A Good Tackle Can Bring a Crowd to Their Feet Like Scoring a Goal… But When They’re Bad, They Can Be So Dangerous… Check Out the 30 Worst Tackles in Soccer History…
As the old boys will tell you: football is a contact sport. It’s definitely changed over the last twenty years though, with a far lower tolerance of what’s an acceptable challenge and what is not. You used to be able to go through the back of a man, but now you can get booked even if you get the ball.
Today we’re going to take a look at some of the worst tackles in the history of the game. Some of them are brutal leg-breakers. Others are vicious assaults that somehow only managed to land a yellow card – there are a frightening amount of them. All of them are extremely entertaining.
So keep on scrolling to watch and read about the 30 worst tackles in soccer history below.
30. Richard Prokas on Patrick Viera
Let’s start this off with what’s just a proper atrocious tackle. Carlisle United was playing Arsenal in the third round of the FA Cup back in 2001 when this psychotic attempted assault happened. Patrick Viera was one of the best players in the world at the time, dominating the midfield for Arsenal. Carlisle’s Richard Prokas decided to do something about the Frenchman.
He came lunging in with two-footed raised off of the ground. Prokas’s body position actually looks like he’s sitting in a go-kart. Viera was sent sprawling and it turned out that his shin guard had actually been split in half by the Carlisle player’s mindless challenge. Referee Steve Lodge failed to book the player.
Just look how high Dirk Kuyt is off the ground. In this derby match against Everton, he brought a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘Flying Dutchman.’ Liverpool v Everton is known as the dirtiest rivalry in English football league. No other fixture has had more sendings-off or yellow cards. Kuyt didn’t even get booked for this one.
It’s actually hilarious how high off the ground he is. Kuyt soars into the air like a flying fish, before coming crashing down, with Phil Neville only just getting out of the way in time. It’s a fairly psychotic challenge and the way he managed to get away with it, just adds to how incredibly ridiculous the whole situation was. Neville got lucky.
You know you’re unpopular when the French public votes you as worse than Hitler. That’s exactly the situation that Harald Schumacher found himself in after obliterating Patrick Battiston in the 1982 World Cup semifinal. Germany was playing France for a place in the final when Battiston was sent through on goal, with just the goalkeeper to beat.
The Germany goalkeeper came flying out of his goal with no attempt to play the ball at all. He smashed in Battiston like a wrecking ball, sending the French forward flopping onto the ground where he just lay there. Michel Platini thought he had died. He lost two teeth and slipped into a coma, with medical staff having to give him oxygen on the pitch. That just gives new meaning to the word ‘reckless.’
Yes, there’s a special place for UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on this list. BJ decided to bring his brand of car crash politics onto the football pitch during a charity football game for Comic Relief. In doing so, he gave us one of the biggest WTF moments in the history of the sport. You’ve got to respect him for that.
For some reason – probably not even Johnson knows why – he decided to put his head down like a charging billy goat and ran headfirst into Germany legend Maurizio Gaudino. He sent his unfortunate victim sprawling onto the ground and then the floppy-haired maniac got up and ran away with a psychotic look at the cameras. Iconic.
When Liverpool play Everton things are always going to heat up. Players sometimes get overcome by passion though and get themselves sent off for doing something very stupid. Enter Ramiro Funes Mori, who decided that the best thing to do to Liverpool’s Divock Origi was to try and remove his foot at the ankle with a brutal stamp back in 2016.
Origi had been in the form of his life, leaping ahead of Daniel Sturridge in the Anfield pecking order. Mori cowardly stamped on the young Belgian’s ankle before grabbing his badge and pointing to it – much to the disgust of his own team’s support. It took Origi three years to get back to form. Now he’s a Champion’s League winner.
This was back when Diego Maradona was in a different class to every other football player on the planet. Maradona clashed with Andoni Goikoetxea when playing for Barcelona against Athletic Bilbao in one of the fiercest footballing derbies on the planet. After telling ‘Goiko’ to calm down and not get booked because his team was losing 3-0,” the Bilbao defender saw red.
He made the decision to go through the back of Maradona with the sole intention of maiming him – and boy, he was successful. ‘The Butcher of Bilbao’ broke the Argentine’s ankle and ruptured every ligament in the area. ‘Goiko’ was just booked but the Spanish FA slammed him with an 18-game ban. He’d only miss 7 and still make it back to win the league with Bilbao.
You either love or hate Robbie Savage, and for most football fans it was the latter. Savage is one of the most booked Premier League players ever and definitely wasn’t afraid to put himself about or wind up opposition players. He had a brief stint at Derby County and was actually the victim of a disgraceful tackle by Swansea City’s Spanish striker Gorka Pintado.
As you can see yourself, it’s a bad one. The Spaniard comes sliding in at the speed of light, going through Savage like a knife through butter. You have to love the way he moves on like nothing has happened but the Derby players weren’t having any of it. It all kicked off with players from both teams pushing and shoving each other. Finally, Pintado was sent off. Well deserved.
‘Gazza’ was a genius but he admits to still being haunted by this moment of madness. In the 1991 FA Cup final, he suffered a devastating injury that dogged him for the rest of his career. He lunged in on Forest’s Gary Charles, taking him out, but injuring himself in the process. Forest would score from the resulting freekick and Gazza looked like he was going to shake off his knock.
But he went down on the turf again in agony, having ruptured his cruciate ligament. It took him 16 months to get back on a football pitch. Let’s not take overlook how bad the actual tackle was though. Studs-up, shin-high, it’s a wonder Charles didn’t end up injured himself. This was a defining moment in Gascoigne’s underachieving career.
In the wake of Martin Taylor’s horrific leg-breaker on Arsenal’s Eduardo, the focus on removing heavy challenges from the game was never bigger. Too bad that Phil Bardsley didn’t get the memo. The Sunderland right-back is known as an abrasive character and was never afraid to put himself about the football pitch. So there was outrage when he launched into this tackle on Steven Pienaar.
The Everton winger was a slick and skilfull operator on his day. Bardsley was obviously offended by his short sleeves and gloves combo because he launched into Pienaar with a filthy shin-high challenge. He’d get booked for the offence and would later admit that he was lucky not to get sent off. It might not have been malicious but it was definitely stupidly reckless.
Ireland winger Stephen Hunt always played on the edge. With more tenacity to his game than skill, he described himself as always playing with controlled fury. Sometimes though, it wasn’t that controlled. Hunt is most notorious for fracturing Petr Cech’s skull, but actually, that was more of a freak accident. His tackle on Manchester City’s Gerson Fernandes though…
As you can see from the video above, Hunt scythed into Fernandes’s leg with two feet off of the ground. It was brutal and potentially devastating. He would apologise after the match for his action. It definitely didn’t help him to improve his reputation in the UK. On the day though he’d only get a yellow card for nearly removing Fernandes’s leg.
This one is straight out of the Nigel De Jong playbook. Scotland and Aston Villa fullback Alan Hutton decided to take the martial arts approach to football. He went studs-up into the Burundi forwards midriff with what looked like a Muay Thai front kick. Oh and he’d only get booked for the bit of dangerous play.
Hutton was known as a committed player. Others would call him dirty. Considering that was his tenth booking of the 2014/15 campaign in just March, you might think that they have a point. Definitely deserving of a red card. Although judging from Berahino’s reputation, you can bet some of his teammates would have liked to do the same thing to him.
Sir Alex Ferguson accused Fulham’s Michael Brown of ‘threatening’ Ryan Giggs’s career after this brutal and vicious ‘ challenge.’ Calling it a tackle is giving him too much credit. This was a fully-fledged assault by one of the dirtiest players to step onto a Premier League football pitch.
The tackle happened down by the touchline at Old Trafford. Giggs was in possession when Brown launched in like a torpedo. He made no attempt to play the ball, appearing to deliberately stamp on the Manchester United legend’s knee. Once again, the referee only booked him. A ludicrous decision because this was pure filth.
Newcastle United actually considered legal action against Callum McManaman following this violent challenge on Massadio Haidara. The Magpies were playing Wigan Athletic when the violent challenge took place. It was a 50/50 challenge for the ball when McManaman, then a bright young starlet, went in with a horrible knee-high challenge.
Astonishingly, he got away with it. The referee’s line of sight was blocked by a Newcastle player and the linesman somehow didn’t see it as a foul. Haidara suffered extensive ligament damage from the ‘overexuberant’ tackle. The definition of x-rated. To rub salt into the wounds of Newcastle, assistant manager John Carver was charged by the FA for confronting McManaman.
Portugal’s Pepe is a player who has lived on the edge for the entirety of his career. A master of the dark arts and cynical play, he’s notorious for diving and generally playing the villain. When he was at Real Madrid, he had the perfect counterpart in Sergio Ramos, the most sent-off player in La Liga history.
Pepe is capable of moments of pure disgrace though. Check out this clash with Francisco Casquero of city rivals Getafe. After pushing him down in the box, Pepe followed up by hacking at his legs and then dragging his studs up his opponent’s back. A savage and remorseless moment from the former Real Madrid man.
One of a few genuine hardmen in football, Graeme Souness brought a level of intensity to every pitch he stepped on that can’t be overstated. While playing for Rangers, the former Liverpool captain unleashed this thuggish tackle on Romania and Steaua Bucharest legend Gheorge Rotariu, going through him with a vicious knee-high strike.
Rotariu’s lymph nodes actually burst as a result for the tackle. Because the studs were made from metal rather than plastic as they are mostly today, he suffered deep gashes. The doctor informed him that he could have actually died if it were a couple of inches higher. That’s extreme.
Sometimes you’ve just got to wonder what people are thinking. That’s exactly the case with Chris Mavinga as he went head-high with a challenge on Mehdi Carcela, with one of the most hilariously bad tackles we’ve ever seen. Mavinga was playing for Genk when the shocking tackle happened against the Standard Liege player.
He came barging in like a ninja trying to kick a samurai off a horse. Carcela was probably lucky that he didn’t end up decapitated. Mavinga only got a yellow card, despite breaking the Moroccan’s cheek, nose and right eye socket, forcing him to get reconstructive surgery.
Axel Witsel is a genuinely brilliant player. The defensive midfielder has been highly effective everywhere he’s played on a bizarrely nomadic career, from Russia to China and now with Borussia Dortmund in Germany. He’s very calm and composed on the ball and also an excellent tackler. Except for this one time while playing for Standard Liege against Anderlecht.
Marcin Wasilewski came in with a tackle and Witsel calmly got out of the way. The problem was that as he moved, he stamped on the Pole’s ankle, almost slicing it off. It’s one of the most vicious sights you will ever see on a football pitch. He was initially banned for three months by the Belgian FA, but it was reduced to 8 games on appeal. Not good at all.
It says a lot about Kevin Muscat that there’s a video on Youtube called ‘Top Three Horrible Tackles by Kevin Muscat’ because he was exactly that type of player. ‘The Most Hated Man in Football’ was never selected for an Old Firm derby during his time with Rangers because of his temperament. That also says a lot.
When you see this shocking tackle, injuring Melbourne Heart’s Adrian Zahra, it suddenly makes sense that he received 123 yellow cards and 12 red cards in a career called the dirtiest ever by El Gol Digital. He was just that type of guy.
Brian Mullan has won five MLS Cups. That’s an outstanding achievement for one of the league’s most effective players, but the sad truth is that his career will forever be overshadowed by one reckless mistake. While playing for the Colorado Rapids he viciously lunged in on the Seattle Sounders’ best player, Steven Zakuani.
Zakuani suffered a double leg break with his shattered limb hanging horribly inside his sock as he crashed to the ground. Mullan was given a ten-game ban and $5000 fine by the MLS, but the damage to his reputation is irrevocable.
The second goalkeeper to make this list, Nuno Claro made Harald Schumacher’s assault on Patrick Battiston look gentle. This one went down in the Romanian league back in 2009, when CFR Cluj played Astra in a league game. Claro spent six seasons with Cluj and is a bit of a legend there, but he’ll always be remembered for this insanity above.
Georgian Paun was running through on goal when Claro decided to charge out of the box and karate-kick him in the chest. The momentum of Claro as he slammed into Paun was ridiculous. He instantly got sent off – despite his hilarious attempts at playing down what had just happened. You’ve almost got to love it.
An infamous challenge, the young Aaron Ramsey was seen as a potential superstar by Arsenal. The Gunners took on newly-promoted Stoke in 2010, well aware of the Potter’s abrasive style. Basically, Stoke was the antithesis of Arsene Wenger’s style of football, and their central defender Ryan Shawcross was the epitome of their footballing model.
Shawcross flew into a challenge that was later called “horrendous and unacceptable” by Wenger. He shattered fibula and tibia with the brutal tackle that saw him get a deserved red card. Even though his manager Tony Pulis and the player himself insisted that he’s “not that type” of player, it’s a bit late when you break another man’s leg.
The World Cup Final is the game that almost every international player dreams of starring in. In 2010, the final was held in Cape Town, South Africa, with the Netherlands taking on Spain. The event was guaranteed to give us a new champion, with Spain eventually going onto win. It was a victory for football because the Dutch were dirty all game.
While Mark Van Bommel must have fouled every player on the pitch at least once, it was Nigel De Jong who stole his thunder. Right in front of referee Howard Webb, De Jong literally karate kicked Xabi Alonso in the chest. We’re talking full-on assault. He got a yellow card for his blatant high-foot. Talk about endangering your opponent…
There’s nothing quite like non-league football is there? Back in 2005-06, Exeter City and Accrington Stanley – both football league clubs today – were playing in the Conference. Now the further down the divisions you go, the worse the standard of refereeing that you get. But Roger East – a future Premier League official – will surely shudder if he looks back and sees this one.
Exeter was on the attack through Chris Todd when Peter Cavanagh decided that he’d put an end to it once and for all. He came flying in like a torpedo. Honestly, the speed of this tackle is absolutely ridiculous. Two-footed? Check. Both feet off the ground? Check. Miss the ball? Check. And he only got a yellow card. Oh dear…
One of the worst tackles in recent history was this horrible leg-breaker on Croatian striker Eduardo. Martin Taylor was playing for Birmingham against Arsenal in 2008 when we saw one of the goriest leg-breaks ever. The best that can be said about it was that it was clumsy rather than malicious, but that was of no comfort to Eduardo whose leg was wrecked by the challenge.
Taylor came flying in late, breaking both Eduardo’s fibula and tibia and dislocating his ankle. For sheer damage, it’s one of the worst tackles on this list. Eduardo was never the same player after he came back. But the way he handled his reaction to Taylor was pure class, letting the Birmingham player off the hook for his brutal act.
Ian Wright is one of the greatest strikers in Premier League history. Peter Schmeichel is one of the best goalkeepers to ever play in the UK. So the two of these men were always set to be on a collision course. One Arsene Wenger’s home debut against Manchester United, Wright delivered one of the most notorious moments in the modern history of the two team’s rivalry.
Wright was running through on goal when Schmeichel came out of his goal to close him down. As the Danish keeper came towards him, Wright decided to jump in with two feet, narrowly missing his opponent’s head. Sir Alex Ferguson was outraged in the manager’s box and no wonder. This could have been so much worse than it was.
Former Fulham midfielder Michael Brown insisted that he ‘wasn’t that type of player,’ despite obviously being that type of player. He slid into a vicious two-footed tackle against Portsmouth’s Sean Davis back in 2006 and was sent off for the disgraceful action. Davis would accuse him after the match of trying to break his leg. Brown strongly denied it.
It’s fairly clear though that if he wasn’t trying to break his leg, he definitely didn’t care about the risk of it. On another day, Davis could have been looking for a new ankle. Brown had a reputation for being a so-called ‘hard man’ throughout his career. He was sent off just ten minutes into his debut for Manchester City as a 17-year-old. That set the tone of his career.
The Solomon Islands are hardly known as footballing powerhouses, but they did produce Commins Menapi. He was responsible for one of the worst tackles in the history of the game, so that’s got to count for something right. In 2006 he was playing in the New Zealand Cup final for Waitakere United against Auckland City when he did exactly what you just saw above.
This one was so bad that Menapi should have seen two red cards. The ball was on the ground, but Menapi was in the air as he flew into Riki Van Steeden, breaking the unfortunate player’s leg. He was hit with a 6-match ban for the incident. Sadly, he’d die four years later at the age of 40.
It might be hard to imagine but there was a Manchester City before their oil-rich Abu Dhabi investors took over and this is what it looked like. Ben Thatcher was playing against Portsmouth in 2006 when for some reason he decided to commit GBH on Pedro Mendes. Instead of shouldering him or sliding in like a normal person, he shoulder charged Mendes, sending him sprawling.
Mendes was left unconscious and would require oxygen. He was brought to the hospital where he suffered seizures during the night before he was released the next day. The FA suspended Thatcher for eight games and a further fifteen game suspended ban for two years. The craziest thing is that referee Dermot Gallagher only booked Thatcher.
You know things are bad when you end up in court for a tackle that you committed on the football pitch. That’s exactly what happened to the Mpumalanga Black Ace captain Felix Musasa. Musasa was playing in the South African league against the Carara Kicks when he let loose with one of the worst leg breaks we’ve ever seen.
Musasa drove into a high challenge on Bhuti Ngubali, shattering his unfortunate victim’s leg in two places. Obviously, he was sent off because he turned his opponent’s leg into jelly. That’s as nasty a break as we’ve ever seen. Musasa was fined R100,000 and slammed with a four-month suspension. You just can’t be doing that.
Could anything else take the top stop? This was one of the most infamous tackles in the entire history of football. When Roy Keane suffered a serious injury against Leeds, he remembered Alf-Inge Haaland shouting abuse at him to get up. The incident stood long in the Manchester United captain’s memory and he was determined to get revenge on the Norway international.
Four years later the pair clashed again. In 2001, Keane flew into a challenge with the now-Manchester City midfielder smashing Haaland’s already injured knee. He was immediately sent off. The image above of him standing over Haaland is now notorious. Keane’s admission in his autobiography that it was deliberate saw him fined and slammed with a five-game ban.