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I stole Milan legend’s headband and left him crying like a baby in Arsenal clash


English football has long built its reputation on honesty and integrity even if a few contentious moments have slipped through the ethical net.

Players arriving in England have quickly found out that antics labelled ‘part of the game’ on the continent are seldom brushed off with such ease throughout the football pyramid.


Alessandro Nesta is considered one of the greatest defenders in history but Martin Keown had no time for his reputationCredit: Getty

Diego Maradona’s infamous Hand of God sticks in the memory and when the Argentine World Cup winner told reporters he would love to score against England again, this time with his other hand, it called into question whether English football is too honest and fair.

But going to extreme lengths to get one over on your opponents is not as rare among English footballers as many might think.

Former Arsenal defender Martin Keown implemented his own fair share of ‘dark arts’ during his 28-year career and admits he wasn’t afraid to mix it with the best of them.

Keown recalls the time he went head-to-head with Italy and AC Milan legend Alessandro Nesta, resulting in a rather unexpected outcome.

“In Europe, there were one or two Italian defenders that had bigger reputations than me and I tried to test them a little bit from set-pieces,” Keown told talkSPORT.

“I think Nesta, I took his headband off. He didn’t like it, it was affecting his hair.

“So he was marking me in a way which was just cheating. He wasn’t looking at the ball, he had both arms round me.

“I had to defend myself and kept knocking him away from me. I don’t think he’d ever seen anything like it and when I took his headband off he was crying like a baby.”

Keown made 433 appearances across two spells with the Gunners


Keown made 433 appearances across two spells with the GunnersCredit: Getty
Keown and Nesta came face-to-face during a heated clash between Arsenal and Lazio in 2000


Keown and Nesta came face-to-face during a heated clash between Arsenal and Lazio in 2000Credit: Getty

Keown, known for his no nonsense approach, helped form part of the Gunners’ compact backline alongside Tony Adams, Lee Dixon and Nigel Winterburn.

The quartet went on to guide Arsenal to a Premier League and FA Cup double in 1998, breaking Manchester United’s stranglehold on domestic honours.

‘Underappreciated’ Arsenal star Nicolas Anelka sent Tony Adams back to changing room raging because he was so good says Martin Keown

Keown’s longevity outlasted the remaining members of the famous quartet and etched his name into Premier League history as part of Arsene Wenger’s Invincibles squad of 2004.

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