Paddy’s top 10 football shithouses of the 21st century

A real shithouse loves what he does and makes no apologies for it. He is shithouse and shithouse is he.

Sergio Ramos Mo Salah


Shithouse (ʃɪt-haʊs)noun

  1. A house in which one shits.
  2. A footballer prone to repeated episodes of extreme on-field violence, simulation or just general sneaky bastardness. Will invariably profess innocence despite (often literally) being caught red-handed by the 50 TV cameras trained on him during the execution of the act.

More than anything, being a football shithouse is a lifestyle choice. Like a method actor spending 14 months toiling in a Siberian gulag to prepare for a gig as Inmate #5 in a three-part ITV drama, a true shithouse must fully inhabit the role.

Because there’s far more to shithousing than simply trying to hurt or enrage opponents without suffering any consequences for your actions. It’s about creating maximum chaos with minimum effort – a smirk and a “fuck you” gesture here, a casual short-arm jab in the back there.

You see, this is an artform. A piece of theatre, carried out by masters of their craft using skills developed over thousands of hours in Shithouse Academy and perfected with months of poring over data in dedicated shithouse labs with specialist Shithouse Analysts.

A real shithouse loves what he does and makes no apologies for it. He is shithouse and shithouse is he. Which brings us to the matter at hand: identifying the finest exponents of the shithouse trade that football has seen this side of the year 2000.

After several weeks of painstaking research, we think we’ve found the 10 best of this millennium so far.

Sergio Ramos

Ah, Don Sergio! What can we say about this beautiful man with a soul as dark and merciless as a Tory prime minister put in charge of an NHS budget?

This was probably the easiest choice made since the UK government came to its senses and dispensed with the services of poor old Theresa May. Let’s be honest, you just knew you’d be seeing this man’s name in the list, didn’t you?

And understandably so.

The Spaniard brings a madcap, gurning presence to the shithouse world. On his day, there’s no-one better at delivering a short, sharp elbow to the temple of an opponent – and following it up with a look of such cherubic innocence that his crime is immediately forgotten.

His “accidental” dislocation of Mo Salah’s shoulder is arguably the most skilful single example of shithousing we’ve seen in a Champions League final – and perhaps ever.

PP Verdict: Ramos is consistent and unrepentant – that’s how we like our shithouses.

Scott Brown

It’s tempting to describe Scott Brown as an “agent provocateur”, but that kind of fancy foreign language would probably make us a target for a trademark Broonie two-footer. So we’ll just go with “angel of death” instead.

Rumour has it a young Brown scythed down his granny after she over-buttered his morning shortbread back in 1993, but we reckon that’s most likely apocryphal. Sadly.

Still, in a fairly miserable era for Scottish fitba, the Celtic man has been a shining light. Who can forget that time he booted Neymar in the back? Or that legendary “Ha, sure did” quip to a reporter after an Old Firm?

PP Verdict: Comfortably the best shithouse to come out of the UK in recent times. It’s just a shame he never got the chance to break ankles for a big European side like Real Madrid or Juventus. Imagine the carnage this lad would have caused over there.

Marco Materazzi

Unquestionably, the Italian’s most high-profile “moment” came in the 2006 World Cup final when he expertly pulled off the classic “provoke-then-croak” move on France’s Zinedine Zidane.

The execution was textbook: a quick whisper in the ear followed by a shriek as the deck is hit while clutching a face that had been entirely uninvolved in Zizou’s chest-high dome-butt. For all aspiring young shithouses out there, this remains pretty much the benchmark.

Materazzi, though, was so much more than just that incident. He spent a career pinching, slapping and nudging opposition forwards into a state of unbridled rage – this was no one-trick pony.

PP Verdict: One of the finest Italian shithouses of recent years, and one who is sorely missed. It’s no coincidence the quality of Serie A has declined lately.

Luis Suarez

Sometimes it seems like Suarez is shithouse first, footballer second. And that’s exactly how we like it.

He’s got pretty much everything in his locker. No-one in world football bites shoulders better than the Uruguayan, and few can pull off a soaring dive-and-scream with such aplomb.

When he goes to ground, if referees don’t buy the initial plummet after contact, they’re inevitably convinced by a series of agonised, chilling yells that Suarez is rumoured to have developed via repeated watchings of Kill Bill: Volume 2.

PP Verdict: Quite simply, Suarez lives for his craft in a way that other shithouses can only dream of. An all-time great.

Diego Costa

Diego Costa

Diego made his name as a villain during an apprenticeship under Diego Simeone at Atletico Madrid and kept on improving after a big move to Chelsea. His impact on the Premier League was immense, as it was on British culture as a whole.

Despite his subsequent departure, to this day kids in the UK still practice the “Costa” – essentially a soft headbutt followed quickly by a dramatic, arms-akimbo drop to the turf – in their bedrooms and in playgrounds from Truro to Twatt. (Yes, it’s a real place; look it up).

The move has since entered mainstream consciousness, with a large coffee chain naming itself in its honour.

PP Verdict: A marvellous proponent of the fabled Brazilian “joga bonito” school of shithousery. His flailing arms, thrashing legs and acrobatic foul-winning remind me of capoeira in its most inventive form.

Jamie Vardy

If you look up the phrase “Wind-up merchant” in the Oxford Shithouse Dictionary, all you’ll find is a picture of Jamie Vardy cupping his ears directly in front of the opposing fans immediately after scoring a goal.

But Vardy has more to his game than just rustling rival supporters. He’s a polyglot shithouse, according to former Leicester fullback Ritchie De Laet, who revealed that “Vards asked teammates every match for slander in the language of the defender.”

That’s the level of commitment we expect from a grandee like Vardy. Let it not be said that this man doesn’t give it his all in search of provocation perfection.

PP Verdict: You really have to respect a player like this, who worked his way up through the leagues fuelled only by WKD Blue and the salty tears of vanquished fools. It’s even more remarkable that he has always remained true to his shithouse roots.

Samir Nasri

The former Arsenal and Man City midfielder earns his inclusion here through sheer force of personality. By which we mean, of course, that his personality is utterly maddening.

Nasri is a man capable of wonderful feats on a football pitch, yet one who generally contrives to be about as popular as haemorrhoids. Even – or, perhaps, especially – among supporters of the clubs for whom he played.

For a shithouse, there is no higher compliment than near-universal unpopularity. If you can inspire hatred to the same level as this man, you’re definitely doing something right.

PP Verdict: What he lacks in overt physical aggression, he makes up for by being lippy, gobby and relentlessly annoying to all those he faces on a football pitch. Unorthodox, sure, but he’s a master in his own unique way.


There was a time when this man and Sergio Ramos played in the same team. Can you imagine the horror of being faced with such a duo? There’s little doubt they were the most lethally dangerous and fiendish pairing since Magneto and Mystique.

Pepe loved a stamp. He also loved to drop an elbow. Or a knee.

Or any other sharp, bony part of the body that would inflict severe damage on a puny fantasista at minimum risk to his own physical wellbeing.

Like all the genuinely elite shithouses, he’s a man with about as much shame as those monkeys you see in a zoo happily banging one out in front of a glass room filled with embarrassed parents hastily covering their children’s eyes. So often, this willingness to debase himself without a thought for the “optics” is what gave him an edge on the big occasions.

PP Verdict: Sometimes we wake up at night having dreamt about the Pepe-Ramos years at Real Madrid. Rarely do you get the chance to see two of the sport’s greatest doing their thing for the same side at the same time. We just hope everyone managed to appreciate that partnership while we had it.

Diego Simeone

Is there something about the name Diego that just encourages shithousery? We’ve already had Costa, now we’re onto Simeone and there’s still one more to come in this list. Oh, and that’s without even mentioning the greatest shithouse Diego of them all, Maradó himself.

Either way, Simeone deserves his mention in such distinguished company. As a player, he famously “earned” David Beckham a red card at France 1998 and was just a bit of an all-round psychopath.

But as a manager the Argentinian has really come into his shithouse own. Once, he threw a ball onto the pitch to disrupt a counter-attack and he was recently fined a not-inconsiderable amount of money after his remarkable “cojones” celebration.

If there’s anything that screams “shithouse” louder than vigorously thrusting your hands towards your ballsack after your team scores a goal, we’d like to see it.

There’s very little Simeone hasn’t done, but you can be sure he’ll eventually get around to doing them.

PP Verdict: A smartarse might say shithousery is Simeone’s personal brand, but that’d be wrong. In fact, Simeone is shithousery’s personal brand.

Diego Godin

To quote Omar from The Wire: “If you come at the king, you best not turn your back for fear of getting a retaliatory stud-rake all the way down your Achilles tendon.”

Godin is nigh-on unparalleled when it comes to escaping punishment for assaults so brutal they’d make Ramsey Bolton blush. Somehow, he conspires to repeatedly inflict pain on his adversaries without attracting the attention of referees or the UN Commissioner for Human Rights.

Punches, kicks, DDTs – all fair game for Godin, and all part of his repertoire of completely undetectable methods of attack. No matter how ferocious the blow, you can be guaranteed it won’t be noticed by officials. You just can’t teach that.

PP Verdict: Even the best have a lot to learn from Godin. He studied at the same famous Uruguayan school as Suarez, so he had pedigree from a young age, but few would have expected him to polish his game to such an extent. A master of the covert.

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