The Premier League would be a much lesser place without the maverick. From the kung fu kicking of Cantona and hoarding bashing of Temuri Ketsbaia, to the loveable madness of Di Canio and Ravanelli, English football has always been peppered with players who will either leave you in the lurch or fire you to a glorious victory. These are the men who make managers tear their hair out and cause fans to flock to the stands. They wouldn't be much use on a rainy Tuesday night in Doncaster, but they probably wouldn't show up anyway.
In no particular order, this is a list of ten of my favourite current Premier League mavericks. Have a read and share your stories and suggestions.
Stephen Ireland is a lovely guy. Just ask his grandmother, who found about her death in a newspaper after Ireland had sought to fashion a feasible excuse to avoid International duty. Baby Pink Bentley's, Shisha pipes, and an upside down hair design also feature high up on his list of favourite things. Despite his off the pitch issues, one can still recall Ireland's excellent form whilst at Manchester City. He won their player of the year award in 2009, after his deft touches and calm finishing had yielded nine goals and nine assists in thirty-four Premier League starts.
Adel Taarabt hasn't scored a Premier League goal in 19 games this season. It's not for the want of shooting every time he gets the ball. Even more concerningly, he's been criticised for sulking by that bastion of Premier League virtues, Joey Barton. Taarabt is as likely to be found nipping on a bus at White City after being substituted as he is to be seen mourning a failed move to PSG or dribbling beautifully down a blind alley. If ever there was a player who looked like a man among boys in the Championship but became a sobbing schoolgirl in the big league, it's Taarabt.
Morten Gamst Pederson
Owner of the most repeated middle name in British football (to the point that his personal website can be found at gamst.co.uk), Gammo's silky demeanor and blonde highlights give clues to his off-the-pitch interests. As frontman of the Norwegian boyband The Players, Morten proves his ability stretches far beyond feeding Yak's on the football pitch. A player capable of occasional thunderbolt free kicks and devilish crosses, the reason he has remained at Blackburn for so long only becomes apparent if you have to watch him every week.
The second musician in the list, and again, a player who loves his middle name enough to have it pointed out on the back of his shirt. Royston Ricky is a founding member of a rap-duo with fellow Dutchman Ryan Babel (Rio and Roya) and recently refuted suggestions he had applied for planning permission to build a nightclub in his flat. Between stunning goals, electric pace and madcap antics, Drenthe has seen his fair share of controversy, from his one-man strike at Hercules to the "anxiety issues" brought about by a less than complimentary crowd at Real Madrid.
Sadly, everyone's second-favourite Meerkat has returned to Russia, but manages to secure his place on this list due his move to Zenit only being a loan deal. A player who dazzled at Euro 2008 before slaying Liverpool with four goals at Anfield, the rest of his career in English football is probably best forgotten. His undeniable class was left untapped in a whirlwind of shrugged shoulders and ostracisms to the wing. He also runs arguably the greatest Q&A section in sport, which can be found on his website. A Sample: One fan who asked about the most important attribute for a football player was greeted with the response "A head, not only for a footballer but for any person." Simples.
Grass allergies, bib confrontations, bathroom fireworks and backyard go-karting should be enough for Balotelli to secure the captaincy of any maverick team, but perhaps his on-the-pitch experiences surpass even his wildcard social behaviour. From stonewall celebrations and crowd goading to pre-season friendly showboating; Balotelli has peppered the ridiculous with moments of sublime brilliance. The gift that just keeps on giving.
Dimitar Berbatov has cut an increasingly isolated figure at Manchester United this season. He was once a £30m transfer deadline day signing, with a press release photograph suitable for any Dracula adaptation. Despite accusations of being a flat-track bully after ending last season as joint Premier League top scorer, Berbatov has at times amazed (a hat-trick against Liverpool) and at others provoked the kind of face-rubbing Roy Hogdson would be proud of (rolling penalties straight at the goalkeeper). A player of stunning talent and unpredictability, he would flourish alongside Balotelli in any maverick XI.
Ivan Klasnic has started 26 games for Bolton in the Premier League. He has come on as a sub in a further 42. In this time he has scored 24 goals. Despite his excellent record, his wildcard nature means he has never grabbed a starting place consistently. He is an excellent finisher, and is even more prolific off the pitch. Klasnic is being divorced by his wife after a surprise visit to his flat yielded a room full of women's clothes and various compromising photographs. He is also the first footballer to play in a major international tournament after a kidney transplant.
Since joining Chelsea in 2011, Luiz has become a cult icon. His bouffant mop has brought much adulation, this praise counteracted by the reaction to his attempts at becoming a Premier League defender. Luiz has bought flair to Chelsea, often found marauding all around the pitch and attempting measured efforts at goal and incisive through balls. His only flaw is that he is supposed to be a defender. His woeful positioning, schoolboy clearances (see his "effort" against Napoli) and questionable decisions have cost Chelsea dearly this season and serve as a reminder of why Brazilian players aren't renowned for their defensive attributes.
Although he is unlikely to return to England at the end of a loan deal with United Arab Emirates side Al Ain, Gyan makes this list on the basis that he is still officially a Sunderland player. Upon leaving Sunderland, Gyan celebrated his move to an "important" side whose average attendance reads just 4,817, presumably one fan for every thousand pounds he makes each week. Gyan was a hit in England for his style rather than his goals, with his famous celebratory dance upon scoring a goal coupled with his part-time rap career as 'Baby Jet' signifying a lovable madness. On the pitch, Gyan would be best advised to avoid the penalty spot, having missed vital spot kicks in both the World Cup Quarter Final and African Nations Cup Semi Final before quitting International Football indefinitely, presumably to concentrate on the rapping, dancing and ways to spend his handsome fortune.
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