Breaking Bad: 5 of the bitterest splits in football history

Won't somebody please thnk of the children?! When it comes to football divorces they won't

Tom Brady’s announcement that he is leaving the New England Patriots after a gazillion years has made headlines all around the world. Even people that know nothing about NFL (me included) are aware of this great quarterback (that’s about all I know, honest!) and the legacy he will leave behind despite his intention to play on at another franchise.

Read More: 7 Netflix Football Shows Worth Bingeing During the Premier League Break

The world of football has seen its own fair share of acrimonious divorces down the years as we dip into the Paddy Power archives once again to look at five high-profile break-ups.

You can be the Special one at Paddy Power Games


For 12-and-a-half years Roy Keane ran the midfield at Manchester United finally breaking the club’s hoodoo of buying players from Nottingham Forest who ultimately turned out to be crap. “Keano” was always his own man however, so when he decided one Friday afternoon in November 2005 to pack up his troubles in his old kit bag and leave Carrington for the final time, many fans were left gobsmacked.

Read More: Paddy’s Guide to Sport That’s Still Actually Happening

An ill-advised attack on the team’s performance on MUTV effectively did for Roy whose relationship with boss Sir Alex Ferguson had become frosty to say the least. In a hastily arranged press-conference, Keane was quick to praise the club, the manager and its supporters but everyone knew deep down that he’d been forced out of the door by the Old Trafford hierarchy, due to his increasing erratic behaviour and the frustrations of not being able to influence games as much at the ripe old age of 34.

Keane v Ferguson became an unwanted soap opera played out through the publishers with both men using autobiographies to have a pop at the other. Fortunately for Roy, after a catalogue of failures as a manager and assistant manager, ITV and Sky Sports came calling allowing him to vent his spleen at two old adversaries – Lee Dixon and Jamie Carragher.

1970: Denis Law of Manchester United. Mandatory Credit: AllsportUK/Allsport


United’s penchant for shitting on great players has been a recurring theme throughout the decades and 32 years before Keane’s acrimonious departure, the first king of Old Trafford, the great Denis Law, learned of his fate whilst having a pint with mates back in his hometown of Aberdeen. His fellow countryman, the ebullient Tommy Docherty, had been tasked with saving United from the dreaded drop into the Second Division after a succession of managerial failures had turned the club into the laughing stock of European football.

The “Doc” knew Denis well of course from the Scottish national team and all looked rosy after Law had recommended Tommy for the vacant job in M16. Docherty had previous however, and Denis should have been wary of the way the “Doc” had wielded his scalpel in the past leaving no thought for sentiment.

Read More: The 10 players who have won the Premier League with two different clubs

So when the boss told “The King” to stay home and put his feet up for the summer whilst the rest of the team went off on a pre-season tour, the plane had barely reached cruising altitude when TV reports suggested that Docherty had dispensed with the striker’s services. Law had the last laugh of course although he took no pleasure in scoring for Manchester City in the derby in April 1973 which helped seal United’s relegation.


The controversy surrounding Luis Figo’s switch from Barcelona to Real Madrid in 2000 may never have happened, if the legendary Portuguese play-maker had not decided to sign two contracts at the same time with Italian giants Juventus and Parma in 1995. As the two clubs argued over who had the rights to the player, the Italian FA stepped in and settled the dispute by banning Figo from playing in the peninsula for two seasons.

Barcelona saw their opportunity and signed the player for just over two million quid and for the next five years, Figo became the darling of the Camp Nou regulars forming a potent three-pronged attack alongside Rivaldo and Patrick Kluivert. What Barca had failed to consider however, was the fact that they had put a 62 million euros buy-out clause in Figo’s contract and when Florentino Perez took over the presidency at bitter rivals Real Madrid, he decided to do a little piss-boiling by agreeing to pay the clause to bring the Portuguese star to the Santiago Bernabeu.

Cue bedlam then at the Camp Nou in October 2000, when Figo returned for the first time with his new charges and was welcomed by a hail of fag lighters, coins and anything else the Catalans could throw at him. The regular corner taker for Los Blancos, Figo decided that night not to bother but two years later, thinking that the hatred may have subsided, he decided to take flag kicks but wished he’d not bothered when a pigs head landed at his feet.


There have been instances of players crossing the North London divide and being revered by both Spurs and Arsenal fans – Sol Campbell is NOT one of those players. In the summer of 2001 and with no agreement seemingly forthcoming to extend his stay at White Hart Lane, Campbell decided that it would be a good idea to use the “Bosman ruling” to his advantage and nip across town to join Arsenal.

Read More: Pogba Uses Downtime to Plan New Ways to Wind Up United Fans

At his opening press-conference, media hacks were falling over themselves to get a ringside seat to hear what the man himself had to say as to why he’d made the controversial move. Campbell decided to go with the safe option claiming he needed to experience Champions League football and that he had been advised to go to Highbury by his then England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson.

What stuck in the throat of the Spurs fans however, was the fact that Sol had told his adoring public not to worry when rumours started to gather that he wouldn’t be extending his stay at The Lane, and that he would be staying at the club for the foreseeable future even going as far as telling Spurs Monthly that he would never play for Arsenal – Judas!


“F*ck with my family and you fck with me” is what Frank Lampard must have been thinking when he turned into a not so happy Hammer in 2001. “Lamps had served his football education at Upton Park since joining them as a youngster in 1994 and the Lampard family had history with the East London club, with his father Frank having played an integral part in their 1980 FA Cup success.

Lampard Snr was assistant coach when Lampard Jnr started treading the boards and after a loan spell at Swansea City, little Frank became a regular first-team starter with his boyhood club in 1997. It really was a family affair around that time at The Boleyn with Uncle Harry Redknapp in charge of first-team affairs. By the turn of the century, Frank Jnr was hot-property and having signed a contract extension, the future looked bright for both player and club, but then West Ham’s form dipped, Uncle Harry was sacked along with Frank’s old man and little Frank, scared he’d get bullied by the senior pro’s now he had no family to back him up, decided to jump ship.

In August 2001, he made his way down the Kings Road to sign for bitter rivals Chelsea in a deal worth around £11M, to start a trophy-laden era for the West London outfit. To prove he probably made the right decision, Lampard won three Premier League titles, four FA Cups, two League Cups, two Community Shields, a Europa League and a Champions League during his 13 years as a player with Chelsea – West Ham on the other hand,won absolutely f*ck-all.

You can be the Special one at Paddy Power Games

What do you think?