Some of the top clubs in Europe have often come up with surprising moves in the transfer market. Some of these transfers turn heads while some create a hint of nostalgia among fans when their club brings a former player back to the club. Best of Bets takes a look at 18 of these top players who re-signed for their former clubs.
Best players who re-signed for their former clubs
Dani Alves – Barcelona:
First spell – 2008-2016
Second spell – 2021-2022
Brazilian full-back Dani Alves joined Barcelona from Sevilla in 2008 and after a highly successful eight years at the club, he arrived at Juventus. A season in Turin was followed by a move to PSG in 2017. He then returned to Brazil with Sao Paolo in 2019 before returning back to Barcelona in 2021 for one season.
Thierry Henry – Arsenal:
First spell – 1999-2007
Second spell – 2012
Thierry Henry created a legacy at Arsenal in his first spell between 1999 and 2007 wherein he scored 228 goals in all competitions, winning numerous trophies.
He left for Barcelona in 2007, but returned back to North London for a short spell in 2012.
Robbie Fowler – Liverpool
First spell – 1993-2001
Second spell – 2006-2007
Despite growing up as an Everton fan, Robbie Fowler joined Liverpool in 1993 and in his eight years spell in his first stint at the club, he became a God among Liverpool fans.
After over a century of goals for the Reds, he left for Leeds United in 2001, followed by a move to Manchester City in 2003.
However, he returned back to Liverpool for one season in 2006 and played over 30 games.
Paul Pogba – Manchester United
First spell – 2011-2012
Second spell – 2016-2022
Paul Pogba joined Manchester United‘s youth academy in 2009 and was promoted to the senior team in 2011. However, after not being able to crack into United’s first team under Sir Alex Ferguson, he joined Juventus on a free transfer in 2012.
Over the next four years, Pogba established himself as one of the best midfielders in Europe, with Manchester United paying a then world record fee to bring him back to Old Trafford in 2016 for a then world record £89.3 million.
He left the Red Devils again as a free agent back to Juventus in 2022.
Didier Drogba – Chelsea
First spell – 2004-2012
Second spell – 2014-2015
Ivory Coast legend Didier Drogba arrived at Chelsea for his first stint back in 2004 and over the next eight years, he was one of the best strikers in the Premier League, winning ten trophies in what was his first stint at the club.
After becoming the first African player to score 100 goals in the Premier League, Drogba left Chelsea in 2012 to join Chinese club Shanghai Shenhua, followed by a move to Galatasaray.
He then returned back to Chelsea for a season in 2014.
Shinji Kagawa – Borussia Dortmund
First spell – 2010-2012
Second spell – 2014-2019
Borussia Dortmund signed Shinji Kagawa in 2010 and he went on to become one of the best players in their squad already consisting of superstars like Robert Lewandowski, Mario Gotze and Marco Reus.
However, Manchester United came calling and signed him in 2012.
After becoming the first Asian to score a Premier League hat-trick, he then went on to play a huge part in a title winning win against Aston Villa, becoming the first Japanese player to win a Premier League title.
On 12 May, 2013, Kagawa was included in the United squad to play against Swansea City in Alex Ferguson’s last home game before retirement, which United won 2–1. On the same day, Kagawa received his Premier League medal and was voted Man of the Match.
David Moyes arrived after Sir Alex’s retirement and ousted Kagawa from the team, leading to him returning back to Borussia Dortmund in 2014.
Jermaine Defoe – Tottenham Hotspur
First spell – 2004-2008
Second spell – 2009-2014
English striker Jermaine Defoe burst on to the scene at West Ham between 1999 and 2004 before joining Tottenham.
His first stint at Spurs came between 2004 and 2008 when he scored 43 goals in 139 games before joining Portsmouth.
However, he returned back to Spurs after just one season for his second stint, scoring 47 goals in 135 appearances between 2009 and 2014. He then joined Toronto FC but returned back to Spurs for a short term loan before leaving for Sunderland.
Ian Rush – Liverpool
First spell – 1980-1986
Second spell – 1986-1987
Third spell – 1988-1996
England legend Ian Rush joined Liverpool in 1980 in what would be his first spell of three at the club. The striker scored 109 goals in 182 games before joining Juventus in 1986 for two seasons. He was loaned back to Liverpool for the first of those two seasons.
However, he joined the Reds permanently again in 1988 and spent eight more years at Anfield, scoring 90 goals in 245 appearances before joining Leeds in 1996.
Cristiano Ronaldo – Manchester United
First spell – 2003-2009
Second spell – 2021-22
Portuguese legend Cristiano Ronaldo arrived as a teenager at Manchester United under Sir Alex Ferguson in 2003. He stayed three for six years, winning numerous trophies and a Ballon d’Or before joining Real Madrid for a then world record fee in 2009.
After nine successful years in Madrid in which he won virtually everything there is to win at club level, he joined Juventus in 2018.
In 2021, he made an emotional return back to Manchester United for a season. Ronaldo joined Al Nassr in 2023 after getting his contract terminated following a controversial interview with Piers Morgan.
Teddy Sheringham – Tottenham Hotspur
First spell – 1992-1997
Second spell – 2001-2003
English striker Teddy Sheringham joined Tottenham Hotspur from Nottingham Forest in 1992. In what would be his first spell of two at the club, Sheringham scored 75 goals in 166 games before Manchester United came calling in 1997.
After four incredibly successful years at United where he would play a crucial role in helping the club make an epic comeback in the dying minutes of the iconic 1999 UEFA Champions League final, Sheringham returned back to Spurs in 2001.
He would stay at the White Hart Lane for two seasons in his second spell, scoring 22 goals in 70 appearances.
Kaka – Milan
First spell – 2003-2009
Second spell – 2013-2014
One of the greatest midfielders of the modern generation, Brazilian maestro Kaka started his club career at Sao Paolo in Brazil where Milan scouted him and brought him to the San Siro in 2003.
In his first spell at Milan, Kaka became the best midfielder in the world, winning a Champions League among other trophies.
He then joined Real Madrid in the same year as Cristiano Ronaldo, making just 85 appearances in four seasons before returning back to Milan in 2013 for a season.
Mark Hughes – Manchester United
First spell – 1980-1986
Second spell – 1988-1995
Legendary striker Mark Hughes started at Manchester United’s academy in 1978 before being promoted to the first team in 1980.
He played for six years in his first spell at the club, scoring 37 goals in 89 appearances before joining Barcelona in 1986.
After two seasons at the Camp Nou, which included a season-long loan at Bayern Munich, Hughes returned back to Manchester United in 1988 for his second spell where he scored 83 goals in 256 games.
He then featured for clubs like Chelsea, Southampton, Everton and Blackburn Rovers before retiring.
Mario Gotze – Borussia Dortmund
First spell – 2009-2013
Second spell – 2016-2020
Germany’s attacking midfielder Mario Gotze burst on to the scene at Borussia Dortmund, rising up from their academy to make their first team in 2009.
He took Bundesliga by storm in his four seasons in what would be his first stint at the club, scoring 22 goals in 83 appearances before Bayern Munich came calling for him in 2013.
He spent three underwhelming years at Bayern, scoring 22 goals in just 75 games before returning back to Dortmund in 2016. However, Gotze’s second stint at Dortmund was plagued with injuries and he could make just 75 appearances in four years, scoring 13 goals.
He left Dortmund for PSV in 2020 before joining Eintracht Frankfurt in 2022. Believe it or not, he’s still just 30 years of age!
Mats Hummels – Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund
Bayern Munich first spell – 2007-2008
Bayern Munich second spell – 2016-2019
Borussia Dortmund first spell – 2008-2016
Borussia Dortmund second spell – 2019
Another German maestro, defender Mats Hummels started his career at Bayern Munich’s youth academy and was handed his first team debut at the club during his first stint with the senior team between 2007 and 2008.
He joined Borussia Dortmund on an initial loan in 2008 before making a permanent move a year later. Hummels stayed at Dortmund until 2016 before Bayern Munich returned for him, paying his release clause.
The German spent another three seasons in Munich before again returning back to Dortmund for his second spell in 2019.
Romelu Lukaku – Chelsea
First spell – 2011-2014
Second spell – 2021
Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku arrived in England with Chelsea from Anderlecht in 2011. He was loaned out to West Brom and Everton, from which he joined the latter on a permanent deal in 2014.
After three goalscoring seasons with the Toffees, Manchester United paid a hefty fee to bring him to Old Trafford in 2017.
He left the Red Devils for Inter Milan in 2019 before returning back to Chelsea in a 100 million plus fee in 2021. Chelsea loaned him back to Inter in 2022.
What an absolute transfer circus!
Gareth Bale – Tottenham Hotspur
First spell – 2007-2013
Second spell – 2020-2021
Welsh winger Gareth Bale lit up the footballing world in his first stint with Tottenham between 2007 and 2013 before Real Madrid made him the most expensive footballer in the world.
He spent nine glorious years at the Santiago Bernabeu, winning 15 trophies, including five Champions Leagues.
Out of one of those nine years, Bale returned back to Tottenham for a one-season loan in the 2020-21 season, scoring 11 goals in 20 appearances.
He then joined Los Angeles FC for one season before announcing his retirement from the game in January 2023.
Wayne Rooney – Everton
First spell – 2002-2004
Second spell – 2017-2018
One of the greatest English footballers of all time, Wayne Rooney started his career with Everton‘s academy in 2002 before being promoted to make his first appearance for their senior team at the age of just 16!
Sir Alex Ferguson persuaded him to join Manchester United in 2004, where he went on to become the club’s greatest ever goalscorer, scoring 253 goals before returning back to Everton in 2017.
He joined MLS club DC United in 2018 before returning back to England with Derby County as a player-manager. He retired in January 2021 before managing Derby until 2022.
Rooney currently manages DC United.
Carlos Tevez – Boca Juniors
First spell – 2001-2004
Second spell – 2015-2016
Third spell – 2018-2021
Only the second player after Ian Rush in this list to have three separate stints at a club, Carlos Tevez started his career with Boca Juniors at youth level before being promoted to their first team in 2001.
He stayed three for three years before joining Corinthians. In 2006, West Ham shocked the footballing world by signing him along with his Argentina teammate Javier Mascherano.
In 2007, Manchester United signed Tevez on a loan. He stayed there for two seasons, winning six trophies including two Premier League titles and a Champions League before joining newly rich Manchester City in controversial fashion in 2009.
Tevez left City, again in controversial circumstances to join Juventus before returning to Boca Juniors for his second stint in 2015 for a season.
The Argentine was then signed by Shanghai Shenhua in 2016, where he made just 16 appearances in two years. He returned back to Boca Juniors in 2018 for a third time in his career and ended his professional career there in 2021.
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