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Is Gary Neville the most hated man in football?
Not only has Manchester United club captain Gary Neville been branded an "idiot" and "boot-licker" by former team-mate Carlos Tevez, but the full-back is also fast emerging as one of the most hated men in football.
It appears Neville is no longer content with being public enemy number one in Liverpool and is now eager to conquer the rest of the Premier League.
Admittedly a lot of dislike for the former England man centres around the fact he has spent his entire career at a hugely successful United side that almost everyone loves to hate, but his outlandish opinions and over exuberant goal celebrations certainly haven't helped his cause.
Neville's reputation on Merseyside reached an all-time low when in January 2006 he ran 40 yards to celebrate a United goal right in front of the Liverpool fans at Old Trafford.
Constant derogatory comments about the city and club have also played their part, but this week's events have taken his diminishing popularity to a whole new level.
Neville's one finger gesture aimed towards Argentinean goal-scorer Tevez during United's 2-1 Carling Cup first leg loss to rivals Manchester City is said to be under investigation by the FA, but the implications upon his reputation are undeniably set to outweigh any potential FA punishment.
Football has consistently produced a host of villainous characters with the likes of Robbie Savage, Ashley Cole and El-Hadji Diouf loathed in equally epic proportions by fans following misdemeanours of their own.
In fact, the 2009/2010 season has already showcased a series of examples of villainy. Emmanuel Adebayor's already contentious reputation took a further dent when he celebrated scoring a goal for City against former club Arsenal in front of the Gunners fans and Thierry Henry, previously regarded as one of football's good guys, was widely condemned following a handball that ended the Republic of Ireland's hopes of World Cup qualification.
Without such divisive characters the Premier League certainly wouldn't be as interesting a spectacle as it is and so, without meaning to condone bad behaviour, long live controversy!
- Gareth Burton
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