Earlier this month Jorge Jesus left Benfica for their bitter rivals Sporting Lisbon (I guess Lisbon are the more bitter out of both parties considering they are lagging well behind on the trophy front) and it made me think of the biggest and controversial desertions from one rival club to another.
There may be some rivalries in, say, Mongolia, that are literally life and death, but I’m not going to bother looking into them should they exist, while the Mo Johnston saga – playing for both Celtic and Rangers - is not counted because there was another club in between in the form of Nantes.
Here are my choices...
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Luis Figo – Barcelona to Real Madrid
Figo wasn’t just any other player: he was one of Barcelona’s STAR players, so when he went to their hated rivals in Madrid for a then world record fee of £37million, he became one of the hated amongst the Catalonian faithful.
On his return to the Nou Camp he was pelted with objects ranging from coins to a pig’s head.
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Sol Campbell – Tottenham Hotspur to Arsenal
Having run down his contract, Tottenham fans weren’t happy with Campbell anyway, but going up the road to Arsenal to make a telling contribution for their rivals made it worse. Like Figo, Campbell had objects thrown in his direction, although no pigs’ heads were to be found during the course of the game.
UNLIKE Figo, however, Campbell said he was leaving to play Champions League football and have more chance of winning trophies – reasons sure to stir up the bitter jealousies and feelings within the supporters of the ‘lesser’ club left behind.
Nick Barmby – Everton to Liverpool
Became the first player to move from Everton FC to Liverpool FC (‘FC’ mentioned just in case anyone thought just I meant the areas) since 1959 and was reported to have been pulled out of the first two games at Goodison Park since his move.
In his first match against the Toffees at Anfield he scored in the days when players used to celebrate goals against their old clubs.
Roberto Baggio – Fiorentina to Juventus
Baggio’s then world-record transfer to Serie A rivals Juventus caused so much uproar that it led to riots in Florence resulting in 50 people injured.
Such was the level of feeling when the clubs met at his former home for the first time since the exchange that Baggio felt compelled to state that HE felt ‘‘compelled to accept the transfer,’’ refused to take a penalty for Juve’ then picked up a Viola scarf thrown by the Florence crowd and kissed the badge to show his love for the city and club.
Johan Cruyff – Ajax to Barcelona then Ajax to Feyenoord
Yes, Cruyff has the dubious honour of two shocking and controversial moves. First up, leaving the then most dominant European side Ajax in 1973 for Barcelona, who were a big club, but had not yet made their mark in Europe.
Then having returned to the Dutch giants via Los Angeles Aztecs, Washington Diplomats and Levante in 1981, he left again two years later for title rivals Feyenoord of all clubs having not been offered a contract by Ajax. He responded by winning the Eredivisie with his new club.