AWOL XI: Footballers who vanished without telling their clubs after Nasri bails on Anderlecht

What’s the best excuse out of this lot?


Firstly, let’s give you the good news – former Arsenal and Manchester City star Samir Nasri has not, contrary to recent reports, gone AWOL from Anderlecht.

He’s just decided to head off to Dubai and cut off all contact from the Belgian side. 

Some footballers as we know are not good at doing the basics in life so when their clubs ask them to keep in touch during this uncertain time, it’s not surprising that some of them fail to adhere to this simple rule.

Nasri is not the first and won’t be the last player to go missing in action and to prove this; we’ve put together a starting XI of some of football’s most famous bad boys.

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Samir Nasri


The 1986 European Cup Final was a personal triumph for Steaua Bucharest goalkeeper Helmeth Duckadam, who saved all four Barcelona penalties in their famous shoot-out victory.

Surely a feat such as this would elevate him to superstar status and give him the freedom of the city? Well, Duckadam didn’t have to wait too long to find out his reward when he was presented with the keys to a new car at the post match banquet.

The Romanian shot-stopper was suitably unimpressed with this gesture and when he failed to report for pre-season training, rumours were that the country’s dictator and all-round madman Nicolae Ceausescu had kidnapped him and had his arms cut off.

It took Duckadam three years to reappear, thankfully with all limbs intact as he explained the reason for his absence was a blood disorder. He never played for Steaua again.

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Chances are that we will never find out what really happened when Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand skipped a drugs test in 2003.

At the time, the England international claimed to have forgotten that he had a mandatory test to undertake and had left the club’s Carrington Training Complex to go shopping in town. As he was heading into the city-centre, Ferdinand stated that he suddenly remembered he’d got to do a drugs test, but when he arrived back the testers had apparently left.

Rio apologised for his misdemeanour stating that he was happy to do the test the next day which he passed with flying colours. The Football Association however, were less impressed with Ferdinand, imposing an eight-month ban which ensured he would miss Euro 2004.

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Anton Ferdinand Rio Ferdinand

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Four years later a Ferdinand was at it again, only this time it was Rio’s younger brother Anton who was telling porkies when he told his West Ham boss Alan Curbishley that he needed some compassionate leave to visit his sick grandmother on the Isle of Wight.

Imagine Curbs’ surprise then, when Ferdinand Jnr was spotted raving in a South Carolina nightclub on the eve of his 22nd birthday when he was supposed to be looking after his sick relative.

The gaffer wanted to know immediately how his player had managed to get from the Hoverport in Portsmouth to the US in such quick time, whilst the rest of the squad asked each other: “Are you gonna tell him or shall I?”

CB: MOHAMED SISSOKO (Yes, we know he’s a midfielder but go with us on this)

Back in 2004, Valencia midfielder Mohamed Sissoko was banking that his employers were not checking up on the international fixtures when he asked for a few days off to play for Mali against Kenya

 On his return he told the Spanish side that he was fit and healthy having been taken off at half-time in a 1-0 win for his country.

Sissoko was taken aback when Valencia bosses told him that they’d looked out for the result only to discover that the match had never taken place, forcing Mo to admit that he’d basically made it all up.

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Mohamed Sissoko

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Omar Larrosa had won the World Cup with Argentina in 1978 but in 1981, having decided to retire from the game; the versatile midfielder went missing completely – for nearly 10 years!

With the country under military dictatorship, rumours were rife that Larrosa had actually been murdered by gangsters but at the end of the decade, he miraculously reappeared wondering what all the fuss was about and claiming that he’d been walking in the mountains to try to find his inner soul.

For the past ten years he’s had a settled life as Assistant Coach at Argentine giants Boca Juniors.


If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again was the motto Stephen Ireland used when he bunked off from the Republic of Ireland’s international against the Czech Republic in 2007.

The story goes something like this – Ireland asked his country if they would excuse him from duty due to the death of his maternal grandmother which they were more than happy to do, until his gran appeared in public to explain that reports of her demise had been a little premature.

Ireland quickly changed tack claiming that he’d got mixed up and that it was actually his father’s mum who had passed away. Wrong again Steve – because she also came forward to reassure her loved ones that she was fit and well.

Third time lucky for Ireland then, who now explained that it was actually one of his grandfather’s former partners who’d pegged it.

Wrong again and better to be honest mate and state you just couldn’t be bothered to play.

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Stephen Ireland

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The Senegalese international was getting a bit too big for his boots in the Blackburn Rovers dressing room at the start of the 2011/12 season having spent the second half of the previous campaign on-loan at Rangers, helping them to the SPL title.

Diouf decided it would be good to show his Rovers team-mates his medal on their return to pre-season but was taken aback when his pals told him where he could stick it. Diouf stormed out and refused to answer any of calls as the rest of the squad flew out to Austria for a summer tour.

The impasse lasted for two-weeks before the ex-Liverpool man rather sheepishly headed back to Ewood Park to face the music.


No AWOL XI would be complete without the player who was arguably the finest of his generation, but who had the capacity to self-destruct at regular intervals.

After winning the European Cup with Manchester United in 1968, George Best got pissed off with having to carry the team and things came to a head in 1973 when he decided to knock football on the head for a while and shack up with Sinead Cusack at her flat in West London.

As United headed for Division Two, Best headed for the West End and when he finally decided to go back north, he found himself transfer-listed. Not to worry however, as Georgie had a Plan B – to head off to Majorca with Susan George.

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Luton Town winger Graham French may not have been the George Best of his day, but he developed cult status at Kenilworth Road when he failed to turn up for the bus to an away game because he was on the run from the police.

It turned out that French was wanted for questioning in relation to an incident in a pub involving a gun and the fugitive managed to evade arrest until he was finally picked up in Bradford.

After spending two years inside, French made a fleeting reappearance for The Hatters before heading to the US to join the NASL.


Mercurial but temperamental could be the best phrase to describe Argentine star Carlos Tevez.

Back in 2012 after refusing to come on as a second-half substitute for Manchester City against Bayern Munich, Carlitos was sent home by then boss Roberto Mancini who claimed that he would “never play for his team again”.

Whilst he became public enemy number one in England, Tevez used his sabbatical to lower his golf handicap and was not afraid for the press-pack to snap him smiling contentedly on the 18th green.

For five-months Tevez was exiled in his homeland before returning to the Premier League to score on his first game back against Norwich and to celebrate naturally, with an imaginary golf swing.

READ: Six footballers who turned their hand to other sports

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The Portuguese striker was an instant hit at Celtic after his arrival in the spring of 1996, rifling in 30 goals in 37 games in his debut season at Parkhead.

His wife however had decided not to follow her husband to Glasgow, preferring to remain at home in the relative warmth of Lisbon.

At first, things were going well but at the end of his first year at the club, Cadete’s better half decided that she wanted him around the house more often claiming that the family dogs were suffering because of his absence.

When Jorge failed to show for pre-season, Hoops fans feared they’d seen the last of their new striking hero and they were right, because Cadete, once described by Paolo Di Canio as being “more bonkers than me” never set foot in Scotland again.


It’s a game that has gone down in football folklore despite the ball only being kicked once.

When Estonia got the hump over Scotland complaining about the quality of their floodlights, they decided not to bother turning up for their World Cup qualifier leaving their opponents bemused.

The Scots asked the match referee what to do and he suggested that they go out on the pitch, take the kick-off and claim the points.

Remember this is Scotland so the delirious scenes that greeted the ref’s final whistle after two seconds were cut short, when the spoilsports at FIFA decided that the game had to be replayed – it finished 0-0.