USA captain was dropped during World Cup after affair with team-mate’s wife

John Harkes was a leading member of the USA national team, playing in two World Cups and bossing the midfield for Steve Sampson's side.

So much so, the United States coach branded the former Sheffield Wednesday and Derby County star his "captain for life". It underlined his importance to the nation, but that all changed just months before the 1998 World Cup was set to get underway.

Without warning, Harkes was cut from the squad entirely with leadership issues cited as the reason – without any further explanation.

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It led to a total breakdown in relations between the player and coach with the former midfielder writing in his autobiography: "I can't think of one thing that Steve did right in the months leading up to the World Cup."

However, years later in 2010 it was claimed Eric Wynalda's wife Amy had an alleged affair with Harkes, which prompted his dismissal from the United States team. Sampson spoke out on the matter, insisting he could not have someone like that in his camp.

"I think I could have lived with everything else and kept John on the team if it had not been for the private issues," he said in 2010. "It's one thing to have an affair outside the team. It's another to have one inside… There are just certain lines that one cannot cross."

The United States did not have a good tournament in France – finishing bottom of their group. They lost all three games against Germany, Yugoslavia and Iran.

Harkes said over the matter: "I am not going to rehash the things that have happened in the past. 1998 was devastating to me and my family. It was hard enough not to play in the World Cup, but it was even difficult to go through that time period, the most difficult time period of my life."

Wynalda, meanwhile, insisted that an affair did happen, saying: "I'm calling it an inappropriate relationship. It was a major contributor to why I'm no longer married."

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