Nobody wants to run into their ex. Following Gonzalo Higuain’s dagger to the back of old club Napoli, we recall six players who haunted their former clubs. Each time a player nets against their old employer they provoke an emotional response ranging from sadness to fury. Some emphatically celebrate, others look genuinely upset and a whole host of players get caught in the middle delivering a painfully rehearsed non-celebration. Here’s six.
Gary McAllister vs. Coventry
After honing his craft at Leicester, Leeds and Coventry, Gary Mac raised eyebrows by upgrading to Liverpool at the age of thirty-five. His free transfer was vindicated as he slotted comfortably into Liverpool’s treble-winning first team showcasing his dead ball wizardry on a regular basis (including that 40 yard free-kick against Everton). The previous year he had been part of Gordon Strachan’s Coventry side that fought to 14th in the Premier League. However, as the 2001 season was coming to an end Coventry were big relegation candidates. A handful of wins boosted their chances of survival but they could not afford to lose at home to Liverpool at the end of April. The Reds edged ahead in the 83rd minute courtesy of a Sami Hyypia header. Coventry were given no time to rally as minutes later McAllister stepped up and dispatched a free-kick to seal the fate of his old teammates. Realising what he’d done he was visibly upset; a year earlier he had been netting twice for Coventry as they thumped relegation-bound Sheffield Wednesday but was now sentencing his pals to the lower division. He re-joined the club two years later aged 37 as player/manager but Coventry have never been back to the top flight.
Did he celebrate? No – he looked upset.
Carlos Tevez vs. Manchester United
Carlos Tevez was a supremely underrated striker (a prototype Luis Suarez, perhaps?) but that’s an argument for another time. His second season with Manchester United was unspectacular and he left in the summer of 2009 to join Manchester City. His move was messy – Tevez was actually owned by the MSI group – but he hit the ground running and fired City to a vastly improved fifth place netting 23 league goals. His first run-in with his old teammates came in a thrilling 4-3 defeat at Old Trafford. Tevez was booked for a lunge on Rio Ferdinand but the match will ultimately be remembered for Michael Owen’s winner. His second opportunity came in a League Cup semi-final and he clearly had a point to prove. The tone was typically fiery and Tevez’s 42rd minute penalty – to level the tie one apiece – only intensified the occasion. In the second half the Argentine nodded in a winner before running towards the United bench cupping both ears provocatively. Strangely, Tevez’s bitterness was fixed primarily on the United management, having experienced a reasonable relationship with the fans (needless to say they soon turned on him). The ghost of Tevez was exorcised in the second leg when a late Wayne Rooney goal put United through to the final.
Did he celebrate? Yes – he was annoyed.
Alvaro Morata vs. Real Madrid
Alvaro Morata was born in Madrid, nurtured in Real’s b-team Castilla and scored three minutes into his full debut against Rayo Vallecano. However, despite recently moving back to the Bernabau, he never looked more comfortable than when at Juventus – his holiday home for two seasons. Real Madrid cut their ties with the striker for €20 million in the summer of 2014 but a buy-back clause gave the Spanish mega-power a safety net. Morata netted a modest 15 league goals in his two years in Turin but developed his all-round game and was welcomed with open arms by the Italian-heavy squad. He also had a penchant for knockout football netting home and away against Dortmund in the Champions League round-of-sixteen. Fate would see Juventus face Real Madrid in the semi-final and Morata scored in Turin as Juventus sealed a 2-1 win. Madrid’s away goal had left the tie finely balanced but when Cristiano Ronaldo dispatched a penalty 23 minutes into the second leg Los Blancos became heavy favourites. It would be Morata who swung the tie back Juventus’ way when he volleyed home a scrambled chance in the 57th minute. He didn’t celebrate – though his jubilant teammates mobbed him – and Juventus progressed 3-2 on aggregate.
Did he celebrate? No – he looked torn.
David Luiz vs. Chelsea
The erratic, emphatic and overly-emotional David Luiz joined Chelsea in 2011. His time there was a blur of defensive errors, a spell in the midfield and the occasional outrageous strike. If the likes of John Stones are the modern-day defender, then David Luiz is the defender they haven’t invented yet. Nevertheless, he was warmly received by fans and they grew to love his obvious will to win. Jose Mourinho’s arrival phased out any players liable of defensive mistakes and when PSG came knocking with a cheque of £50 million Luiz’s departure was obvious (a monumental piece of business on Chelsea’s behalf). In his first season in France, PSG drew Jose’s high-flying Chelsea in the Champions League round-of-sixteen. With four minutes left in the Stamford Bridge second leg Chelsea led 1-0 (2-1 on aggregate). A frustrating night for PSG roared into life as David Luiz thumped home a header to send the tie to extra time. He sprinted off in celebration (boy did he!) but in his visible joy it seemed he had forgotten his old employers rather than launched a revenge campaign against them. Getting ‘caught up in the moment’ would be a watery excuse for most footballers but it’s easy to believe that’s exactly what happened to Luiz. He seems the type of player who would have cried for a week when their school side lost a cup final (and was the player left crying on the pitch when Brazil got hammered by Germany). PSG went on to win in extra time, Luiz apologised for celebrating and the Brazil international has recently arrived back at Chelsea ahead of his best years.
Did he celebrate? Yes – because he forgot he wasn’t going to.
Emmanuel Adebayor vs. Arsenal
Ahh, this one. It had to be on the list, didn’t it? Any player whose form blows as searing hot and freezing cold as Emmanuel Adebayor’s is always going to be a divisive character. However, the Togo striker’s questionable attitude and numerous quirks had a knack of rubbing people the wrong way. He hit his stride at Arsenal before leaving for Manchester City in a big money move that Gunners fans called a downgrade. They quickly turned on Adebayor, who responded by scoring in his first three league games for his new club. The fourth game of the season saw City host Arsenal and it was set to be lively affair long before a wild Adebayor leg caught a prone Robin Van Persie in the face (or, to put it a more damning way, a clumsy attempt at a stamp). The match was balanced at 1-1 before an impassioned City bagged a trio of quick goals to seal the win. Craig Bellamy sent the home fans into raptures before Adebayor powered home a header to double their lead. What happened next was almost comical. It wasn’t so much Adebayor’s knee slide in front of the Arsenal fans that makes me laugh (and the selection of rubbish thrown his way) but the fact he had sprinted the full length of pitch in order to reach them. Pictures of Adebayor celebrating, on his knees, surrounded by rubbish, have turned the moment into a bit of a classic. Shawn Wright-Phillips dinked home City’s fourth that day and Adebayor would later move to Tottenham.
Did he celebrate? Yes – big time!
Frank Lampard vs. Chelsea
Manchester City have a knack of poaching players for use against their former clubs. Their third appearance on this list comes with Chelsea and England legend Frank Lampard (yes, he is an England legend). The Lampard transfer was a far cry from those of Tevez and Adebayor. The midfielder was ushered towards the backdoor by Chelsea and headed into the sunset via the newly formed New York City FC. However, he didn’t initially make it to the Big Apple and settled instead for Manchester. The rumour mill went into overdrive forcing Lampard into publically stating he had originally intended to go straight to New York and would still be joining for the 2015 campaign. Nevertheless, when the dust settled Lampard was wearing a City shirt and a Chelsea match loomed in September. Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea visited the Etihad with a perfect record and when Andre Schurrle broke the deadlock ten-man City were left with a mountain to climb. Lampard entered the fray with 13 minutes left on the clock; five minutes later he had written the headlines. James Milner received the ball on the left hand side and knocked a ball across the box. Lampard had ghosted into space – because of course it had to be a typical Lampard goal – and fired home with the ease of a man who had done so hundreds of times before. The stadium was stunned and a muted Lampard walked towards his delighted new teammates.
Did he celebrate? No – he looked miserable.