10 Players Who Returned To Old Teams And How They Rated

This article was first published on November 4th 2015.

With the news that Steven Gerrard might possibly be coming back to Liverpool for a return, we cast our eyes back to the past on a few players who made famous returns to their teams – and rate them on how they did!

Robbie Fowler

We may as well start with a Liverpool compatriot of Gerrard’s. Fowler’s first stint on Merseyside lasted eight glorious years as the goals flew in. His first spell finished with what Liverpool fans and only Liverpool fans regard as ‘the Treble’ – The FA Cup, the League Cup, and the UEFA Cup.

After spending some time with Leeds United and Manchester City, Fowler returned, igniting the good times again in the hearts of Reds fans.

Liverpool Press Conference with Robbie Fowler

The picture that made millions of Reds fans giddy. Photo: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Return rating: A solid season and a half for an ageing Fowler saw him bag 12 goals in 39 games. Not the worst strike rate that Nabil El Zhar would have been jealous of anyway. 6/10. 

Didier Drogba

Drogba was the Chelsea love story that just wouldn’t go away. His last touch as a Blue in his first season at the club won them their first ever (and only, to date) Champions League.

The Ivorian’s career was seemingly on its way to petering out with a bit of globetrotting in China and Turkey, but the striker must have gotten bored of that and decided to answer Mourinho’s call in 2014 for one last season in London. That was last season when they were champions, a period time that feels very very far away now.


King Drogba’s glorious return to Chelsea. Photo: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Return rating: Came back to play understudy to the immaculate (last season…) Diego Costa. Scored few goals, but a couple of important ones, in a title-winning season. 6/10. 

Fernando Torres

Before he went to Liverpool, Torres was Atletico Madrid. A born and bred colchonero, he captained the team at the age of only 19. He grew up in the ranks of Atleti and helped the team secure promotion after spending some time in their worst period in history in the second division in Spain.

A successful spell at Liverpool saw him become one of the best strikers in the world, but he practically lost that talent overnight when signed for Chelsea. The less said about his time at AC Milan the better.


Torres is finally enjoying his football again back home at Atleti. Photo: Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Return rating: It’s somewhat unfair to give him a rating while he’s still currently playing with the club, and he’s only been back for less than a year already.

However, I think given that he was never going to be the prolific goalscorer he once was, Torres has done almost everything he could have realistically been asked. A number of important goals against Real Madrid and Barcelona saw his return quite explosive last season. 7/10.

Andriy Shevchenko

Shevchenko’s case is actually a two-for-one, with famous returns to both AC Milan and Dynamo Kiev! After making his name at Kiev with some fantastic results in Europe and winning five league titles in just five years in Ukrainian football, he became arguably the best striker in the world at San Siro.

A Champions League and a Serie A title later, Roman Abramovich said ‘I’ll have that!’ and took him to Stamford Bridge, where the Russian owner first tested out his brand new, state of the art, best-striker-in-the-world-talent-sapping machine, later seen in use on Fernando Torres.


Abramovich’s machine. Probably.

His return to AC Milan saw the continued Chelsea form, but his later return to Dynamo Kiev after just a year in Italy was rather glorious, with a strike rate of around a goal every other game.

Return rating: To AC Milan – abysmal. No league goals scored all year, with just one in Europe and one more in the ever un-inspiring Coppa Italia.

A kind one rating point per goal gets him 2/10. To Dynamo Kiev – excellent! His goals couldn’t carry Kiev to another Ukrainian title in his time at the club, as Shakhtar had just started their 5-in-a-row when he came back. 8/10.

Roy Keane

The talismanic former long-term Manchester United captain never made a return to a club, but rather made a return to the international game with his country Republic of Ireland.

Keane and manager Mick McCarthy’s very public and bizarre spat at the 2002 World Cup saw the midfielder leave the camp before a ball had been kicked (although Keane would argue there weren’t even any balls to be kicked…). McCarthy left the setup a number of years later, which then opened the door for Keane to return.

Republic of Ireland v France

Keane even lined up against a football with a human body on his Ireland return. Photo: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Return rating: Keane played for Ireland for the World Cup 2006 qualifying stage, where Ireland finished 4th of a 6 team group, but only one point off second place and a playoff round. A few decent results coupled with some disappointments wasn’t the return everyone was hoping for. 5/10.

Thierry Henry

The legendary Frenchman had spearheaded Arsenal to two Premier League crowns and three FA Cup victories in his first stint with the Gunners, and a two-month loan return for the 35-year-old had plenty of ingredients for a underwhelming return.

However, Henry’s Arsenal return proved rather fruitful, as 161 minutes of football played across seven matches (with no starts) during his return yielded three goals – including a last minute winner against Sunderland in the Premier League and the only goal of the game in an FA Cup tie with Leeds United!

Arsenal v Leeds United - FA Cup Third Round

Dreams do come true – Henry after scoring against Leeds on his Arsenal return. Photo: Clive Mason/Getty Images

Return rating: A short and sweet return with plenty Henry can be proud of. 7/10. 

Paul Scholes

Scholes only ever played for the one club during his playing days – Manchester United. After retiring in 2011, Scholes was showered with praise from ex-pros, current pros, and managers alike. He had ended his career a league champion, claiming his personal tenth Premier League title.

Half a year later, with United struggling in midfield with injuries, he was back for more! His second United debut was a derby win against Manchester City in the FA Cup, not bad at all.

Manchester City v Manchester United - FA Cup Third Round

“C’mon lads, I’ll show you how it’s done” – Scholes on his United return. Photo: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Return rating: Bailed his old pals out when they needed an extra body in the squad, and signed a year’s contract extension the following summer. An 11th Premier League title arrived before he decided to hang up the boots for a second, and final, time. 7/10.

Cesc Fabregas

Fabregas always had Barcelona in his blood. He adored the club from a young age, and developed his talents in Barca’s famed La Masia academy alongside players such as Gerard Piqué and Lionel Messi.

Before long, he decided he was going to find playing time difficult to come by alongside such superstars, and decided to uproot his life to Arsenal, where he started his professional career.

Eight years and a very public tapping up from his Spanish teammates in the Barcelona side later, he returned to Catalonia with a lot of unfinished business to get done.

FIFA 2010 World Cup Champions Spain Victory Parade And Celebrations

Reina and Puyol ‘force’ a Barcelona jersey on Fabregas before he had joined the club. Photo: Daniel Sastre Huertas/Getty Images

Return rating: Fabregas was a very important player for Barcelona during his time at the club. His versatility to play in either a midfield three or a front three meant his position changed around a lot, but was a dependable servant to the club nonetheless. He boasted a strike rate of nearly one goal in every third game – stats any striker would be happy enough with.

Unfortunately for Cesc, he joined a team having a dip in form, as in the three years prior to him joining them, Barca won three Liga titles on the bounce and two Champions Leagues. In his time at the club, they picked up only one La Liga and zero Champions Leagues – however Luis Enrique guided the team to their 5th European crown the season Fabregas left. 8/10.

Sol Campbell

Campbell’s case was a rather bizarre one, after re-joining Arsenal just because the club were in the midst of a defensive injury crisis, and Campbell happened to be training with the club to keep up his fitness. This came after Campbell’s even more bizarre one-game stint with League Two’s Notts County.

Sol proved successful cover for Thomas Vermaelen and William Gallas, and even managed to bag himself an important goal away to Porto in the Champions League!

Arsenal v FC Porto - UEFA Champions League

Sol Campbell rises highest to net in the last 16 of the Champions League vs Porto. Photo: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Return rating: Did what was required of him, and more, in a more pragmatic than glorious return. 7/10.

Mark Hughes

A youth academy product of Manchester United, Sparky’s early Red Devils career showed he was a good goalscorer. This prompted Barcelona to pay United £2 for him to be Gary Lineker’s strike partner – an idea that fell flat on its face after Hughes failed to impress in Spain.

A year later at Bayern Munich saw him once play two games in one day (one for Wales, one for Bayern), but again Hughes didn’t make much of an impression.

Mark Hughes

“We should have never let you go.” Mark Hughes takes a shot in his second stint at United. Photo: Ben Radford/Getty Images

Return rating: Sir Alex Ferguson was now in charge of Manchester United, and he had an inkling he could get the best out of Hughes after his European dream was coming to an end. Ferguson, as usual, was spot on, and Hughes went on to become a pivotal player picking up two Premier Leagues, three FA Cups, and a UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup. 8/10. 


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