Having an outstanding player in our favorite team is always a motive of joy, but sometimes that happiness doesn’t last as much as we would want it to last. Most of the time money plays a huge role in football and players are not exempt from this, as they come and go with extreme ease nowadays, even though that means go to a hated rival.
Albeit right now there are still lines that teams hardly ever intend to cross, we have seen plenty of episodes where loyalty, love for colors didn’t mean anything for players or rival clubs. At the moment these moves happened, they were really shocking for everybody, and some of those remain like that until today. These are 10 players who played for big rivals.
Honorable Mention: Michael Laudrup
10. Mario Gotze
Mario Gotze had very good moments with Borussia Dortmund when he introduced himself as one of the most promising youngsters in European football a couple of seasons ago; that helped him to be observed by half the continent since everybody was trying to acquire his services. However, Gotze decided to go to none other than Bayern Munich, the biggest competitor of Borussia Dortmund since the team got back to the top spot of Bundesliga.
Although Schalke is the biggest rival of Borussia, they played a lot of finals with Bayern and had beaten the Bavarians for the Bundesliga title a couple of times, so this move was nothing but hurtful to the fans, who started to consider Gotze a major traitor. Right now Mario is back with Dortmund, struggling to recover his old level due to injuries, being supported by fans who knew how to hate him back in the day.
9. Zlatan Ibrahimovic
If there is a player who likes controversy, that’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The Swedish striker played not only for two, but three big rivals in Italian football. Incredibly, he managed to play for the biggest three clubs in the Boot, going back and forth with all of them at some point, but always delivering when he was needed.
Following his great stint in Ajax, Zlatan landed in Juventus, where he played for two seasons before going to Milan to play for Internazionale. He spent there three more campaigns that made him one of the best in his position in the world, going to Barcelona after that. With Barcelona he didn’t have much joy, so he took his talents to Milan again, but this time for Inter’s neighbors, A.C. Milan, where Ibrahimovic continued his good performances in Italian football prior to his departure to PSG.
8. Carlos Tevez
Another controversial player is Argentinean striker Carlos Tevez; whether it is for his statements or his actions both inside and outside the pitch, “El Apache” always knew how to be in the eye of the storm. Following his yet controversial arrival to West Ham United, Tevez took his talents to Manchester United, where he became a much-respected player.
Despite having won several trophies with the Red Devils, Tevez decided it was time for him to leave the team, but among all the clubs that were interested in him, Carlos chose to stay in the city and signed with Manchester City. This move was highly criticized by Man. Utd. supporters, who couldn’t forgive Tevez for what he did. Sadly, things didn’t go well for the Argentinean at Etihad Stadium and he left the Citizens with more grief than glory.
7. Andrea Pirlo
Pirlo, just like Ibrahimovic, played for the biggest three teams in Italy, being both hated and idolized at some point of his tenures with these three giants. He started his career with Brescia, then acquired by Internazionale, where he spent a couple of seasons on loan before being bought by Milan, who knew how to take advantage of Pirlo’s talents.
Following a 10-year tenure at San Siro, Pirlo was not exactly a piece of interest for Milan’s boss Massimiliano Allegri. Juventus saw its opportunity and took it, landing Pirlo for free, making one of the best decisions they have made in recent seasons. Pirlo became a beloved player in Turin, helped the team to achieve big things and even though he didn’t win the Champions League in 2015; he did a great job taking the Vecchia Signora to the final.
6. Sol Campbell
This is a very delicate subject in North London, as Sol Campbell was kind of an idol in White Hart Lane when he stated it was time for him to leave Tottenham. He had the opportunity to go anywhere he wanted, but his final decision was quite questionable in the eye of many Spurs fans.
Campbell said several times that he wouldn’t go to his team’s archrival, Arsenal, but that’s exactly what he did. It was very harmful to Tottenham fans to see Campbell leave in order to play for their biggest rivals and those actions haven’t been forgiven or forgotten yet. For instance, some people expected Campbell to be invited to the White Hart Lane’s farewell but Tottenham’s directives thought different; he is one of the biggest traitors in English football.
5. Robin van Persie
Just like Arsenal did at the beginning of the millennium with Campbell, they suffered a similar fate with one of their biggest referents in recent years, Dutch striker Robin van Persie. Robin landed in North London in 2004 and spent eight successful seasons –individually speaking- with the Gunners before he decided it was time to go after new challenges.
Van Persie chose to sign with Manchester United in 2012, a team that was considered a big rival for the Gunners in recent years. Robin went from being a hero to a complete villain at Emirates Stadium, leaving a mark in Arsenal fans that still lasts nowadays. He then went to play for Fenerbahce after three seasons in Old Trafford and right now is back in the team that created him, Feyenoord.
4. Cesc Fabregas
If van Persie’s departure to Manchester United was hurtful, imagine how bad this one was when it happened. Albeit he signed with Barcelona when his tenure with Arsenal ended, Cesc Fabregas was very loved and respected by Arsenal’s fans, as he stated that he wouldn’t play in another club that wasn’t Arsenal in England.
Well, life comes at you fast and that’s exactly what happened to the Spaniard, who saw how his time in Barcelona ended and decided to go to London, but this time to Chelsea, not Arsenal. This was considered major treason by plenty of Arsenal fans since Chelsea is one of their biggest rivals historically. Right now Fabregas is playing with Monaco in the Ligue 1, but the Gunners still remember what he did when he came back to the Premier League.
3. Johan Cruyff
One of the best players the world has seen hasn’t been exempt of controversy and albeit he is still considered the biggest idols in Ajax history, his last season as a professional was very upsetting for many people. Cruyff spent 10 glorious years in Ajax where he won absolutely everything, and then he signed with Barcelona, where he became an important player, too.
He left the Catalans after five seasons of success and plenty of scoring. He played in Levante in the Spanish second division, went to the U.S. and made his comeback to Dutch football in 1981; he came back to Ajax and spent two seasons with them, before finishing his professional career playing in one of Ajax’s biggest rivals, Feyenoord. Back when this happened, many people condemned Cruyff, but history demonstrated he always loved Ajax and Ajax loved him.
Ronaldo Nazario didn’t only play for two big rivals, but for four shared in Italy and Spain. Everywhere he went, Ronaldo was successful and even though he played for these four clubs, nobody can say people hate him for that. He had a very good time in Barcelona before heading to Italian giants Internazionale, where he played for five years, leaving very good numbers.
Real Madrid turned its eyes to him and signed “O Fenomeno”, who had another marvelous five seasons with Los Blancos, playing at a great level and demonstrating why he is considered the best striker of all time. Following his 5-year stint at Madrid, Ronaldo was transferred to A.C. Milan, spending only one season at San Siro before heading back to Brasil where he ended his career.
1. Luis Figo
Perhaps Figo didn’t play for as many teams as Ronaldo or Ibrahimovic, he played for the two clubs involved in the biggest rivalry of the world: Real Madrid and Barcelona, and that’s not the worst part of it, but the way the Portuguese midfielder handled things. Figo landed in Barcelona and became the maximum figure of the team, considered an idol at Camp Nou, but that fairytale was abruptly ended.
Real Madrid paid his termination clause and Figo decided it was time to go for him after several years in Barcelona, something that made Barcelona’s fans angry. His transfer was historic both for the price they paid for him and the aftermath it created, with Figo becoming one of the most hated players in Barcelona’s history and the prime sample of a football traitor in the eyes of many.