Oh Mitro! Eight of the longest ever Premier League player suspensions

Aleksandar Mitrovic has been slapped with an eight-game ban for Fulham, as the Football Association have come down hard on the forward’s red-mist at Manchester United.

Mitrovic was sent off for pushing Chris Kavanagh during Fulham’s FA Cup defeat at Old Trafford and has seen his initial three-match ban extended to EIGHT games as a result of ‘violent conduct towards a match official’ and ‘improper, abusive, insulting and threatening’ language.

The Serbian’s suspension is one of the longest in Premier League history and we’ve looked back at some other notable names who were sidelined for significant periods.

Here are eight of the longest-ever Premier League player suspensions.

Eric Cantona

Eric Cantona’s capitulation at Crystal Palace remains one of the defining images of the Premier League’s first decade, as the Manchester United forward sensationally exploded at Selhurst Park.

Cantona – then arguably the Premier League’s most influential footballer – had been on the receiving end of some uncompromising challenges from the home side, when a petulant kick out at Richard Shaw saw the Frenchman sent off.

An insignificant incident in isolation, but it began an event which rocked the Premier League. As Cantona made his way from the pitch, he was confronted with taunts from a Palace supporter. In shameful scenes, the forward launched himself into the crowd and unleashed an assault of kung-fu kicks and flailing limbs.

Cantona had long been known for a volatile temper, but this was an unprecedented eruption and one which resulted in an eight-month worldwide ban from football. The forward’s actions – described at the time as ‘a stain on our game’ by FA Chief Executive Graham Kelly – also earned Cantona 120 hours of community service and brought an end to his international career with France.

United struggled in the absence of their suspended talisman and missed out on the 1994/95 Premier League title to Blackburn Rovers.

Five of the most iconic goal celebrations in Premier League history: Cantona, Klinsmann, Fowler

Vinnie Jones

Vinnie Jones forged a reputation as one of football’s ‘hard men’ but the game’s authorities were far from pleased when the midfielder attempted to advocate the cruder side of the sport.

Jones – perhaps the most synonymous member of Wimbledon’s ‘Crazy Gang’ – fronted a video titled ‘Soccer’s Hard Men’ which saw him provide controversial advice to budding hard men which ‘glorified’ violence and foul play.

Jones was hit with a suspended six-month ban for ‘bringing the game into disrepute’, but soon found himself in hot water once again with the FA. After exceeding the allowed disciplinary points, he was summoned to a Football Association hearing but failed to appear. Despite protesting his innocence at the ‘mix up’, he was hit with an indefinite ban, one which was later reduced to four matches.

Paolo Di Canio

Mitrovic might have got too close for comfort with referee Chris Kavanagh at Old Trafford, but the Serbian’s antics were nothing on this infamous incident involving Paolo Di Canio.

Di Canio’s career was both colourful and controversial, punctuated with moments of magic and shocking scenes. His most memorable controversy as a Premier League player came in September 1998, when Sheffield Wednesday welcomed Arsenal to Hillsborough.

Patrick Vieira’s objection to a foul saw him push Wim Jonk to the ground, with both sets of players then involved in an on-pitch melee. The usual handbags ended in a red card for Di Canio, who was far from pleased with the referee’s decision.

A shove into the chest of official Paul Alcock sent the referee – red card still in hand – tumbling in comical fashion, as Alcock unsuccessfully attempted to keep his feet with all the grace of a baby giraffe on an ice rink.

“It wasn’t a violent gesture, it was a gesture of disappointment, that’s all it was,” Di Canio later wrote in his autobiography.

“I could push my eight-year-old daughter Ludovica that way and she’s wouldn’t fall over. It certainly looked bizarre. My first reaction was that somebody must have been crouching behind him, like in one of those old slapstick comedies.”

The Italian was banned for 11 games and never played for Sheffield Wednesday again. West Ham swooped in to sign the suspended striker, a gamble that paid off as Di Canio became a club legend in east London.

Southampton’s David Prutton received a 10-game ban for a similar incident after being sent off against Arsenal in 2005.

Golazo Merchants: The mad genius, Paolo Di Canio

Mark Bosnich

Mark Bosnich saw his Premier League career reach a premature conclusion after the goalkeeper was handed a nine-month ban for a failed drugs test.

Bosnich was released from his Chelsea contract after testing positive for cocaine in 2002, with the Australian having claimed his drink had been spiked on a night out. He later opened up on a battle with addiction that followed his suspension from the sport.

Bosnich had twice won the League Cup with Aston Villa and lifted a Premier League title at Manchester United, but saw his Chelsea career curtailed after just seven appearances for the west Londoners.

He did not return to football until 2008 when he had a brief spell with Australian A-League side Central Coast Mariners.

Rio Ferdinand

Rio Ferdinand was banned for eight months and fined £50,000 by the Football Association after the Manchester United defender missed a routine drugs test in 2003.

Ferdinand insisted he had simply forgotten to attend the test and later passed, but the Football Association handed the centre-back a hefty punishment. The England international received a £50,000 fine and eight-month ban from football, a suspension which United unsuccessfully appealed against.

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Ferdinand missed the remainder of the season and the start of the 2004/05 campaign, while England suffered with the defender ruled out of the Euro 2004. In his absence, England’s ‘Golden Generation’ crashed out of the competition on penalties in the quarter-finals, in a tournament that saw Greece emerge as shock winners. What might have been.

Defensive Rocks: Rio ‘Rolls-Royce’ Ferdinand

Adrian Mutu

Adrian Mutu arrived as one of the exciting imports in Roman Abramovich’s first summer at Chelsea, as the west Londoners agreed to a £15.8m deal to sign the forward from Parma.

Mutu began brilliantly in the Premier League with four goals in three games, but a positive first season at Chelsea was followed with disgrace the following campaign. The Romanian received a seven-month ban after testing positive for cocaine, a finding that saw Chelsea terminate his contract.

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What followed was a lengthy legal battle, one which saw Mutu lose his case and ordered to pay the club £14.3million in damages. Mutu signed for Juventus on a five-year deal after leaving Chelsea and later received a second lengthy suspension after returning to Italy. He received a nine-month ban, later reduced to six months, after failing an anti-doping test while at Fiorentina in 2010.

Ben Thatcher

Manchester City’s Ben Thatcher was banned for eight games following his thuggish challenge on Portsmouth’s Pedro Mendes during a goalless draw at the Etihad in 2006.

The defender received a booking from referee Dermot Gallagher at the time of the incident, but the official had failed to spot Thatcher’s elbow thrust into the face of the Portuguese midfielder.

Mendes was knocked into the advertising hoardings and left unconscious, with the Portsmouth players calling for urgent medical attention.

The Football Association handed the defender a big ban, lodging a charge of ‘serious foul play’ against Thatcher.

Luis Suarez

Luis Suarez has been no stranger to controversies and suspensions during his career. The Uruguayan was rarely far from the headlines during his three-and-a-half seasons at Liverpool, with the forward slapped with a 10-game ban after biting Branislav Ivanovic during a draw with Chelsea.

The incident was missed by the match officials as Suarez went on to score a late equaliser, but he was retrospectively hit with a long ban which carried into the following season.

Suarez’s bite was not his first (or last) serious suspension however, having earlier been banned for eight games after being found guilty of racially abusing Manchester United defender Patrice Evra.

He then received a record FIFA punishment after again biting an opponent, as the striker sunk his teeth into Giorgio Chiellini during the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. The centre-forward’s chomp on Chiellini saw FIFA ban Suarez for nine international matches and from all football activity for four months, a decision which ruled him out of the remainder of the tournament and the 2015 Copa America.

The ban was the longest in World Cup history, overtaking the eight-game ban handed to Italy’s Mauro Tassotti for breaking Luis Enrique’s nose against Spain at the 1994 World Cup.

Read – Midfield Magicians: The under-rated metronome, Michael Carrick

Read Also – Golazo Merchants: John Arne Riise and a thunderous left foot

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