This article was first published on 13th April 2015
Steven Defour was once the darling of Liege, their young talismanic captain who led them to glory – two league titles, one Belgian cup, and two Belgian supercups in a five year spell at the club. A stint at Porto followed this, prior to a move back home – but this time to Liege’s bitter rivals Anderlecht.
Naturally, Standard fans didn’t appreciate this turncoat move. Back in January, Defour went back to Liege for the first time in an Anderlecht jersey. The home fans welcomed him in fantastic fashion, erecting a gigantic tifo of Defour decapitated with a massive sword, with the words “Red or Dead” scribbled across it.
Defour was so rattled by the gesture that at one point during play, he received a pass only to run towards the Liege fans and shoot the ball at them, reacting ferociously to the abuse he was receiving. The Belgian international was sent off and Liege won the match 2-0.
The teams met again this week, and Liege rolled Anderlecht over, eventually storming out to a 3-1 win. Nearing full time, Defour tried to have the last laugh by making a show of his former team, attempting a roulette spin. The move did not work out, and instead Steven Defour came off having another horrible memory to live with against his former team.
The winner of two World Cups, Mané Garrincha was one of Brazil’s finest ever talents. Brazil never lost a match with him and Pelé on the pitch, such was the influence that he had, and he became known as The Joy of the People.
Garrincha was a trickster first and foremost; teasing defenders up and down the wings, inspiring fans to chant the bullfighting cry of ‘olé’ for the first time. The story of Garrincha is one of the most fascinating in world football, as the little speedster was born with a number of physical defects that would have in theory prevented him from excelling in football.
Manuel Francisco dos Santos, as he was born, had a right leg that bent outwards, and a left leg six centimetres shorter than the other. His spine was also slightly deformed, but nothing could stop Garrincha from dazzling crowds and bamboozling defenders.
He wasn’t given a starting berth in the first two games of the 1958 World Cup but was introduced to the world against the USSR, in Brazil’s third game. The USSR were favourites for the whole tournament, giving the Brazilians a lot of nerves. Brazil attacked from the very beginning of the match, with Garrincha twisting and turning Soviet defenders, before setting Pelé up to just about miss the target, hitting the crossbar.
With Pelé missing the next World Cup through injury, Garrincha stepped up to the plate and provided enough flair and penetration with dismantle any opponent that stood in their way. Brazil and Garrincha lifted the 1962 World Cup, after years of controversy and hardship for the troubled winger.
Garrincha suffered with alcoholism, as his father did. Mané also fathered at least 14 children, between two wives, a number of mistresses, and a Swedish girl while on tour there with the Brazilian national team. Garrincha died of cirrhosis of the liver at the age of only 49, and spent his last years in a poor physical and mental state.
Garrincha was something of a forgotten legend when he passed away, and the memory and joy he gave to the people is something that should be remembered forever. He had so many adversities and obstacles to overcome in his life, but still managed to win the World Cup on two magical occasions. In many ways, Mané Garrincha was truly the Joy of the People.
This article was first published on 28th April 2015
AFC Bournemouth’s recent financial troubles have been well documented today and yesterday after they all but clinched promotion to the Premier League by beating Bolton Wanderers last night. They began the 2008/09 season on -17 points at the bottom of League Two. On the brink of going under, the Cherries instead regrouped and fought back in the face of adversity and have somehow now found themselves in the promised land.
Stories like Bournemouth’s are why everyone loves football, a true underdog victory. Whether they finish bottom of the table next season or manage to survive again, the fact will remain that they made it to the top tier of English football – for the first time in their history – and became the 47th team to play in the Premier League, something unimaginable when they were five minutes from liquidation in 2008.
Here, we take a look at some of the other best romance stories that football has gifted us.
Blackpool – Promoted to Premier League 2010
Blackpool, under the guidance of eccentric manager Ian Holloway, stunned the football world by their valiant performances in 2009/2010. They played nothing but attacking football, earning praise from across the league, and were promoted to the big time via the playoffs, beating Cardiff City in the final. They were widely tipped for relegation from the Championship the year they went up, but they made up for their shoestring budget by playing with as much heart and guile as they could muster. Their top flight stint was to prove ill-fated, as a collapse in form in the second half of the season saw them relegated on the final day.
In only 2000/01, Blackpool were playing in the fourth tier of the English football pyramid. They had something of a meteoric rise to the top, capturing the hearts and minds of fans up and down the country. These days however, Blackpool fans are constantly protesting about the failures of the Oystons, who have spearheaded the club’s demise down to the third tier once more.
Eibar – Promoted to La Liga 2014
Eibar are still in the middle of their fairytale, after winning promotion in the unlikeliest of circumstances last season. Everything was against them – even the league itself. From a town of less than 30,000 inhabitants, the tiny club bounced between the fourth and second tiers for most of its history. Two seasons ago they weren’t expected to make much of a splash in the third tier, but earned promotion. Last year they were widely expected to go straight back down, but ended up winning the league, and by the half way point of their only top flight campaign to date, they sat in 8th place.
Eibar had to struggle through much more than on-pitch adversaries to reach Spain’s top flight. For some bizarre reason, teams in the second tier in Spain had to have a certain amount of expenditure corresponding to the average of the league. Eibar’s financial policy has always been about not spending more than they have, therefore not getting into any debt. Eibar are one of very few Spanish teams with absolutely no debt for this reason. It was this financial policy that meant they didn’t spend much money, resulting in the league threatening to relegate them to the third tier after they won Segunda just last summer, prompting in fans and romantics across the world pitching in to buy shares in the club, helping them achieve their goal of playing in the top tier – something they had fairly earned by their on-pitch endeavours.
Montpellier – Ligue 1 winners 2012
Since 2012, PSG have since grown and grown to the point of French and European powerhouses, given the backing they have from their new owners. The summer before the season, they splashed over €100 million on a new playing staff, not to mention bringing in veteran Italian manager Carlo Ancelotti, who was made the highest paid manager in French football history. Montpellier on the other hand, broke their highest transfer fee paid with the signature of Arsenal’s Olivier Giroud for a whopping £1.7 million.
Giroud went on to score 21 goals for Montpellier that season, as they stormed to a hugely unlikely championship title by pipping PSG on the final day of the season. Their first ever title was seen by an average crowd of only 17,492, and led to their first ever campaign in the Champions League. The following season, the dream was over, as the capital club stormed to the title and finished 30 points ahead of Montpellier.
Atletico Madrid – La Liga winners 2014
For such a long time it seemed like the duopoly of Barcelona and Real Madrid may never be broken again in Spain, as the big two looked miles ahead of the chasing pack not only in terms of quality but finances as well, which should in theory maintain the quality gap. Atletico Madrid had finished 9th and 7th before Simeone took over mid way through the 2011/12 season, and once the Argentinian entered the fray, things changed.
Last season, Atleti displayed incredible consistency, beating teams week in week out with magnificent efficiency. Diego Costa took on more responsibility to find the goals once Falcao left, and ended up scoring for fun. Throughout the year, he was asked whether his team could win the title, and throughout the season he answered no, but they were taking things one week at a time. Simeone transformed a group of players – largely the same squad finishing 9th and 7th – and made them champions, finishing ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo’s Real Madrid and Leo Messi’s Barcelona. More than that, they almost capped things off with a Champions League title, but suffered unimaginable heartbreak at the hands of their city rivals in the final after leading until the 93rd minute.
Swansea City – League Two 2005 to Premier League 2011
The Swans have already achieved the best ever Premier League points tally/finish, and are setting that club record higher with every result they get between now and the end of the season. One of their biggest achievements has to be the fact that they are now Premier League mainstays, rising from humble beginnings to one of the most established teams in the league.
Eleven years ago, Swansea finished level on points with Boston United, now playing in the Conference North. They even finished below Oxford United in the 2003/04 League Two season. Excellent management of the club has allowed them to grow step by step, were promoted in 2004/05, 2007/08, and to the Premier League in 2010/11, and even featured in the Europa League last season after winning their first ever trophy in English football the season before.
This article was first published on June 28th 2015.
The silly season is back in earnest as the transfer window officially opened last week. We’ve seen plenty of rumours to keep our gossiping minds at play, and a couple of moves done and dusted already to go with it. Liverpool have been one of the most active in the window this summer so far, picking up a couple of bargains that will no doubt play an important role for them next season.
James Milner is already signed, sealed, and delivered on Merseyside, while Danny Ings looks to follow very soon technically on a free transfer. Here, we look for the best team that could be built entirely out of free transfers throughout England and Europe over the years.
Goalkeeper – Brad Friedel – Aston Villa to Tottenham Hotspur 2011
The evergreen American was one of the best and most reliable goalkeepers in the Premier League throughout his career. This was underlined by the fact that he became the oldest player to ever feature in the league while at Spurs, and his incredible record of having made 310 consecutive Premier League appearances in his time as a professional footballer.
Despite his age, he arrived at Spurs and was immediately made a starter in a highly ambitious team that were gunning for glory under Andre Villas Boas. While the Portuguese’s stint at the club eventually ended without glamour, the American between the posts was a constant rock at the heart of the Tottenham defence, before retiring just this summer.
Defence – Markus Babbel – Bayern Munich to Liverpool 2000
Markus Babbel was the right back that Philipp Lahm learned from at Bayern Munich. His marauding runs on the right wing from deep struck fear in many opponents’ defences, and was a hugely effective tool for Gerard Houllier, equally as adept on either side of the ball. Babbel played 51 times for Germany, including winning the 1996 European Championships, and was a hugely impressive player to pick up for free.
Babbel was a member of the Liverpool ‘treble’ winning team in 2000/01, picking up the UEFA Cup, the FA Cup, and the League Cup. Unfortunately for the defender, his Merseyside career was cut short after being diagnosed with Guillain–Barré syndrome, limiting his ability to play to the level he once could.
Defence – Sol Campbell – Tottenham to Arsenal 2001
One of the most divisive moves in the Premier League’s history, Sol Campbell made his name at Tottenham Hotspur, where he spent nine seasons before moving just down the road to Spurs’ arch rivals Arsenal. Not only is the switch between North London clubs controversial enough, but it came after Campbell gave public assurances that he would stay at Spurs, and after months of contract negotiations without striking a deal.
Despite the initial trouble in making the move, Campbell found immediate success at Arsenal, and was one of their strongest assets in winning the double in his first season at the club. The defender was also a pivotal player in Arsenal’s 2003/04 Invincible season, when they went the entire season unbeaten. In total Campbell spent five years at the club, before returning for a short stint in 2010.
Defence – Sylvinho – Barcelona to Manchester City 2009
Brazilian Sylvinho was a significant player with Barcelona for five years, during which time he picked up three Liga titles and two Champions Leagues. Sylvinho only played at City for the one season, his last year in professional football, but was an important figure in a quickly developing Blues team.
When the money came in to the blue half of Manchester, there was a long and uncertain road to go between turning a relegation-fighting team into Premier League champions – a difficult task no matter how much money is put into a squad. Sylvinho arrived for the first season that City legitimately challenged for the top four, a race they eventually lost to Tottenham Hotspur, but a season in which valuable lessons and experience was earned for all at the club. Sylvinho’s wealth of experience was no doubt hugely valuable to the rest of the squad, as City took another leap in their transformation to becoming a big club fighting for titles. The Brazilian makes this list for what he added to the squad and club behind the scenes, more so than performances played out on the pitch.
Midfield – Steve McManaman – Liverpool to Real Madrid 1999
A Champions League Final goalscorer, for free? Why thank you very much. Steve McManaman grew up through the ranks at Liverpool’s youth system and played nine years with the senior team. He became a mainstay in the Reds lineup at a young age, and even has the 1995 League Cup final colloquially named “The McManaman Final” for his two goals giving his side a 2-1 win over Bolton.
In a team that could afford any player in the world once Florentino Perez came to the club – even their greatest rival’s best player arrived at a handsome price – free transfer Steve McManaman was pivotal in Real Madrid’s team between 1999 and 2003. He was a key player during his time in Spain and picked up a whopping eight trophies, between two La Ligas and two Champions Leagues, and even scored in the 2000 final, which Madrid dominated Valencia in.
Midfield – Andrea Pirlo – AC Milan to Juventus 2011
Juve picked up Andrea Pirlo when the ageless midfielder was deemed “too old” to play for Milan, who had just been crowned champions. What were they getting for free? One of the most beautiful passers in the game, who had accumulated two leagues and two Champions League titles while a Milan player, not to mention a World Cup.
Since joining the Old Lady in 2011, Pirlo has not been able to stop winning trophies. In each of his four seasons at the club, Juve have been crowned champions. In 2014/15, to go along with the Scudetto picked up, Pirlo and co. also won the Coppa Italia, as well as making the Champions League final, which they ultimately lost to Barcelona. Pirlo has been central to Juve’s successes over the past four years, and one of the best free transfers world football has ever seen.
Midfield – Esteban Cambiasso – Real Madrid to Inter 2004
Another player who has picked up Champions League titles in both the club he left and club he joined, Esteban Cambiasso was a mainstay in an Inter team for ten years that terrorised all other Italian clubs for such a long time. Under Roberto Mancini Inter looked simply unbeatable, as they picked up five consecutive Serie A titles between 2005/06 and 2009/10.
One of the most fearsome defensive midfielders in the game, Cambiasso won an incredible ten major honours with Inter, including a league, cup, and Champions League treble. This all came after he was deemed surplus to requirements at Real Madrid, when Florentino Perez was making space for Beckham, Ronaldo, Figo, and Zidane, in one of the most unbalanced yet star-studded midfields the game has ever seen.
Midfield – Jay-Jay Okocha – PSG to Bolton Wanderers
So good, they named him twice! Jay-Jay Okocha signed for Paris Saint-Germain for a whopping £10 million, but felt too much was expected of him and didn’t like the treatment he received from the club as a result. Not as much was expected of his teammate Ronaldinho, however, where the Brazilian made his name in Europe!
Okocha joined Bolton on a free transfer and although his first season was drastically hampered by injury, he still managed to score some very important goals to help Wanderers avoid relegation. In his following three years with the club, he had them fighting for Europe! Led by the tremendously joyful Nigerian star, Bolton finished as high as 6th in 2004/05, level on points with Champions League winning Liverpool. The Premier League has seen few characters as exciting as Okocha!
Forward – Roberto Baggio – AC Milan to Bologna 1997
The legendary Italian attacker is another mistake in Milan’s past. Baggio became the first Italian to net 300 career goals in more than 50 years while at Brescia in 2002, and signed for Juventus from Fiorentina for a then-world record transfer fee. But Arrigo Sacchi had it in for Baggio from day one, and when he was called in to take over the reigns at San Siro in Baggio’s first season, it was to the bench for the famous rat tail!
Shunned out of the side that struggled to eventually finish 11th, Baggio joined Bologna on a free transfer to get out of Milan. The summer of the move, he cut off his ponytail, signifying his new rebirth. He joined a Bologna team that would have otherwise likely fought relegation that season, but with a hugely impressive 22 goals in 30 appearances, he helped his new side qualify for the Intertoto Cup through an 8th place finish. He also earned himself a call up to the national team for the 1998 World Cup, and a nomination for the Italian Player of the Year Award, which he narrowly lost to Alessandro Del Piero.
Forward – Henrik Larsson – Celtic to Barcelona 2004
Swedish striker Henrik Larsson will unquestionably be remembered as one of Celtic’s best players ever, scoring at a rate of around 0.78 goals per game. Larsson also picked up four Scottish Premier League titles, and in 2000/01 won a domestic treble with the Glasgow club, with both Scottish Cups to go along with the league title.
In 2004, his time to move on had come, and nobody could have begrudged his decision after all he had given Celtic. Larsson played a big role in a phenomenal team that, in only the two seasons that the Swede spent in Catalonia, won two Liga titles and a Champions League. While Samuel Eto’o stole the show during the 2006 Champions League final with an unbelievable man of the match performance, Barca couldn’t have gotten there without Larsson’s contributions throughout the couple of years.
Forward – Miroslav Klose – Bayern Munich to Lazio 2011
At the age of 33, Bayern Munich decided to let go of their ageing goal machine in favour of up-and-coming talent. Not necessarily a bad decision, but one that Lazio certainly benefitted from, picking up Germany’s all time record goalscorer, and the man that’s scored more goals in World Cup finals tournaments than anyone else.
The old age hasn’t affected Klose’s ability to find the net at all – or if it has, it’s only improved it! Klose has scored more goals for Werder Bremen than any other club, but should he score five times this upcoming season, that honour will go to Lazio. An ever-reliant positional genius, Miroslav Klose could play for almost any team and find a way to score. One of the best bits of business Lazio have made in recent years, Miroslav’s goals have fired them into next season’s Champions League, a competition they’ll appear in for the first time in eight years.
Total trophy haul at clubs moved to:
15 League titles
4 Champons Leagues
10 Domestic Cups (FA Cup/Cope Del Rey/Coppa Italia)
1 League Cup
1 UEFA Cup
11 Community Shields/Domestic Super Cups
2 UEFA Super Cups
2 Intercontinental Cups
This article was first published on July 29th 2015
The world of sport can be a rough place, especially if it’s any of these sports! No game is without its physical strains, but make the sport a contact one and throw any shape of ball in between two players, then sometimes there’s no telling how far they’ll go to get their hands on it!
Here we rank the top five roughest ball sports in the world!
5 – Gaelic Games
Two sports in one to begin this list – Tasty! Gaelic football and hurling are the native sports of Ireland, with each of the counties in the country battling it out for the Sam Maguire (football) and Liam McCarthy (hurling) cups. These two sports have always – and still are, of course – amateur games, which means players play for nothing but the love of the game and pride in the county they hail from.
At inter-county level, teams are comprised of players that come from the region, adding extra spice to proceedings when two local rivals go head-to-head! Below you’ll see an incredible 43 minutes of Gaelic football and hurling and its fiercest and most vicious! Skip to 9:15 to even see a referee get bloody!
4 – Rugby League
Rugby League is a faster sport than rugby union, with players crashing into each other with much more velocity! The spectacle of rugby league arguably reaches its peak every year when New South Wales “The Blues” and Queensland “The Maroons” battle it out in the State of Origin series.
The two teams, like Gaelic games, are comprised of players playing for the region they’re from, adding an extra spicy flavour to these fixtures! The series is a best-of-three format of local rivalry and hatred. Every year mass brawls break out, with all the niggly punches and hits that go on behind the referee’s back too!
3 – Australian Football
The AFL is a brutal sport, with the league even promoting the roughness of the sport publicly! In 2000 and 2002, the AFL released DVDs of 90 minutes of highlights of the best and wildest incidents that went on in games. ‘Biffs, Bumps, and Brawlers’ volumes one and two are still available to buy now!
It’s quite easy to see how two DVDs were made of the biggest fights in the sport. If anything, it’s strange that they haven’t released volume 3 yet!
Roughness in Australian footy stretches a long way back, and there’s even a brawls highlight reel from the 1970s online!
AFL and Gaelic football may be played on total opposite ends of the globe, but they aren’t that dissimilar in code. Ireland and Australia have in the past played out a compromise rules game, a sport half way between Gaelic and Australian football. And of course, it’s only natural that things would get a little feisty!
2 – Calcio Storico
You may not have heard about this ancient Italian sport before now, but if you’re a fan of physically brutal games, you’re going to love this one! 27 men line out for each team, with the objective of throwing the ball into the other team’s net.
And what do the 26 men not holding the ball do? Literally anything they can do to the other team. It’s basically a free-for-all full on fighting sport, with a ball somewhere in the middle of it all. Think UFC, but with 54 people fighting, and a ball somewhere that most players aren’t even thinking about.
1 – Water Polo
Most people wouldn’t watch water polo for four years, until the Olympic Games come round. An often overlooked sport, it’s easy to forget that these athletes are competing with incredible fitness levels, as everything they do comes with the added strain of being in water, obviously!
Water polo is one of the dirtiest sports out there, with so many sly punches, grabs, and pulls going on that the referees can do nothing about. Half of the fighting that goes on either on or off the ball happens under the water surface, meaning it’s so much more difficult to officiate, meaning players are much more likely to get away with these dirty tricks, meaning they’ll do these dirty tricks much more often! It’s simple when it’s spelled out like that.
This game also comes with the added ingredient of being very easy to literally kill somebody you’re fighting with, as it’s based in the water! You’ll never think about water polo in the same way again after watching these videos!
The video below is of a game so infamously vicious that they made a re-enactment of it for the cameras! Hungary vs Russia in the 1956 Olympics.
This article was first published on October 23rd 2015
Not all goals are the same – goals come in all different shapes and sizes. Sometimes a better team just plays wonderful football and outclasses you to the back of your net. Other times, you’ve only got yourself to blame (or maybe your keeper…).
No team likes conceding goals. It can mean you might lose games, and no team likes losing games. In fact that’s actually the objective of football – to win the games.
Here are the absolute worst types of goals to give away!
10. The Spectacular Own Goal
Maybe he meant it, and just forgot which way he was supposed to be shooting? That could be an excuse for these types of goals going in, but then you have to deal with the question of how did he forget? Either way, the spectacular own goals are a ridiculous way of conceding, but at least you’ve got something great to look at!
9. The ‘Caught Napping’
Don’t let your concentration slip for even a second around the top players that have the talent to punish you for it. If they catch you napping, you’re going to concede one of these goals! You’ve only got yourself to blame.
8. The ‘Made a Complete Mug of Him’
Get back in your box and never show your face again in public! If conceding a goal is bad, then conceding one while also being made a complete mug of is ten times worse. With how fast news travels in this internet-dominated world of ours, everyone will soon be laughing at you. And worst of all, you know deep down that you deserve to be laughed at…
7. The ‘He Didn’t Even Go For It!’
You brace yourself for a potential smack in the face in the wall for the free kick, and turn around after feeling the air whizz past your face. Instead of seeing your goalkeeper actually trying to stop the ball going into the net, what do you see? Of course, the keeper hopelessly looking at the ball fly past him into the net. It can be frustrating coming up against free kicks that good…
6. The Counter Attack Sucker Punch
You’ve scored over 100 goals this season from your star front men and super speedy attacks. You’ve dominated the game against ten men who have just parked the bus and won’t relent. You’re just looking for that one moment when they lose concentration, or make a mistake. But before you know it, they’ve punted the ball up the other end of the pitch and score one of the most undeserving goals ever. This one stings, knowing you’ve been the better team.
5. The Bizarre Own Goal
What? How? Why? All that’s left after these goals are just confused faces, lots of unanswerable questions, and pure embarrassment.
4. The Misplaced Pass
Everything’s been going well up to this point. You’re comfortable in possession and making life difficult for your opponent. Until, that one donkey at the back decides to make life very easy for them instead… One underhit ball back to your keeper and you’re out of the game.
3. The Stupid Own Goal
A ridiculously misjudged clearance going into the back of the net, and pass hitting the backside of your team mate and going into the net, or one of the internet’s most famous clips – kicking the ball off your own face and into your own net. At least these ones are funny if you can laugh at yourself!
2. The ‘Even HE Scored On Us…’
It’s okay to lose the match but it is NOT okay to let HIM score…
1. The Slip
Are any words even necessary for this one?
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Return rating: A short and sweet return with plenty Henry can be proud of. 7/10.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Return rating: Did what was required of him, and more, in a more pragmatic than glorious return. 7/10.
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.
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.