Manchester’s football rap sheet: MM looks at stars behind bars

Old Manchester United hero Cristiano Ronaldo has had a bumpy few weeks.

Not only did his World Cup dreams melt away – perhaps permanently – after Portugal were dumped out of the tournament by Uruguay, he’s also left facing a Real Madrid exit, and returns to Spain under probation with a suspended jail sentence hanging over him.

The winger was found guilty by the Spanish courts for tax evasion in June – and he’s not the only former Manchester footballer to have run into trouble with the law.

Here, MM looks back over the list of our city’s bad boys – players with local links who found themselves in handcuffs at one stage or another during their career.

Joey Barton

Former Manchester City midfielder Joey Barton has lived a controversial career on and off the pitch for his hot-blooded tackles and off-kilter observations, but some of his aggressive behaviour has even led to prison time.

In December 2007, Barton was captured on CCTV attacking a man and a teenager following a night out in Liverpool city centre.

He was given six months inside for the assault (serving 77 days) and whilst incarcerated was slapped with an additional four-month suspended sentence for beating team-mate Ousmane Dabo unconscious during a City training session the previous May.

Despite his offences, Barton went on to become a prominent TV pundit, and is currently set to start his first job in football management once his ban for placing match bets has ended, having signed a three-year deal with Fleetwood Town.


Robinho’s big money move from Real Madrid to Manchester City sent a buzz reverberating around the blue side of the city in 2008, but the Brazilian quickly fell out of favour at the Etihad Stadium and left the club just 14 months into his four-year deal.  

He spent time at his hometown club Santos before moving to AC Milan, and was adjudged to have gang raped a woman at a nightclub during his time in Italy.

Robinho was sentenced to nine years imprisonment in 2017 by an Italian court, but avoided jail time after remaining in Brazil during sentencing.

The striker – who currently plays for Atletico Mineiro – maintains his innocence and appeals are ongoing.

Marlon King

Former Wigan Athletic striker Marlon King has one of the longest rap sheets of any modern footballer, having been hauled behind bars on no less than three separate occasions during his career.

With an offence record in the double digits, King’s first stretch inside was for handling stolen goods in 2002 whilst at Gillingham.

He signed for Wigan in 2008, but was sacked by The Latics after being convicted of sexual assault and assault occasioning actual bodily harm the following year.

He returned to football upon his release with Coventry City, Birmingham City and Sheffield United before being sentenced again in 2014 – this time for a dangerous driving incident which saw him locked up for 18 months.  

King was 34 at the time of his latest conviction and has since vanished from English football.

Adam Johnson

A Premier League and FA Cup winner with Manchester City, Adam Johnson was held in high regard as one of the finest wingers in the country when he made a £10 million switch to hometown team Sunderland in the summer of 2012.

He went on to make more than 140 appearances for The Black Cats, but was hurriedly sacked by the club when he plead guilty to grooming in 2016. 

The midfielder was given six years in prison for sexual activity with a girl aged 15 in a high-profile case, and has since had two appeals refused for his sentence to be reduced.

Johnson remains incarcerated and is unlikely to play football in England ever again.

Lee Hughes

Striker Lee Hughes was hitting the back of the net in the second division for West Bromwich Albion in the 2003/04 season when his contract was abruptly terminated for causing death by dangerous driving.

Hughes killed one passenger and injured two others when he ploughed his Mercedes into another vehicle on a Warwickshire village road, initially fleeing the scene before handing himself into police 36 hours later.

He served three years of a six-year term and made a controversial comeback in 2007, signing for Greater Manchester club Oldham Athletic.

Despite a return to goal-scoring form at Boundary Park and successful stints at Notts County, Port Vale, and Forest Green Rovers thereafter, Hughes was declared bankrupt in March 2018.

He is currently leading the line at Halesowen Town at the age of 42.

Radamel Falcao

Radamel Falcao never hit the delirious heights that United fans were hoping for when he moved to Old Trafford in 2014/15, managing just four goals whilst on loan from Monaco.

And whilst the Colombian has since rediscovered his goal-scoring touch back in France, he was slapped with a whopping eight-million euro fine and 16-month suspended prison sentence earlier this year.

The striker – who played for Atletico Madrid between 2011 and 2013 – was yet another big star found guilty of tax evasion in Spain, with Ronaldo and Lionel Messi having also been punished for crimes against the treasury.

Delroy Facey

A former Premier League striker with Bolton Wanderers, Delroy Facey had stints at numerous clubs – including Oldham – throughout his career.

Nonetheless, he is more likely to be remembered for his attempts at match-fixing than his efforts on goal.  

Facey became embroiled in a huge sporting scandal in 2013, offering payment to non-league players in an attempt to influence the results of games and spin money by placing bets on the outcome.

He tried – and failed – to corrupt Hyde FC’s Scott Spencer with a £2,000 bribe, and was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison in April 2015.

Stig Tofting

Stig Tofting made the move to Bolton Wanderers in 2002 hoping to establish himself as a Premier League star and secure a spot in Denmark’s 2002 World Cup squad.

The defensive midfielder received a coveted call-up to the tournament in South Korea and Japan, but things turned sour in the midst of his national side’s post-tournament partying.

Tofting head-butted the owner of a Copenhagen café after staff complained about the group’s over-zealous singing, and he was sentenced to four months in jail for assault.

He left Bolton in the summer following his release from prison, and had spells in China, Sweden and Denmark before becoming an assistant coach.

Main image courtesy of Cambridge Union via YouTube, with thanks.

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