Sergio Ramos

Which Footballer Has Had the Most Red Cards?

Most goals. Most assists. Most clean sheets. Most trophies. Those are generally the quantifiable ‘mosts’ that footballers want on their CV, marking them out as a master of their particular craft out on the pitch. But there are other quantitative measures in the beautiful game that are less craved, and one of those is the accumulation of red cards.

When former Real Madrid legend, Sergio Ramos, was sent off for Sevilla against Real Sociedad in November, it was the 29th red card of his career – a remarkable number and proof that the Spaniard may have been well served to dial back his aggressive nature at times – albeit in the midst of an ultra-successful career.

That sum of 29 is more than one per season for the entirety of the defender’s career – death, taxes and a Ramos red card are life’s great certainties. And yet, incredibly, he isn’t even football’s greatest villain when it comes to receiving marching orders.

Who Has Most Red Cards in Football History?

Marquez
Rafael Marquez (Marcello Casal Jr / Wikipedia.org)

Just to build a little tension, we will run down the top five players in reverse order.

4. Rafael Marquez & Paolo Montero

Coming in at number four is a tie between Rafael Marquez and Paolo Montero on 21 red cards. Marquez is fascinating: known as ‘El Kaiser’ during his playing days as a high class defender, the Mexican has since gone on to coach Barcelona’s B team – where technical prowess and beautiful football are encouraged.

But Marquez had an ugly side to his game, which would often reveal itself in pressurised situations – more than once he was sent off in key matches for Mexico. That included a 2002 World Cup tie against the United States, in which he headbutted an opponent, and a World Cup qualifier against the same opponent seven years later, when he crashed into Tim Howard with his studs at an eye-watering height for the goalkeeper.

It is usually an honour for a player to be selected in a major newspaper’s ‘top 50’ of football, and you wonder if Montero considers being named in The Times’ list of the hardest footballers as a badge of honour. The Uruguayan was a ferocious tackler with a short fuse, and is even the ‘proud’ owner of a Guinness World Record – his 16 red cards in the Italian Serie A (out of a total of 21) is, unsurprisingly, a landmark amount.

3. Alexis Ruano Delgado

At one point, Alexis Ruano Delgado was considered to be amongst the most promising young footballers in Spain, representing the country at each junior level. But ill discipline would stop him from fulfilling his talent, and he would end up playing for nine different clubs in a journeyman career – including a stint in Saudi Arabia before it was cool (and lucrative) to play there. His most famous red card: smashing Mario Mandzukic square in the face with his arm in a show of rare violence on the football pitch.

2. Cyril Rool

There is tough tackling midfielders and then there is Cyril Rool: 170 yellow cards, 27 reds and third place on the list of most sent off footballers in history. We know that Ramos is the runner-up on our list of the beautiful game’s most infamous red card merchants, so who is in top spot?

1. Gerardo Alberto: The Beast of Colombia

Gerardo Alberto
Gerardo Alberto (Pipe26 / Wikipedia.org)

It is amazing that they haven’t made a Halloween horror movie out of the career of Gerardo Alberto ‘The Beast’ Bedoya – he certainly gave opposition midfielders nightmares anyway. The Colombian picked up a staggering 46 red cards in the professional game – in a career of around 600 matches for club and country, that’s some ratio.

It’s surprising that ‘doing a Bedoya’ hasn’t become a verb in the footballing lexicon; he was once banned for 15 games for unleashing an attack on an opposition player in the feisty Bogota derby between Millonarios and Independiente Santa Fe in 2012.

After hanging up his boots, Bedoya went into coaching – had he turned over a new leaf, ready to provide the perfect example to his players? Forget about it: he was red carded from the dugout after just 21 minutes of his debut in a Colombian Primera Division encounter.

What Is the Record for Red Cards in the Premier League?

Steve Walsh
Steve Walsh (Jonesy702 / Wikipedia.org)

You may recall Roy Keane and Vinnie Jones as some of English football’s hardest characters, but they are not at the head of the class when it comes to the most red cards in the Premier League.

That honour is instead bestowed on a trio of tough tacklers ties on eight reds during the Premier League era. Although an unassuming type off the field, Richard Dunne will surely go down in EPL history for more than one reason – he has scored more own goals than any other Premier League player, and was also sent off a record eight times.

If you were to describe a Rolls Royce of a footballer, you might first think of Patrick Vieira – the silky midfielder who won plenty of silverware at Arsenal. But he had the devil in him, as evidenced by his famous battles with Keane, and would ultimately accumulate eight red cards in Premier League games too.

Duncan Ferguson

Then there is the tough as old boots Scot, Duncan Ferguson. He averaged a red card every 33 Premier League games, and at one point even served a prison sentence for headbutting an opponent while playing for Rangers against Raith Rovers. But what about across the board of professional football in the UK and Ireland – who picked up the most red cards during their playing days?

Roy McDonaugh

There are two players jointly sat at the top of the standings on 13 red cards. Roy McDonaugh is one: at the age of 16, he was banned from football for six months for ‘throttling’ a referee – his behaviour didn’t improve much from there. The title of his autobiography, Red Card Roy, says it all.

Steve Walsh

Then there is Steve Walsh, the former Leicester City stalwart who also received his marching orders on 13 occasions. His war with Wolves striker, Steve Bull, saw the pair red carded more than once, while an over-the-top tackle on Shrewsbury Town striker, David Geddis, saw him banned for eleven games.