This week’s top ten has been inspired by the antics of one Genaro Gattuso and his mindless anger during AC Milan’s home defeat to Tottenham Hotspur in the Champions League last week. Having got into a verbal bashing with Spurs coach Joe Jordan, he gave the former Scotland international a Glasgow kiss in front of 80,000 spectators.
The top ten this week looks at some of the most memorable headbutts to have taken place on a football pitch – occasions when the red mist descends and players lose it, leaving their opponent with a thumping headache.
10: Jozy Altidore, Hull City v Sunderland 2010
During Hull’s battle against relegation last season they played Sunderland at the KC Stadium and tempers boiled over as Jozy Altidore lashed out at Sunderland full-back Alan Hutton. Hull were a goal down and Altidore and Hutton got into a tangle as they chased a ball near the touchline. Hutton chucked the ball at the American striker who responded by nutting the Scot in full view of the referee. Hutton went down like a sack of potatoes and Altidore received his marching orders.
9: Nani, Manchester United v West Ham United 2008
During a Premier League match at Old Trafford three years ago, Manchester United’s winger Nani got into an altercation with West Ham defender Lucas Neill – ending up with a red card for his actions. The Portgugese international headbutted Neill who collapsed to the floor and a few seconds later Nani, trying to get away with it, comically hit the deck himself. It didn’t work and he was duelly sent off.
8: Kenny Burns, Nottingham Forest v Arsenal 1977
A vintage clip back from the days when there were more hardmen in the game- Kenny Burns being one of them. A no-nonsense player, Burns took no prisoners and was a tough centre-half in Brian Clough’s successful Nottingham Forest teams between 1977 and 1981. In a match at Highbury against Arsenal, Burns lined up in a Forest wall alongside Arsenal players and headbutted the back of Gunners player Richie Powling just as a free-kick was being taken. No action was taken against Burns at the time but due to the video evidence the Scot was suspended afterwards.
7: Samuel Eto’o, Inter Milan v Chievo Verona 2010
Earlier on this season, Inter Milan striker Samuel Eto’o produced an almost carbon-copy version of the famous Zinedine Zidane headbutt on Chievo player Bostjan Cesar. With his side a goal down, the Cameroon international got into a scuffle with the Slovenian defender and took his frustration out on his opponent’s chest. As he was jogging past Cesar, Eto’o thrust his head into his chest and sent him flying to the floor. Amazingly no action was taken against Eto’o on the pitch.
6: Dorge Kouemaha, Club Brugge v Cercle 2010
A clip from the Belgian Jupiler League as Cameroon striker Dorge Kouemaha takes out his frustration of a loss on his opponent in a feisty Brugge derby. Cercle beat their rivals 3-1 and towards the end of the contest their player Hans Cornelis ran over to Kouemaha unhappy with a tackle. In return he got Kouemaha whacked him in the chin with his head and floored him. Brutal stuff from Kouemaha who rightfully got an instant red card.
5: Gennaro Gattuso, AC Milan v Tottenham Hotspur 2011
During AC Milan’s 1-0 defeat at the hands of Tottenham Hotspur last week, midfielder Gennaro Gattuso lost his head, and tried to take Joe Jordan’s off while he was at it. Throughout the game the Italian became more and more wound up, receiving a booking which will rule him out of the return leg in London. He had an altercation with Tottenham coach Jordan in the 55th minute, grabbing him by the throat and shoving him after some strong words between the pair.
However after the final whistle it got worse, Gattuso went back over to Jordan and again the two became embroiled in a slanging match, until Gattuso headbutted Jordan squarely in the face. Not the wisest thing to do as Joe Jordan was one of the most feared hardmen back in the day, but to be fair to him he kept his composure and didn’t collapse dramatically to the floor or retaliate. Gattuso has received a five-match ban for his actions.
4: Dion Dublin, Aston Villa v Birmingham City 2003
During a hotly contested Birmingham derby in 2003, tempers flared between Dion Dublin and Robbie Savage. It was Birmingham’s first season in the Premier League and they’d won the first meeting of the two sides at St. Andrews, thanks in part to that famous Peter Enckleman own goal. In the return meeting at Villa Park Birmingham won 2-0 – the match included two red cards and a 21-man brawl.
Robbie Savage is either loved or hated by football fans, usually loved by those of the team he plays for whilst hated by everyone else. The flamboyant Welshman has made a career out of winding up opponents and in this match he did it to Villa striker Dion Dublin early in the second half. Dublin went in for a late tackle on Savage and the midfielder reacted, the two exchanged heated words then Dublin went over and headbutted Savage fiercely, who fell to the floor clutching his face. The striker was sent off and Savage was substituted later for his own good. If anything big Dion should’ve been knighted after this.
3: Norbert Meier and Albert Streit, Bundesliga 2005
A football manager going mad. During a Bundesliga match between MSV Duisburg and FC Koln in 2005, the Duisburg boss Norbert Meier ended up lashing out at an opposition player, Albert Streit. After chasing a ball down the touchline with a Duisburg player, Streit became involved in an angry conversation with Meier, before the Duisburg manager headbutted him. The reaction from both is hilarious as Meier falls to the floor theatrically followed by Streit. Meier was suspended by MSV Duisburg and banned from management by the German FA for three months. A career in acting beckons.
2: Ariel Ortega, Argentina v Netherlands 1998
During the World Cup quarter-final between Argentina and the Netherlands in 1998 both teams were reduced to ten men, but the way influential Argentinian playmaker Ariel Ortega was sent off was ridiculous and memorable. Ortega dived in the Dutch penalty area attempting to win his side a penalty with the scores at 1-1. The referee booked him for playacting and Edwin van der Sar went over to Ortega to express his anger at the player. The 6 foot 7 goalkeeper towered over the little Argentine as he was coming to his feet, but as Ortega rose back up he clumped van der Sar in the chin with the top of his head, flooring the Dutchman. A unique kind of headbutt, but Ortega deservedly got his marching orders.
1: Zinedine Zidane, France v Italy 2006
This headbutt has to be number one given the circumstance of it and it’s significance. This was the moment when one of the best players of his generation bowed out from football amid shameful scenes. The 2006 World Cup Final was supposed to be Zinedine Zidane’s triumphant farewell to the game which he enthralled for many years, and his penalty in the first half put the French in front.
Marco Materazzi equalised soon after and it was he who would have another major contribution in the game. During the second half of extra time with the scores 1-1, he and Zidane became embroiled in conversation off the ball and Zidane lashed out, headbutting the Italian defender hard in the chest. Materazzi collapsed to the floor and after some confusion over what happened, Zidane was eventually shown a red card. It’s claimed Zidane took offence to something Materazzi said. The image of Zidane walking off the pitch past the World Cup remains a memorable one – his career coming to a close in a way no one could have predicted.