An awkward moment for any footballer, scoring a goal against your former team evokes all kinds of different reactions from players. Some sheepishly do not celebrate with new teammates out of respect for their former team, some instinctively begin to celebrate wildly before realizing what they've done, and a few cause bedlam by running the length of the entire pitch to celebrate in front of their old fans. The decision to not celebrate has caused much discussion and controversy in recent times, but whether it is right or wrong, a player scoring against their former team certainly makes for great entertainment.
Loyalty is not too common in modern day football, with countless players making the controversial change to a team’s bitter rival. This leads to a palpable atmosphere come derby day, with all eyes on the culprit who changed allegiance. Some players thrive under this kind of pressure and win their new team the game, turning them into an instant hero but also a villain. The excitement has proven to be too much for some players, such as Emmanuel Adebayor, who scored and then saw red for a shock tackle, all inside the first 20 minutes, for Tottenham against his former team Arsenal in a 5-2 horror show for the Spurs.
As you will see in this list, a player scoring against their former team does not always have to result in chaos and burning their old jerseys. Some of these players have managed hero status for both sets of clubs, but this is not quite as entertaining as those with a point to prove against their former employers.
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15 David Villa v Barcelona (2013)
David Villa enjoyed a huge amount of success during his time at Barcelona, but left with a point to prove. When Villa scored for Barcelona against his former team, Sporting Gijon, the Spaniard opted to not celebrate, but he clearly changed his stance on the topic after joining Atletico. Villa scored a stunning volley goal against Barcelona in the first leg of the Spanish Super Copa, and would then go on to celebrate with conviction. This left some Barcelona fans with a bitter taste in their mouth, but unfortunately for Villa and his Atletico teammates, they would lose out on away goals after the second leg.
14 Nicolas Anelka v Liverpool (2003)
Nicolas Anelka has tarnished his career with his highly controversial 'quenelle' gesture, but Liverpool fans hated the French striker long before this occurred. Anelka had enjoyed a successful loan spell at the Merseyside club, but not good enough to convince Gerard Houllier to sign Anelka on a permanent basis, seeing him end up at Manchester City. When Anelka’s new team came to Anfield it would be the controversial striker who had the last laugh, as he came on as a substitute to score two late goals, including a questionable penalty to sink Liverpool.
13 Shaun Wright-Phillips v Chelsea (2013)
How Shaun Wright-Phillips managed to contain his excitement and decline to celebrate after scoring against his former team is baffling. The former Chelsea winger scored a fantastic goal towards the end of the game, that gave the last placed Queens Park Rangers an enormous three points against a high flying Chelsea side. Harry Redknapp, the coaching staff and the rest of the QPR players celebrated like they had just won a trophy, yet Wright-Phillips simply nodded his head in recognition. Despite this famous victory, QPR would still face the drop at the end of the season.
12 Heung Min Son v Hamburg (2013)
There is no better way to show your former employers what they are missing than by scoring a hat trick against them. Heung Min Son managed his first ever Bundesliga hat trick in his first encounter against his former team, helping Bayer Leverkusen to take all three points in a breathless 5-3 victory. The South Korean forward showed no mercy against his old club, who, unlike many players, celebrated each goal to the dismay of the Hamburg fans.
11 Glen Johnson v Chelsea (2011)
Losing a match to a late goal can be devastating to a team, even more so when it is against a rival, and especially when it is scored by a former player. This is exactly what happened to Chelsea in a fixture with Liverpool in 2011, as the former Blues defender Glen Johnson scored an excellent solo goal with just minutes remaining to give Liverpool an important three points away from home. Even sweeter for Liverpool was the fact that their former star player, Fernando Torres, only came on as a substitute and was largely ineffective.
10 Marco Reus v Borussia Monchengladbach (2012)
Scoring a fantastic goal against the club that made you a star is one thing, but scoring two fantastic goals is just cruel. Unfortunately for Borussia Monchengladbach this is how it played out when Marco Reus returned to his old club with Dortmund, and the goals were so good that they were, somewhat begrudgingly, applauded by Borussia Monchengladbach fans too. Dortmund also thrashed Borussia Monchengladbach 5-0, just to rub it in.
9 Carlos Tevez v Manchester United (2010)
Carlos Tevez had an eventful experience during his time at both Manchester clubs, and his switch to the blue side of Manchester provided plenty of drama. All the talk leading up to the Carling Cup semi final, featuring both Manchester teams, was centred around the Argentinian. He certainly made sure that everyone was talking about him after the first leg too, as he scored a brace in a feisty encounter. After scoring his second, the striker cupped his ears as he looked to the Manchester United dugout and his former employers.
8 David Bentley v Arsenal (2008)
David Bentley may have disappeared from the world of football (maybe drenching Harry Redknapp in a post game interview wasn't the smartest move), but there was a time when Bentley would show moments of absolute brilliance. The best goal of his career came against Arsenal, his boyhood team, for Spurs in one of the most exhilarating North London derbies to date. Noticing the keeper was off his line, Bentley executed a flawless volley to lob Almunia from 40 yards, stunning his former team. Arsenal would go on to take the lead and control the game, before a breathtaking comeback from Spurs with a last gasp equaliser from Aaron Lennon.
7 Zlatan Ibrahimovic v Inter Milan (2010)
Football often feels like it is scripted, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic certainly sees himself in a leading role. The Swede played both hero and villain when he made the controversial switch to the red side of Milan, and when derby day came around all eyes were on the striker with the big personality. Rarely one to disappoint, Ibrahimovic won and coolly converted a penalty that would win A.C Milan the game. The Milan vice president would then say that the title was already won, and this turned out to be true much to the dismay of the Inter fans who once cheered Ibrahimovic’s name.
6 Robin van Persie v Arsenal (2013)
In 2012 Robin van Persie made a controversial move away from the Emirates, where he was adored by Arsenal fans, to seek silverware which the North London club had been struggling for. The move turned out to be a smart one, as he played a key role in helping United to win the title in his first season. RVP found the net against his old colleagues in this campaign, but it is the following one that sparked controversy. Instead of showing restraint like he had before, van Persie celebrated wildly with the United fans after scoring the match winner, seemingly cutting his ties to the Gunners, with many of their fans feeling that his celebration showed a lack of respect.
5 Frank Lampard v Chelsea (2014)
It was a bold decision for Lampard to leave Chelsea to play football elsewhere, but the Chelsea legend decided that he would at least go and play in a different league to finish his playing days. So it was quite a shock when the 36 year old was loaned out by the New York Red Bulls to Chelsea rivals Man City. When he came on as a substitute against his former team, in a game that City were trailing, it seemed inevitable that he would make headlines. The midfielder, who scored 211 goals for Chelsea, managed to slip into the box, unmarked by his former colleagues, to put the ball in the back of the net to win City a valuable point. Lampard did not celebrate this vital goal and left the pitch with both sets of fans chanting his name; what a great guy.
4 Cristiano Ronaldo v Manchester United (2013)
All eyes were firmly on Ronaldo when his team faced off with Manchester United in the Champions League in 2013, as he has never shied away from speaking about his love for Alex Ferguson and the club where he blossomed. Even before the game, the Portuguese talent vowed he would not celebrate if he scored against his former team, which of course was highly likely. Ronaldo did find the back of the net in both legs, and after scoring the goal to send Real Madrid through to the next round, the striker almost apologetically raised both hands in a sheepish manner. His clear respect and love for United has left every fan hoping that one day he will return to Old Trafford.
3 Mario Gotze v Borussia Dortmund (2013)
Tensions are high any time that Bayern Munich face off with arch rivals Borussia Dortmund, and this fixture had some extra spice to it after Gotze made the controversial move to Munich in the summer of 2013. This stunned Dortmund, who had brought the 22 year old up, meaning that his reception when he came on as a substitute in their first meeting was a frosty one. Gotze then scored the first of three goals for Munich in a convincing win, but not celebrating out of respect for his former team did little to repair the damage. Munich went on to dominate the campaign, and Dortmund’s star striker, Robert Lewandowski, would also follow in Gotze’s footsteps and sign for Munich.
2 Emmanuel Adebayor v Arsenal (2009)
Adebayor loves to make the headlines, and particularly in games against his former teams. The Togolese has played for some of the bigger teams in the world, including Monaco, Arsenal, Real Madrid, Man City and Spurs, and he has a habit of creating drama each time he lines up against his old colleagues. Most notably was after scoring a header that helped to win City an important 3 points in a pulsating game against Arsenal at the Etihad. Instead of not celebrating out of respect or simply celebrating with the City fans, Adebayor ran the entire length of the pitch to celebrate in front of the Arsenal faithful. This resulted in complete chaos and a £25,000 fine and a two-game suspension, but he probably feels it was worth it.
1 Denis Law v Manchester United (1974)
You will never see a player as devastated to score a goal as Denis Law was on the penultimate game of the season in 1974. Law had 11 excellent years for United and was “The King of Old Trafford”, but when he scored a brilliant back heel for City against their cross town rivals, the striker believed his winning goal had got his former team relegated. As it turned out United would have gone down anyway, but Law states he was “inconsolable” and still feels the pain to this day. Law had 236 goals at United, but the Scotsman is best remembered for scoring a goal that helped doom his former team to Second Division football.
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