The 5 most heated player rivalries in Premier League history

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March 17th, 2021

Some of the greatest Premier League narratives have centred around two players going head-to-head. Sparked by one moment that has fuelled a burning hatred, or an on-going rivalry that has bubbled into a personal vendetta.

These are the five most heated Premier League rivalries.

Shout-out to the couple that narrowly missed out: Wayne Bridge refusing to shake John Terry’s hand after the latter was found to be having an affair with his wife. Terry lost the England captaincy and neither man has seen eye-to-eye since.

And of course, Roy Keane’s infamous career-ending tackle on Alf-Inge Haaland years after Haaland had mocked Keane for rupturing his cruciate ligament. This is less of a rivalry and more of a premeditated revenge plan, and Keane gets his fair share of mentions below anyway!

5. Fernando Torres and Nemanja Vidic

This rivalry really began in March 2009 when Fernando Torres was in his second season at Liverpool and at the top of his game in front of goal. Liverpool travelled to Old Trafford and dished out one of the most famous thrashings in recent memory.

Torres scored Liverpool’s first by forcing Vidic into a mistake and gave the Serbian defender nightmares all game. The United man was sent off for fouling Steven Gerrard with 15 minutes to play and the Scousers went on to win 4-1.

Torres scored again in October as Liverpool won 2-0 at Anfield, with Vidic heading for an early bath once again. The United defender is one of the best center-backs in Premier League history, but he could not cope with the Spanish star who scored three times in six games for Liverpool.

The two did not clash as much after Torres moved to Chelsea, with neither man starting a game against each other after his time at Liverpool, but the rivalry has always bubbled with Torres holding the ace in the pack.

4. Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher

Another Liverpool and Manchester United rivalry that seems odd now that Neville and Carragher are best buddies and a cool double act on Sky Sports’ Premier League coverage. Both men proudly wore their hearts on their sleeves and were passionate about their clubs – as well as their mutual hatred.

Neville infamously slandered Liverpool fans on numerous occasions and ran in front of the Liverpool fans to kiss the United crest after Rio Ferdinand’s last-minute winner in 2006.

Carragher admits to hating Neville while they were players, and both men fuelled the rivalry between the two clubs. While normally spending times at opposite ends of the pitch, if there was ever a chance for the two to clash, they’d make the most of it.

3. Ian Wright and Peter Schmeichel

This rivalry went further than just statistics – but despite being one of the Premier League’s greatest strikers, Ian Wright only ever managed to score once past Peter Schmeichel, in the 1993 Charity Shield game that Man Utd won.

Wright claims he "genuinely hated" Schmeichel and the United shot-stopper was accused of racially abusing Wright in a 1996 league game – although the criminal charges were dropped.

Ian Wright put in a crunching two-footed lunge on the keeper in 1997 that didn’t even get a booking but would make you wince watching it now.

The pair apparently made up when they both did punditry in 2002, but don’t let that take away from a hugely intense personal grudge.

2. Roy Keane and Alan Shearer

This rivalry started off as an innocuous turn of events that quickly escalated into fists being thrown. Newcastle were 4-3 up in a thriller against Man United at St. James’ Park with Shearer cynically wasting time as the second ticked away.

United captain Roy Keane did not take kindly to that and threw the ball at the Newcastle striker before then aiming a punch at him in the melee.

Keane was given his marching orders and after that there was a constant tension when the two teams met. Shearer would later say he would’ve treated Roy Keane to a knock-out left hook if the situation ever demanded it.

1. Roy Keane and Patrick Vieira

Keane features on our list yet again in what is the greatest rivalry in Premier League history. The greatest period of the Premier League, the two greatest teams, led by the two greatest managers, with the two greatest captains going head-to-head and not backing down.

Two hard-hitting, no inch-given midfielders who went head-to-head throughout the late 90s and early aughts. There were on the field scuffles, red cards, handbags, the infamous tunnel incident in 1999 at Highbury – but when it was all said and done, there was a mutual respect behind the fierce rivalry.

Two players who wanted nothing more than to win.

"I’ll see you out there."