The Naughty Noughties
Updated: May 31
Many of our articles, we hope, will provide insight and educated opinions on the beautiful game. But, sometimes, particularly in these strange lockdown times, what we need most is some light-hearted content which brings a smile, and maybe even a wee chuckle (that’s lol for the younger crowd).
Whilst resisting going full tabloid, this week’s blog is about some of the ‘naughtier’ moments of football between 2000 and 2009.
When doing my research, I had hoped that Temuri Ketsbaia’s infamous goal celebration involving a full-blown assault on the advertising boards was of the right era, but alas, it fell two years too early in 1998. So therefore, I better not mention it…again. The Noughties saw the explosion of money, commercialism and the rapid increase of overseas transfers. In 1999, the world record transfer fee was that of Christian Vieri for £32m when he moved from Lazio to Inter Milan. By 2009, this had risen by 150% with Cristiano Ronaldo’s £80m move from Manchester United to Real Madrid. The Premier League was at the very forefront of this spending and some of the world’s biggest stars descended. But for every Cristiano Ronaldo or Didier Drogba there was an Eric Djemba-Djemba or a Mateja Kezman. There was money to spend and everyone was chasing the dream of unearthing a ready-made or hidden gem to become the next superstar. However, as we will find out, technology and global analysis wasn’t as sophisticated as it is today, and sometimes a little knowledge is more dangerous than no knowledge at all. One word for you, Bebe. Two of the biggest villains and flops during this era were Christian Negouai and Winston Bogarde. Negouai arrived at Man City in 2001 for a modest £1.5m and was described by manager Kevin Keegan as the ‘most exciting player he had ever signed’. Quite a claim and not like King Kev to be proved wrong... There was much excitement around Negouai - a midfielder believed to be able to satisfy many aspects of this position. At 26 years old when he signed, he was expected to be ready-made. On his first start, despite an abject performance, he scored with his hand. A cult hero in the making? Kinda, but not in a good way...3 days later he was sent off for a couple of lunges in a cup game and the rest was history. A few games, scandals, loan moves and even inadvertently being embroiled in the drug ban story of Rio Ferdinand, Negouai’s Man City career was over before it began. He wasn’t the first and certainly wasn’t the last. I tell ya, I would have ‘loved it’ if he had been a success.
Rare footage of Christian Negouai scoring, never mind playing.
Winston Bogarde arrived at Chelsea in 2000 after spells at clubs including Ajax, Milan and Barcelona. Although already 29 years old when he joined, in a career pre-Chelsea, Bogarde had amassed less than 200 club appearances in a career spanning 12 years. That should have set alarm bells ringing. Rumour has it, then manager, Gianluca Vialli, had no knowledge of the signing and Bogarde was signed by the board, with soon to be new teammate and fellow countryman, Mario Melchiot instrumental in this move. Another modern quirk which invariably has mixed results. Despite being just a few months shy of his 30th birthday and his lack of appearances at previous clubs, Chelsea gave Bogarde a 4-year contract on 40k per week. After a handful of games in his first season, Bogarde made zero league appearances in the following 3 seasons and during this time was happy to go on record that he would see out his contract and happily take the money. Whilst Negouai tried and failed, Bogarde simply...well, didn’t try. An expensive lesson for Chelsea and the beginning of a rise in player power.
Interestingly, as a side note, on 26th December 1999, Chelsea became the first ever English team to field a starting XI containing no English players. Another indicator that as we moved in to the Noughties, football was changing forever, and at some pace.
Some of the most famous villains of the noughties have been well documented. Two of France’s most decorated stars added a stain to the footnotes of their international careers. Zidane, with his still hard to comprehend head-butt in the 2006 World Cup Final. This was arguably matched in controversial terms three years later, when compatriot Thierry Henry committed a blatant deliberate handball versus Ireland which took France to the 2010 World Cup. In hindsight, he would have been better keeping his hands by his sides as France went on to embarrass themselves, taking just one point and scoring one goal in a pretty straight forward group. Perhaps some justice was served? I am certain plenty of Guinness was, in Dublin the night France exited from the tournament. Roy Keane, everyone’s favourite bad boy had two of his ‘baddest’ moments even for him. Firstly in 2001 intentionally ending Alfie Inge Haaland’s career with a horror tackle, followed a year later by walking out on Ireland at the 2002 World Cup. Apparently, he was never a fan of Fish & Chips before a match. Ironically that was a regular pre-match meal for me during my playing days.
Roy Keane had his fair share of controversy in the noughties.
The murkier side of football brought us stories of infidelity with some of the biggest names in football getting up to no good – most famously perhaps was Ryan Giggs (with his brother’s wife) and John Terry (with his teammate, Wayne Bridge’s wife). In a decade of many highs, John Terry had another low in 2008 when he slipped taking a decisive penalty in the Champions League final against rivals Manchester United, and ultimately this miss cost Chelsea the trophy.
The noughties was also the decade that we saw a huge rise in play acting, and also an era when thanks to numerous camera angles, many players were found out for their play acting. If anyone mentions diving or play-acting in football to me, my first memory is always that of Rivaldo’s dive to the floor for Brazil in the 2002 World Cup. It was so blatant, that one camera would have been enough to capture it. If miraculously you have never seen it, in a World Cup match between Brazil and Turkey, Hakan Unsal kicked the ball at Rivaldo when he was about to take a corner, as he was upset at his time-wasting antics. The ball struck his leg, with not too much force, and Rivaldo threw himself to the floor clutching his face. A little bit of me died. A player who many of us, including myself, had marvelled at for his ability with a ball, had let himself and millions of fans worldwide down. What were you thinking Rivaldo! Nowadays, sadly these theatrics are all too frequent in our game. Oh, and even more incredibly, Unsal was sent off for it.
Ok, they say everybody loves a bad boy, right. So, to finish this trip down memory lane, I want to take a look at a couple of teams who would be seen as being ‘a very naughty boy’ by the giants of the game. And then quickly put back in ‘their place’. In two of Europe’s biggest leagues we see the impact of money and power in the modern game, and how the playing field has never been less even. In May 2000, Deportivo La Coruna were crowned Champions of La Liga, in Spain. This was their first and only championship winning season – a huge feat given the presence of Barcelona and Real Madrid. Incredibly, in that same season, Sevilla & Atletico Madrid were both relegated. Unfortunately, this fairy-tale had a less happy ending as their success had awoken a beast, and that beast had a name. Money. The following 19 seasons in La Liga have been won by the biggest teams, with 17 of these titles going to the global powerhouses of Barcelona & Real Madrid.
Like a good movie, also in the year 2000, a similar story was playing out a little further east in Italy. A bit like Deportivo La Coruna, one of Italy’s proud but not so successful clubs, Lazio, got their hands on the Serie A championship trophy. It was, and still is, just the second Serie A title in their club history. In terms of trophies, Lazio are not even the biggest club in Rome. As if to reaffirm their superiority, Roma won the title the following season, spearheaded by Francesco Totti and mega-money signing Batistuta. The big guns were wounded and reached for the chequebooks. In the following 17 completed seasons, all Serie A titles were won by one of the three most successful clubs in Italy – Juventus, AC Milan & Inter Milan.
The plucky underdogs had stood up to the bullies and had their moment in the sun, before the big boys, with their Rolex watches, swatted them away with a clip round the ear. Big teams have always dominated football, and will continue to do so I am sure, but every now and then an underdog, ala Leicester City, upset the apple cart and get to sit in the throne. As we enter a new era of football, I wonder who will be the next unlikely champions.
Well Done Michael, He’s 13