Footballers Behind Bars: The Ultimate Prison XI

In modern society, theres a general consensus that the world’s biggest sports stars are somewhat above the law. This is especially true when it comes to footballers. Those beliefs have been further compounded by news coming out of Barcelona in recent weeks, with Javier Mascherano becoming the latest superstar to avoid jail in spite of his obvious crimes.

However, there are occasions when even the status of being a footballer can’t offer immunity from a life of doing porridge. Here is our team sheet of convicts to come from the world of football. And we’re going for a 3-4-3 formation. After all, we have to place an emphasis on offense.


Bruno Fernandes de Souza might not be the most recognisable South American goalkeeper to spend time behind bars as Colombia’s Rene Higuita famously missed World Cup ‘94 as a result of a jail sentence. However, given the severity of his crimes, the Brazilian custodian has to take our mythical No.1 jersey.

The former Flamengo captain was sentenced to 22 years in prison after having his girlfriend kidnapped and murdered. Her body was then cut up and fed to dogs. A truly gruesome tale that cements the 31-year-old’s spot between the sticks.

Bruno was once touted as a potential Brazil goalkeeper. Even if his 2013 conviction is reduced for good behaviour, any thoughts of a professional return are dead.

Peter Storey

On the pitch, full-back Peter Story amassed a total of over 500 competitive appearances for Arsenal and played a key role in the Gunners famous league and FA Cup double of 1971. Off it, though, the former England international has been far from perfect.

Storey’s list of convictions include counterfeiting, running a brothel, car theft, anti-social behaviour and illegally importing pornographic material. Those delinquencies led to various stints in jail throughout his post-playing career, and even led to him releasing an autobiography entitled True Storey: My Life and Crimes as a Football Hatchet Man.

A guaranteed starter in our mythical convicts XI.

Tony Adams (Captain)

At the heart of our defence comes another double-winning Arsenal superstar, and this time it’s one of the Premier League’s all-time greats. However, the middle of Tony Adams’ illustrious career at Highbury was interrupted by a stint in jail.

Adams, already an England international, was sentenced to four months behind bars in December 1990 following a drink driving offence. Although he only served half of that sentence, problems with alcohol continued to haunt the commanding centre-half for many years to come. Thankfully, things would start to improve following a public admission of alcoholism in the mid 1990s.

Arsenal stuck by their man, though, and Adams would later skipper the side to two domestic doubles in 1998 and 2002.  He now takes the armband for our side too.

Jan Molby

Sitting alongside Adams is another drink-driving offender in the form of Jan Molby. Liverpool’s then-25-year-old star was imprisoned for three months after being judged guilty of reckless driving in October 1988.

The Anfield club would welcome him back into the team, largely due to Alan Hansen’s long-term injury, and Molby would win his second FA Cup trophy just months later. The following season would see the Dane claim a third league winners’ medal.

A third FA Cup and first League Cup victory would arrive before moving onto Swansea in 1996. While Molby often preferred playing in the middle of the park, it’s a defensive berth that he takes on in our naughty boys XI.

Jermaine Pennant

As a teenager, hot prospect Jermaine Pennant made headlines for becoming the most expensive trainee in history as Arsenal forked out £2m to acquire the then-15-year-old from Notts County in 1999. Over half-a-decade later, he would grab the headlines again. Only this time, it would be under far less enviable circumstances.

In 2004, whilst still officially an Arsenal player, Pennant received a 16-month ban from driving. Less than one-year later, now at Birmingham City, he was caught drink-driving while being a disqualified driver. This resulted in a 90-day prison sentence for the former England U21 star.

Pennant would only serve 30 days behind bars. However, the terms of release stipulated that he had to wear an electronic tag for the remaining two months, even when playing for the Blues. The pacy winger never truly fulfilled the potential of his early promise, but his brush with the law secures his place in Premier League folklore.

Joey Barton

Nowadays, Burnley midfielder Joey Barton is best know for casting an intelligent and mellow figure on social media. In truth, you could hardly paint a better contrast from the loudmouth and dangerous character of old.

Barton was a ferocious person both on and off the field throughout his earlier days. His name was splashed across the tabloids for a vicious spat with Ousmane Dabo, which saw the latter hospitalised with head and eye injuries. However, that’s far from being the worst incident in the Englishman’s history.

The 33-year-old has been sentenced to two jail sentences in the past, equating to a total of 10 months. While he only ever served 77 days behind bars, his reputation as one of football’s bad boys has been cemented.

Graham Rix

As a player, Graham Rix played over 500 competitive matches in a 20-year career that also included 17 England caps. However, those successes on the pitch are largely tarnished by one specific incident in his post-playing personal life.

Whilst employed by Chelsea as a youth team coach, Rix’s name dominated tabloid columns after the former midfielder was found to be guilty of having sex with a 15-year-old girl in March 1999. He would spend six months behind bars before being released, although his name would remain on the sex offenders register for a decade.

Rix returned to Chelsea immediately after his release from jail, but his reputation had clearly been soured. For a combination of his quality on the pitch and severity of crime off it, he has to make our mythical selection.

Mickey Thomas

Welsh international Mickey Thomas was one of Britain’s most exciting wingers throughout the late 1970s and entire 1980s. However, his glittering professional career came to an abrupt end in 1993 thanks to an 18-month imprisonment for his role in a counterfeiting operation.

Thomas, then approaching 40 and plying his trade back at his first club Wrexham, was caught laundering the money through the club’s younger players. Upon his release in 1994, he did return to football as player-manager of Porthmadog in the Welsh leagues. However, his brief time at Y Traeth was rather unsuccessful.

Brilliant footballer; not quite so brilliant criminal.

George Best

On the pitch, the Manchester United star was Best by both name and nature. However, football’s ultimate playboy also garnered a reputation for his lavish lifestyle too. Shortly after his retirement from the game, those choices landed the Northern Irishman a three-month stint in Pentonville.

Best was known to be an alcoholic and he would ultimately lose his long battle with the condition in November 2005. However, his boozy ways didn’t prevent him from being one of the game’s most loved characters and, if anything, his larger than life character only added to the attraction of a truly gifted star.

His crimes in 1984? Drink driving, assaulting a police officer and failing to answer bail. Well, nobody could ever accuse Best of not doing things in style.

Duncan Ferguson

Throughout his career, big Duncan Ferguson gained a reputation for being one of the toughest strikers in the game. His physical presence was a huge asset on the pitch, but it did lead to a number of sending offs. Most notably, though, a 1994 scuffle ended in a three-month a jail sentence.

Ferguson did face further brushes with the law, although he was only jailed once. Ironically, the Scotland international was also on the other side of a criminal offence in 2001, when two burglars entered his home. Unfortunately for the pair of thieves, targeting the then-Everton man’s home was a foolish error as the powerful striker hospitalised one of the would-be attackers.

Quite frankly, you couldn't ask for a better player to lead the line in this XI.

Troy Deeney

The rise of Troy Deeney in recent seasons has been a truly refreshing tale for all football fans to enjoy. Firstly, it reenforces the notion that hard work and determination can lead to great things. Perhaps more importantly, at least on a human level, it underlines the theory that people can change.

In 2012, the Watford striker was handed a 10-month imprisonment, for which he served three, for his involvement in a street fight in Birmingham. Deeney has openly conceded that jail was the best thing for his career, and his performances for the Hornets since returning to action in September that year have been nothing short of sensational.

Deeney has shown remorse for his actions, but the powerful striker still deserves his place in our team.