Over the last two weeks, we’ve seen two players take the bold step of moving to a rival club – William Gallas going from Arsenal to north London rivals Tottenham, and Yoann Gourcuff from Bordeaux to fellow Ligue 1 contenders Lyon.
So far, nobody’s making a big deal out of it, cos at 33, Gallas isn’t the excellent defender and athlete he once was, and the Arsenal fans have seen as much trouble from him as they have good defending. And as for Gourcuff, Bordeaux and Lyon weren’t traditional rivals to begin with.
Other players, however haven’t been as lucky when moving between local rivals. Here are a few of the most high-profile player transfers between rival clubs, and a few that ended up pretty ugly as well:
Manchester United to Manchester City
As if crossing over to the blue half of Manchester wasn’t bad enough, the gritty Argentine burned his bridges with United by publicly criticising Alex Ferguson after the move in 2009. A war of words ensued, during which Ferguson famously labelled City the “noisy neighbours” and City fans put up a cheeky “Welcome to Manchester” poster for Carlos Tevez (a dig at United’s Old Trafford stadium, which is technically not in Manchester).
The whole affair made for some tasty fixtures between the two sides during the course of that season, with United fans booing Tevez’s every touch in those games.
Tottenham Hotspur to Arsenal
In one of the most cruel good-byes one could ever give an employer, Sol Campbell allowed his contract to run out, and, amidst interest from pretty much all the best clubs in the world, decided to sign for Spurs’ biggest rivals instead.
The decision made him an instant hate figure, though it turned out to be great for Campbell as he became part of Arsenal’s Invincibles, who went the entire 2003/2004 season without losing a single league game.
Spurs fans have called him “Judas” ever since, but I guess it’s not a bad price to pay to be part of that piece of Premier League history with Arsenal. He was also number one on the Daily Mail’s list of “Football’s Biggest Traitors”.
Fiorentina to Juventus
The brilliant Italian forward was such a hero in Florence that when he signed for Juventus in 1990 for a world-record fee, riots actually broke out on the streets, with 50 people injured. Roberto Baggio said he felt “compelled to accept the transfer”, and continued to express his love for Fiorentina, even refusing to take a penalty later on when Juventus played them.
But as many of you would probably know, Fiorentina and Juve aren’t the fiercest of rivals in Italian football. But c’mon, there were actual riots over the transfer! Surely that deserves a mention in this list, right? =P
Leeds United to Manchester United
Apart from their cross town rivalry with City, United’s other traditional rivals are Leeds United. After a stellar 2002 World Cup campaign alongside Sol Campbell, Rio Ferdinand attracted a £30mil bid from United. With Leeds already in financial meltdown, the club had no choice but to sell, making Ferdinand the world’s most expensive defender, and the most expensive British footballer ever.
His Leeds teammate Alan Smith would also make the same move later on when his beloved club got relegated in 2004, even though he had gone on record saying he would never play for United. He cried after his last game for Leeds, something which endeared the two-time Leeds Supporters’ Player of the Year even more to the fans; but it all turned sour when he joined United, and the Leeds faithful have never forgiven him for that.
Leeds United to Manchester United
The Frenchman had joined Leeds after becoming disillusioned with French football, where he had earned a reputation as a maverick and a trouble maker. He joined United after less than a year with Leeds, where he won the last ever first division trophy before the Premier League replaced it.
Ferguson was looking for a striker, having bid for players like Matt Le Tissier and Brian Deane; but a call from the Leeds chairman to enquire about the availability of Dennis Irwin gave Ferguson the chance to enquire back about Eric Cantona, and the rest as they say, is history.
Everton to Liverpool
Everton’s record £6mil signing from Middlesborough moved to cross town rivals Liverpool in 2000, naturally incurring the wrath of the blue half of Merseyside. Nick Barmby wasn’t a huge success in Liverpool, but he did manage to score against his old club, which just made that sense of betrayal even stronger. His son currently plays in the Manchester United academy, so I guess he won’t have too many fans left in Liverpool either.
Real Madrid to Barcelona
After spending five years in Madrid, Luis Enrique let his contract run out in 1996 to join Madrid’s bitter rivals Barcelona, whose fans weren’t exactly crazy with the idea.
It was a bold move, but one that paid off. Enrique was a cult figure by the time he finished his career in Barcelona, becoming one of the world’s best attacking midfielders, eventually captaining the team and even scoring several times against Madrid.
Manchester United to Inter Milan to Liverpool
Having built a reputation in United as one of the finest all-round midfielders in the world, Paul Ince was surprisingly sold to Inter Milan in 1995 as Ferguson cleared the way for his “Fledglings” – Paul Scholes, David Beckham, Nicky Butt, etc – to take flight.
After a decent spell in Italy, he surprised many and infuriated United fans when he signed for Liverpool. They got even more mad when Ince scored a late equaliser against United in the 98/99 season and celebrated the goal passionately in front of the Anfield crowd. His son Thomas currently plays in the Liverpool academy.
Arsenal to Chelsea
The left-back’s transfer from Arsenal to Chelsea was one of the most acrimonious in English football history because of Chelsea’s illegal approach of the player while he was still under contract with Arsenal.
Ashley Cole himself made things worse later on by saying he was “trembling in anger” and that he almost crashed his car after hearing Arsenal were only offering him £55,000-a-week in his new contract, which he claims is the reason why he started agitating for a move. And just like that, “Cashley Cole” was born.
Barcelona to Real Madrid
The Portuguese winger was a footballing sensation at the time, and probably the best player in the world. He oozed style, class and mind-boggling ability; and there just seemed to be no conceivable way he could leave Barcelona for Madrid. But he did, signing for Madrid in 2000 for a world record fee of £37mil. Nothing could have prepared the footballing world for the backlash he would receive from the Nou Camp.
During his first match back in Barca, he was pelted with coins, cellphones and even a pig’s head every time he got near the touchline, and as the world’s best winger, he was there pretty often. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, he was also Madrid’s designated corner taker.
* Any other crazy transfers between rival clubs that I missed out on? Leave a comment! =)