Premier League

Ten players who returned to former clubs and how it worked out with Cristiano Ronaldo back at Man Utd

CRISTIANO RONALDO agreed a stunning move back to Manchester United this summer.

It came 11 years after he left to join Real Madrid in a then-record £80million move.

Cristiano Ronaldo agreed a stunning move back to Manchester United

From there, he joined Juventus but after three years the legendary forward made it clear he wanted to move on.

And after initial talks with Manchester rivals City broke down, it gave United the green light to swoop in for the club icon.

And his return came in the same window former United striker Romelu Lukaku also returned to Chelsea.

With that in mind, we’ve taken a look at TEN players who’ve quit clubs with legendary status, only to return later in their careers.

But how did they all get on in their second stints?


First spell: 2011-2014

Romelu Lukaku scored on his second Chelsea debut

Second spell: 2021-present

LUKAKU left Stamford Bridge in 2014 without breaking into their first-team and two loan spells away, firstly to West Brom and then Everton.

After joining Everton permanently, he impressed enough to 2017 snub Chelsea and join United.

It was mixed results for the Belgian, who left United in 2019 for Inter Milan, a move with rejuvenated his career.

Lukaku in his second season in Italy helped Inter to a first Serie A title in 11 years, but in doing so attracted attention once again from Chelsea.

The Blues were searching for a solution in their striker crisis and turned to their old boy.

Lukaku was convinced to complete his ‘unfinished business’ in Blue and this summer re-signed for £97.5m.

He made his debut against Arsenal, where he scored the opener to help Chelsea in a 2-0 win and has scored three times more since.


Didier Drogba only furthered his incredible reputation at Chelsea with his 2014-15 return

First spell: 2004-2012

Second spell: 2014-2015

QUITE possibly Chelsea best striker in the Premier League era, Drogba won TEN trophies during his first spell at Stamford Bridge.

The Ivorian won three Premier League crowns and the Champions League in those eight years – winning the European Cup with his last kick for the club.

After two years away – at Shanghai Shenhua and Galatasaray – Drogba returned under Jose Mourinho in 2014 and helped the club win yet another league title to further cement his status as a Chelsea legend.



Thierry Henry scored a couple of key goals for Arsenal on his return in 2012

First spell: 1999-2007

Second spell: 2012 (loan)

ANOTHER star who is quite possibly his old club’s greatest ever striker, Henry left Arsenal after eight years and two Premier League titles, including the 2003-04 ‘Invincibles’ campaign.

Henry had his head turned by Barcelona in 2007 and would later move to New York Red Bulls, seemingly to wind down his career, in 2010.

In 2012, he stunned Gooners by returning to the Emirates on a two-month loan deal as cover for Marouane Chamackh and Gervinho – who were both injured.

Henry scored the winner against Leeds in his second debut in the FA Cup, before also scoring the winning goal in the dying moments of a 2-1 league victory over Sunderland.


Robbie Fowler scored 12 goals after re-signing for Liverpool five years after initially leaving

First spell: 1993-2001

Second spell: 2006-2007

KNOWN as ‘God’ by Liverpool fans, it’s fair to say Fowler was adored by the red half of Merseyside.

He broke fans’ hearts by leaving for Leeds in 2001, where he would spend two years before joining Manchester City.

After being released by City in 2006 following a spate of injuries and a worrying lack of form, Fowler would go on to score another 12 goals for the Reds, including eight in the Premier League.

GARETH BALE – Tottenham

Gareth Bale is currently back at Tottenham on a season-long loan from Real Madrid

First spell: 2007-2013

Second spell: 2020-2021

BALE lit up the footballing world at White Hart Lane before becoming the most-expensive player in the world at the time of signing for Real Madrid.

After huge success early in his Los Blancos career, the Welshman was frozen out under Zinedine Zidane.

Spurs brought Bale back on loan for the current campaign, but his future in England and Spain remains undetermined with him no focussing on the Euros.


Wayne Rooney was Everton’s top scorer during his one season back at the club in 2017-18

First spell: 2002-2004

Second spell: 2017-18

ROONEY burst onto the scene with a screamer of a goal against Arsenal in 2002 before being snapped up by Man Utd.

England’s all-time leading scorer enjoyed a glittering 13 years at Old Trafford – including five Premier League titles and one Champions League – before rejoining his boyhood club.

Rooney was Everton’s top scorer in his sole season back at Goodison Park, but opted to quit to crack America with MLS side DC United in 2018.


Sol Campbell stunned Arsenal fans by returning to the club following a failed stint at Notts County in 2010

First spell: 2001-2006

Second spell: 2010

CAMPBELL sent shockwaves through North London in 2001 by signing for Arsenal on a free transfer from bitter rivals Tottenham.

After five years at the club, the ex-England defender spent three years at Portsmouth before moving to Notts County – seemingly in the twilight of his career.

But Campbell bizarrely quit the Midlands side days after his debut and decided to keep his fitness levels up as he hunted for a new club by training with Arsenal.

Arsene Wenger saw enough to sign him up, with Campbell playing 14 times during the remainder of the 2009-10 season, before joining Newcastle – where he later retired.


Paul Pogba has endured an up and down spell back at Old Trafford since returning from Juventus

First spell: 2009-2012

Second spell: 2016-present

POGBA made just seven first-team appearances for Man Utd having worked his way through the youth ranks.

Then aged 19, the French ace joined Juventus where he would forge a reputation for being one of the best midfielders on the planet.

In 2016, United splashed a then-world-record £89m to bring him back to Old Trafford.

And while his form has been up-and-down ever since, with his stint littered with speculation of a move elsewhere, Pogba has proven that on his day he is unstoppable.


Jermain Defoe spent a decade at Tottenham save for one season at Portsmouth in the middle

First spell: 2004-2008

Second spell: 2009-2014

DURING his first spell at Spurs – having signed from West Ham – Defoe became an England regular as he blossomed into a star striker.

But in 2008, Tottenham sold him to Harry Redknapp’s Portsmouth.

After just one season, Redknapp was now in charge of Spurs – and he paid double what Pompey had done just 12 months earlier to bring him back to North London in a bizarre transfer swoop.

Defoe would go on to spend another five years at White Hart Lane, scoring a further 79 goals to end his Spurs career as the club’s sixth-top-scorer ever.

JUNINHO – Middlesbrough

Juninho played for Middlesbrough three times, ultimately helping them win the League Cup in 2004

First spell: 1995-1997

Second spell: 1999-2000 (loan)

Third spell: 2002-2004

THE Brazilian magician loved Boro so much he played for them across THREE separate stints in his incredible career.

Juninho helped Middlesbrough reach the FA Cup AND League Cup final in 1997, but would leave to join Atletico Madrid after they were relegated that same season.

He briefly rejoined on loan in 1999-2000, but was hit by a frustrating injury.

But Juninho came back fighting fit in 2002, helping the Riverside club win the League Cup in 2004, while also leading them to European football.


Nemanja Matic returned to Chelsea in 2014 and helped them win two league titles in three seasons

First spell: 2009-2011

Second spell: 2014-2017

CHELSEA signed the Serbian Premier League icon for just £1.5m in 2009.

But Matic played just three times for the first-team before being loaned to Vitesse Arnhem and then sold to Benfica.

After three incredible years in Portugal, Chelsea swallowed their pride and splashed out to the tune of £21m to bring him back to West London.

Matic would go on to help the Blues win two Premier League titles, before the club made a near-£20m profit in selling him to Man Utd in 2017, where he remains to this day.

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