Footballers are rarely universally loved, no matter who they are or what they have achieved. And sometimes even those who command great respect or adoration are hated in equal measure.
These seven heroes divide the world of football…
David Beckham can lay claim to being a Manchester United and England legend for numerous achievements in both shirts – including six Premier League titles and the most capped Three Lions outfield player in history. He also enjoyed great success in the United States, was popular in Spain, and dedicates a lot of his time to charity work in his retirement.
But despite an army of adoring fans around the world, there are those that just don’t see eye-to-eye with ‘Brand Beckham’. To them, he was an overrated footballer who cashed in on ‘celebrity’ pursuits.
A dazzlingly talented footballer, arguably the closest that Brazil has found to finally fill the enormous boots of Pele, but one whose penchant for theatrics on the pitch have made it difficult for fans to fully embrace Neymar as the superstar his ability dictates he should be.
The Brazilian can still be the next ‘best player in the world’, but he will never be universally adored unless he adapts his on-field person personality and evolves into a mature professional.
Jose Mourinho is one of the most successful managers of the 21st century after winning trophies for Porto, Chelsea, Inter, Real Madrid and Manchester United. His record is impossible to argue with and that alone has given him loyal supporters that refuse to see any potential shortcomings.
For others, the Portuguese’s apparent shortcomings are all they can see. For the detractors, his acrimonious exits from both Chelsea and Manchester United in the last three years trump everything else as modern football moves on without him.
One of four players in history with genuine credentials to be labelled the ‘greatest of all time’, Diego Maradona has long divided opinion among fans over his incredible innate ability and success on the greatest stage, and a string of controversies from flagrant cheating to drug use.
The 1986 World Cup quarter final against England sums it up rather perfectly, showcasing Maradona at his worst – the ‘Hand of God’ goal – and his best – the solo strike that saw him dribble past half the England team to score. Both have become iconic in their own way.
Luis Suarez has emerged as one of football’s great love/hate figures over the last decade, combining great achievements with a lengthy rap list of offences. He even managed to rile Liverpool fans when he celebrated scoring against them in the Champions League.
The Uruguayan is one of the great strikers of his generation, netting over 450 times for club and country to date, and proving himself in multiple countries. Then there are accusations of diving, a ban for racially abusing Patrice Evra, and three suspensions for biting opponents.
He is the born winner who will seemingly do almost anything to get his hands on trophies and Sergio Ramos commands great respect and sour hate as one of the most decorated footballers, both at club and international level, of the last 20 years.
The huge divide over Ramos reached its peak in 2018 after a heavy challenge on Mohamed Salah in the Champions League final between Real Madrid and Liverpool. The Spaniard embraces it because his aggressive competitiveness has clearly worked.
Cristiano Ronaldo has won five Champions League titles, five Ballon d’Or awards, and scored nearly 700 goals and counting during his career to date. Ordinarily, that level of achievement might yield unadulterated love and admiration, but CR7 has plenty of haters.
His is often perceived as greedy and arrogant, two qualities, however accurate, that are sure to paint a very negative picture indeed. And when great personal rival Lionel Messi has the public image of a well behaved schoolboy, it makes it even harder for Ronaldo to win over his critics.
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