Infidelities, threats, punches and broken ribs. We've got them all in the following article, and even more. Some football players simply can't stand one another, but they do their best to keep their rivalries off the news. But then, there are others who'll take every chance to vent the grudge they hold against their rivals. We've put together the list of the 10 greatest football rivalries between players, of those who didn't even try to keep their rivalries out of the media's attention.
John Terry and Wayne Bridge
John Terry and Wayne Bridge starred in one of the best-publicised fights in recent years. They played together in Chelsea and the English national team. In January 2010, the British media vented an affair between Terry and Bridge's then girlfriend Vanessa Perroncel. To avoid crossing paths with his former friend and team-mate, Bridge gave up his place in the national team. However, they met again on the field when Chelsea faced Manchester City in the local tournament. In the classic handshake before every game, Bridge avoided even looking at Terry. Fabio Capello, the English team's coach at the time, decided to strip Terry from the captaincy after the event.
Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi
The rivalry between Cristian Ronaldo and Lionel Messi is easy to understand. Not only is each frequently regarded as the best current football player (they've been alternatively ranked fist and second world's best player by FIFA since 2011), but they are also lead figures in the two best Spanish football clubs, Real Madrid and Barcelona. In spite of these similarities, they represent two radically different kinds of player. While Ronaldo usually looks like an arrogant and greedy superstar, Messi is more of a humble simpleton, a home-grown talent that knows how to work to his team's strengths. Luckily for us, they are set to face each other at least twice a year. And when that happens, they set the bar even higher for each another, letting us watch some of the best football out there.
Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard
For some years now, picking Gerrard or Lampard has been a strategic question for the English national team. Having these two very talented attacking midfielders isn't as much of a boon for the national team as one would expect. They'll both play in the coming World Cup, as captain and vice-captain respectively, and their rivalry is not as much a matter of animosity as it is of compatibility. Even though they have different playing styles, with Gerrard playing more defensively while Lampard has a bigger role in the attack, they are both excellent free-kickers and penalty takers. If the team needs two players that, as good as they might be share such similar traits, remains a matter of debate. Some argue that they complement each other, while others say that having them both on the field at the same time is a waste of talent. With both of them approaching their mid-thirties, the World Cup in Brazil might be these players' last chance to prove theorists either way.
Gustavo Munúa and Dudu Aouate
These La Coruña goalkeepers engaged in a fistfight during a training session, where Munúa hit Aouate twice in the left eye. The on-site medics had to give the Israeli player 8 stitches to close the wound. Aouate had been the coach's first choice during the whole 2008 season, but was swapped for Munúa after a technical error in a match against Mallorca. "I don't know what the coach was thinking about. He took me out and I think it's an unfair decision," Aouate told the press after the match. Munúa didn't like it, and went straight to talk to him during their next training. "It was a heated moment for both of us. We discussed it from afar, and then we jumped at each other. It didn't take longer than 10 seconds," said Munúa. Some months later, Aouate left the team entirely saying: "He might have thought he would lose the first-choice status. I never expected we would brawl for it."
Mauro Icardi and Maxi López
The fight between Maxi Lopez and Mauro Icardi took place on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and even a Pepsi advertisement. These two Argentine footballers turned into great friends after playing for the Italian Sampdoria during the 2011 season. The relationship crumbled immediately after Lopez announced his separation from Wanda Nara, his then wife. A few weeks later, Icardi and the blonde bombshell publicised they were in a relationship through Twitter. Since then, Lopez and Icardi are nothing less than arch-enemies. When they met again in a match between Sampdoria and Inter (Icardi's current club), Lopez refused to shake his former team-mate's hand. Not satisfied with having taken his former team-mate's wife, Icardi starred along Nara in a TV commercial for the fizzy drink brand where they tacitly mocked Lopez. A few days later, the Sampdoria striker sent Pepsi a cease-and-desist order to get the commercial off the air.
Teddy Sheringham and Andy Cole
Can you not talk to your team-mate for 15 years and still be an incredible attacking duo? Sure, Teddy Sheringham and Andy Cole managed that particular feat for Manchester United. "We played together for many years, we scored a lot of goals and yet he never said a word," said Cole in 2010. They hated each other with a passion, but nobody could trace the origin of the dispute, nor understand how they still managed to play together so well. However, the reason for their mutual contempt was revealed by Cole himself in a column he wrote for The Independent. Cole played his first match with the English national team as a substitute for Sheringham. When the coach announced the switch, Sheringham refused to shake his hand with Cole. "I was embarrassed. I was confused. And there you have it. From that moment on, I knew Sheringham was not for me," Cole revealed.
Alessandro Del Piero vs. Francesco Totti
These two Italian forwards share a rivalry marked by the long history of their respective teams. Del Piero played for Juventus for almost twenty years, while Francesco Totti played his whole adult life in Roma. After such careers, their faces are so closely associated with their teams, which share a long standing rivalry in Italian football, that they couldn't be less than each others' greatest adversary. But, contrary to the way most of these relationships work out, they seem to have a lot of mutual appreciation. Before a match in 2010, Del Piero said about Totti: " I think that a champion becomes great due to the great opponents he faces. For this I will be happy, tomorrow night, to shake Francesco's hand."
Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Oguchi Onyewu
In a chapter of his autobiography, fully dedicated to his long-standing rivalry with Oguchi Onyewu, Zlatan Ibrahimovic stated: "We would have killed each other if we hadn't been team-mates." They were both playing for AC Milan when, in December 2010, they got in a fistfight during training. "I had issues with Oguchi Onyewu. He was an American the size of a house, and I told a mate in the squad: 'Something serious is gonna happen. I just feel it,'" wrote Ibrahimovic. The truth is that the striker tackled the American defender, who quickly retaliated. Soon, kicks and punches were flying around, in a brawl that left Onyewu bruised and Ibrahimovic with a broken rib.
Roy Keane and Patrick Vieira
Not only were Keane and Vieira the two staunchest midfielders in English football at the time, but they also played for Manchester and Arsenal respectively. It's no coincidence that they shared one of the most ardent rivalries in recent times. In their best known face-off, in a February 2005 match, Vieira took offence at Keane's trying to intimidate Gary Neville in the tunnel and told the United captain to pick on him instead. It's unclear if their fists came into play, but both footballers came out of the incident unharmed. In the end, Arsenal fell 2-4 to United, and Vieira left Arsenal for Juventus shortly after that.
Maradona and Pelé
The rivalry between Maradona and Pele is the best known in the history of football. When Pelé is asked what he thinks of Maradona, he doesn't mince words: "Maradona can't be considered the greatest because he could never strike with his right leg or head-butt to score." And when it's Maradona's turn, things verge with comedy: "My mother told me: 'Why do they compare you to Pele? He played against players that didn't move.'" Pele, however, dealt the hardest punch when he said that Maradona was a "bad example for the kids" for what he had done with his life, referring to the Argentine's well known drug-problems. In a snide example of Latin American male chauvinism, Maradona retorted: "What do you want me to say? Pele had his sexual début with a boy."