Many ambitious players have left their clubs for pastures new, only to come back with their tails between their legs.
Stephen Pienaar completed his move back to Everton hours after the close of the transfer window, only a year since the South African moved to Tottenham in order to play Champion’s League football. Pienaar made 76 league appearances for the Toffees, scoring 7 goals, but only managed a meagre 8 for Spurs without finding the net.
Whilst Everton fans will no doubt revel in the return of their former hero, the case of the returning player is an interesting one, with many going back to their former clubs under a variety of circumstances.
Take Thierry Henry for example; the Frenchman returned to Arsenal in the twilight of his career this year, providing fans with the nostalgic swansong they’ve craved since his move to Barcelona in 2007. This was a case of a legend returning on his own terms, to help the club he loves after accomplishing everything he wanted to in his career. However we’ve seen many players return from the wilderness of failed big money moves, only to fall flat once more at the club where they once prospered.
With options for these players limited, have their U-turns been the result of regret? A genuine desire to go back to the club they once served? Or is it just desperation, A last throw of the dice to try and regain the form they lost long ago?
Andrey Shevchenko – AC Milan to Chelsea…to AC Milan
Former Ballon D’Or winner Shevchenko moved to Chelsea in the summer of 2006, with Roman Abramovic smashing the British transfer record in a £30.8 million deal. However Shevchenko proved to be a shadow of his former self, losing the ability to run and shoot like a proper footballer.
The Ukrainian scored 22 goals in 77 appearances for the Blues, before being shipped back to Milan in 2008. The club legend went on to score a pathetic 2 goals in 26 appearances for the Italian giants, having well and truly lost his mojo during his catastrophic Premier League adventure.
His move back to the club where he became a great smacked of desperation, and was an unfortunate stain on an otherwise glorious career with them. Shevchenko now plies his trade in the comfort of his home country, with first club Dynamo Kiev.
Robbie Keane – Tottenham to Liverpool…to Tottenham
Keane was known as one of football’s journeymen before his move to Spurs, having already played for four teams in his short career. However he stayed in North London for six years, winning the Carling Cup and becoming a club legend in the process. In the summer of 2008 he moved to Liverpool, the club he supported as a boy.
Unfortunately Rafa Benitez seemed to regret the decision to spend over £20 million pounds instantly, with the Ireland captain restricted to just 19 league appearances for the Reds, mostly from the substitute’s bench.
With an erratic Benitez seemingly losing his mind at the time, Harry Redknapp worked his market magic and signed Keane back for £12 million. Whilst Keane never recaptured his old form for Spurs, his move back was a logical one at the time.
Benitez’s handling of the Irishman had been nothing short of weird, whilst his initial move away from the club was a genuine attempt to progress his career. Keane has since been shipped out on loan to boyhood club Celtic and his favourite team in East London West Ham, before fulfilling a life time ambition in heading west to LA Galaxy in 2011.
Roque Santa Cruz – Blackburn to Man City…to Blackburn
In 2007 Mark Hughes paid Bayern Munich £3.5 million to take Santa Cruz to Blackburn. It proved to be one of the transfers of the summer, with the striker scoring 19 league goals in his debut season. Injures limited his second year with the club, but Hughes was still convinced enough to pay old employers Rovers £17.5 million to take him to filthy rich Manchester City.
The Paraguayan was surplus to requirements before he even arrived, and scored 4 goals in only 20 appearances. In 2011 he returned to Blackburn, but failed to add to his goal tally for them in 11 appearances.
Santa Cruz’s City career was an unfortunate victim of circumstance, with the club sacking his manager Hughes before he’d even had time to unpack. But Cruz had made it very clear that he wanted to leave Blackburn, and gave some uninspiring performances in his last season with the club. Therefore, it’s hard to imagine the Paraguayan jumping for joy as he crawled back to Ewood Park in a desperate attempt to show City what they were missing.
Santa Cruz has since been farmed out again, with Spanish side Real Betis the lucky takers.
Shaun Wright Phillips – Man City to Chelsea…to Man City
Another player who’s seen a big money transfer to Chelsea bomb, Shaun Wright-Phillips could never really have expected to live up to his £21 million price tag. In his first stint with City the winger flourished, showing pace, purpose and an eye for goal. With high hopes for his international career, Wright-Phillips moved back to his native London with high flying Chelsea in 2005.
However things didn’t work out under the stewardship of Jose Mourinho, who never seemed keen on his multimillion pound signing. The player was booted back to Manchester in 2008, where he made a further 79 appearances before being shafted to QPR.
With a tendency to join clubs in the mist of gargantuan takeovers, Wright-Phillips has found himself out of favour frequently throughout his career. However his U-turn was certainly not one of desperation, with the winger hopeful of rebuilding his career long term with the club.
His stint at Chelsea knocked his confidence badly, and this perhaps led to his regret in leaving city in the first place.
Time will tell whether Pienaar’s move back to the Toffee’s was borne from regret in leaving the club last winter. If the midfielder thrives back at Goodison, then he should move heaven and earth to stay there permanently.
If he goes back to North London in an attempt to break into Tottenham’s side once more, then we’ll know the last ditch deal is just leverage in a desperate attempt to make his Spurs dream come true.
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