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Top 10 longest suspensions in Premier League history

Published at :April 14, 2024 at 8:33 PM
Modified at :April 14, 2024 at 8:33 PM
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Manav Chowdhury


Some top players who have missed lengthy periods of action

As referees intensify their crackdown on poorly timed challenges and calls for addressing dissent grow louder, suspensions have become increasingly prevalent in today’s football. However, on certain occasions, some of the sport’s prominent figures, including its biggest stars, have faced far more extended suspensions.

Players can incur long-term suspensions as a result of off-field issues, ranging from breaches of betting regulations to the use of prohibited performance-related substances or even non-compliance with scheduled drug tests. The reasons behind significant suspensions in football are diverse, encompassing a spectrum from violent conduct to drug consumption to involvement in gambling activities. The variety of circumstances leading to substantial time away from the beautiful game is extensive.

Here are the top ten longest suspensions in the Premier League:

10. Ben Thatcher: Manchester City – 8 matches, September 2006

In September 2006, Manchester City’s Ben Thatcher faced repercussions for an elbow incident on Portsmouth’s Pedro Mendes, resulting in an initial yellow card during the match. However, post-game, the Football Association (FA) opted for additional measures, handing Thatcher an 8-game ban. Furthermore, his club imposed a financial penalty, amounting to six weeks’ wages as part of the disciplinary action.

9. Luis Suarez: Liverpool – 8 matches, December 2011

The Uruguayan striker gained recognition for his exceptional goal-scoring prowess at Liverpool, yet controversy often surrounded him. In September 2011, following a 1-1 draw against rivals Manchester United, Suarez faced significant backlash as he was accused of racially abusing opponent Patrice Evra. Despite Suarez asserting his innocence, the Football Association (FA) conducted a seven-day hearing and ultimately issued an eight-game suspension in December in response to the allegations.

8. David Prutton – Southampton – 10 matches, March 2005

Prutton faced severe consequences when he received a 10-game suspension, coupled with a £6,000 fine, for pushing referee Alan Wiley after being sent off in a game for Southampton against Arsenal in 2005. At that time, this suspension marked the longest served by a Premier League player for physically assaulting a match official. Following the incident, the Southampton midfielder issued a sincere apology for his actions, although it did not mitigate the consequences, as he had to endure a ten-match absence from the field.

7. Luis Suarez – Liverpool – 10 matches, April 2013

In April 2013, controversy surrounded Luis Suarez when he bit Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic on the arm during a match. The incident initially went unnoticed by officials, and to add to the drama, the Uruguayan forward scored a crucial last-gasp equalizer in his team’s 2-2 draw with Chelsea.

Following the incident, Suarez faced significant consequences, receiving a 10-match Premier League ban that ruled him out for the remainder of the season. Notably, this marked the second of three biting incidents in Suarez’s career.

6. Paolo Di Canio – Sheffield Wednesday – 11 games, September 1998

Despite achieving cult hero status during his time in the Premier League, Paolo Di Canio’s reputation took a hit in a 1998 match between Sheffield Wednesday and Arsenal. Following a red card, he forcefully pushed referee Paul Alcock, mirroring Prutton’s actions, causing the official to stumble before Di Canio stormed off the pitch in frustration. The football authorities were outraged by his behaviour, particularly given Di Canio’s seniority in the sport. Consequently, he received an 11-game ban and a £10,000 fine.

5. Joey Barton – QPR – 12 games, May 2012

Manchester City’s last game of the season against QPR stands as one of the most memorable matches in Premier League history, primarily for Sergio Aguero’s iconic title-winning goal in the dying moments. In this historic encounter, former Man City player Joey Barton found himself in the midst of controversy. Barton was sent off against his ex-club for elbowing forward Carlos Tevez in the head. Losing his temper, Barton escalated the situation by kicking Sergio Aguero in the leg and attempting to headbutt Vincent Kompany.

In response to this unsportsmanlike conduct, Barton faced severe consequences, receiving a 12-match ban and a £75,000 fine from the FA. The incident added a dark chapter to an otherwise unforgettable and dramatic football moment.

4. Adrian Mutu – Chelsea – 7 months, November 2004

Adrian Mutu, a £16 million signing from Parma, was initially seen as a key player for Chelsea’s future. However, his tenure with the club was abruptly cut short in November 2004, midway through his second season, when he failed a drug test, testing positive for cocaine.

In response to this incident, Mutu faced significant consequences, receiving a seven-match ban from the FA. Additionally, the Romanian forward was fined £20,000. This episode marked the premature end of Mutu’s stint with Chelsea, tarnishing his once-promising future with the club.

3. Rio Ferdinand – Manchester United – 8 months, January 2004

In December 2003, Rio Ferdinand inadvertently missed a scheduled drug test, citing being ‘out shopping’ as the reason. Although he later took and passed the test, he faced an eight-month ban and a £50,000 fine following an extensive two-day FA disciplinary hearing. This setback, which he later suggested served as inspiration, led to Ferdinand missing the remaining months of Manchester United’s campaign and England’s opportunity at Euro 2004 glory. Despite his efforts to appeal and reduce the ban, he was unsuccessful.

Ultimately, it was revealed that the FA turned down Ferdinand’s offer to undergo a hair follicle test in an attempt to clear his name. The incident had significant repercussions on both Ferdinand’s club and international career during that period.

2. Mark Bosnich – Chelsea – 9 months, December 2002

Australian goalkeeper Bosnich faced a significant setback when he tested positive for cocaine while playing for Chelsea in September 2002, resulting in his dismissal from the West London-based club. Bosnich, as expected, attempted to appeal the case, contending that he had only taken the Class A drug after being banned from playing. Despite his efforts, he was unsuccessful in winning the appeal.

1. Eric Cantona – Manchester United – 9 months, January 1995

One of the most renowned and controversial incidents in Premier League history unfolded at Selhurst Park when Manchester United found themselves trailing against Crystal Palace. Frustration reached a boiling point for Eric Cantona, who was sent off for a foul on Richard Shaw. On his way to the tunnel, Cantona executed a kung-fu kick on a supporter in the crowd. This shocking event resulted in a nine-month suspension for Cantona, contributing to Manchester United’s loss of the title to Blackburn Rovers. In addition to the suspension, Cantona faced a fine of £30,000 for his actions.

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