Gary Lineker has never received a yellow or red card.
It’s one of those amazing stats in football that’s hard to believe is real, but unfortunately the legendary England striker managed to stay off the referee’s book during his professional career from 1978 to 1994.
Yes, bookings were much less common in Lineker’s day, but it’s still an overwhelming statistic considering how easy it can be for a player to lose their composure for a split second and bag themselves a booking as a result.
Lineker’s perfect disciplinary record
For Lineker, however, staying out of trouble was just ingrained in his attitude on the football pitch, ever since he was a little boy and his father made sure he showed the umpires the utmost respect.
In fact, Lineker’s remarkable record of zero yellow and zero red cards becomes much more understandable when one considers how his father, Barry, once arrested a young Gary for insulting the referee.
During a must-attend appearance on the High Performance Podcast, Lineker shared the story of how he was physically removed from the field by his father as part of a lesson in respect that has stayed with him to this day.
Speaking to Jake Humphrey and Damian Hughes, the Match of the Day host reflected: “Well people often talk about how I’ve never been booked, I’ve never gotten a yellow card or a red card in my entire career.
“And I go back to, I remember an incident that I remember really well. I played again. I must have been about 14 at the time and I was scoring a lot of goals at that point. And I think the referee made two or three decisions that I didn’t agree with.
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“And I was swearing at the referee and my dad ran onto the pitch and grabbed my neck and said, ‘Right, do that again, you don’t play football.’ And he took me off the pitch.
“In front of all my buddies. It was like, ‘Whoa.’ He said: “You don’t talk, you don’t talk to referees. That’s not how you talk to anyone.« And then: Halskrause, boom, in the van, home.”
It’s funny how certain experiences when you’re younger can so profoundly influence how you behave as an adult, and it’s clear that this has played a key role in Lineker’s impeccable disciplining record as a pro.
Players who have never received a red card
And while his perfect run of zero yellows and zero reds is almost unique for a footballer of his ilk, Lineker isn’t alone when it comes to men’s football legends who have never been sent off.
It’s almost impossible not to get a single booking in modern football, but there is an exclusive club of players who stand out as brilliant role models for having spent their entire career without a red card.
That’s why, as our tip on Lineker’s timeless stat, we decided to comb through the UEFA records and take you through nine high-profile footballers who also managed not to be sent into an early dip – check them out below :
1. Philip Lahm
Ah, the classic example of modern times. A master technician at left and right defenders and even defensive midfield, Lahm maintained an impeccable record despite loving a good old-fashioned slide tackle. He just got them pretty accurate every time.
2. Karim Benzema
Perhaps surprisingly for a man not averse to beating up defenders and delving into the dark arts of football from time to time, Benzema has now gone 18 seasons without being sent into an early dip.
As recently as March, The Mirror reported that Benzema had actually only collected 16 yellow cards in professional play, which is a staggering record.
3. Andrés Iniesta
There’s just something that’s totally unsurprising, isn’t it? Always humble and unassuming, Iniesta has always let his feet do the talking in more than 900 games without a red card for Barcelona, Vissel Kobe and Spain.
4. Gaetano Scirea
Scirea has not been hailed as the gentleman of Italian football for nothing, as the 1982 World Cup winner and Juventus legend prided himself on his “honesty and elegance” on the pitch, without red cards.
5. Dominique Rocheteau
Rocheteau, winner of Euro 1984 for France and prolific goalscorer for Paris Saint-Germain, came tantalizingly close to Lineker’s legendary record by picking up just three yellow cards in 571 games.
6. Damien Duff
Duff was indeed hit with his first-ever red card as Shelbourne manager earlier this year, but we’re only interested in making careers here as the former Chelsea and Ireland winger has always kept his cool on the pitch.
Nothing to see here, just a triple Ballon d’Or winner. Despite being crushed by opponents as a regular in his 655 appearances for club and country, the legendary Platini has often kept quiet to stay out of the referee’s book.
That just feels so, so right. Raul may have scored 432 goals, played in 1,044 games, won three Champions League titles and scooped six Spanish titles, but his red-card career record reads like a big fat zero.
9. Marco Bode
A 2002 World Cup finalist and winner of the 1992 European Cup Winners’ Cup, the Werder Bremen one-club man received zero red cards and just 13 cautions in more than 500 games at the highest level.
An exclusive club of stars
It just goes to show that you don’t have to take out players and give the referee your opinion to fight your way to the top tier of the beautiful game.
Sometimes it’s best to put your head down, let your feet do the talking, and just focus on winning the game fairly and honestly in order to get to the top without having to reduce your team to 10 men.
And while picking up red cards doesn’t make you a terrible person by any means, there’s no denying that a disciplinary record like Lineker’s still says a lot about you as a person.
“RONALDO leaves UNITED! THIS IS RIDICULOUS!” (Soccer Terrace)
However, even the England icon would probably admit that the age of VAR where sometimes you can just get into trouble just with guns would have gotten to him at some point!
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