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9 stars who played a blinder against a team – then got signed by them

Borna Barisic Rangers

Rangers have completed the signing of Osijek's Borna Barisic, who scored against the Glaswegians at Ibrox in Europa League action last week. Like the Croatian full-back, these other stars chose the right days to shine...

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Cristiano Ronaldo (Man United)

"I put him in the team and now I regret it," Portugal boss Fernando Santos told the Lisbon Web Summit in November 2016, fresh off winning the Euros. Santos was talking about Ronaldo, and the game in 2003 that sealed the 18-year-old's £12.2m transfer to Manchester United.

Santos was Sporting manager at the time, and his teenage protégé had just torn John O'Shea apart in a 3-1 pre-season victory over the Red Devils. "That night, I played unbelievable. I played so good," Ronaldo later admitted.

United's players were certainly impressed, with Rio Ferdinand urging Sir Alex Ferguson to sign the youngster after the game. Of course, wily old Fergie was already aware of Ronaldo, but this performance made his mind up. The Scot sealed the deal that day – and Santos would go on to reap the benefits 13 years later.

Alfredo Di Stefano (Real Madrid)

In 1952 the performance of one player in one match led to Spanish giants Barcelona and Real Madrid going head-to-head – and the course of football history being changed. That player was Di Stefano, and the match was a surprise 4-2 victory for Colombian side Millonarios over los Blancos, in which the Blond Arrow scored twice.

Barça made the first move, negotiating with Di Stefano's previous side River Plate (the club who owned his rights – the striker had moved to Colombia in 1949 during a strike by Argentine players). Madrid, meanwhile, had agreed a deal with Millonarios (who he played for at the time).

Stuck in the middle, the Spanish Football Federation turned to FIFA, and it was decided the forward would play alternate seasons with each club, starting in Madrid. Barcelona walked away from the deal, and Di Stefano would go on to win eight La Liga titles and five European Cups during 11 years in the Spanish capital.

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Willian (Chelsea)

Willian Chelsea Shakhtar Donetsk

Willian actually joined another club in between arriving at Chelsea for £30m in summer 2013, but that half-year stint at Anzhi Makhachkala came shortly after two terrific displays against the Blues for Shakhtar in the Champions League. Chelsea were beaten 2-1 by the Ukrainians in October 2012, with Willian assisting Fernandinho’s match-clinching goal, then bagging a brace at Stamford Bridge two weeks later in a thrilling game won by Victor Moses’s last-gasp effort.

When abandoned Anzhi sold off all their stars the following summer – Willian had joined them for €35m on January deadline day – the Brazilian was hot property. For a while it looked like Tottenham would be the Premier League club to take him, but Chelsea’s late intervention hauled the fleet-footed speedster to Stamford Bridge.

Liam Brady (Juventus)

Liam Brady Arsenal Juventus

In 1980, a 16-year ban on Italian clubs signing foreign players was lifted by the country's football federation. So, after two years without a Serie A title, Juventus manager Giovanni Trapattoni turned to Arsenal's Irish midfielder Brady for £500,000.

After coming through the youth ranks at Highbury and winning the FA Cup in 1979, it was Brady's performance against the Old Lady in the 1979/80 European Cup Winners' Cup Semi-Finals that really caught Trapattoni's eye.

Brady starred in Turin as Arsenal won 1-0, and the Bianconeri were convinced enough to bring him to Italy where his elegant style helped them secure back-to-back titles. He left for Sampdoria in 1982 to make way for another foreigner – one Michel Platini.

Chris Waddle (Tottenham)

Chris Waddle Newcastle

In late 1984, fresly-promoted Newcastle were aiming to impress in their first top-flight season for seven years – nobody more so than former sausage factor worker Waddle. The Magpies lost at White Hart Lane in early December, but their magnificently mulleted winger did enough to change the course of his career that day. 

As Waddle regaled to FFT recently: “The game really changed things for me. It was our first season after promotion and we lost 3-1 but played really well, and I put us 1-0 up. I sent Paul Miller the wrong way, then bent it into the bottom corner past Ray Clemence. It got highlighted on Match of the Day and within days the newspapers were saying Tottenham wanted to sign me. It turned out the stories were true and they signed me at the end of the season. When I was working in a sausage factory I was watching Glenn Hoddle play for Tottenham on Match of the Day and thinking, ‘Wow, what a team they are’. Then five or six years later I was running out of the tunnel with them.”