The dirtiest XI from Europe’s major leagues this season - including Newcastle and Man Utd stars
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Last week we dipped into a bit of statistical analysis and compiled a list of the ten dirtiest players in the Premier League this season – crowning Newcastle United’s Joelinton the overall victor for his remarkable commitment to fouling people and losing his temper on every possible occasion.
And because we all love finding out who the real you-know-what-houses of football are, we’ve gone one step further and compiled a playing XI of the filthiest, most foul-happy players in Europe’s biggest leagues.
Because foul statistics aren’t readily available for every league, we’ve used UEFA’s disciplinary points system this time, which only measures cards and doesn’t worry about all those niggly little fouls that likes of Joelinton love so much. That means the Newcastle man doesn’t make it into our eleven – but one of his team-mates does, as does a certain Manchester United midfielder who narrowly dodged the top spot in our top ten.
Goalkeeper – Nick Pope (Newcastle United, 8 points)
Not one single goalie got sent off twice this season, which means that Pope’s comical red card against Liverpool is enough to official make him the dirtiest goalkeeper in the European game when put alongside the three bookings he accrued.
In honesty, he actually ties for this position with Troyes goalkeeper Gauthier Gallon, but we decided that the high farce of Pope completely forgetting that he was outside of the area as he reached to grab the ball away from Mohamed Salah’s feet is a deserving tiebreaker, so in he goes.
Left-back – Marcos Acuña (Sevilla, 24 points)
The joint-filthiest player in the whole of Europe this season, the Argentinian World Cup winner racked up no fewer than three straight red cards across the course of the season for Sevilla, along with nine bookings. A ludicrous and needless two-footed lunge on Dani Ceballos in a game against Real Madrid – committed when the ball was only just outside of Real Madrid’s box – was probably the highlight of his psychopathic season.
Centre-back – Piero Hincapié (Bayer Leverkusen, 20 points)
The versatile Ecuadorian defender also picked up nine yellows and three reds, albeit that some of his sendings off were at least for second bookable offences – Acuña skipped that stage of proceedings and went right to the red every time. Newcastle, Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea have all been linked with a bid for the 21-year-old over the course of the campaign, although he’ll probably need to keep his studs down a bit more to persuade the world’s biggest clubs to splash out for his services.
Centre-back – Ruan Tressoldi (Sassuolo, 20 points)
Another member of the exclusive nine yellows and three reds club, Brazilian defender Ruan managed to make it despite spending almost all of the first half of the season on the bench – getting sent off before half-time in his first game of the campaign against Udinese before being sent straight back to bench-warming duties. The 23-year-old was still nowhere near this eleven until the last few weeks of the year, when he managed the impressive feat of getting red carded in successive matches against Monza and Fiorentina.
Right-back – Iza Carcelén (Cádiz, 19 points)
Edging out the foul-friendly Achraf Hakimi for the coveted right-back slot, Carcelén picked up three straight red cards over the course of a tough campaign for Cádiz – albeit in a league where the referees were dishing out cards like confetti and sending players off at a far higher rate than they were anywhere else in Europe. He’s 30 years old, so should probably know better than to go scything in at every opportunity by now, but there we go.
Central midfield – Casemiro (Manchester United, 17 points)
Seven yellow cards, two reds, one severe throttling for an unfortunate opposing midfielder – the Brazilian may have instantly become one of United’s most important players but also spent far too much time looking glum in the stands after getting two red cards in the space of three games, clocking up seven games’ worth of suspensions along the way. They won four of them, but they were against Leeds United, Leicester City, Brentford and Everton, while they lost to Arsenal and Newcastle without him in the side – which probably underlines his importance, and the need for him to stop wringing the necks of opposing players.
Central midfield – Guima (Chaves, 24 points)
The only player in Europe who managed to hold a candle to Acuña’s violent streak, the 27-year-old holding midfielder only picked up two red cards in the Liga Portugal, but complemented that with a frankly insane 16 yellow cards in just 29 games (and two in three in the Allianz Cup as well, just to keep the ratio up). That streak of shin-kicking and thigh-hacking saw him get nine yellows in his last nine games of the season, as well. Anger management classes may be needed.
Central midfield – Téji Tedy Savanier (Montpellier, 19 points)
When you’re the captain of your club, and 31 years old, you should probably know how to keep a cool head. Montpellier’s Savanier at least knows a thing or two about scoring goals – he scored 12 from midfield this season – but clearly isn’t the best and keeping his composure, getting sent off three times, all straight reds again. They did at least win two of the games he saw red in, but let’s just say that he didn’t give the refs involved too many difficult decisions to make.
Left winger – Vinícius Junior (Real Madrid, 15 points)
No cheap jokes for this one – Vinícius’ only red card was later rescinded and came after another round of shocking racist abuse from the stands, the latest of many times when he has been abused and insulted solely for the colour of his skin and for daring to be brilliant. Ten yellow cards attest to his habit of getting right into opposing players, but the Brazilian superstar isn’t really dirty, and deserves better from the institutions that are supposed to protect him. Given that his red card was withdrawn, he really shouldn’t be on this list at all, but the statsmen still seem to count it.
Right winger – Riccardo Orsolini (Bologna, 14 points)
Orsolini was one of his side’s best players this season, scoring 11 times and setting up four more – but also getting sent off twice, including during his first game of the season against Hellas Verona. His second sending-off came late in the campaign against Cremonese, after he’d already scored one and teed another up. Not especially filthy, really, just a guy who happened to get himself on the wrong end of the referees more than once.
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Centre-forward – M’Baye Niang (Auxerre, 12 points)
A disappointing season for shin-kicking among centre-forwards – Niang was sent off just once, and is comfortably the cleanest outfield player on this list. Unfortunately, we live in an age where the art of the hyper-aggressive Duncan Ferguson-style centre-forward is out of fashion – Olivier Giroud came second in the race to play up front in this team, just to underline the point a little more. We recall Giroud being handsome and often highly effective in the Premier League, but rarely dirty. Someone needs to step up to the plate next season and start dropping the nut on some defenders like they did in the good old days.