They’re the players we love to hate. Player loyalty seems to diminish in every passing season of the modern game, and today almost every team will have their own renegades. Particular animosity is generally held towards those players who head to a fierce rival or seem to depart a team purely for financial reasons. It is sometimes difficult for fans who are often religiously loyal to their team, to see a player turn their head on the club at the first opportunity of pastures new elsewhere.
In an age where players tend to transfer between multiple teams over the course of their careers and often do not honor their contracts as the money in the game grows to astronomical levels, it is little surprise that the distance between fans and players continues to grow ever more distant. When you see a player kiss the badge of a team who he joined on-loan a month ago it is clear that the game is rife with dishonest traitors.
In some cases, a player has little option to move on. Everton fans may be unhappy with the way in which Wayne Rooney left the club but the fact is a player of his calibre had to play at the highest level, which he may not have been able to do without moving on. Some players, however, make sideways or even backward moves in soccer terms, purely based on off-field motives. Themes like loyalty, playing for the love of the game are rarer to find nowadays as players, like clubs will run things like a business, whether fans like it or not. This list will take into account those who betrayed strictly their clubs and not countries.
10. Kenny Miller
It is almost unheard of for a player to play for both Glasgow sides, so vitriolic is the hatred between the two teams. Yet Kenny Miller not only switched from Rangers to Celtic but then returned to Rangers once more. Rangers fans could forgive Miller for his past as he was superb for the club, winning three league titles. Whilst he also won a league title with Celtic, he was fairly uninspiring in his time with the club, scoring just 11 goals in 46 games, whilst he had an almost one in two record in his second stint with Celtic.
9. Craig Gardner
The 28-year-old midfielder Craig Gardner is one of few players to play for all three of the major West Midlands rivals. Having come through the Aston Villa academy, Gardner was always quick to declare his affection for the club, but when he wasn’t getting a chance at Villa he made the move to Birmingham and quickly switched allegiances, telling his new supporters of his love for the blue side of Birmingham and his hatred of Aston Villa. To top it all off, after three years at Sunderland, he joined fellow West Midlands rivals West Bromwich Albion.
8. Sol Campbell
Sol Campbell is often founder higher on lists of this ilk, but we’ve given the centre-back some leeway as he was very successful at Arsenal, winning the league twice and the FA Cup three times, a list of honors he would most likely have never achieved at Tottenham. Switching from one North London side to the other is uncommon but not unheard of, and particular anger was directed at Campbell for the manner of the transfer. He rejected the chance to become the best paid player in Tottenham’s history, instead winding down his contract and joining Arsenal on a Bosman, meaning Spurs got no money when they lost their star asset. Tottenham fans were furious and have labelled Campbell ‘Judas’ ever since.
7. Harry Redknapp
The only manager on this list, Harry Redknapp left Portsmouth for south-coast rivals Southampton and having relegated the Saints he jumped ship, returning to Portsmouth. What’s more, as soon as Tottenham came calling, Redknapp left Portsmouth once more. Following an impressive campaign at Tottenham, Harry was considered for the England National Team job but eventually missed out to Roy Hodgson and his career has taken a steep decline ever since. Relegated with QPR, the team bounced back at the first attempt but struggled in the top flight once more and resigned earlier this year.
6. Alan Smith
Leeds born-and-bred, Alan Smith came through the Leeds United academy, spending six years at the club, playing over 200 games. As a Leeds fan, Smith talked of his hatred for rivals Manchester United and even stated outright that he would never play for the Red Devils. When Leeds were relegated from the Premier League in 2004, they were in a financial crisis and, shockingly, Smith joined Manchester United. It has been claimed that they were the only club Smith was given permission to pursue and his move went some way to rescuing the club from full-scale financial meltdown, but some Leeds fans still aren’t convinced and can never forgive their hometown player. As for Smith and athletes, the saying is true- keep your words soft and sweet, because you may have to eat them later.
5. Ashley Cole
Ashley Cole, or ‘Cashley Cole’, as he has since been referred to by some, was ‘tapped up’ supposedly when he swapped North London for West London in 2006. The move saw him receive a dramatically improved contract, although it must be said Chelsea won far more than Arsenal in the eight years he spent at the club. Not only is Cole considered a traitor by Gunners fans, he is also disliked by many for a variety of off the field events, most notably cheating on his ex-wife Cheryl Cole and released explicit photos of himself that he had sent to various women. Cole has played for Roma since July of last year.
4. Roberto Baggio
Roberto Baggio went to great lengths to recover the relationship between himself and the Fiorentina faithful after he joined fierce rivals Juventus in 1990 for what was a world record fee. The move sparked outrage, and riots ensued on the streets of Florence, in which 50 people were injured. He told Fiorentina fans, “I was compelled to accept the transfer,” they weren’t convinced. When he played against his former side he refused to take a penalty, and when he was substituted off he accepted a Fiorentina scarf from a fan, endearing himself slightly to his former supporters but causing uproar among Juventus fans.
3. Luis Figo
The game’s most famous renegade is Luis Figo. His move from Barcelona to Real Madrid in 2000 was notable for a number of reasons. Figo was probably the best player on the planet at the time, as indicated by his Ballon d’Or win that year, and certainly Barcelona’s star man. He was adored by the Barca faithful, making his move to their bitterest of rivals all the more painful. Real met Barca’s release clause of $60.1 million, making Figo a world record breaking fee at the time. So hated was Figo that in his first El Classico, the atmosphere was toxic. Various objects were launched towards him, including a pig’s head, and a banner had been put up which read, “Traitor. Judas. Scum. Mercenary.” The transfer also signaled the beginning of Real’s ‘Galactico’ era.
2. Mo Johnston
Since the end of the Second World War only five players have played for both Celtic and Rangers, and two of those five make this list. Johnston is the most high-profile of all as he was a very open Catholic whose move not only angered Celtic fans who saw him as a hateful traitor, but also Rangers who were deeply unhappy at the first openly Catholic player to don the blue shirt of the club. Particular venom was directed at Johnston from the Celtic fans as he rejected rejoining the Hoops when he joined Rangers. Similarly, so hated was he at Rangers that the club’s kit man even refused to provide for a practicing Catholic, forcing Johnston to make his own kit arrangements. He went some way to endearing himself to one half of Glasgow when he scored for Rangers in the Old Firm derby, but will forever be known simply by the term ‘Judas’ to Celtic fans.
Three-time FIFA World Player of the Year winner Ronaldo has the love of the entire Brazilian population and soccer fans most of the world over. However, in 2002 he became an unforgivable traitor of titanic proportions, to not just one but two sets of supporters. Having had his medical bills taken care of for 33 months, whilst still being paid $150,000 a week, one might expect Ronaldo to pay some loyalty to Inter Milan. Indeed, his agent declared, “There are no talks with Real Madrid”, 22 days he joined the Spanish side. A former Barcelona player, he became hated by both Inter and Barca fans alike.
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