15 Most Bitter Divorces Between Players and Clubs

Max TowleAnalyst IMay 14, 2013

15 Most Bitter Divorces Between Players and Clubs

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    "We hate you so much, because we loved you so much."

    These are the words of Barcelona fans, soon after star player Luis Figo made the controversial move to Real Madrid in 2000 (via TotalBarca.com).

    The quote aptly sums up the most bitter divorces in football history.

    Here are 15 cases of players leaving their clubs under a cloud—whether due to a bust-up with their manager and club or moving to a rival.

Niko Kranjcar

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    Dinamo Zagreb to Hajduk Split

    Niko Kranjcar was considered the jewel of the Dinamo Zagreb team in the mid-2000s.

    He had been the side's youngest ever captain at age 17 in the 2002/03 season, leading them to the Prva HNL title.

    But in 2005, he made the controversial switch to rival club Hajduk Split, having had a falling-out with Dinamo's management.

    Fans protested, cursing Kranjcar's name after the transfer.

    The player's agent, Dino Pokrovac, who negotiated the deal, was soon after shot dead in his home in a mafia-style execution.

Roberto Baggio

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    Fiorentina to Juventus

    Roberto Baggio was considered one of the finest players Italy had ever produced in 1990.

    He was a star from a young age for Fiorentina, helping the Sven-Goran Eriksson-managed side reach the UEFA Cup final that year.

    But soon after, Baggio made a record £9 million move to rivals Juventus—one that shocked fans of the Viola.

    There were riots after the deal was announced, with 50 injured. Fiorentina's owners, the Pontello family, were forced to sell the club as a result.

    Baggio later reconciled with his former side, and he is considered a hero to the Florence club.

Wayne Rooney

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    Everton to Manchester United

    It is ironic that Wayne Rooney is now facing an uncomfortable reunion with David Moyes at Old Trafford.

    While the forward was at Everton in his youth, he played under the Scottish manager, though when Rooney made the move to Manchester United in 2004, their relationship was perhaps damaged for good.

    Moyes later attempted to sue Rooney for £500,000 in 2006 following criticisms of him in the latter's autobiography.

    Rooney claimed that Moyes leaked conversations the two had had to the Liverpool Echo (via The Telegraph).

    The case was later settled, but the bitterness undoubtedly remains.

Sol Campbell

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    Tottenham Hotspur to Arsenal

    The Tottenham Hotspur-Arsenal rivalry is one of the most competitive in British football.

    So when Spurs defender Sol Campbell moved to Highbury in 2001, Tottenham fans reacted with disgust and scorn.

    Campbell, who was Spurs' best player and captain at the time, was the first player in history to make the move.

    What made things unbearable for those at White Hart Lane was the fact that Arsenal acquired Campbell on a free transfer.

    The threatening behaviour of Spurs fans even prompted the defender to hire a bodyguard (via FourFourTwo).

Zlatan Ibrahimovic

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    Juventus to Inter Milan

    Zlatan Ibrahimovic has become known as a serial journeyman—he has never spent more than three years at the same club.

    He was one of the stars at Juventus between 2004 and 2006, especially in his debut campaign, where he scored 16 goals in Serie A.

    But the Calciopoli Scandal saw the Turin side relegated to Serie B, and a change of fortunes for the Swedish striker.

    Many stars, such as Alessandro Del Piero, David Trezeguet and Pavel Nedved vowed to stay and help the team, but Zlatan demanded to leave.

    He threatened legal action and later moved to rivals Inter Milan, subsequently losing the respect of the Juventus faithful.

Ashley Cole

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    Arsenal to Chelsea

    Ashley Cole remains one of the most hated players for fans of Arsenal.

    His switch to London rivals Chelsea drew the ire of many, who saw the transfer as him moving purely for the money.

    Days before he made the move, Cole said, "I love this club but I suspect there are people at this club who do not want me to pull on a Gunners shirt again. I still won’t sign for another Premiership team as I could not see myself playing against Arsenal. I would only want to play abroad."

    His wage more than doubled to £90,000 a week when he arrived at Stamford Bridge in 2006, an extraordinary sum paid by the Blues' mega-rich owner Roman Abramovich.

    Chelsea were charged by the FA with "tapping-up" Cole in negotiations, something that only further angered Gunners fans.

John Robertson

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    Nottingham Forest to Derby County

    John Robertson was a hero at Nottingham Forest during his time at the club.

    A tricky winger with a deadly accurate crossing ability, Robertson was part of the famed Brian Clough team that won back-to-back European Cups in 1979 and 1980.

    But in 1983, he made a contested transfer to rivals Derby County.

    He joined Clough's former assistant Peter Taylor at Pride Park, something that soured the two former friends' relationship.

    Robertson was caught in the middle of a bitter dispute that led to the two men never speaking again.

Alfredo Di Stefano

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    Millonarios to Real Madrid

    Alfredo Di Stefano was probably the first "Galactico" in history.

    The forward was the best player in the game for a time, leading Los Blancos to five European Cups in a row between 1956 and 1960.

    His legacy would never have been crafted were it not for his controversial transfer from Colombian side Millonarios, though.

    A political battle raged when both Real and rivals Barcelona claimed to have signed him in 1953.

    Millonarios were also exploited in the deal, forced into accepting a relatively low offer for the Argentine.

Mo Johnston

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    Nantes to Rangers

    When Mo Johnston made the switch from Celtic to French side Nantes, he vowed to never return to Scotland (via FourFourTwo).

    But that is exactly what the striker did two years later, in 1991, joining Celtic's sworn rivals Rangers.

    The fact that Johnston was a Catholic and former Celtic player sparked massive controversy at Ibrox.

    Fans of his former team called him a Judas, while fans of his new Protestant club denounced him for his religion.

    Mo won his critics over, at least the blue half of Glasgow, helping them win two league titles.

Johan Cruyff

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    Ajax to Feyenoord

    Johan Cruyff was one of the greatest footballers to have played the game.

    A Dutch legend, the forward won seven Eredivisie titles with Ajax Amsterdam, helping to craft the "total football" legacy.

    However, in the twilight of his career, Ajax failed to offer him a new contract, angering Cruyff, who felt betrayed by the club he had served so well.

    In reaction, he moved to rivals Feyenoord, with whom he won the Eredivisie in his one season at the club.

    From an Ajax perspective it was a sad end to the career of the best to have ever pulled on the club shirt.

Emmanuel Adebayor

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    Arsenal to Manchester City

    Few transfers in British football have produced so much bitterness as Emmanuel Adebayor's move from Arsenal to Manchester City in 2009.

    Only this week, Adebayor, now playing for Tottenham, said he wants to "kill" his former club's hopes of finishing in the top four (via Goal.com).

    The Togolese striker was seen as a mercenary for moving to City, much like Ashley Cole before him.

    In his first game for the Blues against the Gunners, Adebayor scored and ran the length of the pitch to celebrate in front of his former fans.

    He also received a three-match ban for intentionally kicking an Arsenal player in the face during the game.

Luis Figo

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    Barcelona to Real Madrid

    If you look closely at the photo, you can see a pig's head lying close to a corner-taking Luis Figo.

    A Barcelona fan had thrown it onto the field as a symbol of what they thought of their former idol. Another also threw a urine-filled bottle.

    These fans felt betrayed at the Portuguese playmaker's lack of loyalty, despite Real paying Barca £38 million for his signature in 2000.

    Figo won two La Liga titles with Los Blancos, as well as the Champions League in 2002.

    During the time Figo was at the Bernabeu, Barcelona, who had won two La Liga titles with him, won nothing.

Robin Van Persie

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    Arsenal to Manchester United

    No transfer in world football has inspired so much debate in recent years as Robin van Persie's move to Manchester United last summer.

    The forward was yet another player heavily criticised by many Arsenal fans for chasing the paper and a perceived lack of loyalty, despite him claiming the move was in the quest of trophies (via Goal.com).

    Many Gunners fans also criticised the London club for selling one of the side's best players to their fierce Premier League rivals.

    In a sub-plot, the transfer effectively doomed Manchester City's manager Roberto Mancini, who feuded with club officials for their inability to sign van Persie.

    If Arsenal could wind back the clock, would they agree to the transfer again?

Jean-Marc Bosman

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    RFC Liege to Dunkirk

    In 1990, few could have predicted that a transfer involving a little-known Belgian midfielder would have such an effect on the game.

    With his contract for RFC Liege having expired, Jean-Marc Bosman agreed to terms for a move to Dunkirk.

    At the last moment, however, Liege dramatically changed their valuation of the player, souring the deal and leaving him effectively clubless.

    Bosman sued Liege and the Belgian FA, eventually winning his case five years later. But by this time, his career was effectively over.

    The "Bosman Ruling" that arose from the event is key to players being able to move clubs at the end of their contract.

Carlos Tevez

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    Manchester United to Manchester City

    Manchester United fans cheer most of the club's former players when they return to Old Trafford. Not Carlos Tevez, though.

    The Argentine forward's switch from the Red Devils to sworn enemies Manchester City in 2009 was clouded by a storm of bitterness.

    Tevez claimed that United wanted him out, United claimed that it was the player who had wantaway intentions.

    Upon the completion of the transfer, a blue billboard mocked United by stating "Welcome to Manchester" over a picture of Tevez (via The Telegraph).

    When the forward later rowed with the Blues and demanded to leave, a parody billboard was erected saying "Welcome to Carlos, Manchester" (via BBC).

    What other bitter divorces between players and clubs could have made this list?

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