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First XI: Noughties soccer villains

By Paul Gittings, CNN
  • Fanzone reflects on some of the most controversial and unsavory incidents of the last decade
  • The leading stars of the "beautiful game" have often let themselves down with moments of soccer madness
  • Topping the list is Zinedine Zidane's infamous headbutt in the 2006 World Cup final -- do you agree with our other selections ?

(CNN) -- Brazilian legend Pele once called soccer the "beautiful game" and at its best it showcases the very pinnacle of human endeavor as nations and communities are united in the common goal of supporting their teams and heroes.

But on the flip side, some of the worst of aspects of human behavior are on show for all to see and then subjected to immense media scrutiny to highlight the fallibility of our sporting icons.

So in celebration of the "dark side" CNN has compiled its First XI of soccer villains of the last decade.

Three of them, Zinedine Zidane, Thierry Henry and Luis Figo, are worthy members of our nominated XI of soccer heroes, which just shows that triumph and disaster are twin imposters.

See our First XI of soccer heroes. Do you agree?

Gallery: First XI: Noughties soccer heroes

Perhaps they can be excused because of the pressure of the modern game, while the rewards for victory or transferring to a rival club -- in Figo's case one of the great "betrayals" of all time -- are riches beyond ordinary fans' dreams.

Here is the Fanzone select eleven of Noughties soccer villains -- let Fanzone know what you think by adding your comment at the bottom of this page.

1. Zinedine Zidane: Midfield supremo Zidane features at the very top of our football heroes of the decade but he also heads the list of villains for his infamous headbutt on Italy's Marco Materazzi in extra time of the 2006 World Cup final. It was his final match and after he was sent off France lost the penalty shootout. A sorry end to a glittering career at club and international level.

2. Thierry Henry: Henry went into France's World Cup qualifying playoff against Ireland as one of the most respected footballers on the planet but by the end of the tie his reputation was in tatters. A deliberate handball set up the winning goal for France and sparked a worldwide debate on sporting ethics. Henry's reputation has been tainted and he can expect a less-than-warm reception at South Africa 2010.

3. Rivaldo: Brazil midfielder Rivaldo was the driving force of their 2002 World Cup team with his much-admired cultured midfield play. Less admired was his blatant dive to feign injury at a critical stage of a group match against Turkey. Hakan Unsal was sent off as Brazil won the match and eventually went on to lift the trophy. Rivaldo's play acting was rightly condemned and forever replayed as the worst example of its kind.

4. Luis Figo: Portuguese international Figo was a hero with Barcelona's fanatical fans during his five years with the Catalan giants, but when he defected to hated rivals Real Madrid for a world record fee in 2000 their vitriol was unmatched. In a derby match two years later the severed head of a pig was even thrown onto the pitch in his direction. He was never forgiven and spent the final years of career with Inter Milan in Serie A.

5. Roy Keane: Manchester United hardman Keane felled Alfe-Inge Haaland of neighbors City in a 2001 derby in the final act of a feud dating back four years. The outspoken Irishman, who even walked out on his country's 2002 World Cup bid, later admitted he had deliberately "hurt" Haaland in revenge for an earlier incident. He received a lengthy ban but showed little remorse.

6. Adrian Mutu: Star striker Mutu was promptly sacked by Chelsea when he gave a positive test for cocaine and many thought that was the end of the matter. Not so. The Premier League club promptly successfully sued the Romanian international for breach of contract for a record $25 million. Two legal appeals, with another in the pipeline, have so far failed, leaving Mutu heavily out of pocket for a few moments of indiscretion.

7. Robert Hoyzer: German referee Hoyzer is another unworthy member of our hall of shame and rightly so after the former amateur player with Hertha Berlin admitted to working in tandem with an international betting ring to fix games, including a German Cup match involving SV Hamburg. Hoyzer was jailed for over two years and his revelations left a stain on Bundesliga football.

8. Joey Barton: Newcastle's Barton appeared to have the world at his feet when he made an appearance for England, but there was a darker side to the combative midfielder with reports of fights with fellow players and even fans. It came to a head in January 2008 when Barton was jailed for six months for what the judge said was a "cowardly" assault in his native Liverpool.

9. Zheng Zhi: Chinese captain Zheng Zhi has proved a popular performer in English fooball, but his contributions elsewhere are more questionable. He received a six-month ban from the AFC Champions League for spitting at a match official and during the 2006 World Cup his tackle left France's Djibril Cisse with a broken leg.

10. Rene Higuita: The former Colombian international goalkeeper became famous for his "Scorpion Kick" clearance against England but in recent years he has cut a more controversial figure and was banned from Ecuadorean club football after testing positive for cocaine. He is good friends with the final member of our XI, Diego Maradona.

11. Diego Maradona: By the standards of the 90s, this was a quiet decade for the Argentine soccer legend and the world held its collective breath as medical problems, almost certainly linked to his colorful past, caught up with him. Now the Argentina national coach, he took them to the World Cup finals with a last-gasp qualification and then promptly spoilt it all by earning a temporary worldwide ban from FIFA for abusing reporters after the crucial game.