15 Biggest Traitors in Soccer History
As football fans, we tend to get very attached to the stars of our favorite teams. We see certain players as icons—representative of the ambition, hopes and aspirations of the club they play for.
And in some cases, this turns out to be a valid perception. Paolo Maldini, Gary Neville, Javier Zanetti—each of these players can indeed be said to represent everything that is good about their respective clubs.
These players demonstrated incredible loyalty in their careers and will forever be remembered for their incredible commitment to the success of their club.
However, as we idolize and iconicize our favorite players, we run the risk of forgetting that football is still their source of income and occupation, and that club loyalty does not always come above that.
Thus, though the players on this list probably could've avoided playing for their old team's archrivals, they are clear reminders that for many players in football, money does speak louder than loyalty.
I want this section to be based on reader input. As suggestions come in on the most controversial or worst traitors in football history, the most popular ones will be mentioned here. To start things off:
Nick Barmby (Everton to Liverpool)
Roberto Baggio (Fiorentina to Juventus)
Harry Redknapp (Portsmouth to Southampton to Portsmouth)
Emmanuel Adebayor (Burned Bridges with Arsenal with controversial incidents while with Man City, then moved to Spurs to top it all off.)
Rio Ferdinand (Leeds to Manchester United)
15. Fernando Torres
Fernando Torres didn't move to either of Liverpool's biggest rivals, Everton or Manchester United, but he did hurt his legacy at Liverpool by moving to Chelsea in the middle of a poor season for the Reds.
He fetched Liverpool a massive transfer fee of £50 million, but the majority of that was poorly reinvested in the thus-far ineffective Andrew Carroll.
Now, Torres continues to struggle greatly to put the ball in the back of the net. Had he stayed at Liverpool, he would've likely had the service of Luis Suarez to feed off of and would've found the back of the net with much more regularity and less difficulty.
Recently, Torres admitted that life in Liverpool was much more comfortable than life in London with Chelsea currently is.
14. Michael Owen
Unlike Torres, Michael Owen did make the forbidden move to his ex-team's arch-rivals; after establishing himself as a Liverpool legend in the late 90s and early 00s, Owen moved from Newcastle to Manchester United in 2009, turning nearly every Liverpool fan against their former golden boy.
It's hard to label the move as being truly "traitorous," though; following the end of his spell with Newcastle United, Owen was a shadow of his former self and had so few suitors that his agent felt compelled to produce a 34-page brochure to woo clubs into signing the striker.
The strategy worked, and Owen has been a successful backup and cup striker for Manchester United ever since. He has also had his memorable moments, such as his winning goal in the Manchester derby in the 2009-10 EPL season.
13. Ian Wright
Before Ian Wright went on to become an Arsenal legend, he was a Crystal Palace striker, and a very successful one at that. In six seasons with the club, Wright scored a whopping 100 goals in 254 games for a ratio of a goal for every 2.5 games.
Unlike most of the other guys on this list, it wasn't Wright's move away from Crystal Palace that made him a traitor; Palace were a small club in 1991, while Arsenal were winning trophies.
What made Wright a traitor was that in his first season with Arsenal, having just left Palace earlier that season, Wright celebrated the goal which relegated Crystal Palace from the First Division. Pretty classless if you ask me.
12. Carlos Tevez
I feel like it's getting to the point where Carlos Tevez is getting mentioned on every other article of mine in some form or another.
The main reason that Carlos Tevez makes this list is that he chose to leave Manchester United for city rivals Manchester City, even after the large transfer fee his owners wanted (£25.5 million) was met.
But that alone isn't what makes Carlos Tevez a traitor. His behavior earlier in his career with Corinthians was also traitorous; in order to force a move abroad, Tevez refused to play for Corinthians, and this forced the Brazilian club to put him on the transfer market, with him eventually moving to West Ham.
Now at Manchester City, Carlos Tevez's traitorous nature is in full view once again; whatever the truth may be about his bench incident against Bayern Munich in the Champions League, he has fully burnt the bridges of reconciliation even after they were extended to him by Roberto Mancini.
Currently, he is hiding out in Argentina as the charges against him continue to grow and grow.
11. Luis Enrique
At just the age of 41, Luis Enrique has gotten off to an impressive start in his managerial career.
He has managed an impressive generation of Barcelona youth in Barcelona B since 2008, and in 2011, he made the move to manage Roma, where ironically, he manages another team filled with promising youth, such as Miralem Pjanic and Erik Lamela.
What many don't know about Luis Enrique, however, is that he spent the majority of his early career with Real Madrid before switching to Barcelona following the expiration of his contract.
The reason that not as much hype is attached to Luis Enrique's move as is attached to a couple of other players who made the jump between the two Spanish giants is that, unlike the other two guys to be mentioned later on this list who switched between Barca and Real, Luis Enrique saw out his contract with Real prior to moving to Barcelona, and more importantly, he was never a crucial member of the team at Real Madrid.
He scored only 18 goals in all his time with Real Madrid, and the fact that the team let his contract expire ment that Real didn't really show any desire to hold onto him.
Luis Enrique would make them pay for this, as he went on to become a prolific goalscorer with Barcelona, scoring 109 goals in 300 appearances with the club, and winning two La Liga trophies, two Copa Del Reys, one Supercopa Espana, one UEFA Cup Winners' Cup and one UEFA Super Cup.
10. Bernd Schuster
The ex-Real Madrid manager has had a relatively modest, controversy-free managerial career, but as a player, Bernd Schuster's move between clubs attracted a great deal of controversy.
After playing for Barcelona for eight seasons and playing an integral role in the team throughout his time at Barcelona, Schuster made the jump in arguably the biggest rivalry in football history, switching to Real Madrid.
He wasn't quite as effective at Real Madrid as he was at Barcelona, and to add even more controversy to already fairly controversial career, Schuster decided to make the jump across another Spanish rivalry, moving to Atletico Madrid at the age of 30.
9. Kenny Miller
If there's one rivalry that can rival the intensity of El Clasico between Real Madrid and Barcelona, it's the Old Firm derby between Rangers and Celtic. Given the rich political history behind the rivalry, most players know that that is one rivalry you do not want to mess with.
And yet, it seems Kenny Miller missed that memo, as he crossed between the two teams not once, but twice, switching from Rangers to Celtic and back to Rangers.
In the end, Rangers fans hardly cared about his switch to "the dark side," as Kenny Miller's performances for Rangers were spectacular and helped the team to multiple league titles.
Celtic fans may have been a bit more displeased with Miller, though, as he was fairly poor in the one season spent with them, but Celtic did still manage to win both the league and the cup in his single season with the club.
8. William Gallas
Some might say that Gallas' inclusion on this list is unfair, as he only moved from Chelsea to Arsenal as part of the deal that brought Ashley Cole to Chelsea.
However, those who say this forget that Gallas left Chelsea on acrimonious terms, with the club releasing a scathing statement in which they accused Gallas of threatening to score own goals if he was not sold by the team.
To make matters worse, Gallas decided to move to Tottenham at the end of his time with Arsenal, once again infuriating the fans of the team he left.
What made matters even worse was that Arsenal wanted to retain him, but his contract demands were simply too high to be accomodated in the club's wage structure.
7. Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Zlatan Ibrahimovic has never been known for his loyalty.
Internationally, Ibrahimovic has temporarily retired from the national team a couple of times, once because he disagreed with the a punishment he received for going out two nights before a match against Liechtenstein, and another because he felt, following Sweden's failure to qualify for the 2010 World Cup, that the remainder of Sweden's international games until after the 2010 World Cup would be "meaningless."
But Ibrahimovic's lack of loyalty internationally pales to his lack of loyalty domestically.
After Juventus were stripped of their two Scudetti in the Calciopoli scandal, not only did Zlatan Ibrahimovic (and his agent) threaten to pursue legal action to get himself out of his contract, but he also moved to Inter Milan, Juventus' biggest rival in Serie A and enemy in the Calciopoli trials.
Not content with having played for both sides in one of the biggest rivalries in Serie A, Ibrahimovic decided he wanted to play for both sides of THE biggest rivalry in Italy, the Milan rivalry.
Following his unhappy spell with Barcelona, Ibrahimovic moved to AC Milan, where he returned to his role of banging goals on a regular basis and winning Serie A titles in each and every year he's spent in Serie A.
And to put the icing on the cake, Zlatan Ibrahimovic was keen to move from Barcelona to Real Madrid after falling out with Pep Guardiola at Barcelona, but eventually agreed to move to AC Milan instead after having that move blocked by Sandro Rosell.
Ronaldo will always be a legend and one of the best strikers to ever play the beautiful game, but when it came to club loyalty, Ronaldo had none whatsoever.
Though he never jumped directly from one rival to another, Ronaldo played for both Barcelona and Real Madrid, as well as both Inter Milan and AC Milan, becoming the only player in history to have played for all four teams.
The icing on the cake of Ronaldo's traitorous behavior was his move to Corinthians after training for numerous months with boyhood club Flamengo to recover from knee surgery.
Despite Flamengo making it clear that they were willing to sign him, Ronaldo chose instead to sign for Corinthians, a title rival of Flamengo's in the Brazilian Serie A.
5. Wayne Rooney
Wayne Rooney grew up supporting Everton and lived near the club for his entire childhood. He joined Everton's youth system at the age of 11 and soon fascinated fans and the managers at the club with his incredible skill.
Also exciting for the fans was the loyalty Wayne Rooney showed to the club early on. After scoring in the final of the FA Youth Cup, Rooney revealed a shirt that said "Once a Blue, Always A Blue" to emphasize his dedication to the club.
Yet, in just two years, that dedication completely evaporated.
Not only did Wayne Rooney go back on his "Once a Blue, Always a Blue" motto to pursue a big-money move to Manchester United, but he showed no respect for the club which developed him as a player by kissing the United badge in front of Everton fans after scoring against Everton for United.
4. Mo Johnston
Unlike Kenny Miller, Mo Johnston crossed the Old Firm divide only once, and did so after a two-year stint with French club Nantes. So why is he so high up on this list?
Because Mo Johnston made an absolute mess of his switch. Prior to his move from Nantes to Rangers, Johnston had been a hero among Celtic fans. He had scored 50-plus goals for Celtic from 1984 to 1987, and won the league title and the Scottish Cup with the team as well.
Thus, when he decided to return to Scotland from Nantes, Johnston expected to return to Celtic and held a press conference at Celtic Park declaring that "Celtic are the only club I want to play for."
However, when he discovered that it was Rangers who were able to offer him a more lucrative contract, Johnston made a U-turn on his previous statements and signed for Rangers.
This caused both Old Firm clubs great displeasure, with Rangers fans burning their Rangers scarves and threatening to hand in their season tickets over the signing, and Celtic fans referring to Johnston as Judas for inexplicably turning on the club.
Eventually, Mo Johnston would win over the majority of Rangers fans, who, despite voicing their initial displeasure about the signing of a Roman Catholic player at the Protestant club, slowly accepted and took a liking to him due to his skill and good work ethic.
Johnston was able to scored 46 goals in 100 matches for club and win two league titles and the Scottish cup for the club as well.
Still, the effects of the move have lived on in Mo Johnston's life; he presently lives in London, as he does not want his children facing any possible ramifications from their father's controversial move.
3. Ashley Cole
Cashley, aka the player everyone loves to hate, comes in third on this list.
Ashley Cole first found himself involved in controversy following a tapping-up meeting with Jose Mourinho and Peter Kenyon of Chelsea. When the meeting was found out, all parties involved were fined for their participation, and Cole's agent had his license suspended for 18 months.
Cole signed a one-year extension to his contract following the incident, but soon found himself involved in controversy once again when he rejected Arsenal's contract extension offer for the much more lucrative contract being offered by Chelsea, and claimed he felt insulted by the wages being offered to him by Arsenal.
Though Cole claims to have forgiven Arsenal for "hanging him out to dry," Arsenal fans have never looked past the incident, booing Cole on practically ever subsequent visit he has ever made to the Emirates Stadium and Ashburton Grove.
2: Luis Figo
It's unfortunate that one of the best players of all time and a true professional has to be labelled a "traitor," but when you leave your team for their biggest rivals, it's a tag you have to accept.
Luis Figo's move to Real Madrid was particularly treacherous, as he was one of the most loved players at Barcelona during his time there, and had won a great deal of silverware with the club.
Upon Luis Figo's return to Barcelona, three whole years after his move, Figo had all sorts of objects thrown at him, including a pig's head.
1: Sol Campbell
For me, Sol Campbell isn't the biggest traitor by much; after all, his story is fairly similar to Wayne Rooney's, and unlike guys like Gallas, Ronaldo or Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Sol Campbell only jumped across on rivalry. But he is definitely my pick for the biggest traitor in soccer history.
It wasn't Campbell's decision to leave Tottenham that caused Spurs fans to hate him; they understood that a player of his caliber deserved to play with a club playing in the Champions League.
But to join the team's archrivals, and on a free transfer, too...that was just too cruel, and rightly earned him the tag of "Judas" by Spurs supporters.
In the Daily Mail's ranking of the 50 biggest traitors in soccer history, Sol Campbell was also selected as No. 1.
Do you think Sol Campbell deserves to be tagged as the biggest traitor in soccer history, or should that tag go to someone else? What players do you think should have been included on the list that weren't included? And who are some players who deserve to be mentioned as honorable mentions on this list?
Make your opinion known in the comments section below, and thanks for reading!
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