Making Referees Busy: Football Players With The Most Yellow Cards

Josip Brajkovic
Josip Brajkovic
Published: 27. veljače 2024.

We wrote about duos in football, yet some footballers don't find their tandems with teammates, but with the referees. That's how often these players with the most yellow cards "work" with the officials.

While the yellow card is the official disciplinary action, it can't be viewed as something negative in its entirety. One doesn't have to be Jose Mourinho to understand that some yellow-card challenges won games.

To illustrate that the yellow cards are not just reserved for the less-skilled players, best to look at the player just outside of the top 10 - Xabi Alonso. Who would be ranked #12. A dream midfielder with passing as his strongest weapon, yet he has collected 202 yellow cards throughout his career. Many of those card-deserving challenges were tactical decisions in their own right - like breaking up a counter or winding up the opponent.

#10 Emre Belezoglu (Turkey) - 207 yellow cards

Emre in national team (11.08.2010) (cropped)
By Umi1903 - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

The only non-Spanish or Portuguese native speaker on this list, central midfielder Emre Belezoglu is retired with 173 yellow card warnings in his club career. While he got 27 yellow cards in his 101 games for Turkey. The central midfielder also received six second yellow cards playing for clubs, and one when representing his country.

#9 Javier Mascherano (Argentina) - 208 yellow cards

Javier Mascherano

An unsurprising inclusion on this list of players who received the most yellow cards. It’s a defensive midfielder’s game, and Javier Mascherano has been one of the best in that position for years. Representing seven clubs in 638 games resulted in 158 yellow cards on his record, with six red cards received by second yellow cards as well. Mascherano played in 147 games for Argentina and of course, he received many yellow cards representing his country - 42 of them. Getting sent off twice in international football by getting the second yellow of the game.

#8 David Albelda (Spain) - 212 yellow cards

David Albelda

Considering he played only 582 games total in his senior career, David Albelda equates to being one of the roughest players to ever come onto the pitch. He would receive a yellow card every 2.7 matches. His club career is mostly to blame, as in 531 games he received 196 yellow cards. With the three red cards received through the second yellow cards he received in games totalling it up. While the 51 games for Spain leave a trace of 13 yellow cards for the defensive midfielder.

#7 Raul Garcia (Spain) - 212 yellow cards

Raul Garcia

Even though he is ranked seventh amongst the players with the most yellow cards, Raul Garcia deserves recognition of his own, as he only played two international games. Those 128 minutes were enough for him to get one yellow card though. But in his 807 club career games, the Spaniard received 207 yellow cards! Also receiving four red cards by way of second yellows. Certainly, playing 148 games under Diego Simeone helps in this bracket.

#6 Pepe (Portugal) - 218 yellow cards


We were as surprised as any not to see Pepe make an appearance amongst the players with the most red cards, yet the Portuguese enforcer makes his stake in the yellow card column. With 185 yellow cards received in his club career with six added yellows received as second of the game. For Portugal, the centre-back received 26 yellow cards, and one as a second yellow. Challenging his reputation as a roughneck, Pepe has earned a yellow every 3.9 matches in his 860-game career.

#5 Arturo Vidal (Chile) - 187 - 6 - 38 - 231

Arturo Vidal

On the round of usual suspects for players with the most yellow cards, Arturo Vidal would get picked even by those who don't watch the game. Carrying around himself an aura of a rough guy, the Chilean delivers on it as well. With 187 yellow cards received in his club career, with another six as second yellow cards, the defensive midfielder put in the work. His effort for the Chile national team is visible in the yellow cards he received there too - as he bagged 38 official reprimands in 142 games. Aged 36, the tenacious player returned to his homeland and his club Colo-Colo, so the number is set to increase even later in his career, as passions run high.

Still, he won't catch up to the player with the most yellow cards as he is in a league of his own.

#4 Dani Alves (Brazil) - 239 yellow cards

Dani Alves

Known primarily for his technical ability, the attacking full-back Dani Alves hasn't slacked on the defensive end. As credited by his 214 yellow cards received in club games for Barcelona, Sevilla, Sao Paulo, PSG, Juventus, UNAM Pumas, and Club Bahia. With seven additional second yellow cards in club football. Playing 126 games for Brazil, the right-back received 17 yellow, and one red card by way of a second yellow. The fact that Dani is remembered firstly by his talent and skill despite a mountain of yellow cards behind him, illustrates his level.

#3 Felipe Melo (Brazil) - 248 yellow cards

Felipe Melo

In a specific case amongst the players with the most yellow cards, Felipe Melo stands out as the one of the few who had a small number of international games. Only 22. Yet even those outings were enough for the DM-turned-CB to get seven yellow cards. Melo made up for it with a long club career, as he is 40 and still going on, playing for Fluminense in Brazil. Overall, Melo has 687 club games behind him so far, and referees wrote him up in their books 231 times. Sending him to the showers early with a second yellow another 10 times.

After 709 games, it’s an average of 2.8 matches played before seeing a yellow.

#2 Gerardo Torrado (Mexico) - 272 yellow cards

Gerardo Torrado

The Mexican bruiser who makes an appearance on the top 10 players who received a red card as well, didn't get many of those marching orders via a way of a second yellow. Only eight times in his club career, and two in his tribulations with Mexico. Suggesting that Torrado's yellows were more of the professional kind, getting 216 of them for the club and 46 in 147 games for Mexico.

Yet, he even beats out the number one most-yellow-carded player by a way of averages, as in his total 728 games, he received a yellow card every 2.6 matches.

#1 Sergio Ramos (Spain) - 294 yellow cards

Sergio Ramos

Still, he is head and shoulders above everyone in the yellow card statistics. Hence, it's not surprising that Sergio Ramos is one of the most hated players in the game. Nor that he suffered many injuries.


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