Top 15 famous footballers who went to jail as of 2023 listed

Top 15 famous footballers who went to jail as of 2023 listed

Babu Tendu, Peris Walubengo
updated at April 12, 2023 at 7:59 PM

Professional footballers are not above the law. They can be jailed for breaking the law within or outside their countries. This article unveils famous footballers who went to jail and their offences.

Famous footballers who went to jail
Photo: (modified by author)
Source: UGC

Some celebrity soccer players made poor decisions that landed them in hot water with the law. Some were jailed for minor offenses, while others committed heinous crimes that shocked many worldwide.

Footballers who went to prison

For one reason or the other, some soccer players were released before they completed their prison terms. For instance, the cops could only hold them for a few days or months for interrogation or due to a pending investigation. Others were released to complete jail terms under home arrest. Below are court cases of soccer players that caught the world's attention:

15. Jermaine Pennant

footballers who went to jail
English former footballer Jermaine Pennant. Photo: @jermaine7pennant
Source: Instagram
  • Full name: Jermaine Lloyd Pennant
  • Born: 15 January 1983
  • Age: 40 years (as of March 2023)
  • Birthplace: The Meadows, Nottingham, United Kingdom
  • Instagram: @jermaine7pennant

In 2005, Jermaine drove under alcohol influence made him crash his friend's Mercedes into a lamppost. He was to serve three months in jail for drunk driving but was released after 30 days because Birmingham City FC stood by him. Pennant became the first player to play in the Premier League with an electronic tag on the ankle. Throughout his career, Jermaine Pennant made over 350 league appearances for 15 clubs and scored 25 league goals. He was declared bankrupt in 2023 with over £1 million in debts.

14. Bruno Fernandes de Souza

footballers who went to jail for murder
Brazilian former footballer Bruno Fernandes. Photo: @oficialbrunogoleiro
Source: Instagram
  • Full name: Bruno Fernandes das Dores de Souza
  • Born: 23 December 1984
  • Age: 38 years (as of March 2023)
  • Birthplace: Ribeirão das Neves, Minas Gerais, Brazil
  • Instagram: @oficialbrunogoleiro

Fernandes is among the footballers who killed someone. He was a trophy-winning goalkeeper at the Brazilian Serie A club Flamengo between 2007 and 2009. Bruno Fernandes was charged with kidnapping, killing, and hiding the body of his ex-girlfriend, Eliza Samudio, in July 2010 and got a 22-year jail sentence on 8 March, 2013.

Samudio was the mother of his youngest child. In July 2019, Fernandes was released from prison to serve in a “semi-open” program for the rest of his sentence. He worked or trained during the day and was under house arrest at night.

13. Rene Higuita

footballers who went to jail for kidnapping
Colombian former goalkeeper Rene Higuita. Photo: @higuitarene1
Source: Instagram

Rene is among the goalkeepers that went to jail. The former Colombian goalkeeper was imprisoned in 1993 for profiting from a kidnapping. He was jailed in Bogata for seven months for collecting payment for his services.

Higuita's only role was to mediate between drug lords Pablo Escobar and Carlos Molina by delivering ransom money for Molina's daughter to be released. Rene Higuita was a goalkeeping coach at the UAE club Al – Nassr from 2012 to 2016. He returned to Atletico Nacional in 2017, where he has been a goalkeeping coach.

12. George Best

footballers who went to jail
The late Northern Irish footballer George Best. Photo: @GeorgeBest
Source: Facebook
  • Full name: George Best
  • Born: 22 May 1946
  • Birthplace: Belfast, United Kingdom
  • Died: 25 November 2005 at Cromwell Hospital, London, United Kingdom
  • Facebook: @GeorgeBest
  • Instagram: @georgebestofficial

The late George Best was one of Manchester United’s greatest players ever. n 1984, he was jailed for 12 weeks at Ford Open Prison due to drink-driving, assaulting a police officer, and failing to answer bail. George spent Christmas in jail that year.

11. Duncan Ferguson

footballers who went to jail
Scottish former footballer Duncan Ferguson. Photo: @otakuanimeblog
Source: Twitter
  • Full name: Duncan Cowan Ferguson
  • Born: 27 December 1971
  • Age: 51 years (as of March 2023)
  • Birthplace: Stirling, United Kingdom
  • Twitter: @duncanferguson_

Ferguson is currently the manager of EFL League One club Forest Green Rovers. He was one of the best strikers in Scotland's history. Duncan Ferguson previously played for Dundee United Rangers and Everton Newcastle United. In 1994, the then-Dundee United player served three months in Barlinnie prison for headbutting Raith Rovers defender John McStay and was released after 44 days.

10. Patrick Kluivert

footballers in jail
Dutch former football player Patrick Kluivert. Photo: @patrickkluivert9
Source: Instagram
  • Full name: Patrick Stephan Kluivert
  • Born: 1 July 1976
  • Age: 46 years (as of March 2023)
  • Birthplace: Amsterdam, Netherlands
  • Instagram: @patrickkluivert9

The former Ajax, Milan, and Barcelona star was among the best players in Dutch history. Patrick Kluivert won many league titles in Spain and Netherlands. In 1996, he got into a car accident at age 19, which killed an Ajax fan named Martin Putman. Kluivert was put on community service instead of being jailed for reckless driving. He is now a coach and sporting director. Patrick was an assistant coach for the Cameroon national football team (2018–2019).

9. Ronaldinho

Famous footballers who went to jail
Brazilian former player Ronaldinho. Photo: @Lionel Hahn.
Source: Getty Images

After visiting Paraguay, Ronaldinho and his brother Roberto de Assis found themselves at the center of a fake passports scandal. In 2020, they made a guilty plea that reduced their sentence from five years to five months with a joint fine of $200,000 (£167,000). The brothers were imprisoned in Asuncion, where Ronaldinho spent his 40th birthday.

8. Adam Johnson

Famous footballers who went to jail
English former footballer Adam Johnson. Photo: @Hurlingireland
Source: Facebook
  • Full name: Adam Johnson
  • Born: 14 July 1987
  • Age: 35 years (as of March 2023)
  • Birthplace: Sunderland, United Kingdom

Johnson's case sparked outrage worldwide. He is among professional footballers who went to jail over child molestation offenses. The former Manchester City/Sunderland player was convicted in 2016. Sunderland fired him for having an affair with a 15-year-old girl whose identity was withheld for legal reasons. Adam Johnson was released from HM Prison Leeds and HM Prison Moorland in 2019 after serving half his six-year sentence.

7. Tony Adams

Famous footballers who went to jail
English former football manager/player Tony Adams. Photo: @Simone Padovani
Source: Getty Images

Tony Adams is also among the famous and successful footballers who went to jail. His sports career went down the drain in 1990 when he was convicted of drunk driving. At the time of his car crash in Rayleigh, Essex, the cops had previously arrested him four times for exceeding the legal driving limit. The former Arsenal captain/center-back said his 57-day stay at Chelmsford prison never helped him fight alcoholism. His exact words were, "Penalties taught me nothing."

6. Joey Barton

footballers who went to jail
English football manager Joey Barton. Photo: @joey7bartonofficial
Source: Instagram

Barton is among the top 7 criminal football players. He made 269 appearances in the Premier League, including 130 for Manchester City. The former player is currently the manager of League One side Bristol Rovers. Joey Barton gained notoriety for his rage on the field and numerous off-the-field altercations.

He was convicted of violent offenses twice. One was with a pedestrian in Liverpool, and he was sentenced to 77 days in prison for assault. During his 2008 sentence, Joey Barton got a four-month suspension term after he admitted assaulting and causing bodily harm against his former Manchester City team-mate Ousmane Dabo.

5. Lee Hughes

All the famous footballers who went to jail
Former English soccer player Lee Hughes. Photo: @Matthew Lewis
Source: Getty Images
  • Full name: Lee Hughes
  • Born: 22 May 1976
  • Age: 46 years (as of March 2023)
  • Birthplace: Smethwick, United Kingdom

Lee is among the footballers who killed someone. The life of the former West Bromwich Albion striker changed in 2004 when driving his £100,000 Mercedes. He got into an accident that killed a passenger from the other vehicle. Lee Hughes was convicted of murder and fleeing the scene and received a six-year prison sentence and a ten-year driving prohibition. Lee was released from the Featherstone prison institution in 2010.

4. Marlon King

Famous footballers who went to jail
Jamaican former footballer Marlon King. Photo: @BCFCofficial
Source: Facebook
  • Full name: Marlon Francis King
  • Born: 26 April 1980
  • Age: 42 years (as of March 2023)
  • Birthplace: Dulwich, London, United Kingdom

The former Birmingham and Wigan striker was jailed for 18 months in 2009 for molesting a woman and fracturing her nose. In December 2008, Marlon King was partying with his pregnant wife in a London club when the event occurred. In 2014, he got a three-year driving restriction for admitting to reckless driving a second time. The ex-Jamaica international relocated with his family to a 200-acre estate near Lusaka city in Zambia.

3. Ian Wright

footballers who went to jail for traffic offences
English television and radio personality Ian Wright. Photo: @ianwrightofficial
Source: Facebook

Ian played for Crystal Palace for six years and Arsenal for seven years. He is also among the footballers who have been in jail. The television and radio personality usually narrates his prison experience on air. The former striker had a tough childhood and was 19 when he was jailed at Chelmsford Prison for two weeks in 1982 for not paying insurance or driving fines for his two cars. Ian Wright admitted that the short prison sentence changed him positively.

2. Benjamin Mendy

active footballers who went to jail for assault
Man City player Benjamin Mendy. Photo: @BenjaminMendy3
Source: Facebook
  • Full name: Benjamin Mendy
  • Born: 17 July 1994
  • Age: 28 years (as of March 2023)
  • Birthplace: Longjumeau, France
  • Facebook: @BenjaminMendy23
  • Twitter: @benmendy23

Five women accused Benjamin Mendy of sexual assault in the panic rooms of his isolated Cheshire mansion between 11 October 2020 to August 2021. He was to be jailed at HMP Altcourse in Liverpool but was moved to a top-security prison – HMP Manchester, before Christmas of 2021 for his safety.

The Manchester City player was cleared of six sexual violation cases after a five-month trial. Mendy became one of the most disgraced football players in history even after being declared innocent. He still plays for Manchester City as a left-back.

1. Mason Greenwood

active footballers who went to jail
Mason Greenwood of Manchester United. Photo: @GreenwoodOfficiaI
Source: Facebook

English player Mason Greenwood was detained in January of 2022 on suspicion of sexual violation, physical assault, and murder threats. He was released on bail after three nights of interrogation in a detention cell.

His ex-girlfriend released a voice recording of him assaulting her online. Man-United suspended Greenwood from playing and training due to the pending investigation. Prosecutors dropped the case in February 2023 after key witnesses withdrew their involvement. Greenwood is still a Man United forward.

Is there a soccer player in jail in 2023?

The name of Former Barcelona right-back Dani Alves pops up when talking about footballers in jail in 2023. In January 2023, a Spanish court detained him on remand without bail over an alleged sexual violation against a woman at a Barcelona nightclub. The Brazil soccer player is a right-back for Liga MX club UNAM.

footballers who went to jail in 2023
Brazil soccer player Dani Alves. Photo: @danialves
Source: Instagram

Is there a footballer sentenced to death?

In January 2023, Iranian footballer Amir Nasr-Azadani got a death sentence for allegedly killing two members of the security forces in Mashhad during the countrywide protests for women's rights and basic freedom. Several prominent current and former footballers in Iran called for executions to end.

famous footballers who went to jail
Iranian footballer Amir Nasr-Azadani. Photo: @amirnasrazadaani
Source: Instagram

Are there famous footballers who went to jail?

  • Mason Greenwood
  • Benjamin Mendy
  • Ian Wright
  • Marlon King
  • Lee Hughes
  • Joey Barton
  • Tony Adams
  • Adam Johnson
  • Ronaldinho
  • Patrick Kluivert
  • Duncan Ferguson
  • George Best
  • Rene Higuita
  • Bruno Fernandes de Souza
  • Jermaine Pennant
  • Dani Alves
  • Amir Nasr-Azadani

Some footballers who went to jail violated the law intentionally, while others were victims of circumstances. Some regretted their actions, but others never showed remorse. The public also feels justice was served in some cases and denied in others.

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Peris Walubengo
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