Chelsea's 9 shirt, Drake curse, Man City in UCL: 10 strangest curses in football history

Romelu Lukaku’s romantic, club-record return to Chelsea has ended in nightmarish fashion.

Ending a two-year stay at Inter to return to London in a deal worth £97.5m, Lukaku’s scoring touch went missing once again as he flopped on his return to the Premier League.

Donning Chelsea’s number nine shirt, the Belgian was set on going circle with his former employers having looked back to his world class best at Inter, but will now return to the Nerazzurri on loan with his tail between his legs.

While on the surface it’s hard to call a striker who scored 15 goals in all competitions a complete failure, much more was expected of the man who fired Inter to the Scudetto in 2020/21 and commanded such a transfer fee.

But alas, it wasn’t meant to be. Lukaku continually looked out of place in Thomas Tuchel’s system, and when that Sky Italia interview dropped in December, it felt like there was never any way back for him.

His failure and loan return to Inter makes him yet another striker to be claimed by the most definitely cursed number nine shirt at Chelsea, which has garnered a reputation for ruining the careers of otherwise elite forwards.

Lukaku reacts to a missed chance while in action for Chelsea
LONDON, ENGLAND – MAY 19: Romelu Lukaku of Chelsea reacts after missing a chance during the Premier League match between Chelsea and Leicester City at Stamford Bridge on May 19, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

Before Lukaku, it was Alvaro Morata. Before Morata, it was Radamel Falcao. Before him, it was Fernando Torres, who was quite possibly the best striker in the world upon moving to Chelsea. And even before Torres, the shirt had been given to the likes of Khalid Boulahrouz and Steve Sidwell – what were they thinking?

Chelsea’s number nine shirt isn’t the only curse that haunts professional football, though, believe it or not. There are in fact a number of eerie patterns that have crept into the beautiful game over the years, that just cannot be shaken off no matter what. It’s truly bizarre, but never not interesting to read through.

So, we at GIVEMESPORT thought in honour of Lukaku’s struggle and in order to send him off on his return to Inter properly, we ought to pull together a list of the strangest curses that are lingering around in professional football.

10. The Drake curse

Famous football players who have enjoyed a moment with Canadian rap sensation Drake and subsequently shared a snap with him online all seem to be cursed after the matter.

Layvin Kurzawa posted a picture with Drake in 2019; PSG got thumped 5-1 in their next game by Lille. Sergio Aguero got a picture with Drake; Manchester City were dumped out of the Champions League by Tottenham in the same year. In fact, it was in 2019 when he was on a European tour that it caught out several footballers. Seriously strange. In short; don’t invite Drake into your hospitality sections.

9. Manchester United’s number 7 shirt

There will be some that will argue Cristiano Ronaldo‘s return to Manchester United and subsequent reclaiming of the seven jersey he vacated in 2009 has broken the spell, but the jury is still out.

Following Ronaldo’s initial departure for Real Madrid, United had absolutely no luck in finding a new number seven. Michael Owen first took the shirt, Antonio Valencia held it for one terrible season before giving it back, Angel Di Maria was a disaster and then Memphis Depay flopped in the shirt. Here’s hoping their next number seven after Ronaldo has more luck this time around.

Di Maria in action during his one season for Manchester United
NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND – MARCH 04: Angel di Maria of Manchester United looks on during the Barclays Premier League match between Newcastle United and Manchester United at St James’ Park on March 4, 2015 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

8. Don’t touch the trophy

It should be common sense, but it isn’t, and so a curse has developed. When in the Champions League final, do not touch the trophy on the way out.

Ludovic Giuly touched the esteemed trophy before the 2004 Champions League final as Monaco headed out onto the pitch; they lost to Porto. Gennaro Gattuso did the same thing the following season; Liverpool beat AC Milan. Learned our lesson yet? Of course not. Anatoliy Tymoshchuk touched it in 2012; Bayern Munich lost to Chelsea. Don’t touch the trophy before winning it.

7. Bayer ‘Neverkusen’

Staying on the topic of trophies, Bayer Leverkusen have had a miserable time in trying to attain them. With this record, they simply have to be cursed.

The German outfit finished league runners up in 2000 after a young Michael Ballack scored a heartbreaking own goal on the final day that lost them the title. In 2001/02, they scuppered a five point lead atop of the table, and lost the Champions League final and the DFB-Pokal. The five times Bundesliga runners up are still yet to win the German top flight.

Bayer Leverkusen in the 2020 DFB Cup final vs Bayern Munich
BERLIN, GERMANY – JULY 04: Sven Bender, Lars Bender and Kevin Volland of Leverkusen look dejected during the DFB Cup final match between Bayer 04 Leverkusen and FC Bayern Muenchen at Olympiastadion on July 4, 2020 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Annegret Hilse/Pool via Getty Images)

6. The Aaron Ramsey curse

This one is strange. And very unfortunate.

In horrifically coincidental fashion, a theme developed in previous years that saw a celebrity die shortly after Ramsey ever scored a goal. It seemed to begin in 2018 when Ramsey’s goal for Arsenal against CSKA Moscow was closely followed by Eric Bristow’s death. It even happened in 2022; Ramsey scored for Rangers in the Old Firm in April, and shortly after, it was announced June Brown – who played Dot Cotton in Eastenders – had died.

Dembele to join Chelsea this week? (Football Terrace)

5. Birmingham’s 100-year curse

A Gypsy’s curse was placed on Birmingham City and their ground of St. Andrews on Boxing Day of 1906, by the Romany people who were forced to move away so that the football ground could be built. But it was probably nothing, right? Wrong.

The curse plagued the club for over a century. In the 1980s, Ron Saunders ordered crucifixes to be put on the floodlights, and in the 90s, Barry Fry was desperate to rid the ground of the curse, and thought urinating in all four corners of the pitch would do the trick. It didn’t. Mere years after the curse ended in 2006, Birmingham won their first major honour since the curse, in a shock League Cup win over Arsenal in 2011.

Birmingham lift the 2011 Carling Cup
LONDON, ENGLAND – FEBRUARY 27: Stephen Carr of Birmingham City celebrates with team mates after the Carling Cup Final between Arsenal and Birmingham City at Wembley Stadium on February 27, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

4. Yaya Toure’s agent’s Manchester City curse

Another intentionally placed curse, Toure’s exit from City was a sour one upon the arrival of Pep Guardiola as manager, but the tensions started when he didn’t receive a birthday cake from the club in 2014.

Anyway, it was Guardiola’s arrival that really sowed the seeds, firstly when he omitted him from City’s Champions League squad in 2015/16, before his eventual 2018 departure. Toure’s agent, Dimitri Seluk, later came out and stated that a shaman curse lies over the club prohibiting them from winning the Champions League under Guardiola. They’ve since lost a Champions League final and dramatically imploded in a semi-final.

3. World Cup winners’ curse

Four of the five past World Cup champions have gone on to be eliminated in the group stage at the following tournament, with only Brazil managing to avoid falling to the otherwise unbeatable curse.

Germany became the fourth successive European country to fall to the damning fate when they finished bottom of Group F in 2018. Before them it was Spain, before Spain it was Italy, and before them it was France. With France heading into 2022 as reigning champions, 20 years on from opening the door, the pressure is on them to close it.

Korea Republic celebrate a win against Germany at the 2018 World Cup
KAZAN, RUSSIA – JUNE 27: Thomas Mueller of Germany looks dejected following his sides defeat in the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group F match between Korea Republic and Germany at Kazan Arena on June 27, 2018 in Kazan, Russia. (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images, )

2. Bela Guttman’s European curse on Benfica

Having guided them to two successive European Cups in 1961 and 1962, Guttman walked out on Benfica following the 1962 triumph after being denied what was described a ‘modest’ pay rise.

He proclaimed that Benfica wouldn’t win another European trophy for the next 100 years upon leaving the club following the dispute. They went on to lose five European Cup finals after the incident (1963, 1965, 1968, 1988, 1990), but their under-19s won the UEFA Youth Cup in 2022, which they hope has finally lifted the curse.

1. Racing Club cats

Warning, this one is a bit gruesome, and rather creepy. In 1967, Independiente supporters broke into Racing Club’s ground and buried seven dead black cats beneath their turf following their maiden Copa Libertadores win.

The curse seemed to work, as Racing Club went from one of the continent’s most successful sides in the 60s, to avoiding relegation by a point in 1976 after years of decline. They eventually were relegated in 1983, and were declared bankrupt in 1998.

In an attempt to rid the curse, an exorcism was carried out, and the ground was dug up to remove the corpses, but only six were found. The remains of the seventh were finally found in 2001; they won the league title for the first time in 34 years at the end of that season.

Racing Club pose with the 2018/19 Superliga
AVELLANEDA, ARGENTINA – APRIL 07: Players of Racing Club pose with the trophy to celebrate the championship after a match between Racing Club and Defensa y Justicia as part of Superliga 2018/19 at Presidente Peron Stadium on April 7, 2019 in Avellaneda, Argentina. (Photo by Marcelo Endelli/Getty Images)

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