It’s pretty safe to say that South America has produced some of the hardest bastards to ever pull on a pair of football boots. A continent that mixes the sublime with the cynical gets ready to stage its showcase tournament, the Copa America which takes place in Brazil over the next month.
We’ve been delving into the archives once again at Paddy HQ to compile a list of who we believe to be five of the hardest bastards to ever take part in the competition.
PAOLO MONTERO – URUGUAY
Chances are that if you were an international striker in the mid 90’s through to the mid-noughties your legs will still have the scars inflicted upon you by Uruguayan hardman Paolo Montero. He’s probably best remembered for a nine-year stint in Serie A with Juventus when he took over from Claudio Gentile as the most feared man in the country.
He represented his own country on 61 occasions but never got his hands on South American footballs biggest prize. Had he been around today, chances are Lionel Messi would have played considerably less games for his club and country.
WALTER SAMUEL – ARGENTINA
The very fact that people talk about Walter Samuel in the same breath as that of Italian great Fabio Cannvaro shows that the man whose nickname was “Il Muro” (The Wall) is considered one of the greatest central defenders of all time. He led Roma to the Scudetto in his debut season in Serie A and when a move to Real Madrid didn’t go according to plan, he returned to the peninsula to represent Internazionale.
Anyone trying to play round him took their life into their own hands as the wall refused to be knocked down and if you were stupid enough to try, then you were met with a Dolph Lundgren style reply in Rocky IV of “I must break you.”
PABLO GUINAZU – ARGENTINA
Think Paul Ince with added brutality and you’ve pretty much got Argentine midfield enforcer Pablo Horacio Guinazu, a man who only hung up his boots in March of this year at the ripe old age of 40 after spending the last three years playing for Cordoba based side Talleres.
Pablo has earned a reputation of not shying away from a fight and when he’s on the pitch, trouble tends not to be very far away. The fact that there is very little YouTube footage of him in action is down to the fact that his red card count meant he’s spent a lot of time watching games from the stands. In a ten-year spell playing for the national team, Guinazu only made 16 appearances; pity those poor managers who had to tell him that he wasn’t being included in their latest squads.
FELIPE MELO – BRAZIL
Brazilian midfielder Felipe Melo has taken lunacy to a whole new level since making his top-flight debut for Flamengo back in 2001. Now 35, Melo can best be described as being like a Britain’s Got Talent winner; someone who has a limited shelf life so you have to get the best out of him whilst you can. Melo has had 11 clubs to date and he’s never left any of them on good terms.
He has however, become a bit of a social media star with his finest moment coming in 2013 when he took to Twitter and Facebook to call Fox Sports pundit Renato Prado a; “coward”, “arsehole” and “the most famous cuckold of sporting journalism”. A year later whilst playing in Turkey for Galatasaray, Melo ended up in pokey after steaming into Fenerbahce supporters in a restaurant in Las Vegas after he didn’t take kindly to a note they handed to him whilst out for dinner with his partner.
GERARDO BEDOYA – COLOMBIA
We’ve saved the best till last as we salute former Colombian defensive midfielder Gerardo Bedoya. Having only retired from the game three years ago, Bedoya currently holds the record for being the most sent-off player in the history of the game. Gerardo saw red 46 times in a career that saw him lift the Copa America prize back in 2001.
Asked recently to name the favourite of his 46 dismissals, Bedoya claimed that number 41 was his most memorable when playing for Santa Fe against Millonarios in the Bogota derby. The case for the defence collapsed when after elbowing rival player Yhonny Ramirez in the face, Bedoya followed it up with a kick to the head to earn himself a 15-game ban. Off the pitch Bedoya claims to be a loving family man; on it, he was one – if not THE – hardest bastards to ever pull on a football shirt.