertising boards, before sitting down in the centre circle and crying as a protest.
Gallas’ actions were rightly lambasted by the Arsenal support, whose distaste for the former France international grew further following his move to Tottenham upon leaving the Emirates.
Centre-back: Joleon Lescott – Aston Villa
Formerly of Midlands rivals Wolves and West Bromwich Albion, it’s fair to say the Aston Villa fans may have taken some time to warm to Joleon Lescott following his move to Villa Park.
Villa moved for the former England international and self-professed boyhood fan to strengthen their backline, though it failed to pay off as the club endured the worst season in their Premier League history.
A dreadful campaign saw Villa free-falling towards relegation when Lescott made himself the polar opposite of a fan favourite, tweeting a picture of a luxury car just hours after a 6-0 home humiliation against Liverpool.
Villa fans unsurprisingly reacted furiously to the tweet which Lescott claimed was ‘accidentally’ posted just hours after the club’s worst home defeat in 81 years, viewing the post as a middle-fingered salute to the frustrated average Joe on the terraces.
Lescott later claimed the club’s relegation – in which they finished bottom of the division – was a ‘weight off the shoulders’, whilst he also reportedly offered a fan a ‘straightener’ in the club’s car park, another faux pas of the very highest order.
Left-back: Andre Santos – Arsenal
Arsenal and Manchester United can lay claim to the greatest rivalry of the Premier League era, with the two sides having contested the title ferociously across the turn of the millennium, sharing each championship won between 1996 and 2004.
That rivalry may have subdued somewhat in the modern era, but the transfer of Robin van Persie from the Gunners to Old Trafford caused outrage amongst the north London faithful.
Van Persie had recently been named as the PFA Player of the Year and FWA Footballer of the Year after winning the Premier League’s Golden Boot, before leaving Arsenal for their rivals in search of major silverware.
The Dutchman’s act of treachery was not viewed in quite the same fashion by former teammate Andre Santos, however, who on the first meeting between the two sides made his move to claim some Van Persie merchandise.
The Brazilian full-back memorably sought after the star to change shirts at half-time of a clash between the sides, one which Van Persie had scored the opening goal against his former side.
When André Santos swapped shirts with former Arsenal player Robin Van Persie at half-time 😳 pic.twitter.com/0XtnUMtRtL
— Football Daily (@footballdaily) May 12, 2020
Unsurprisingly his actions failed to go down well with his teammates, manager or supporters, the souvenir-seeking Santos promptly dropped from the side in a forgettable spell with Arsenal.
Paul Konchesky also deserves a mention, the former Liverpool full-back’s mum having famously branded the Reds’ fans as ‘Scouse scum’ for their criticism of her son’s sub-standard performances.
Midfield: Lee Clark – Sunderland
Lee Clark has a unique perspective of the Tyne-Wear rivalry between Newcastle and Sunderland, having spent several seasons in the midfield of both sides during his career.
There is, however, no disputing which side of the divide his allegiances are.
Clark came through the academy system at Newcastle and made 240 appearances for the Magpies in all competitions, forming part of the club’s ‘Great Entertainers’ side which narrowly missed out on the Premier League title in the nineties.
The midfielder crossed the divide in 1997 and played two seasons of fine football for Peter Reid’s Sunderland, before his career with the Black Cats was ended in spectacular style during a visit to watch Newcastle play in the 1999 FA Cup final.
Clark was pictured wearing a t-shirt with the slogan ‘Sad Mackem Bastards’ and never played for Sunderland again.
Midfield: David Beckham – England
David Beckham’s life would forever change following one petulant kick of that famous right boot, becoming for a short time the most hated man in English football following a red card in the 1998 World Cup.
A last 16 encounter with fierce rivals Argentina was finely poised when Beckham kicked out after being fouled by Diego Simeone, the Manchester United man instantly dismissed before becoming the villain of England’s World Cup exit.
What followed was a distasteful and disgraceful hate campaign against the star upon his return to Premier League action, including death threats, bullets posted to his door and that infamous effigy as the media crucified his moment of madness.
It was an incredibly difficult time for Beckham who had gone quickly from England’s rising star to most hated figure, though he proved he was made of stern stuff with a remarkable redemption story.
The following season saw him inspire Manchester United to a historic treble, whilst he was appointed England captain two years later and scored the goal that sealed the Three Lions’ place at the 2002 World Cup with a fabulous last-minute free-kick against Greece.
He’s now amongst the nations most loved icons, but it wasn’t always that way.
Midfield: Granit Xhaka – Arsenal
Granit Xhaka makes it four Arsenal players to feature in this XI, with the midfielder another contentious captaincy choice for the Gunners in the modern era.
The Switzerland midfielder is well respected in the dressing room at the Emirates but is often derided by those outside the club, his performances since moving to the Premier League often littered with rashness and inexplicable moments of idiocy.
Nonetheless, Xhaka was appointed as Arsenal captain by Unai Emery, though his wearing of the armband didn’t make him immune from feeling the wrath of an agitated fanbase.
Last season’s 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace saw the midfielder receive a chorus of boos from the Gunners’ support upon his substitution, with his reaction catapulting him into the headlines.
Xhaka cupped his ear to the crowd and proceeded to tell the Arsenal fans to ‘f*** off’, removing his shirt and throwing it to the ground before heading down the tunnel.
He was promptly stripped of the captaincy, though has forced his way back into the side after a brief period in exile at the Emirates.
Midfield: Paul Pogba – Manchester United
It’s almost as if the phrase ‘it’s more trouble than it’s worth’ was made specifically for Paul Pogba and his Manchester United career, one which has flattered to deceive since a much-hyped world-record move from Juventus four-and-a-half years ago.
Pogba’s arrival was supposed to be the catalyst behind the club’s return to the elite, but it has proven a period of inconsistent performances, frustration and a Mino Raiola-led media circus.
“Pogba’s problem is Manchester United. It’s a club out of touch with reality and without a sporting project. I wouldn’t take anyone there. They would even ruin [Diego] Maradona, Pele and [Paolo] Maldini.”
– Mino Raiola
The France international is brilliantly talented and possesses world-class attributes and ability, but he belongs nowhere near the game’s best on the performances he has produced in English football, the 27-year-old continually underwhelming and lacking the ability to influence games.
Pogba has repeatedly flirted with Europe’s elite and angled for a move away, though there are many of a United persuasion who would now pack his bags given his continued undermining of one of world football’s grandest institutions.
Football fans of any allegiance want players fully committed to bringing success to their club, Pogba and his clown of an agent detrimental to the Red Devils’ hopes of progress.
Forward: Pierre van Hooijdonk – Nottingham Forest
Pierre van Hooijdonk’s determination to leave Nottingham Forest saw the forward sour relations with both fans and teammates alike, memorably going on a three month strike to engineer an exit in one of the Premier League’s most notorious sagas.
Forest’s refusal to allow their top scorer to leave saw Van Hooijdonk train alone in his native Netherlands, with teammates branding the star a ‘disgrace’ before an eventual u-turn and return to the side in November 1998.
He returned with the club mired in a relegation battle and played sporadically throughout the remainder of the campaign, memorably scoring in a draw with fierce rivals Derby County – a goal which incredibly saw Van Hooijdonk’s teammates refuse to celebrate with him.
Short clip from when Pierre van Hooijdonk went on strike at Nottingham Forest in 1998.
Here, an angry Steve Stone says he’s not welcome back. So when the reluctant Dutchman returns 3 months later, the players respond by refusing to celebrate his goal.
— Stu’s Football Flashbacks (@stusfootyflash) July 29, 2020
Forest finished the season bottom of the Premier League and were relegated, with the forward finally getting his wish for a return to the Eredivisie by signing for Vitesse.
Mario Balotelli’s wearing of an AC Milan shirt on national television whilst still an Inter Milan player deserves a mention, mad Mario at his very finest.
Forward: Gareth Bale – Real Madrid
Amongst the most recent examples of a strained relationship between superstar and support, Gareth Bale’s dream venture at Real Madrid reached an unhappy conclusion in recent seasons.
Bale had arrived as the most expensive player in world football and viewed as the heir to Cristiano Ronaldo in 2013, scoring in the final as Los Blancos won the Champions League in his debut campaign.
Bale won a further three Champions League trophies including a match-winning brace in the 2018 final against Liverpool, though his relationship with manager Zinedine Zidane broke down and he found himself on the periphery.
The Welshman proceeded to respond to Real Madrid’s apparent disrespect by going tit for tat, making a mockery of the world’s biggest football club with a number of defiant actions.
Wales celebrating with a flag that reads 'Wales. Golf. Madrid. In that order' is incredible 😭 pic.twitter.com/zD5lhMqa7U
— Football Daily (@footballdaily) April 15, 2020
Bale memorably posed with a banner stating his preference for Wales and Golf over the Spanish side whilst on international duty, whilst also placing his coronavirus mask over his eyes on the bench when it was confirmed he would be an unused substitute last season.
Petty perhaps, and a sad way to exit for arguably British football’s finest export.