By 90Min
February 07, 2019

Warrior is not a term used lightly in football. It is only reserved for those totems of the game who rose to any challenge placed in their path with unrivalled fight, passion and leadership. 

There is something inescapably pleasing, especially in this sanitised, safer age we live in now, about watching these titans from the past and present fighting their way to glory. Here are seven such names who have provided us with these moments over the years. 


Carles Puyol

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Carles Puyol is perhaps one of the greatest examples of a compassionate warrior. A warrior who knew the rights and wrongs of footballing decorum. Of course, he never shied away from a tackle, and was a mightily vociferous presence on the pitch, but he possessed a great level of respect for his fellow player.

He rarely let his passion get the better of them, and always sought to win the right way. That's why he famously chucked the lighter that Gerard Pique was whingeing about in favour of getting on with the game. That's why he refused to let the situation escalate when he was slapped by an opponent. He was a warrior alright, but he was a sportsman first. 


Roy Keane

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The same levels of respect and compassion could not be levelled at Roy Keane. If Puyol is at one end of the warrior spectrum, then Keane is at the other - fists raised, boot waiting. 

On more than one occasion in his career, he let these warrior-like tendencies get the better of him, as he trespassed over the line of how you should behave on a football pitch. But, more often than not, it was his intensity and unbending desire to win that pushed his teammates all the way.


Patrick Vieira

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When you think of Roy Keane, the only person who immediately comes to mind is Patrick Vieira. It was one of the great tete-a-tete rivalries the Premier League has ever seen, primarily because neither player was willing to back down or curtail their commitment. 

But it's fair to say that Vieira was a more elegant warrior than most. His marauding runs were a joy to behold, and his marshalling of that Arsenal team lent them the requisite punch behind all their evident flair. 


Sergio Ramos

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Modern football's arch villain, Sergio Ramos epitomises the qualities needed to be a warrior in this day and age. By and large, the days of statement tackles and by-any-means-necessary defending have gone. 

So what is required? Mastery of the dark arts, of course. And no one is better at treading the line as carefully as Sergio Ramos. I mean, his move on Mohamed Salah in the Champions League final wouldn't have been out of place on the cutting room floor of the 2011 film 'Warrior'. You can't get better credentials for this list than that. And he got away with it!


Diego Costa

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If we're going down the modern route, then who better to challenge Ramos to his title than Diego Costa. Perhaps he's not as efficient as his compatriot is in getting away with it, but he sure does try. 

There are so many moments of Costa's you could cite to back up this point, but how about his fairly recent score at the 2018 World Cup against Portugal. His handling of Ramos' long time partner in crime Pepe in the build up to that goal encapsulates everything great about the striker's combative spirit on the pitch. When he's on song like that, few can stop him. 


John Terry

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I imagine John Terry acted as a warrior mentor to Costa during his time at Chelsea, because few could match, let alone exceed the Brazilian-born forward in terms of fire and brimstone on the football pitch. 

But the eponymous captain, leader, legend was one of them. Such was his positional acumen in defence, he was rarely required to translate his passion into anything other than cajoling his fellow teammates. But when he was forced into a crunching collision, he usually came out on top. 


Steven Gerrard

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Perhaps an outlier on this list, in that he was never too closely associated with the darker side of the game. But that's mainly because everything else he did on the pitch eclipsed this part of his game.

But make no mistake about it, Steven Gerrard was a warrior when he wanted it to be. This fighting spirit was mainly brought out in him on Merseyside derby day - his hit list on those days was innumerous. He also never tired of smacking a ball within an inch of its life.


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