Pre-season tours are supposed to provide Premier League players with the perfect opportunity to prepare ahead of the next campaign, but for some, they serve up the chance to cause carnage.
With Covid-inflicted travel restrictions largely a thing of the past, this summer will see the Premier League's elite once again jet off all over the world to test their mettle against different types of teams and ultimately satisfy sponsors. While pre-season often provides fans further afield to see the Premier League's biggest names up close, it provides the game's stars with the opportunity to get up to all manner of mischief.
As English football's most iconic brands prepare for the 2022-23 season by travelling the world over, Daily Star Sport take a closer look at some of the wildest events to have taken place on pre-season tours of the past. This could get messy…
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Manchester United (1999)
Fresh from claiming a memorable treble at the end of the 1998-99 season, Manchester United prepared for the following campaign with a glamorous pre-season tour of Australia – minus the newly-married David Beckham and the newly-knighted Sir Alex Ferguson. The trip was designed to help the Red Devils get back into tip-top shape, however, Dwight Yorke saw the excursion as an opportunity to get himself acquainted with the country's natural beauties.
Having already been caught breaking curfew in Sydney alongside new United recruit and local 'expert' Mark Bosnich after failing to keep a low profile when they returned to their hotel at 5am, Yorke soon got himself up to more mischief. Yorke told FourFourTwo: “There can't be anywhere on the planet with as many beautiful women as Australia.
"We’d been under a strict lockdown in Melbourne, with no visitors allowed and security guards stationed in the lifts just to make sure. I had to beat security with the oldest trick in the book – bribery – to sneak a girl into my room.”
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After learning "one of the hottest babes in Australia”, model Gabby Richens, would be in the city at the same time as United, the Trinidad & Tobago international tracked her down, intent on getting himself some action. He added: “She was also known as ‘the Pleasure Machine’, a nickname she got from an airline advertising campaign in which she had steamed up the screens with a striptease.
"When I saw her, I was transfixed. There was no time like that moment to approach her.”
After hitting it off with Richens, he recalls being pleasantly surprised when a bribe of just 100 US dollars was enough to convince a security guard – in place to prevent visitors coming back to the players’ rooms – to look the other way. Recalling the “spectacular” night he had with Richens, Yorke admitted: “I would have parted with a year’s win bonuses if necessary.
Leicester City (2002, 2004, 2015)
If you ever want to know just how chaotic pre-season tours can get, just flick through Leicester City's recent tour albums. The Foxes have a habit of experiencing off-season horror shows.
The first of three anecdotes to bring you comes from back in 2002 on a disastrous trip to Finland. Following a day of drinking, poker and evidently very little football, a fracas broke out between tough-nut Dennis Wise and his Foxes team-mate Callum Davidson.
The latter was left with a broken cheekbone following the fisticuffs while Wise was promptly put on the first flight back to Leicester. The tough-tackling midfielder would swiftly find himself sacked.
Two years later, the Foxes were at it again. A pre-season trip to La Manga in Spain saw the squad embroiled in yet more episodes of controversy. Accusations of sexual assault against three players, which were later quashed marred preparations for the new campaign, while it is rumoured that an ‘altercation’ between Stan Collymore and Trevor Benjamin resulted in the former releasing the contents of a fire extinguisher in the resort’s famous Piano Bar.
In more recent times, three young Foxes players were filmed making derogatory comments while filming a sex tape with some local girls in the club's 2015 pre-season tour of Thailand. The unsavoury incident did little for Leicester's publicity as all hope of leaving a good impression in the home country of the club's owners swiftly went out of the window.
To make matters worse, James Pearson, son of then Leicester manager Nigel, was at the heart of the controversy and soon found himself sacked. His dad then followed him out of the door a mere fortnight later.
Chelsea star Kenedy made quite the faux pas during the Blues' 2017 pre-season tour of China and his blunder saw him subsequently sent home. Ahead of his side's friendly against Arsenal at the Bird’s Nest in Beijing, the Brazilian landed himself in hot water with Chelsea and being public enemy number one after uploading two controversial posts to Instagram, one with a caption which translated as "F*** you China" and another of a security guard asleep which was tagged: "Wake up China. You idiot."
Chinese fans accused Kenedy, who was jeered throughout the meeting with the Gunners, of xenophobia and racism, leading to an apology from the player who promptly deleted the posts. He wrote: “I would like to apologise to the people of China for the offence I have caused. It was never my intention to insult or offend anyone at all and I now realise that my comments were totally inappropriate.
"I wish to state that I have tremendous respect and admiration for the Chinese people and their country. I would also like to apologise to my club Chelsea and all my companions who I have let down by my posts. I fully understand the responsibility of representing my club and it was never my intention to cause this embarrassment nor disrespect.”
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