On the soccer field, everyone knows what’s going on when the referee reaches for their pocket and pulls out their red or yellow card. The yellow card is the less severe of the two, and it serves as an official caution.
The Laws of the Game lists the offenses that result in a yellow card, but there is quite a lot of subjective judgment involved in giving out these yellow cards.
Here are the 15 players with the most yellow cards.
15. Daniele de Rossi – 167 Yellow Cards
This list wraps up with an Italian who has dedicated a large section of his calf to a tattoo that represents the thing that contributed to his high level of booking over the course of his career.
On his right leg, he has a large yellow warning sign, stylized similar to a traffic sign, which features a depiction of one player tackling another. The slide tackle was perhaps his signature move, but as stated before, it can be a risky move that may result in a yellow card.
However, despite this apparent dedication to his tackling game, he retired with almost 100 fewer yellow cards than the list leader.
14. Stathis Tavlaridis – 169 Yellow Cards
Even though he was born in January, Tavlaridis earned a nickname that should have been given to a Taurus. French fans called him Taureau, which translates to the bull, since he was an aggressive center-back who would put together almost 400 appearances in his 20-year career.
This Greek player would spend time in Greek, England, France, and closed his career out in his home country of Greece, trailing a prolific book of yellow cards along the way. He’s retired and turned 42 in 2022. He’s also listed as the Chief Scouting officer for AEK Athens FC.
13. Alberto Lopo – 171 Yellow Cards
Yet another Spaniard has made the list, and while Lopo played a huge number of games in La Liga, he seemed to calm down during his later seasons. He would get booked most often during his time with Espanyol from 2001 to 2005. In 2001, he got his highest number per season at 16.
He frequently got over 10 yellow cards per season with Espanyol, but after he moved to Deportivo La Coruna, he’d eventually stop getting in trouble so much. Even so, in his first season at Deportivo, he both played the most matches of anyone on the team and got 11 yellow cards.
12. Javier Mascherano – 175 Yellow Cards
This Argentinian player moved from Argentina to Brazil after his first two years and then headed to England, Spain, China, and back to Argentina for the last year of his career. When he played for Liverpool in 2008, he wracked up two of his 175 yellow cards in an incident at Manchester’s Old Trafford.
He received one card for a late tackle and a second for yelling at the referee who was giving a card to his teammate Fernando Torres. Mascherano continued berating the referee, and his teammates Steven Gerrard and Xabi Alonso had to push him off of the field.
Members of the coaching staff came out to speak with him, and another teammate, Peter Crouch, physically escorted Mascherano down the tunnel and into the locker room. He was suspended and fined, but he acknowledged he was in the wrong and asked his fine be donated to charity.
11. Arturo Vidal – 180 Yellow Cards
This mohawk-rocking Chilean player has held positions all over the pitch, but no matter where he’s been placed in the midfield lineup, he has an aggressive style of play that has certainly led to his high amounts of yellow cards during his 17-year career.
The Chilean is still active, playing for Inter Milan. When he was a player for Juventus, he earned nicknames like “The Warrior,” “King Arthur,” and “The Piranha.”
Although a lot of his club activity is in Europe, he still plays for Chilean national teams, being one of only seven players to have played over 100 games for Chile.
10. Emre Belozoglu – 181 Yellow Cards
This Turkish professional soccer player traveled the world and played for a variety of clubs. In his 24 years as a player, Belozoglu caused a lot of controversy on and off the pitch. Including getting suspended for his part in a brawl after a match in a 2006 World Cup qualifier with Switzerland, as well as a transfer to Newcastle United that was investigated as part of the Stevens inquiry in 2007.
During his time in England, he was accused of racism on several occasions, and he was even found guilty of a racially motivated insult crime in his home country of Turkey.
9. Giampiero Pinzi – 182 Yellow Cards
This Roman-born midfielder retired in 2019 after spending nearly 20 years playing at various Italian clubs, and in his 436 appearances for these clubs, he scored 20 goals and got booked 182 times.
He was also an Olympic bronze medalist in 2004, when he played for the Italian team. He is also a knight in his home country, bearing the 5th class knight honorific Cavaliere Ordine al Merito Della Repubblica Italiana.
Seems like all of those yellow cards weren’t enough to dissuade the President of the Italian Republic from thinking that Pinzi had “merit acquired by the nation.”
8. David Albelda – 183 Yellow Cards
Our number eight spot is yet another Spaniard who didn’t stray out of his home country, spending his illustrious career getting yellow cards mainly at Valencia, with one season at Villarreal.
Thus, almost all of his yellow cards came from when he played with Valencia, but despite his penchant for penalties, he was a long-time team captain. He managed Atzeneta UE for almost two years but left after the team was relegated.
While his personal website lists many of his varied achievements during his time at Valencia, it does leave out his auspicious number of yellow cards.
7. Raul Garcia – 185 Yellow Cards
Since starting his pro career for Osasuna B, this Spaniard has gotten quite a few yellow cards, but as an attacking midfielder who has made hundreds of appearances, this is not wholly unexpected.
Garcia has played exclusively for Spanish league teams (Osasuna, Atletico Madrid, and Athletic Bilbao), as well as representing his home country on multiple national teams, mostly playing on regional Spanish teams that play friendlies with each other.
He’s still an active player, and as such, his standing in this list may fluctuate.
6. Gabi – 189 Yellow Cards
It’s always a sign of legendary status when someone can go by one name, and the Spanish footballer Gabi is certainly the stuff of legends.
For 18 seasons, Gabi made 545 appearances for various league teams while being served 10 or so yellow cards a season. Gabi was proficient and effective as a tackler, which may be part of why the defensive midfielder got so many of those yellow cards.
Whether or not a tackle is legal or not can be a fairly subjective call by the referee, so players who do it more often are more likely to get carded for it.
5. Daniele Conti – 190 Yellow Cards
Conti comes from incredible Italian soccer stock, and he began playing for Roma at the age of 16. After a move to Cagliari in 1999, he would go on to make 464 appearances and 51 goals for the club, retiring in 2015.
He would also go on to average 10.9 yellow cards per season, but again, he was on the pitch for nearly 20 years. In fact, he broke a 30-year-old Cagliari record for most club appearances, which was previously held by Mario Brugnera, who also played some of his career as a midfielder.
4. Xabi Alonso – 197 Yellow Cards
Again we see a mismatch in overall temperament and card count. His Liverpool teammates described the Spaniard as quiet and friendly, but nevertheless, this creative midfielder managed to get a substantial amount of yellow cards.
At an average of almost 11 per season, if Alonso would have stayed with Bayern Munich for one more season, he might have gotten into the over-200 club.
As it turns out, Alonso took his formidable skills to the sideline and is working as the manager for Real Sociedad B back in his home county of Spain, although he says he will be a Liverpool fan “forever, absolutely.”
3. Dani Alves – 210 Yellow Cards
Alves is the last player on our list to have gotten over 200 yellow cards, averaging 10.5 yellow cards per season since 2001. Although some might not like Alves because of his style of play, Alves was unfortunately disliked for another reason.
In April of 2014, a fan threw a banana at him in an act of racism. Rather than reacting negatively or aggressively, Alves simply opened the banana and ate it. It’s important to remember that these high card counts do not necessarily mean that a player is a “dirty” player or isn’t in control of their temper.
There are many factors that go into getting a card, and over the course of a long career, they certainly can add up.
2. Gerardo Torrado – 228 Yellow Cards
This defensive midfielder was known as “The Sheep” because of his curly hair, not his gentle or soft style of play. He actually has a higher per-season average than Ramos, at 17.5 over 13 seasons, but the total number is lower.
Although Torrado has retired from the pitch, he’s still active in the athletic world, serving as the sporting director of the Mexican Football Federation. Hopefully, his colleagues aren’t showing him yellow cards for fouls in the workplace!
1. Sergio Ramos – 259 Yellow Cards
This Spaniard is no stranger to being shown a card by a referee, either yellow or red, and he holds multiple disciplinary records overall. Apart from being the player with the most yellow cards, Ramos is also the player with the most red cards.
Since he is still an active player on contract with Paris Saint-Germain, it’s likely this number will continue to climb.
Ramos is head and shoulders above the other members on this list, for good or for bad, he’ll likely hold this record for quite a while. Since he started with Sevilla Atletico in 2003, Ramos has averaged more than 14 yellow cards every season.