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5 Premier League players who returned to former clubs

A blockbuster summer transfer window saw Romelu Lukaku and Cristiano Ronaldo return to their old clubs in massive deals, signing for Chelsea and Manchester United respectively. Heading back to familiar surroundings is often a popular move for players who may feel they have something to prove, in the case of Lukaku who struggled to break through in his first spell at Stamford Bridge, or who like Ronaldo are aiming to end their career on a nostalgic high. Here are six examples of players who returned to former clubs – and how it worked out.


6 players who returned to former clubs


Didier Drogba

Lukaku’s hero as a boy was Drogba and the striker also had two periods at Chelsea.

Drogba hit 100 goals for the Blues from 2004 to 2012, helping to lead a glorious era for the club that included three Premier League titles, four FA Cups and the 2011–12 Champions League. Spells in China with Shanghai Shenhua and Turkey with Galatasaray followed before Drogba made a sensational return to Stamford Bridge to play for Jose Mourinho again in July 2014.

Although Drogba only scored four league goals that year, the Blues won both the League Cup and the Premier League, allowing the club legend to head for MLS on a high.


Thierry Henry

Arguably the greatest player in Premier League history, Henry was unfortunately a shadow of his old self when he went back to Arsenal in 2012 after five years away from the club. A short-term deal made sense given Arsenal were short of attacking options with both Gervinho and Marouane Chamakh on international duty for their countries at the Africa Cup of Nations.

Henry made a fairytale return in front of the adoring Gunners fans when he came off the bench to score the winning goal against Leeds United in the FA Cup third round. But Henry mainly played a back-up role, making only four league appearances, though he did manage to score on his farewell game against Sunderland to finish on a club record 228 goals for Arsenal. Nonetheless, he remains one of the highest profile players who returned to a former club.


Gareth Bale

Bale was one of the best players in the world when he left Tottenham for Real Madrid, but last season the Wales forward struggled for consistency in a badly underperforming Spurs side.

However, 11 goals in 20 league appearances showed Bale could still turn on the quality. He hit braces against Leicester City, Crystal Palace and Burnley, while claiming the match ball in a 4-0 rout of Sheffield United. It was a little surprising Spurs did not try harder to keep him for 2021-22.


Wayne Rooney

Rooney became Manchester United’s all-time top goalscorer during his mostly successful 13 years at Old Trafford, but he struggled to recapture that magic touch back at Everton when he become one of the players who returned for a second spell at a former club.

The most exciting teenager in world football when he broke through at Goodison Park, much of what made Rooney such a brilliant player had deserted him by the time he returned in 2017.

There were some memorable highlights, including scoring on his second Everton league debut, beating West Ham goalkeeper Joe Hart from 60 yards and reaching 200 Premier League goals. But it was mostly a frustrating year for Rooney, who then headed Stateside to play in MLS.


Sol Campbell

One of the strangest examples of players who returned to an old club involved Campbell. After the 2008 FA Cup final, which saw him captain Arsenal to victory, Campbell announced he was signing for Notts County – three leagues below the Gunners – on a free transfer.

Campbell signed a five-year deal with County, who had ex-England boss Sven-Goran Eriksson as director of football, but he only played once before cancelling his contract by mutual consent.

Arsenal offered the veteran the chance to train with them to maintain fitness and they then re-signed the defender on a short-term deal. Campbell played more than he perhaps would have expected as Thomas Vermaelen and William Gallas both suffered injuries, making another 11 Premier League appearances.


Jermain Defoe

Defoe was successful in both of his Spurs spells, showing Ronaldo and Lukaku it can be done.

The striker had hit 43 Premier League goals for the club before making a surprise switch to Portsmouth during their FA Cup-winning season, though he did not play due to being cup-tied.

Spurs then paid around twice what they received from Portsmouth to bring Defoe back to the club, with the England striker netting the first goal of his second spell against Pompey.

With 18 league goals in the 2009–10 season, Defoe justified the decision to bring him back to White Hart Lane and he finished his time at the club on 94 Premier League goals. Only three men in Spurs history have scored more: Robbie Keane, Teddy Sheringham and Harry Kane.



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