10 footballers who went to prison and inside the jails where they were locked up

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As much as people may hate to admit it, prison is a part of life. And that goes for sports athletes and footballers too.

In 2020, it was revealed that 167 in every 100,000 people in the UK were in prison at the time the data was collected.

Some players, like any other human beings, are certainly not immune from ill-fated decisions which can lead them to getting on the wrong side of the law.

As the football festive schedule clicks into gear for the busiest part of the season, there will be some wondering what it would have been like to miss the Christmas buzz after committing their offence.

And, of course, there were also ones who didn't need to wonder as they were handed down a sentence for years, not days or months.

Here, Daily Star Sport looks at 10 players who fell foul of the law and the events that occurred in their lives that sent them into prison.


One of the most talented and worshipped footballers of all time found himself at the centre of a fake passport scandal after travelling to Paraguay.

The Brazilian spent five months behind bars in 2020 after being accused of forging passport documents, which saw him and his brother Roberto de Assis facing five years in prison.

Instead, the pair were offered a plea deal, reducing the sentence to five months and paying a combined fine of $200,000 (£167,000).

The pair paid up, plead guilty and served their time in Asuncion prison, with Ronaldinho celebrating his 40th birthday inside the prison grounds.


Adam Johnson

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It was a scandal that perhaps every football fan will recall like it was yesterday.

Adam Johnson, the former Manchester City and Sunderland player, was convicted of child sex offences in 2016.

A former England international, Johnson was sacked by Sunderland after he was found to have engaged in a relationship with a 15-year-old girl, who cannot be named for legal reasons.

Now 34, Johnson was released from prison in 2019 after serving half of his six-year sentence at HM Prison Leeds and HM Prison Moorland.

Tony Adams

The Arsenal centre-back’s career was thrown into doubt after he was convicted of drink-driving offences in 1990.

Adams, a former Gunners captain, was found to have been four times over the legal limit when he crashed his car in Rayleigh, Essex.

Having spent 57 days at Chelmsford prison, Adams claimed he got nothing productive from the experience in relation to his battle with alcohol addiction

"Prison didn’t teach me anything,” he said. “There was no education about why I was in there or around my illness."

Joey Barton

The midfielder who became notorious for having a temper on the pitch got himself involved in several incidents away from the game too.

Barton has twice been convicted for violent charges, the first incident being when he drove his car into a pedestrian in Liverpool City Centre for which he was convicted of assault and served 77 days in prison.

However, during his sentence in 2008, Barton received a four-month suspended term after admitting assault occasioning actual body harm against his former Man City team-mate Ousmane Dabo.

Now manager of Bristol Rovers, Barton was recently found not guilty of assaulting former Barnsley manager Daniel Stendel in 2019.

Marlon King

Former Birmingham and Wigan striker Marlon King was jailed in 2009 for 18 months after being found guilty of groping a woman and breaking her nose.

King was out celebrating with his pregnant wife in a bar in London in December 2008 when the incident took place.

He returned to prison a second time in 2014 after being given an 18-month sentence for admitting dangerous driving, in addition to a three-year ban for driving.

And after being released in 2010, ex-Jamaica international King moved to Zambia with his family.

Lee Hughes

Lee Hughes was a Premier League striker for West Bromwich Albion when in 2004, his life changed in one moment.

Hughes was behind the wheel of his £100,000 Mercedes when he crashed into another car, killing the passenger in the other vehicle.

But he exacerbated the situation when Hughes and his passenger fled the scene. Once the incident had been reported, Hughes turned himself in and was released on bail.

Later that year, the Englishman was convicted of death by dangerous driving and leaving the scene of an accident.

He was sentenced to six years in prison and banned from driving for 10 years, and was released from the Featherstone prison establishment in 2010.

Ian Wright

Ian Wright is nothing if not honest and the Arsenal legend, who scored 185 goals for the club, has always spoken candidly about his time in prison and how it changed him as a person.

The former striker was just 19 when he declined to pay fines for driving and he was convicted for two weeks at Chelmsford Prison – the same one Adams went to – in 1982.

It may have been a short sentence but Wright was aware of the effect prison had on his life: "I did say I would never ever come to a place like that again," he said in 2016.

"I knew I had to start doing the straight and narrow right thing. That was it."

Duncan Ferguson

On Merseyside these days, Duncan Ferguson can often be found making heartfelt motivation messages to boys who are having trouble at school.

But the towering forward also had a fiery side that regularly saw him fall into hot water, picking up four assault charges during his playing career.

Three of these charges simply resulted in fines, with two of them between taxi drivers and one altercation with a fisherman.

The charge that made the headlines came in 1994, when Ferguson head-butted Raith Rovers defender John McStay. Despite it being an on-field incident, Ferguson was told to serve three months inside Barlinnie prison.

Rene Higuita

To football fans, he will be forever known for his bizarre and incredible scorpion kick clearance when the two teams met in the 1990s.

But Colombian goalkeepr Higuita had a shady past and, in 1993. was incarcerated for being involved in a kidnapping.

Not just any kidnapping though. It involved capturing famous Colombian drug baron Pablo Escobar, although Higuita's part in the plot was to deliver the ransom money.

That crime earned him seven months inside a notorious jail in Bogota to truly reflect the seriousness of his crime.

Jan Molby

The Liverpool defender was forced to miss three months of the 1988-89 season due to being imprisoned for drunk driving.

Earlier that year, the Dane had crashed his car outside of a Liverpool nightclub while drunk and was caught by Merseyside police.

His sentencing did not come until October, but Liverpool decided to stick by their player during the debacle through thick and thin.

Eventually, when the defender got out of jail, he was able to join up with his club and returned straight to the first team.

  • Adam Johnson
  • Ronaldinho
  • Ian Wright
  • Premier League

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