When Arsenal travelled to Old Trafford for the sixth round of the FA Cup many predicted a United victory as Arsenal hadn’t won there since 2006. At the final whistle, the score was 1-2 and United were dumped from the competition. What grabbed the headlines and ensuing discussion over the following days wasn’t that Arsenal had finally defeated United at Old Trafford but that Danny Welbeck had returned to his old ground, delivered the winning goal and then celebrated the achievement. Soon after, it seemed like every paper was filled with articles and polls concerning whether or not it was proper to celebrate scoring against your old club. The discussion was only given more momentum when former Chelsea defender David Luiz returned to Stamford Bridge with PSG and celebrated scoring a very good header against his old employers.
How you feel about this issue is all down to personal choice and, no doubt, influenced by team bias. After all, no one likes to see their team get scored on, especially by a former player who indulges in a bit of celebration. If the former player was at the team for many years, it can make the whole situation even worse. Then again, many fans get equally annoyed when one of their players scores on a former team and holds back the celebration out of respect. It really is a no-win situation for the player who scores the goal.
The following looks at 15 players who indulged in a celebration after hitting the back of the net against their former team. Ahead you’ll find a range of celebrations fueled by a range of emotions. Perhaps the player had a bad relationship with his former team and the celebration was a way to stick it to everyone. Perhaps the celebration was just a result of the relief of finally scoring a goal. Or, maybe the celebration in question occurred because you believe the player is a treacherous mercenary who has the loyalty of a fruit-fly. Whatever your reasons, here are the top 15 players who celebrated against a former team.
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15 Danny Welbeck
Given the recent debate over goal celebrations by former players, it is only fitting we start with Arsenal’s Danny Welbeck. The 24 year old striker began his career with Manchester United’s youth side in 2001 and progressed to the first team by 2008. In September 2014, Welbeck joined Arsenal after being deemed surplus by Louis van Gaal. The move divided the United faithful because of the decision to sell such a loyal player to a long-time rival. The decision to sell came back to bite Louis van Gaal in the sixth round of the FA Cup when Welbeck poked a bad back pass beyond David De Gea and slotted home for the game winning goal. Welbeck’s celebration wasn’t over-the-top, but it was the celebration of a relieved player who had something to prove to a team and manager which had deemed him unnecessary at the start of the campaign.
14 David Luiz
Brazilian defender David Luiz spent three seasons at Chelsea FC and divided opinion of football fans everywhere. Defensively, Luiz was (and remains) a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde character putting in a good performance one minute only to concede a penalty from a bad challenge the next. Offensively, you can’t deny the 27 year old can come up with some key goals. In June 2014, Chelsea were left laughing as they ran to the bank with the £50 million Paris Saint-Germain paid them for the defender. In early March, it was PSG who were having the last laugh when Luiz scored a thumping header at Stamford Bridge to draw the Champions League round of 16 second leg against Chelsea at 1-1 – breathing life into a 10-man PSG side which went on to draw the match and knock Chelsea out. Luiz’s emotions took over after the goal and he celebrated by sliding on his knees in front of the travelling fans – something he later apologized for.
13 Emmanuel Emenike
Often, there can be nothing more involved in a celebration than simply the personal relief of the player that they finally scored a goal. This is the case with Fenerbahce’s Nigerian striker Emmanuel Emenike when he scored against Karabukspor this past January. Emenike had broken into European football with Karabukspor in 2009, a club which he played with for two seasons. In 2013, the Nigerian found himself with Turkish league giants Fenerbahce. The result of the January 2015 meeting between Fenerbahce and Karabukspor was never really in doubt but Emenike hadn’t scored a goal in two months and was feeling the pressure. So, when he slotted home after controlling a long aerial pass it was natural that he’d be happy. Celebrations included a cartwheel and backflip. Later on, the striker apologized to his former team and fans for the celebration, saying he got carried away because he was so happy to finally score again.
12 Robin van Persie
If there’s one player every Arsenal fan can agree to dislike, it’s Robin van Persie. The Dutch striker arrived at the London club in 2004 with a lot of baggage related to past actions and his attitude. Over the next eight years, RVP put all that behind him and, despite facing considerable time out injured, turned into one of the deadliest strikers in Europe. In 2012, Manchester United came calling and van Persie left Arsenal, leaving many of the fans bitter and disappointed. When the clubs met each other at Old Trafford in November, RVP rubbed salt in the relatively fresh wounds. Off a Wayne Rooney corner, van Persie headed home the opening goal against his former side. To leave no doubt about his allegiances, the striker ran to the sidelines to celebrate with Rooney and the United faithful while Arsenal fans were left fuming.
11 Vedad Ibisevic
This Bosnian footballer currently plays for VfB Stuttgart but developed his trade in the Bundesliga with 1899 Hoffenheim from 2007 to 2012. With 123 appearances and 48 goals, it’s fair to say that Ibisevic was a popular figure and it was difficult to see him go to league rivals Stuttgart in January 2012. Just a couple months later, Ibisevic was back at his old stadium with his new team. Not holding back, the former Hoffenheim striker latched onto the end of an aerial pass and fired home what turned out to be the winner. Clearly feeling no guilt or emotional responsibility to the Hoffenheim fans, Ibisevic ran to the sidelines, jumping into the air and punched his fist skywards in celebration. He came back to haunt his old club again in 2013 with a hat-trick.
10 Kevin Nolan
Anyone who has watched the Premier League over the last 15 years likely associates Kevin Nolan with the Bolton Wanderers. That’s because the midfielder spent the better part of a decade playing for the Trotters. In 2009, Nolan moved north from Bolton to St. James’ Park, home of Newcastle United. In 2011, he faced off against his old club at St. James’ Park and opened the scoring thanks to a header from a free kick. In terms of celebrations, this was probably the strangest as the former Bolton player broke into a chicken dance where he flapped his arms as if wings. The celebrations didn’t really upset anyone – probably because they were too busy trying to make sense of what they had just seen.
9 Antonio Cassano
One of the more divisive characters in Serie A, Antonio Cassano made a lot of enemies wherever he went. On the pitch, the striker was a good passer and intelligent with the ball. He was also known for having a short temper and often burnt a lot of bridges when it came to the fans of former teams for which he played. Most notably, if you ask a fan of AC Milan what they think of the striker who played for them for the 2011-12 season, get ready for either an earful or a few choice four-letter words. The relationship between player and team went sour after Milan had taken care of the striker following a stroke. Cassano then left Milan the following season in a move to city rivals Inter, the whole time professing his love for the Nerazzurri. In 2013, Cassano moved on to another new club, Parma. That October, Cassano faced off against one of his old clubs in AC Milan. Parma won the game 3-2 but not before Cassano had netted a goal and proceeded to run to the sideline and perform a dance in celebration.
8 Darren Bent
From 2007 to 2009, Darren spent a rather frustrating two seasons at Tottenham Hotspur. In 60 games he scored just 18 times which was below his expectations and the team’s. Bent moved on to Sunderland in a transfer case which frustrated the player and fans. In 2010, when Tottenham travelled to the Stadium of Light, the England international clearly had a point to prove to his former employers. Playing probably one of the better games of his career, the striker scored twice and missed a penalty as Sunderland shocked Tottenham 3-1. Bent’s celebrations were aimed at the Spurs fans and he made a point of running by them while gesturing that they shouldn’t have trashed talked about him so much.
7 Alan Shearer
Despite winning the 1994-95 Premier League title with Blackburn Rovers, Alan Shearer is probably best known for his time at Newcastle United. With Blackburn, Shearer scored an astounding 130 total goals in 171 total appearances. He scored a further 206 during his time with the Magpies. If anyone thought the English striker would hold back when scoring against his old club when they met, you’d be wrong. For instance, when the two sides met in the 1998 Carling Cup, Shearer scored a header. Rather than do what many players do today when scoring against an old club – look emotionless and hold your hands up like you’re surrendering – Shearer took it all in and ran off to celebrate the goal.
6 Carloz Tevez
From 2007 until 2009, Carlos Tevez played for Manchester United. The Argentinian enjoyed great success in the league, league cup and Champions League while with the Red Devils. In the summer of 2009, Tevez moved to city rivals Manchester City, a move which instantly vilified him among the United faithful. The whole matter was made worse by the fact that City were beginning their push to become a Premier League powerhouse. A blue welcome sign erected in Manchester with an image of Tevez on it only intensified the situation further. In January 2010, United travelled to City’s ground to play the semi-final of the Carling Cup. United took a 1-0 lead only to watch as Tevez equalized from the spot. The Argentinian ran along the sidelines celebrating, mocking the United fans for all their criticism of him following the transfer. When Tevez netted the winner later in the same match, he ran to the sidelines again, cupping his ears as if to say “let’s hear you now.”
5 Luis Figo
Like Tevez, in Luis Figo we find another player who was labelled a traitor after moving to a hated league rival. In this instance, the Portuguese’s move from Barcelona to Real Madrid left a very bad taste in the mouth of Catalan fans. The midfielder had spent five seasons with Barcelona, making 172 appearances and scoring 30 goals. His 2000 move to the Spanish capital promised some real fireworks. His first game back in Barcelona saw Figo pelted with all sorts of missiles, including a pig’s head. In 2001, the legendary player faced off against his old club at the Bernabeu. In the 89th minute with Madrid leading 1-0, Figo struck a low shot into the net to make it 2-0. The former-Barca man charged off towards the stands to celebrate his goal and leave no doubt as to who he fully supported from then on.
4 Wayne Rooney
Wayne Rooney appeared on the footballing radar during his two years with the Everton first team from 2002 to 2004. His four-goal performance at Euro 2004 made everyone aware of the new English star and had everyone expecting a big money move that summer. They were right. In August, Rooney put in a transfer request and was sold to Manchester United. Naturally, he was labelled a traitor by the Everton fans. Against his old club Rooney has scored only a handful of goals. However, his winning goal at Goodison in 2007 and the ensuing celebration ensured the ‘traitor’ title wouldn’t disappear too quickly. Having scored the goal, Rooney celebrated by jumping up and down and kissing the United badge on his chest – a sure way to tell your old team and their fans that it’s over.
3 Son Heung-min
Son Heung-min spent the first three years of his senior career with Bundesliga outfit Hamburg SV. Over this period he developed a reputation for being quick and lethal in front of goal. Hamburg leadership must have known that it was only a matter of time until other teams came calling for Son’s services. In 2013, the South Korean moved to league rivals Bayer Leverkusen. The two clubs met in November 2013 and Son was in no mood to go easy on his old team. In a 5-3 Leverkusen win, Son managed a hat-trick as he tore the Hamburg defence open. Each of his goals witnessed a celebration, whether it was waving to the crowd or blowing kisses.
2 Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Zlatan Ibrahimovic first rose to prominence while at Ajax between 2001 and 2004. Since then he has been at some of the biggest clubs in football, including Juventus, Inter, Barcelona and Milan. Wherever he’s been, he’s won the league and a bunch of other awards. It also seems like wherever he goes he suffers some sort of falling out. Nevertheless, he lets his football do the talking and usually produces some impressive displays. In 2011, while with Milan, the big Swede struck twice against former team Inter, once from open play and once from the penalty spot. In classic Zlatan style, he celebrated with his arms outstretched. Following his penalty strike, he even enjoyed a laugh with former teammate and Inter keeper Julio Cesar.
1 Emmanuel Adebayor
When you get a suspension for celebrating a goal you just know it must have some sort of story behind it. In 2006, Arsenal signed up a little known Monaco forward named Emmanuel Adebayor. Over the next three seasons Adebayor became a well-known goal machine, netting 46 times in 104 appearances. In 2009, things started to sour as the Togolese striker started mentioning how he’d love to play for other teams. With that, he was off to Manchester City, a move which many saw as being made simply for a huge wage increase. Adebayor played his old team when Arsenal visited the City of Manchester Stadium in September 2009. The big forward scored and proceeded to run the length of the pitch to slide in front of the Arsenal fans. Naturally such a move infuriated the fans. Adebayor had said he did it because the Arsenal fans were chanting and singing inappropriate songs about him and his family. He was booked for this celebration and later apologized. Ultimately, the Arsenal faithful got the last laugh as Adebayor’s career steadily went downhill.
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