Players who joined their club's biggest rivals

Luis Figo gestures during a match between Real Madrid and Barcelona at the Santiago Bernabeu in 2001.
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Football fans have long memories. If a player leaves their team to join a rival, it is never forgotten. And the love often turns to hate.

It may not always be the footballer's fault, but choosing to join your club's eternal enemies often means that player is a persona non grata at the team they left.

Sometimes, it is understood that the decision was out of circumstance. Or they return to heal the wounds. But usually, such moves are seen as acts of treachery.

Traitors. Judases. Pariahs. Here, a look at the players who joined their club's biggest rivals...

33. Clarence Seedorf

Clarence Seedorf in action for AC Milan against former club Inter in 2005.

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Moving between rival clubs definitely seems more common in Italy than anywhere else and Clarence Seedorf is one of a number of high-profile players to have represented both Inter and AC Milan.

The Dutch midfielder became synonymous with the Rossoneri during a successful 10-season spell between 2002 and 2012, but he played at Inter first for two years after leaving Real Madrid in December 1999. Inter got Francesco Coco in return, which definitely wasn't their best business.

32. Gabriel Batistuta

Gabriel Batistuta celebrates after scoring for Argentina against Greece at the 1994 World Cup.

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Gabriel Batistuta barely played at River Plate following the arrival of Daniel Passarella as coach and after rescinding his contract, the striker signed for Buenos Aires rivals Boca Juniors in 1990.

Batistuta went on to become one of Argentina's best-ever forwards, making his debut in 1991, and moved to Fiorentina after a year at the Bombonera.

31. Denis Law

Denis Law in action for Manchester United against Fulham in 1965.

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Denis Law's glory years came with Manchester United in an 11-year spell at Old Trafford, but the former Scotland striker had two stints at Manchester City.

Law played for City in 1960/61, later joining United after a single season in Italy with Torino. And after leaving the Red Devils in 1973, he spent another year with the Sky Blues, even scoring a goal against United later that season and not celebrating as he believed it would relegate his old club. In reality, other results meant they were already down.

30. Robert Lewandowski

Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski (left) in action against former club Borussia Dortmund in 2022.

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After four seasons at Borussia Dortmund, where he scored over 100 goals, Robert Lewandowski signed for Bayern Munich in the summer of 2014.

The Polish striker was out of contract and joined the Bavarians for free. He went on to spend eight seasons at the Allianz Arena, scoring 344 goals in 375 games and winning 19 trophies before moving to Barcelona in 2022.

29. Michael Laudrup

Michael Laudrup in action for Barcelona in the 1992 European Cup final against Sampdoria at Wembley.

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Michael Laudrup was instrumental in the success of Johan Cruyff's Dream Team, winning four straight La Liga titles and a European Cup in a golden era at Barcelona.

But after falling out with Cruyff, the Danish playmaker signed for Real Madrid in 1994, where he went on to win La Liga for a fifth season in a row. He also featured in 5-0 wins for both Barça and Madrid in El Clasico.

28. Romario

Romario celebrates a goal for Flamengo in 1999.

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Romario came through the youth ranks at Vasco da Gama, but later outraged fans of the Rio de Janeiro outfit by joining fierce rivals Flamengo in 1995, following a two-year spell at Barcelona.

The Brazil forward also had two short spells at Valencia in the late 1990s, but returned to Flamengo both times. He left the Rio club in 1999 after persistent partying and indiscipline and rejoined Vasco in 2000. He also went on to represent another Rio side, Fluminense.

27. Peter Beardsley

Peter Beardsley in action for Everton against Manchester United in 1992.

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Peter Beardsley was a popular player at Liverpool in the late 1980s and a big part of the club's success under Kenny Dalglish, but the England attacker found himself out in the cold when Graeme Souness took over in 1991.

Souness told Beardsley the Reds had accepted a bid from city rivals Everton and the forward signed in a £1 million deal. He spent two seasons at Goodison Park and is one of only two players to score for both teams in a Merseyside derby.

26. Andrea Pirlo

Andrea Pirlo in action for AC Milan against Inter in 2004.

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Andrea Pirlo spent 10 seasons at AC Milan in a golden era for the Rossoneri, winning two Champions League crowns and two Serie A titles as part of a memorable side.

But before that, the midfielder played for their rivals Inter. After a couple of spells out on loan, he moved across the derby divide and on leaving MIlan for free in 2014, he signed for another adversary, Juventus, on a free transfer.

25. Lee Clark

Lee Clark looks to get the ball under a control for Newcastle in a game against former club Sunderland in 2006.

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Lee Clark grew up supporting Newcastle United and went on to play for the Magpies, making 240 appearances in seven years after coming through the youth system at St. James' Park.

Following a lack of opportunities towards the end of that time, he joined Newcastle's rivals Sunderland in 2007 and impressed as part of the team which won promotion under Peter Reid. But after he was pictured in a T-shirt at the 1999 FA Cup final which featured the words "Sad Mackem bastards", he never played for Sunderland again.

24. Bernd Schuster

Bernd Schuster at his unveiling as Real Madrid coach in 2007.

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Bernd Schuster is one of only two men who have played for Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico – and the German midfielder did so consecutively in an 11-year spell in La Liga.

Schuster caused controversy when he moved to Real Madrid in 1988 afer eight years at Barcelona and following two seasons with Los Blancos, the German joined Atletico. He won trophies at each club and later returned to Real as coach in 2007.

23. Pedro

Pedro celebrates after scoring for Lazio against Roma in September 2021.

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Pedro endured a difficult season at Roma after leaving Chelsea in 2020 and the following summer, he was left out of the club's squad for pre-season by new coach Jose Mourinho.

Assessing his options, the former Barcelona winger was ultimately convinced to join Roma's rivals Lazio by his ex-Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri. He went on to score against the Giallorossi in 2021, becoming only the third player to net for both teams in the Derby della Capitale.

22. Alan Smith

Alan Smith scores for Leeds United against Manchester United in 2004.

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Alan Smith caused huge controversy when he left Leeds to sign for Manchester United in the summer of 2004, having previously said he would never play for the Red Devils.

The striker was dubbed a traitor by Leeds fans, but the Whites could not afford to keep him and United were the only club offering the money up front. His transfer stopped his hometown team from going into administration.

21. Luis Enrique

Luis Enrique in action against Manchester United in the Champions League in 1998.

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Luis Enrique played for five seasons at Real Madrid and even scored against Barcelona in a 5-0 win for Los Blancos, but would go on to spend his best years at the Catalan club.

At Real, Luis Enrique was used in a number of different positions and after failing to reach an agreement over a new contract following a disappointing season in 1995/96, he joined Barcelona for free. After some early doubts, the midfielder became a popular player at Barça and scored over 100 goals in eight seasons at Camp Nou, later returning to win a treble as coach.

20. Eric Cantona

Eric Cantona in action against Liverpool in the 1996 FA Cup final.

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Eric Cantona was seen as a problematic player at Leeds United, but his move to rivals Manchester United was met with hostility by the club's fans.

Returning to Elland Road in February 1993, the French forward was given a rough reception as the team bus was pelted with stones and met with chants of "Judas". But Cantona had a transformative effect at United, winning five Premier League titles in a hugely successful spell.

19. Robin van Persie

Robin van Persie in action for Manchester United against former club Arsenal in 2014.

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Robin van Persie spent eight years at Arsenal after moving to north London from Feyenoord in 2004, but angered Gunners fans by joining Manchester United in 2012.

The Dutch striker went on to win the Premier League at Old Trafford in the final season of Sir Alex Ferguson's career. Later, he returned to Feyenoord in 2015 and revealed he had received horrific abuse during his time in England.

18. Christian Vieri

Christian Vieri in action for AC Milan against former club Inter in 2005.

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Christian Vieri is an Inter legend and one of the greatest goalscorers in the club's history, but the former Italy striker surprisingly joined their city rivals in 2005.

After terminating his contract with Inter, Vieri signed a two-year deal with Milan, but ended up scoring only one Serie A goal for the Rossoneri and won the tongue-in-cheek Bidone d'Oro (Golden Bin) award for the worst player in the competition. He left after six months and just 14 games.

17. Ashley Cole

Ashley Cole in action for Chelsea against former club Arsenal in 2008.

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Arsenal fans were not only upset with Ashley Cole for joining London rivals Chelsea, but for the manner in which he went about his transfer to the Blues.

Cole was fined by the Premier League after an illegal meeting with Chelsea in 2005, but moved to Stamford Bridge the following year. The former left-back said he had been "trembling with anger" after Arsenal offered him wages of £55,000 per week and earned the nickname "Cashley". Gunners fans waved fake money at him on his return to the Emirates Stadium.

16. Oscar Ruggeri

Argentina's Oscar Ruggeri slides in to tackle Italy's Paolo Maldini at the 1990 World Cup.

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Oscar Ruggeri came through the youth system at Boca Juniors, the club he grew up supporting, but infuriated fans after joining their bitter rivals River Plate in 1985.

With Boca in huge debt in 1984 and the players not getting paid, the squad went on strike. Ruggeri and Ricardo Gareca ended up joining River, in exchange for $150,000 and two players: Carlos Tapia and Julio Olarticoechea. Following the move, furious ultras set fire to Ruggeri's house while his parents were inside.

15. Antonios Nikopolidis

Antonios Nikopolidis in action for Olympiacos against Liverpool in 2004.

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Antonios Nikopolidis was a hero for Greece in their Euro 2004 triumph, but the goalkeeper was seen as a villain by Panathinaikos fans for joining fierce rivals Olympiacos that same summer.

Nikopolidis, who had spent 15 years at Panathinaikos, was benched towards the end of the 2003/04 season after turning down a contract offer he believed was too low. The club were suspicious and amid rumours of a move to Olympiacos, he was booed by fans during their league and cup celebrations. The goalkeeper went on to join Olympiacos after Euro 2004 and spent seven seasons with the Piraeus side.

14. Nick Barmby

Liverpool's Nick barmby holds off Chelsea's Marcel Desailly at Stamford Bridge in 2000.

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Nick Barmby's impressive form in 1999/2000 earned him an England recall and that summer, the Everton midfielder joined fierce rivals Liverpool in a controversial move.

Everton had not sold a player to Liverpool since 1959 and on his return to Goodison Park with the Reds, a significant number of supporters sang "Die, die, Nicky, Nicky, die" to the tune of She'll Be Coming 'Round the Mountain.

13. William Gallas

William Gallas in action for Tottenham against former club Arsenal in 2010.

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William Gallas is the only player to have featured in official matches for Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham – and the former France defender played for London's three biggest clubs consecutively.

Gallas swapped Chelsea for Arsenal in 2006 and the Blues said in a statement that he had threatened to score own goals if he was not allowed to leave. Gallas denied those claims. After four years at the Emirates, he joined Spurs in 2010.

12. Mario Gotze

Mario Gotze in action for Bayern Munich against former club Borussia Dortmund in 2015.

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News of Mario Gotze's prospective move to Bayern Munich leaked in the build-up to Borussia Dortmund's Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid in 2013 and fans were furious.

There were "Gotze out" and "Gotze Judas" banners at the game and on YouTube, one supporter posted a video of the player's shirt being burned. It was also reported that Gotze's younger brother had to leave school early after being subjected to "traitor" chants. The forward returned to Dortmund for a second spell in 2016.

11. Niko Kranjcar

Niko Kranjcar in action for Croatia against Brazil in 2006.

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Dinamo Zagreb versus Hajduk Split is known as the Eternal Derby and is one of the most intense in European football. Bravely, Niko Kranjcar crossed the divide in 2004.

After falling out with the Dinamo president and refusing to take a pay cut, Kranjcar surprisingly signed for their bitter rivals. He was soon warned he would never be safe on the streets of Zagreb again and ultras lit 200 blue candles in a 'D' shape outside his home next to a banner which read: "To us, you are already dead."

10. Carlos Tevez

Carlos Tevez in action for Manchester City against former club Manchester United in 2013.

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Manchester United fans chanted "Fergie, sign him up!" after Carlos Tevez scored in a derby against Manchester City towards the end of his two-year loan spell at Old Trafford.

But Tevez opted to sign for City instead and his new club unfurled a banner in the centre of the city. "Welcome to Manchester!" it read, alluding to the fact that United's stadium is outside the city boundaries. The Argentine spent four seasons at City and won two major trophies, having won five in two years at United.

9. Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Juventus pair Mohamed Sissoko and Mauro Camaronesi challenge Inter's Zlatan Ibrahimovic in a Serie A match in 2008.

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Many of Juventus' best players stayed loyal after the Bianconeri were relegated to Serie B in 2006 due to the Calciopoli scandal, but Zlatan Ibrahimovic was not one of them.

The Swedish striker's agent Mino Raiola threatened legal action against Juventus in an attempt to extricate the player from his contract and he ended up signing for their bitter rivals Inter. And after a short spell at Barcelona, Ibrahimovic showed his disregard for club rivalries again by joining Inter's other main adversaries, AC Milan.

8. Gonzalo Higuain

Gonzalo Higuain in action for Juventus against former club Napoli in 2019.

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Gonzalo Higuain was adored by Napoli fans, but the love turned to hate when the former Argentina striker signed for Juventus in 2016.

Napoli's rivalry with Juventus stemmed from the north-south divide and intensified in the 1980s. Higuain's sale stoked the flames. Following his €90 million transfer, fans burned his shirt on the streets and vendors outside the stadium sold toilet rolls with the Argentine's face printed on them ahead of his return to face Napoli in 2017.

7. Mo Johnston

Mo Johnston (holding the ball) comes out on to the pitch ahead of his debut for Rangers in a friendly against Tottenham in 1989.

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Mo Johnston did not move directly from Celtic to Rangers, but it had been announced that the former Scotland striker was returning to the Bhoys after two years at Nantes. He had even posed for a picture at the stadium.

But instead, Johnston ended up signing for Rangers, becoming the first openly Catholic player to join the Ibrox club. Fans of both clubs were furious. The Blues ultimately forgave him; those in green and white never did.

6. Johan Cruyff

Johan Cruyff in action for Ajax against Feyenoord in 1982.

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Upset at not being offered a new deal after two successful seasons back with Ajax at the end of his career, Johan Cruyff responded by joining fierce rivals Feyenoord.

The Dutch legend played his final campaign in Rotterdam and proved his point by leading the club to a league and cup double before retiring at the age of 37. He later returned to Ajax as a coach and will always be associated with the Amsterdam club.

5. Roberto Baggio

Roberto Baggio in action for Juventus on his return to former club Fiorentina in 1991.

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Fiorentina's rivalry with Juventus was already significant in the 1980s. Roberto Baggio's transfer move from Florence to Turin made it much bigger.

There were riots on the streets of Florence following the news that Baggio would join Juve, with reports of bricks, chains and Molotov cocktails being thrown. Fiorentina's president even had to lock himself inside the stadium for his own safety. Dubbed a traitor, Baggio said he felt "compelled to accept the transfer". He refused to take a penalty on his return as a Juventus player and annoyed Juve fans by picking up a Fiorentina scarf after he was substituted.

4. Hugo Sanchez

Real Madrid's Hugo Sanchez attempts to block a shot from Barcelona's Gary Lineker during a Clasico clash in 1987.

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Having played over 100 games for Atletico Madrid, Hugo Sanchez has a plaque outside the Rojiblancos' Metropolitano stadium. It is littered and vandalised at every home game.

Atletico fans have never forgiven the Mexican striker for crossing the derby divide in 1985, when he was briefly transferred back to Pumas in his homeland because it was thought that a direct deal would anger the supporters. They were angry anyway – and they still are.

3. Ronaldo

Ronaldo celebrates after scoring for AC Milan against former club Inter in 2007.

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Ronaldo did not seem bothered by club rivalries in his career, representing Barcelona and later Real Madrid, plus Inter and AC Milan – though he did not move directly between those teams.

Back in his native Brazil in the twilight of his career, Ronaldo trained for four months with boyhood club Flamengo as he recovered from injury, only to accept an offer to sign for rivals Corinthians. Newspaper Lance called him a "phenomenal traitor", while fans burned images of the Brazil great.

2. Sol Campbell

Sol Campbell is barracked by Tottenham fans on his return to White Hart Lane as an Arsenal player in 2001.

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Sol Campbell was Tottenham's captain and a fan favourite at White Hart Lane. The former England defender had offers from some of Europe's biggest clubs, but wound down his contract and moved to Spurs' north London rivals Arsenal. For free.

On his return to White Hart Lane in 2001, Tottenham fans flew balloons and waved banners featuring the word Judas. Campbell won a series of trophies at Arsenal, but is unlikely to ever be welcome back at Spurs.

1. Luis Figo

Real Madrid's Luis Figo is bombarded with objects as he takes a corner at Camp Nou against former club Barcelona in 2002.

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Objects rained down from the stands as Luis Figo went to take the corners for Real Madrid against Barcelona at Camp Nou in November 2002. Among them, a whisky bottle and a pig's head.

More than two years had passed since the Portuguese swapped Barcelona for Real Madrid in the summer of 2000 in one of the most controversial transfers of all time, but the fans were in no mood to forget. They never will.

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