Football’s Greatest Feuds


In light of Gareth Bale and Charlie Adam’s dislike for each other, we look at the other players who didn’t quite see eye to eye.

1. Johan Cruyff v Louis van Gaal

…Some speculated that the root of their problem was Cruyff’s anger that Van Gaal guided his beloved Ajax to Champions League glory in 1995, a feat that Cruyff had not managed to achieve during his three years at the helm in the previous decade.

…Van Gaal also followed in Cruyff’s footsteps by becoming manager of Barcelona, but his reign there was short – partially, he says, because Cruyff continually criticised him in the Catalan press. “I will never forgive what he did,” wrote Van Gaal. “I tried to do a good job despite his attempts to frustrate.”

…Knowing they would never get Cruyff on side, the other four went ahead and hired Van Gaal while Cruyff was away. “They’ve gone mad!” wrote Cruyff in his newspaper column after finding out. Suggesting that the future of Ajax was at stake and that the club’s cherished youth system would suffer under Van Gaal, Cruyff took Ajax to court to block the appointment.

2. John Harkes v Eric Wynalda

…The USA manager Steve Sampson enjoyed no such smooth ride before the 1998 World Cup, when his decision to omit one of the country’s best players, John Harkes, was loudly condemned, especially after the US lost all three matches, including a painful defeat to Iran. At the time Sampson, who was sacked after the tournament, explained that Harkes was left out because of “leadership issues”. Only a decade later did he elaborate: Harkes was dropped because of an affair with his the wife of team-mate Eric Wynalda.

3. Georges Santos and Andy Johnson.

…The midfielder had suffered a fractured cheekbone and damaged eye in a match against Nottingham Forest the previous season and Andy Johnson, the player whose elbow had been central to that incident, was now playing for West Brom. Lo and behold, one minute after entering the fray Santos was sent off for a dangerous high tackle on Johnson. Grudge, what grudge? A melee broke out following Santos’ expulsion, after which Patrick Suffo was shown a red card for head-butting Derek McInnes, who later in the match found himself on a collision course with Keith Curle’s fists.

4. Edmundo v Romário

…In 1998 when Edmundo replaced his injured chum in the Brazil squad Romário gave an indication of what he thought of the decision in a bar that he owned: he decorated the men’s toilet with a picture of Edmundo sitting on a burst ball.

…The following year Vasco da Gama decided it would be an excellent idea to pair the duo again and that scheme went well for a couple of months, until the club decided to take the captaincy off Edmundo and hand it to Romário, prompting the former to storm out of the dressing room… When both went to take a penalty in a subsequent league match, Edmundo was aghast when the manager signalled that he should leave it to Romário – who missed. “The king decided his prince should take it,” snarled Edmundo at the media, referring to the perceived favouritism shown to Romário by the club president, Eurico Miranda.

After scoring in Vasco’s next match, Romário told the media: “Now, everyone in the kingdom is happy – the king, the prince and the court jester.”

5. Brian McClair v Nigel Winterburn

Manchester United v Arsenal was the rivalry that defined at least a decade of English football and perhaps the most unassuming Scot at Old Trafford played a big part in kicking it off. Brian McClair missed a penalty for United at Highbury in 1989 and copped a mouthful of mockery from Arsenal left-back Nigel Winterburn. So when Winterburn fouled Denis Irwin when the sides met again at Old Trafford in October 1990, McClair decided to take action.

“The United players decided it was payback time,” Winterburn recalled in the Independent in 2008. “I remember being on the ground and getting a few kicks in the back – I don’t know how many – and then pretty much everyone piled in except the goalkeepers. It was all because of something I’d said to Brian McClair after he missed a penalty at Highbury.”

The result was a mass brawl that led to Arsenal being docked two points and United one.

Read the entire article: From Cruyff v Van Gaal to Winterburn v McClair – football’s greatest feuds.

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