Ronaldinho’s arrest and imprisonment in Paraguay earlier this month created headlines across the globe, the former Ballon d’Or winner accused of entering the country with a fake passport and facing the possibility of six months behind bars.
The Barcelona legend is not the first sporting star to find himself on the wrong side of the law, however, with a series of Premier League players having found themselves facing prison time throughout the years.
Here are five of the best Premier League players who did jail time:
The former Arsenal star enjoyed a stellar career at the top of the English game, winning several major honours and retiring as the club’s record goalscorer before a certain Thierry Henry eclipsed his record.
Wright’s rise from non-league football to the pinnacle of the sport is a feel-good story, but it could all have been so different for the popular forward after finding himself in hot water during his younger years.
Wright’s adversity to reach the top included a deprived childhood and abusive stepfather, but it was a spell in prison which really changed his outlook on life, an experience he says made him a different person and inspired him towards the right path.
At just 19-years-old, Wright was sentenced to two weeks in Chelmsford Prison for deciding not to pay driving fines and used the experience as motivation to never return and make it in the game.
He later became one of the most prolific goalscorers in Premier League history, in addition to earning 33 caps for the senior England side.
Another of Arsenal’s all-time greats, Adams’ well-documented struggles with alcoholism led to his imprisonment during the early nineties, the defender caught drink-driving after crashing his car and found to be several times over the legal limit.
After serving half of his four month sentence, Adams returned to Arsenal where he continued to captain the club, establishing himself as an iconic figure in the Gunners’ history and winning a host of silverware.
The defender became the first ever captain to lift a domestic cup double in 1993, before thriving following the arrival of Arsene Wenger and skippering the side to two domestic doubles before his retirement in 2002.
Adams, strangely, said the experience of prison failed to ‘teach him anything’ and that there was no education on why he was there or his illness, oddly likening the experience to staying in a hotel.
One of football’s true hard men, Ferguson made history in the mid-nineties after becoming the first ever British footballer to be jailed for an on-field incident.
Ferguson’s three month prison sentence came after he was found guilty of assault for head-butting Raith Rovers defender Jock McStay whilst playing for Rangers, serving 44 days in Glasgow’s Barlinnie prison in 1995. Big Dunc’s tough man reputation only grew when he moved south after he twice caught burglars attempting to rob his home and proceeded to detain and hospitalise both assailants.
Nicknamed ‘Duncan Disorderly’ for his aggressive presence, Ferguson jointly shares the record for most Premier League red cards, receiving his marching orders on eight occasions during spells at Everton and Newcastle.
Barton is a player for who controversy followed throughout much of a storied Premier League career, the midfielder’s ‘bad boy’ reputation one he found difficult to shift – with good reason.
Charged with violent conduct by the Football Association on three occasions, Barton’s long résumé of unsavoury incidents and indiscretions is not solely confined to the pitch.
Barton’s notorious short-fuse was evident as he stubbed a cigar out in the eye of a youth team player whilst at Manchester City, whilst he also memorably assaulted teammate Ousmane Dabo in a training ground bust-up.
The midfielder’s reckless actions led to his imprisonment whilst at Newcastle in 2008, however, Barton found guilty of common assault and affray during an incident in Liverpool city centre.
Barton served 74 days of his six-month sentence, whilst he also later received a four-month suspended sentence following his training ground attack on Dabo.
Premier League title-winner and full England international, Johnson’s career ended in disgrace after he was sentenced to six years in prison whilst at Sunderland four years ago.
The winger had impressed at the top level during spells at Middlesbrough and Manchester City, winning the title and FA Cup with the latter before a £10m move to hometown club Sunderland.
Johnson’s career ended in arguably the most high-profile case in Premier League history, however, after being found guilty of grooming a teenage Sunderland fan and convicted of sexual activity with a child.
Johnson served half of his sentence before being released in March 2019 and is unlikely to ever return to football.
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