Sometimes, a man comes along who simply wants more from life. Sure, he’s a talented footballer, and yeah, he’s got lots of money, fame and glory. But that just isn’t enough. He wants more. He wants . . . to hit things really hard. Balls sometimes, players more often; fans, journalists and burglars are not safe from this group of hard men who like nothing more than a good old fashioned dust-up.
The team will play a 5-3-2 formation, because, frankly, I’m not going to tell the Butcher from Bilbao that he doesn’t make the squad.
Here is our ultimate hard 11; feel free to add your own below.
Goalkeeper: Harald Anton Schumacher
Harald Schumacher, or Toni to his friends, is perhaps harshly on this list for general character, but his impersonation of the Red Baron, the result of which nearly decapitated French striker Patrick Batiston at the 1982 World Cup, means his place in the squad is well-deserved.
Still, you have to admire his balls; not only did he insist that his assault was not a foul (possibly, but you’d get arrested re-creating it on the street) but he was also removed from the national team squad and long-term employers FC Koln by making unverified accusations against fellow professionals, many of them main stays of the German national team.
Any bets one of them was Lothar Matthaus?
Defender: Stuart Pearce
Stuart Pearce, or ‘psycho’ to his friends, was a gentleman off the pitch but an animal on it. Famous for crying after the 1990 World Cup but still remembered as a hardman (that is hard), the former England and Nottingham Forest captain was known for his ‘uncompromising’ style of play and brutal tackling ability; here he is trying to remove the legs of a Leicester player in a derby. However, for the most part his tackling was second-to-none; hard, but fair – The worst kind of tackle to be on the receiving end of.
During his Manchester City tenure as manager, Pearce’s young daughter tried to tarnish his well earned reputation by insisting that he took her small toy horse ‘Beany‘ onto the touchline with him. Luckily for him, it coupled with a run of good form for City, and thus cannot be added to the list of failed managers with ridiculous accessories; see Mclaren, Umbrella for more information.
Defender: Paolo Montero
A man so hard that every striker of note in the 90s still looks behind their shoulder to make sure he’s not there. The current holder of the most red cards in Serie A history (no mean feat), the Uruguayan machine was part of a Juventus defence that at various times included Fabio Cannavaro and Ciro Ferrara, and is generally known as one of the best (and meanest) back-lines to ever play the game. A rough tackler and old-fashioned man (handling) marker, Montero had a well-justified reputation as one of the most uncompromising footballers in world football during his pomp, with an elbow like a traction-engine.
My personal favourite memory of Montero is of him attempting to kick Ryan Giggs into the Old Trafford stand during a Champions League tie against Manchester United. As an impressionable 9-year old I attempted it the next the time I played. As an impressionable 9-year old well less than 5-feet tall at the time, it didn’t end well.
Defender: Norman Hunter
As a world cup winner with England and part of the essential backbone that supported the great Leeds United side of Don Revie, Hunter had a long and illustrious career, full of honours, which lasted over 20, long, gruelling years if you happened to be one of his opponents.
With the affectionate nickname ‘bite yer legs,’ Hunter was a hard, hard man; when it was revealed to Les Cocker, the club trianer, that ‘Hunter had broken a leg’ (his own), he responded, naturally, ‘whose?’
Defender: Jose Batista
Ex-Uruguay nut-job Jose Batista is the proud record-holder of the fastest red card in world cup history for a brutal ‘tackle’ on Gordon Strachan, which probably deserved two reds. The best bit? He claims he got the ball. The best you can say is there was a ball on the pitch at the same time as his attack.
Defender: Andoni Goikoetxea
Widely regarded as possibly the hardest man ever to play football, his nickname of ‘The Butcher from Bilbao’ doesn’t do justice to how pant-wettingly scary he was.
Notorious for attempting to break the bodies of Bernd Schuster and Diego Maradona, he was widely reported to have kept the boot he destroyed Maradona‘s ankle ligaments with in a glass case in his home. Crikey.