If your nickname happens to be the ‘Butcher of Bilbao’ chances are that you’re not exactly noted for your finesse on the ball. The scourge of pretty boy forwards in La Liga during the early to mid-8os Goikoetxea (Goy-Ko-Cheer) found everlasting infamy on the footy field with a particularly brutal tackle on Diego Maradona during an Athetico Bilbao – Barcelona match. Maradona was stretchered from the field with a broken leg and a year on the sidelines while ‘The Butcher’ had his own enforced absence courtesy of a 16 match ban.
His reaction: to have the boot he wore at the time put on proud display in a glass case at his home.
Miguel Angel Nadal
These days he may be better known as the uncle of tennis legend Rafa Nadal (he’s often seen courtside) but back in the day he eked out his own sporting legacy as the fearsome presence at the heart of Barcelona’s team of the early 90s. Nicknamed ‘The Beast’ Nadal was a part of Cruyff’s Dream Team at Camp Nou, his somewhat imposing and uncompromising style a handy contrast to the fleet-footed play-makers that made up the rest of that all-conquering side.
A fixture at the heart of the Deportivo La Coruna midfield during the early part of the 21st century Duscher was a tough tackling Argentinian who added steel to a La Coruna side that would enjoy the most successful period in the club’s history. Compared (particularly by himself) with Roy Keane (Manchester United were reportedly looking to sign him as Keane’s replacement in 2005) Dushcer achieved infamy among England fans when he injured David Beckham in a Champions League encounter which not only threatened ‘Golden Balls’ participation at World Cup ’02 but introduced a generation of football fans to the metatarsal.
For all the footballing brilliance of that Real Madrid team of the fifties with Puskas, DiStefano et al, there had to be a foil of some kind. And that foil came in the presence of Uruguayan defender Santamaria. Still considered one of the hardest tacklers in the sport Santamaria was the stuff of nightmares for opposition forwards with his uncompromising style. He later switched nationalities to represent Spain.
No one argued.
Remember when we were talking about the footballing brilliance of Puskas? Well, did I mention that he also happened to know how to take care of himself? As a former officer in the Hungarian army Puskas had a steely core to go with his genius. Reputedly in the mix of things when it all kicked off with Brazil in the changing rooms after their 1954 clash Puskas also demonstrated his ‘nails’ credentials by playing and indeed scoring in the final against West Germany despite the inconvenience of a fracture in his ankle.
Because he’s Scottish and played for Barcelona and, frankly, all hardmen lists need a Scotsman.
One of the great unsung heroes of Galactico era Real Madrid, Hierro was equally comfortable in defence or midfield and provided some tough love for the glory boys who took most of the limelight. Not a rampant hardman in the same vein as some of the others on this list but there was a fierce competitive edge and unrelenting style to add to a fine range of passing skills, making him a driving force behind Madrid’s success in the late 90s. He later played for Bolton.