Football is no stranger to rivalries, with clubs and fans alike having complete hatred for their counterparts. However, in modern-day football, it’s hard to see these rivalries spill out onto the pitch, with players having far more respect for their opponents.
This wasn’t always the case as many players grew to have a severe dislike for their opposition and in some cases, real-life drama outside of football would spill onto the pitch.
Now I haven’t included everyone’s favourite rivalries and I won’t be including people like Messi and Ronaldo, who although have a rivalry is built more out of the spirit of competition rather than a serious hatred towards one another. Instead, we will be focusing on 5 pairs of players who have genuine hostility towards one another.
Gary Neville & Jamie Carragher
You’d be forgiven for thinking that these two were the best of friends now that they both currently work for Sky Sports, but on the pitch, these two England legends hated each other.
Whilst the Liverpool, Manchester United derby is one of the most recognized and heated derbies in England, not too many players embodied this more than the defensive duo.
Both players were born in the respective cities and played their entire careers for those clubs. Nevertheless, you could always guarantee fireworks when these two stepped out onto the pitch together.
With neither wanting to lose to the other both players would but their bodies on the line, making rash challenges, hard hits, and giving grief to their opposing players to put them off their game.
Although the two are now comfortable in each other presence whilst working for Sky, the rivalry between the two will go down in history between the two clubs.
John Terry & Wayne Bridge
Now probably one of the most famous rivalries in footballing history is based on the two former England internationals. Bridge and Terry both played for the Three Lions and Chelsea and also played alongside each other in the defense for both teams.
Nothing untoward until a certain Chelsea captain ended up sleeping with his then teammates’ wife. As you can expect that this would cause a massive amount of friction between the pair, leaving the former best friends unable to work together for either club or country.
Although Terry was the instigator, it was Bridge that was made to move on from Stamford Bridge to Manchester City and was then subsequently dropped from the England side.
The reason that this falls so far down the list as there was no actual bust-up between the players, Bridge refused to shake Terry’s hand when the players met on the pitch but that was as close as we got to an on-field battle.
Mauro Icardi & Maxi Lopez
Another tale of best friends, turning mortal enemies and over another affair! Icardi and Lopez were best friends whilst playing for Barcelona at the beginning of their respective careers.
Icardi would later move to Sampdoria but would soon be followed by his former teammate Lopez less than a year later. Icardi, who had already struck up a relationship with Lopez’s wife would then betray his friend and embark on an affair that would not only ruin a family but also a career.
It was obvious that the two could no longer play on the same team after it was made public knowledge that Icardi was sleeping with his teammates’ wife, but again the instigator would come out on top receiving a move to Inter Milan.
Lopez’s wife, Wanda, would then divorce him and take their three kids with her to Milan alongside new husband Icardi. Lopez has never recovered from this betrayal, whereas Icardi has gone on to play Champions League football for both Inter and PSG.
When the players did meet on the pitch again the only outcome was the refusal to shake hands but this ranks higher than the Terry and Bridge saga as Icardi not only went on to marry Lopez’s ex-wife but also had 2 children himself with her and gets to look after his 3 children that the couple already had.
Patrice Evra & Luis Suarez
Another rivalry coming from the Manchester United and Liverpool matches but born out of something a lot more serious than the actual game of football.
During a game between the two sides, Suarez was allegedly racist towards Evra on the pitch although the Uruguayan used his native language.
Suarez was found guilty of being racist but this was really only the tip of the iceberg between the two. The next time Liverpool played United, Suarez refused to shake Evra’s hand before the game which led to some very heavy challenges being made by the Frenchman.
After the game in Manchester United won, Evra would celebrate with the fans in front of a departing Suarez. This began an on-field fight between the two sets of players that would continue down the tunnel after the game.
Evra recently announced that the Liverpool chairman sent him a personal letter apologizing for the actions of Suarez and the Liverpool players, who during Suarez’s ban would warn up in tops supporting the striker and appealing the ban.
Roy Keane & Patrick Vieira
The most famous and heated derby has to be between these two titans of the game. Roy Keane and Patrick Vieira captained both Manchester United and Arsenal respectively and would not clash when the two faced off.
Keane and Vieira had a true sense of malice towards one another and played fully for the badge, whether that be for club or country.
But the two had many heated and tense moments on and off the pitch with the most famous taking place in the tunnel before the game even took place.
The major incident took place in 2005 where Man United traveled to Highbury. Keane believed that Vieira was bully then captain Gary Neville before the game, Keane took exception to this and began to speak up on behalf of his fellow teammate.
Patrick would squirt his water bottle in the direction of Roy Keane which only aggravated him more. The Irishman is caught on camera before the teams walked out saying “we’ll see out there”, insinuating that a battle was about to commence.
Keane and Vieira would trade hard challenges between themselves and fellow teammates, both trying to gain the upper hand on their opponents. Vieira would put Arsenal ahead but it was United that would go on to win the game 4-2.
However, the main takeaway from the game was the classic rivalry that was born between the two midfield generals.
That’s my list of the top 5 player rivalries ever, let me know in the comments below if there are any that you think should be included.
I know Kieron Dyer and Lee Bowyer could easily be on this list but with both playing for the same team when the on-field fight took place I decided to avoid that incident. As well I could have included anyone with Joey Barton but then this list would just be players that Joey Barton upset.