NOW the footie season is in full flow you can watch the sport’s pampered prima donnas.
But in our Head The Balls feature, we’re reminding you of the violent nutters, randy rebels and peacocking playboys who over the years have graced the beautiful game with their presence.
Every week we’ll be looking at a different one of the sport’s most mental mavericks.
And this week it’s the habitual tweeter with a penchant for violence, Joey Barton.
JOEY Barton reckons he is “too intelligent to be a footballer”. The evidence suggests otherwise.
In the first few months of his professional career at Man City he was sent off, stormed out of the ground after being dropped and was blamed for sparking a mass brawl.
His behaviour was put down to youthful folly, but it was a sign of far worse to come.
At City’s Christmas fancy dress party in December 2004, Barton – who was dressed as the now-disgraced telly star Jimmy Savile – stubbed a lit cigar in the eye of youth player Jamie Tandy.
He was fined six weeks’ wages and later sued by Tandy, who he nearly blinded, for £65,000.
Then, in May 2005, he broke the leg of a pedestrian while driving his car at 2am in Liverpool city centre and followed it up by getting into a skirmish with a 15-year-old Everton fan in Thailand, landing him a hefty fine and a course of anger management sessions.
Sadly, the therapy didn’t seem to have much effect.
Barton hit the headlines again in September 2006 when he showed his arse to Everton fans, sparking a police probe. In December he was sent off for a two-footed lunge.
His most violent moments were yet to come.
He was arrested in May 2007 on suspicion of assault and criminal damage following an incident involving a taxi driver, but was later cleared.
He was, however, unable to escape punishment after a training-ground fight with team-mate Ousmane Dabo, who needed hospital treatment for a detached retina.
As well as being suspended by City, he was charged with assault and later received a four-month suspended sentence for the attack. He also admitted an FA charge of violent conduct and was banned for 12 matches and fined £25,000.
But even while the Dabo case was open, Barton found it difficult to keep out of trouble.
After moving to Newcastle, he was investigated for a tackle on Sunderland’s Dickson Etuhu and described his own club’s fans as “vicious”.
Then, rounding off the year in true style, he was charged with common assault and affray after an incident in Liverpool. At the court case, CCTV footage showed Barton punching a man 20 times, knocking him out cold, and attacking a teenager, breaking his teeth. He was jailed for six months, serving 77 days after admitting he was an alcoholic.
The following year, Barton had to deny celebrating a goal with a Nazi-style salute, claiming he had pointed to his moustache and raised his arms as part of a private joke.
And in November 2010 he was charged with violent conduct again, this time for punching Blackburn’s Morten Gamst Pedersen in the ribs.
Eventually, Barton was sold to QPR in 2011 after slagging off Newcastle’s owners on Twitter.
But in the final match of the 2011-12 season – against his old club City – Barton was red-carded after clashing with Carlos Tevez, Sergio Aguero and Vincent Kompany, who he tried to headbutt.
In the aftermath, he took to Twitter, calling Match Of The
Day host Gary Lineker an “odious toad” before being banned for 12 matches and fined £75,000. He was sent on loan to French club Marseille.
Between matches, Barton often argues with people on Twitter, most recently former Liverpool and Germany star Dietmar Hamann.
Referring to the controversies that have plagued his career, Barton, 30, said: “When I sit down and think about it – the misdemeanours I’ve had, with the things that go on in the real world – the things I have done are stupid and foolish.
“But they are not war crimes. That’s what gets me.
“When footballers are on the front page and on page seven is something about soldiers dying or real tragedies, I ask myself, ‘How we can justify that?’”
YOU NUTTER! Barton clashes with Aguero
during his infamous spat at the Etidhad