With 2018 all but complete, we take a look back at those who drew the ire of the football world over the past 12 months.
6. Gianni Infantino
Just a bald Sepp Blatter? There was cautious optimism Infantino would be able to clean up the monumental mess he inherited, but suspicion has continued to grow in recent months. Infantino has been accused of trying to “sell the soul of football” by introducing new tournaments and expanding existing ones. Football Leaks revelations also suggest he helped both Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City in their efforts to circumvent Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules.
Yes, Neymar takes an inordinate amount of physical punishment when he’s on the pitch; he was fouled more times (26) than any other player at this summer’s World Cup. But the histrionics are just too much, and worse still, they take the attention away from his stupefying talent. The Brazilian star, who also spent more time on the ground than any player in the aforementioned tournament, continued to take heavy criticism in 2018 for constantly flopping around like a fish out of water. If nothing else, at least the memes his antics spawn are wonderful.
4. Jose Mourinho
Paul Pogba is free. Since Mourinho was given the inevitable ax by Manchester United, the French midfielder has scored four goals and provided three assists in just a trio of matches; he’s playing with a smile on his face and seems to once again be enjoying himself on the pitch. There are plenty of transgressions to choose from when it comes to Mourinho – the dour tactics, the tiresome press conferences, and more – but simply for robbing us of the chance to enjoy one of the most expressive, talented footballers in the game, the Portuguese manager lands on our naughty list for 2018.
3. River Plate fans
What should have been a stunning spectacle for Argentine football descended into chaos when the second leg of the Copa Libertadores final was suspended thanks to an attack on the Boca Juniors’ team bus by River Plate fans. The authorities received plenty of blame, and rightfully so, for their porous planning and lackluster response to the incident, but the fact remains that River’s fans are primarily responsible for the debacle that ensued.
2. Anybody who voted Lionel Messi 5th for the Ballon d’Or
A lot of journalists who submitted a ballot for the 2018 Ballon d’Or award need to do some serious soul-searching. Messi is the best player on the planet, and, incredibly, he finished fifth in the voting. Luka Modric was a worthy recipient of the honor, but seriously, fifth? For shame.
1. Sergio Ramos
The ultimate villain. Simply ending Mohamed Salah’s Champions League final prematurely with a sly armbar – and in doing so, effectively turfing the hopes of not only Liverpool, but Egypt at the World Cup – wasn’t enough. The decorated Real Madrid center-back, in such truly wicked fashion that you can’t help but almost appreciate it, reveled in his role. What good is injuring someone’s shoulder if you can’t twist the knife?
Ramos has honed his villainy over the years, and in 2018, he assumed the throne from Diego Costa as football’s king of nefarity.