England supremo Roy Hodgson has admitted that ex-Man Utd bad boy Ravel Morrison is back on the national side radar after a goal-packed pre-season for West Ham – 16/1 to win the Premier League divisional handicap with a +38 point cushion – that suggests he may have put a troubled past – including narrowly avoiding youth detention for the intimidation of a robbery witness – behind him.
By way of encouragement to a player who looks like getting his promising career back on the right path, here’s five more of football’s bad boys that have managed to carve out careers at the highest level in spite of their follies.
Eric Cantona – Manchester United
Attacking teammates, tackles worthy of three-month suspensions, blasting balls at the crowd, insulting his national team coach, Cantona’s rap sheet is an epic one, but his karate kick attack on an abusive Crystal Palace was the indiscretion that almost saw him walk away from the club that allowed him to be himself.
Sir Alex Ferguson was the figure that convinced the hot-headed Frenchman to remain in England after his lengthy suspension, whereupon he inspired his side to a league and cup double before being named captain of the club for his final season.
Zlatan Ibrahimovich – PSG
The mercurial nature of the great Zlatan is well llustrated by the fact that he almost walked away from football to work on the Malmo docks at the age of 15.
The Taekwondo black-belt has fought teammates in training and nonchalantly dissed the likes of former coach Josep Guardiola and Lionel Messi in the media as he continues his only self-obsessed path towards football immortality.
Mario Mandzukic – Bayern Munich
Before he was winning Champions League and Bundesliga titles with Bayern Munich, the Croatian international got into all kinds of scrapes whilst at Dinamo Zagreb.
From getting caught stealing on trains, to driving around with no lights on and being fined €100,000 for a sub-par performance, it’s perhaps little surprise to find his idol was fellow bad boy Ibrahimovich.
Mario Ballotelli – AC Milan
Ballotelli’s erratic behaviour dogged his progress at Inter Milan when he fell out with Jose Mourinho and he repeated the trick with Roberto Mancini at Man City, where he crashed his car, threw darts at the youth team and set his own house on fire with fireworks.
Now at AC Milan he seems to have begun to curb his tomfoolery, with dramatic effect – scoring 12 goals in 13 games following his January move.
John Terry – Chelsea
It’s testament to John Terry’s inspirational powers on the pitch that even after assaulting a bouncer with a bottle, drunkenly abusing American tourists watching the twin towers attacks at Heathrow airport and having an affair with Wayne Bridge’s lady friend that Chelsea have never considered turning their back on their skipper as he’s won just about every trophy going.