Football can be a brutal sport, particularly when it comes to business. Making it to the top of the world's highest peaks is never easy, but being a little selfish will help you get there—on and off the pitch.
It's not uncommon for footballers to become a little egotistical, whether it's taking more shots than your teammates, being a fox-in-the-box striker, or learning how to transform yourself into your own one-man brand online, via television media, or organically. With clubs both commanding and demanding high salaries for players in today's money-saturated market, having these types of players to choose from can also be beneficial. After all, it would be naive to assume that footballers are bought simply for their football skills, since they are often sold so that a team can penetrate a global market or even recoup money from massive jersey sales.
Housing avaricious footballers, on the other hand, would be a nightmare. If a player believes he is stronger than the club, this will eventually lead to chaotic circumstances and acrimonious brawls. Not only that, but an unwillingness to work as part of a team, to carry one's weight, and to play reasonably would result in backers, managers, and even owners abandoning the project. Over the years, the beautiful game has been graced by some true divas and egotistical characters, but some have stood out a little more clearly than others, which is why I wanted to compile a list of the most memorable ones. So sit back and enjoy the ride, and don't forget to let me know if you think I've forgotten someone who was or is especially selfish in the comments section.
15. Kevin Mirallas
Evertonians, in particular, seem to enjoy this selection. The Belgian international is obviously gifted, but there have been moments at Goodison Park when he has simply not been able to carry his weight effectively. He was a little selfish in terms of squandering chances, taking too many shots without scoring, and not appearing to give his all in critical games. One notable example is when, after being relieved of his duties, regular spot-kick taker Leighton Baines missed a penalty against West Bromwich Albion. At the time, the Toffees were in danger of being drawn into a relegation battle, and his error just added to their woes. Fans will be hoping for a quick turnaround during the 2015/16 season.
14 Roy Keane
Complaining about Roy Keane is considered sacrilege in some parts of the Republic of Ireland. The now-retired Manchester United captain is said to be the Irish national team's assistant coach, a role that would have seemed impossible back in 2002 when the Cork-born star clashed with Mick McCarthy in Saipan during their World Cup qualifying campaign. Since then, public opinion about how he should be viewed has been almost evenly split: some see him as a selfish coward, while others see him as a national treasure who stood up for what he believed in. "Keano" went home and did not play in the tournament after being disturbed by the circumstances of the pitch on which the Green Army was asked to train. It's a familiar story, but it demonstrated how ruthlessly self-destructive he was. When you combine this with his alcoholism, it's clear that he often went about his sporting career without thinking about how it could affect the team's chemistry. The same could be said for how he left Old Trafford — or, indeed, Villa Park — earlier than he needed to.
13 Emmanuel Adebayor
Back in 2009, when he ran the length of the pitch at Eastlands to taunt them after scoring a headed goal past Manuel Almunia, Adebayor enraged Arsenal fans to the point of shooting missiles in anger. His actions demonstrated just how selfish he could be on one of the larger scales, having previously plied his trade with Arsene Wenger's men. He was almost unconcerned about how his petulance could cause injury or damage to stewards and other fans who could have been seriously injured as a result of the incident, either during or after it. Alternatively, he saw an opportunity to deceive them and seized it in one of the most self-centered and dangerous ways imaginable.
Dimitar Berbatov became the first Manchester United player to score three hat-tricks in a single season since Ruud Van Nistelrooy in the 2010-11 Premier League season. The Bulgarian was at the pinnacle of his career at the time, and it was the culmination of years of hard work and effort, but it also demonstrated what the mostly low-key scorer could do when he became greedy. In short, while he was arrogant up front, it always paid off for the team—but there was a drawback to his results as well. He is often absent from the defensive side of a team's game, forgetting to assist with tracking back. This isn't to say he doesn't contribute, particularly because coaches often use his height to defend set-pieces. Indeed, the most common misunderstanding in football is that Berbatov's languid style is actually laziness. That isn't the case, but it doesn't rule out the possibility of a bizarre bout of selfishness.
There's no denying Eto'o has achieved a lot in his long career. The Cameroonian has seen the pinnacle of the beautiful game, winning several titles, and although he is unquestionably nearing the end of his career, his three UCL winning medals, as well as his four African Player of the Year awards, cannot be overlooked. He wouldn't have accomplished much without his stubborn attitude, but that doesn't mean it hasn't ruffled a few feathers over the years. In reality, Roberto Carlos, who managed him at Anzhi Makhachkala, and Maicon both commented on how odd Eto'o can be when he's only playing for himself, with Carlos saying, "He has a part of him that believes in 'I, not the team,' which is extremely dangerous. It's strange and unsettling when a footballer is more interested in signing players who are his mates than in playing. He wants to sign players who are friends of his..."
When Nani joined Manchester United from Sporting CP in 2007, many speculated that he will become the next Cristiano Ronaldo. There were hints that he kept a special place in his heart for him. After all, they were both Portuguese, liked to play on the wings, and exuded more than a touch of swagger. Sadly, despite sharing one major characteristic with him—selfishness—he never rose to the same heights as his countryman. He was really a mixed bag of highs and lows. During the 2010-11 season, he had the most Premier League assists of any player. However, if the chips were down, he might as well self-implode. However, he was unable to add enough dignity to his team's ethics, and it's no wonder that he's now on the books of Fenerbahce, a team that recently failed to qualify for the Champions League qualifiers.
9 Mario Balotelli
In comparison to his show-stopping theatrics, Balotelli showed far too much of his low-key side as an erratic striker. Of course, "Super Mario" did give a lot back to the fans and charities in his day, so it's a little unfair to label him rude, but he plays for himself on the field more often than not. In reality, former teammate Adel Taarabt, who is regarded as a figure of contempt by many, has made no secret of his feelings toward the Italian in the past: "I played with him and can attest to his skill, but he did not strike me as a world-class player. He has a fantastic shot, but he does not play for the team."
When you're going over the list of clever one-liners Ibrahimovic has said in the past, it's almost second nature to crack a smile. The talented, if egotistical, Swedish international has made more headlines than he cares to remember, a talented, if egotistical, footballer who is as adept at scoring goals as he is at showing the media what they want to hear. However, he could be a little too greedy to come across. His squabbles with ex-managers and others have resulted in his tenure at several clubs being cut short. In reality, his time at Camp Nou with Barcelona saw him lose a lot of his appeal due to a lack of a necessary team work ethic. Fortunately, he has matured out of his flaws and is now a much more balanced professional for football fans all over the world.
In many ways, Robinho was the celebrity that we all knew about but never saw flourish. His is a long-term vow that he never kept, a tale that should have ended differently, much sooner. Unfortunately, he's on Guangzhou Evergrande's books, having squandered his prime years at some of the world's most prestigious clubs. He was too preoccupied with pulling tricks and running into corners with the ball that he couldn't stop, a sparkling performer, so he was simply too preoccupied with step-overs, flicks, and tricks to think of teammates in better positions. His selfishness was often chastised by fans from Manchester to Milan, and although he did gain some responsibility in his later years, it is fair to say that he would never be the great player that many expected him to be.
In 2005, Ronaldinho was voted the best player in the world. Almost every defender he ever encountered was beaten by the former Brazil international, who introduced football fans all over the world to some magical touches and samba talent. He was a Barcelona player at the time, but now he's back in Brazil, far from where he once stood in the world. In reality, "Dinho's" rapid deterioration was due to his inability to overcome personal flaws such as his strong night-life habit, as well as his selfish side's laziness. Despite the fact that he could win team matches in the blink of an eye, he had a habit of focusing much too much on it. Now that he is free of team commitments, he is more concerned with having a good time than with giving his opponents a hard time on the pitch.
5 Arjen Robben
The image of Robben charging at goal with the ball stuck to his feet will not be remembered fondly by the defenders who faced him. It is, however, a sight that football fans all over the world recall fondly. However, if there is one flaw in the Dutch star's history, it is his inability to blend into the fabric of a squad as well as he should. In a brawl with Thomas Muller in 2012, his self-focused play had him centered as well. He's always guilty of destroying a squad move with too much unnecessary dribbling or preferring to shoot more often than throw, but he's largely turned into a medal-winning athlete.
4 Reham Sterling
Selfishness can be a useful tool on occasion. It can serve as a personal stronghold for footballers, giving them something to fall back on when things get tough. Sterling was branded several things during his tumultuous departure from Anfield, but it was his label as "selfish" that struck a chord with many. Well, he made the decision to leave for Manchester City out of self-interest, but was it such a bad thing? It was a no-brainer to leave for a club with more money, a more creative midfield, and a place in the Champions League this season. Many people were irritated by his ascension to the next stage, but the recent Golden Boy award winner has the raw talent to make it in the Public. Now what he needs is a slew of goals and some silverware to keep his foes at bay.
3 Ben Arfa
Ben Arfa has been a bit inconsistent lately. The winger has fallen from favor and no longer suits the bill as a player that big clubs spend too much time pursuing on the transfer market. He was once regarded as one of France's most naturally talented footballers. "In the past, I was just thinking about myself," France's former youth international said of his selfish streak. "I had the impression that I was alone in the world." Although some of his outward appearances and maturity seem to cast doubt on his sincerity in addressing this deficiency.
In his prime, he was a striker whose off-field antics drew as much attention as his on-field exploits. Several years have passed since "O Baixinho" left the competitive side of the game, but the former Brazil international retains a special place in the beautiful game. As selfish as a goal scorer as he has certainly always been, his time with Wim Kieft at PSV Eindhoven said it all, as he refused to pass the ball to his teammate at all times. The best anecdote comes from Kieft himself: "He never passed it in front of the target." Meanwhile, I was passing the ball around a lot, which made it easier for him to score more goals. 'Thank you,' he'll say, 'and you'll get one from me next time.' However, he would only shoot when the "next moment" arrived.
Ronaldo, a colossus, a Champions League winner, and a former FIFA Ballon d'Or winner, has always piqued our curiosity with his extraordinary abilities and talent. His flexibility and adaptability are unquestionable, having represented some of the best teams in a variety of countries around the world. His ability to work as part of a team was repeatedly called into question. The Portuguese player has been chastised for going it alone in front of goal rather than squaring the ball to teammates in a better scoring spot. However, since you can score 17 goals in a Champions League season, he may be justified in being selfish.
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