Champions League rivals Inter and Chelsea have been two of the most unpopular squads in recent seasons. Ahead of tomorrow's game at San Siro, Carlo Garganese takes a look at 10 other hated teams over the years...
Hacked off Milan trying to chase Kaka, hacked off Manchester United trying to sign Cristiano Ronaldo - but eventually succeeded - hacked off Villarreal trying to sign Santi Cazorla right after hacking off Valencia trying to sign David Silva and/or David Villa, hacked off Madrid's own fans with broken election promises of Cesc Fabregas, Kaka and Arjen Robben, but eventually got Arjen Robben, who Chelsea didn't want anymore anyway, and then Calderon's interim successor, Ivan Boluda went on and talked smack about walloping Liverpool in the CL, only to be walloped.
Quite a mouthful, but you get the point!
9) Arsenal 1986-1995
‘Boring, Boring Arsenal’. It is hard to believe now when you consider the delightful football under Arsene Wenger, but George Graham’s Arsenal from 1986-95 – particularly the latter stages of his reign - were one of the most boring teams in the history of the game.
The Scotsman – incidentally a skilful midfielder during his playing days at Highbury – built his XI on a mean back four of Lee Dixon, Steve Bould, Tony Adams and Nigel Winterburn. Graham’s Arsenal have been the closest English version of 1960s Italian Catenaccio. ‘One-nil to the Arsenal’ to the tune of the Pet Shop Boys’ ‘Go West’ was another common crowd chant.
With very little technical talent throughout the team, Graham’s Arsenal often relied purely on the prolific Ian Wright for goals. They still won two titles in 1989 and 1991, playing slightly more offensively. But they became hated on the continent when they lifted the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup in 1994. Arsenal beat a Parma side featuring Gianfranco Zola and Faustino Asprilla 1-0 in the final, despite barely getting out of their half all game.
8) Italy – Always
On the international scene, Italy have probably been the most consistently disliked country – especially in northern Europe where the clash of cultures is just too much to take.
On the footballing side Italy are stereotypically depicted as pragmatic and ultra-defensive, wasting some excellent attacking talent in favour of tactics. They are also considered as the creators of professionalism. Shirt-pulling, diving, conning the referee – or as it is known in Italy ‘furbo’ (being crafty).
Off the pitch, there is undoubtedly a sense of jealousy. Few can doubt that many Italian footballers are extremely good looking, as for the women let's not even get started. The confident and expressive personalities of many Italians is also something that can irritate non-latin nations, who often cheer an Italian World Cup exit.
7) Manchester United Post-1993
After winning their first championship in 26 years in 1993, Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United soon developed into the UK’s most dominant club. In the proceeding 17 years, the Red Devils have lifted another 10 Premier League crowns as well as two Champions Leagues. While United are undoubtedly hated in English circles for being so successful, there are many other reasons why they are so disliked.
First of all, they have often been painted as a lucky team (others would say they have incredible character) due to the high number of late goals they scored – especially in the 1990s. When Ferguson won his first title in 1993, this chiefly came about after defender Steve Bruce scored two injury time goals to turn a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 win over Sheffield Wednesday. Then, of course, there was the 1999 Champions League final against Bayern Munich when United were outplayed from start to finish but scored twice in stoppages again to lift the crown.
Many United fans are often termed as ‘gloryhunters’ – i.e. they only support the club because they are successful. This can be seen, apparently, by the relatively small number of followers from Manchester. Most Mancunians are City fans. Another bone of contention revolves around the referees, with United said to benefit more than any other team from officials.
6) Juventus – Always
Juventus are hated in Italy for pretty much the same reason Manchester United are despised in England.
The Bianconeri are by far the most successful domestic team on the peninsula with 29/27 Scudetti (depending on your viewpoint). They have often been described as a lucky team, scoring many late goals to win games over the years. Like United, fans of Juve are spread all over the country with most Turin-locals supporting Torino. This has led to similar ‘gloryhunter’ complaints.
Juventus have also been accused of benefiting from refereeing decisions. The most controversial revolved around the conclusion to the 1981 and 1982 championships, as well to a lesser extent the 1998 Scudetto. The 2006 Calciopoli scandal damaged Juve’s image internationally.
5) Greece 2004
Prior to Euro 2004, the Greeks had only qualified for two major tournaments in their entire history – Euro 1980 and World Cup 1994 – where they had played 6 in total, lost five, drawn 1, scored 1, and conceded 14. A team of no big names coached by German country bumpkin legend Otto Rehhagel, only Latvia were less favoured than the Greeks.
Yet, Rehhagel implemented a perfect gameplan whereby Greece would sit back and soak up pressure before punishing the opposition on set-pieces and counter-attack. Greece made it out of a group including hosts Portugal, and Spain, beating the former in the opening game. They then stunned holders France 1-0 in the quarter final, beat favourites the Czech Republic on a silver goal in the semis, and finished the job by defeating Portugal for a second time 1-0 thanks to Angelos Charisteas.
This had been the biggest shock in international football history, but the Greeks were panned by much of the international press. They were labelled by many as a “set-piece team”, with the term ‘anti-football’ regularly thrown about.
4) Don Revie’s Leeds United
The Leeds United of the late 1960s and early 1970s are widely acknowledged as the most hated team in English football history.
On the pitch they were an outstanding team blessed with exceptional players such as Peter Lorimer, Johnny Giles and Billy Bremner. Although they ‘only’ won two championships, two Inter-Cities Fairs Cups, one FA Cup and one League Cup during this era, in reality they should have won at least double this number of trophies as they often fell at the last hurdle.
Like a number of teams on this list, Revie’s men were a very physical side, earning the nickname ‘Dirty Leeds’ and often being criticised by the press and in particular Brian Clough. Hardmen such as Bremner and Norman ‘Bites Yer Legs’ Hunter sent shivers down the spines of opponents. Hunter was involved in a number of notorious punch-ups during his career, including during a Cup Winners’ Cup final defeat to Milan as well as an infamous incident with Derby’s Francis Lee.
Despite their brilliance, this Leeds side is not fondly remembered by the English press, which is a shame because they are undoubtedly one of the UK’s greatest ever teams.
3) Estudiantes 1967-1970
As brutal teams go, few come any more brutal than the Estudiantes squad that won the 1967 Argentine Metropolitano, as well as three successive Copa Libertadores’ and an Intercontinental Cup. Key members of this team include Argentina’s 1986 World Cup winning coach Carlos Bilardo, and Juan Ramon Veron – the father of Sebastian.
Coach Osvaldo Zubeldia implemented a physical style of play, centred around intimidating opponents. Tactical fouls were common, as were off-the-ball cheapshots. Ironically the club’s nickname at the time was La Tercera que Mata (The Killer Juveniles).
The 1969 Intercontinental Cup defeat to Milan has been labelled ‘Vergüenza de La Plata’ – the ‘Embarrassment of La Plata’. Estudiantes won the game 2-1 (but lost 4-2 on aggregate) in one of the most violent games in history. So shocking was the viciousness that the entire team was arrested after the game under the orders of Argentine president Juan Carlos Ongania.
The notoriously violent Aguirre Suarez who broke a bone in Nestor Combin’s face, and goalkeeper Alberto Poletti, were sent to jail. Combin appeared on Italian TV after the game with his face looking like the back end of a bus.
2) Bayern Munich 1970s
Just like Juventus and Manchester United, Bayern are hated in Germany because of their success. FC Hollywood are the most supported team in Germany, but everyone who doesn’t cheer for them cheers against them ferociously.
The hatred officially began at the start of the 1970s at a time when Bayern had only won two German championships in their history. There was a huge rivalry between Bayern and another great team of this era Borussia Monchengladbach. The neutrals seemed to warm to Die Fohlen, and the team symbolised by Gunter Netzer became every German’s second team.
Bayern were often attacked on their travels around Germany, despite containing many of the legendary Germany team that won Euro ’72 and World Cup ’74 such as Franz Beckenbauer, Gerd Muller and Paul Breitner. There were a number of punch-ups with fans, which helped consolidate Franz Roth’s nickname of ‘The Bull’. Beckenbauer once pretended to urinate at abusive away fans while goalkeeper Sepp Maier knocked a Hannover supporter clean out when he was told: “I’m going to kill you, you Bayern pig.”
The Bayern of the 70s were also often accused of being lucky. Germans call it Bayern-Dusel. There is no doubt that Bayern enjoyed more than their fair share of fortune continentally. Had the club lost all three of the consecutive European Cup finals in 1974, 75 and 76, no one could have complained. They were outplayed in the first by Atletico Madrid but scored in the last minute of extra time to force a replay that they won. In the second they were dominated by a Leeds United team that had a good Peter Lorimer goal scandalously disallowed, but still somehow won 2-0. In the last triumph, St Etienne hit the woodwork twice and missed a host of chances, but it was Bayern who won 1-0.
Bayern also seemed to exemplify the stereotype that Germans are the best at organising parties, but the worst at actually throwing them. They rarely celebrated these victories with any kind of passion, which also irritated their enemies.
1) Argentina 1990
Argentina 1990 are undoubtedly the most universally-detested World Cup team of all time. The then holders somehow made it all the way to the Rome final, despite containing just two players with any real attacking ability - Claudio Caniggia, and Diego Maradona, who was dreadfully unfit and playing through injury.
Carlos Bilardo’s men were the modern definition of anti-football. They scraped their way through the group stage, having lost to Cameroon in the opener, and having beaten the USSR only after Maradona had a clear handball off the line not spotted by the referee.
In the second round against Brazil, Argentina defended with 10 men behind the ball, and were battered from start to finish by their bitter rivals, only to win 1-0 courtesy of their one attack of the game, a piece of Maradona genius in the second half, who set up Caniggia for the winner.
The negativity continued in the quarter final against a far superior Yugoslavia, who played 90 minutes with 10 men. The game went to penalties, where Sergio Goycochea, a clown of a goalkeeper who could do nothing except save spotkicks, proved to be the hero.
Onto the semi-final against Italy in Naples. In truth the Azzurri did not play their best game but they were the only side trying to attack, and all looked good after Toto Schillaci gave them an early lead. Caniggia equalised in the 67th minute following an horrendous Walter Zenga mistake, and Argentina resorted to their negative, spoiling tactics. They wasted time at every opportunity, and it couldn’t have been any clearer that they were playing for a shootout, which they won again thanks to Goycochea.
Anti-football won the day, and never could this have been more illustrated than by the fact that Roberto Donadoni, the brilliantly skilful Milan winger, who had been unplayable all night, and the clear man-of-the-match, ended up being the man who missed the most decisive spot-kick.
In the final itself against West Germany, Argentina played for penalties from the first whistle. Their shameful pessimism contrived to make this the worst final in the whole history of the World Cup, yet ironically they were defeated by an 85th minute penalty by Andreas Brehme. It was never a penalty in a million years, but many would say that justice had been served.