Coral’s Never go back: 10 hit and miss footballers who returned

Matt Haynes | November 25, 2015

Following reports that Didier Drogba is being linked with a move back to Chelsea on loan after 11 goals in 11 games for MLS side Montreal Impact, it got us at Coral thinking which footballers returned to their old clubs and succeeded and how many of them flopped?

Peter Crouch

One of the most travelled strikers in the Premier League, having started at Tottenham after featuring for the youth side, he was sold to QPR one year later without making a single appearance for Spurs, before moving to Portsmouth one year later. In the six years that followed, he played for Aston Villa, Southampton and Liverpool before making a return to Portsmouth in 2008 under Harry Redknapp, who then took him back to Spurs with him a year later.

Crouch got into the habit of scoring important goals everywhere he went, though under Redknapp at Portsmouth the second time, he established a great relationship with Jermain Defoe (the two would later play together for Spurs) which helped them in the old UEFA Cup. It is fair to say that his return was a considerable success.

Robbie Keane

Another who has scored goals at most clubs he’s played for, the Irishman started with Wolves before a switch to Coventry City. Spells at Inter Milan and Leeds United followed before Spurs came-a-calling.

Soccer - Carling Cup - Third Round - Tottenham Hotspur v Arsenal - White Hart Lane

In six years he struck 80 goals in 197 appearances, before being sold to Liverpool. However, just six months later he returned to the north London club for two seasons and notched 11 goals in 41 outings.

Sol Campbell

While his move from Spurs to Arsenal certainly caused controversy, many forget that Campbell actually returned to the Gunners after leaving to spend time at Portsmouth and then Notts County where he made just one appearance.

Re-signed solely to provide cover in an injury crisis for manager Arsene Wenger, Campbell turned out just 11 times and clearly could not command the influence he once had when part of the Invicibles side.

Robbie Fowler

The striker started his career at Liverpool, scoring 120 goals in 236 appearances before Leeds United signed him. After striking 14 in 30, Manchester City made a move before he returned to the Reds three years later where he would find the net eight times during 30 outings.

David Batty

A household name in English football, the all-action midfielder began his journey at Leeds United, before a move to Blackburn Rovers where he won the Premier League. A two-year stint at Newcastle was followed by a return to Leeds where he played 90 games and was part of the squad who reached the Champions League semi-finals in 2001. Batty was a consistent performer at every club he played for and is remembered as a model professional for his work ethic and humble demeanour.

Jens Lehman

The German goalkeeper arrived at Arsenal, who are 2/1 with Coral to win the Premier League, after a 10-year spell with Schalke and spells with AC Milan and Borussia Dortmund.


He was a key part of the Invincibles team that went unbeaten for one season in the English top flight and after five years at the Gunners he moved to Stuttgart, before returning to Arsenal in 2011 where he played just one game.

Stewart Downing

Beginning his career at Middlesbrough, the winger burst onto the scene and was regarded as one of the brightest young English prospects. Spells at Aston Villa, Liverpool and West Ham followed, before a Riverside return at the start of this campaign. Currently he has three goals in 17 appearances, and Middlesbrough are one of a number of clubs who could win the Championship and secure a place back in the Premier League.

Nemanja Matic

The Serbian midfielder enforcer Matic arrived at Chelsea as a rough diamond with potential, though after appearing just twice he was sold to Benfica following a loan spell at Vitesse. It was there where he really developed and made a sensational Stamford Bridge return three years later, becoming a fundamental part of their Premier League winning squad under Jose Mourinho.

Steven Pienaar

One of the best players to come out of South Africa in recent times, the attacking midfielder began his career at Ajax Cape Town, before a switch their Dutch namesake two years later.

Soccer - Pre-season Friendly - Swindon Town v Everton - The County Ground

Everton stepped in to buy him from Borussia Dortmund in 2008 after an encouraging loan spell, where he would spend three seasons at Goodison Park. Spurs swooped for his signature in 2011, only to sell him back to Everton a year later. It looks as though the Toffees could stick with him.

Thierry Henry

We simply couldn’t leave out one of the best players to ever grace the Premier League. The French striker was plucked from Juventus by Wenger and converted from a winger to a frontman, in one of the most successful transitions in football.

After scoring 174 goals in 254 outings, he then switched to Barcelona before a stint at MLS club New York Red Bulls. In 2012 he returned to Arsenal on loan where he scored against Leeds United in the club’s FA Cup win and made four appearances in total.


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