Five footballers who had run-ins with the law



JOHANNESBURG – Being a professional footballer is one of the most lucrative professions in the world, especially in the Spanish, English, and Italian football leagues.

Armed with the means to maintain a lavish lifestyle, purchase flashy cars, and holiday in the most beautiful places on earth, a footballer is never too far from the public eye and the watchful gaze of the law. has compiled a list of five footballers who spent way too much time addressing legal woes, rather than performing on the pitch.

5. Serge Aurier - Tottenham

In September 2016, Serge Aurier was found guilty of assaulting a police officer outside a nightclub in Paris and was sentenced to two months in prison, but remained at liberty pending an appeal.

File: Ivorian defender Serge Aurier arrives to the Paris courthouse early on September 26, 2016 to answer a charge of elbowing a police officer. Credit: AFP

Although UK authorities granted Aurier a visa in October 2016, it was revoked on 16 November due to his conviction, and as a result he missed the UEFA Champions League match for Paris Saint Germain against Arsenal in London.

4. Eric Cantona – Manchester United

In 1995, former Manchester United star Eric Cantona was involved in an incident where after being red-carded against Crystal Palace, launched a 'kung-fu' style kick into the crowd, directed at a Crystal Palace fan who confronted and verbally abused Cantona who was eventually slapped with a lengthy ban from the game.

File: Former Manchester United star Eric Cantona arrives on March 31, 1995 at Croydon Court for his appeal against a two week jail sentence for assulting a Crystal Palace fan. Credit: AFP

Manchester United's initial action was to fine Cantona and confirm that he would not play for the first team for the rest of the season. Cantona was also stripped of the captaincy of the French national football.

Cantona was also slapped with a criminal assault charge, which he admitted to, resulting in a two-week prison sentence, although he was freed on bail pending an appeal. 

WATCH: Cantona's "kung-fu" kick

This was overturned in the appeal court a week later and instead he was sentenced to 120 hours of community service.

3. Diego Maradona - Napoli

Diego Maradona allegedly began using cocaine in Barcelona in the early 80s and by the time he was playing for Napoli in Italy, he had a regular addiction, which effected his football.

File: Former footballer Diego Maradona enters court 17 July 1992. Credit: AFP

After retirement, Maradona had to be rushed to the emergency room of a local clinic. It was later known that traces of cocaine were found in his blood and Maradona had to explain the circumstances to the police.

2. Yaya Toure – Man City

In December 2016, Man City player Yaya Tour pleaded guilty to drunk driving after being pulled over and found to be over the legal driving limit.

Tour said that he had not "intentionally consumed alcohol", telling the court that he had consumed diet cola from a jug at a party, not realising there was brandy in it.

File: Man City player, Yaya Toure. Credit: AFP

He added that his drink tasted "odd" and that he felt tired after consuming it, but didn't suspect that he was drunk.

A court said it was "inconceivable" that Toure was unaware that he was drinking alcohol and saw that the Man City man was fined and banned from driving for 18 months.

1. Lionel Messi - Barcelona

Lionel Messi's financial dealings came under investigation in 2013 for suspected tax evasion.

An unrelated shell company in Panama, set up in 2012, was subsequently identified as belonging to Messi in the Panama Papers data leak.

Messi stood trial alongside his father on three counts of tax evasion in 2016.

File: Barcelona's football star Lionel Messi (L) leaves the courthouse on June 2, 2016 in Barcelona. Credit: AFP

Messi and his father were both found guilty of tax fraud, and were handed suspended 21-month prison sentences and respectively ordered to pay €1.7 million and €1.4 million in fines.