It’s been a long time since loyalty meant anything in football – just ask Rhodri Giggs.
The latest act of treachery we’ve had the misfortune to witness comes courtesy of Declan Rice. West Ham’s defensive starlet represented Ireland at all youth and senior levels, and was told the side would be built around him as captain for years to come.
But after an impressive run of form for his club, England came sniffing. And as his appearances for Ireland only came in friendlies, FIFA granted him permission to switch allegiances. Unsurprisingly, Rice didn’t hesitate in turning his back on the country he represented for years in order to seek success (a semi-final every 20 years or so) with the Three Lions.
The Irishman – sorry, Englishman – now joins a long list of football’s biggest backstabbers. But what company does he keep?
Sol always said he wanted to win trophies at White Hart Lane. He eventually did, but it just happened to be whilst he was in the red and white of Arsenal, as the unbeaten Gunners clinched the title there in April 2004.
Back in 2001, the Tottenham captain’s contract was winding down and a lucrative free transfer was in sight, but he assured the Spurs faithful he would be staying put:
Fast forward a few months and Campbell was unveiled as a Gooner to the disbelief of just about everyone in football. Magnificent b**tardry!
At least the Spurs fans took it well…
One of the greatest players in Barcelona’s history, but that didn’t stop Figo doing the dirty on the Catalans. Figo jumped ship to their bitter Clasico rivals in a world record £50m deal in July 2000, signalling the start of Real Madrid’s Galacticos era.
The Portuguese was detested by his old fans; on his first return to the Nou Camp, the boos and whistles were so loud he needed to plug his own ears. It was even worse second time around, as Figo was pelted with objects – including the infamous pig’s head. At least he didn’t wake up in bed with one.
A Junior Gunner who made it all the way to legendary status in the Arsenal first team, winning two league titles and three FA Cups along the way. But, all that counted for nothing when Arsenal offered him “just” £55,000 per week, nearly causing ‘Cashley’ to swerve off the road. Jeez, and they say nurses have it tough.
The left-back then forced through a move to Chelsea, and has been hated by his old fans ever since.
Don’t take it personally though, Gooners: Cole was just as treacherous in his private life too, as Cheryl will testify.
Man Utd fans were in absolute uproar when their beloved Paul Ince was sold to Inter Milan after Fergie deemed him to be too much of a “big-time Charlie”.
Not that Ince gave a single toss about his old supporters once he found himself playing for their nemesis, Liverpool. He scored a last-minute equaliser against them at Anfield, almost wrecking their title bid in 1999, and you can see what it meant to him…
Owen was well and truly a Liverpool hero, hitting 158 goals for his boyhood club during his eight years there. Moves to Real Madrid and Newcastle followed, where it was soon discovered his hamstrings were made out of the same wafer-thin elastic bands postmen use to bind a few letters together with.
Despite this, the striker managed to end up at Old Trafford for a three-season stint, immediately destroying his reputation at Anfield. It’s a bit like Paul Ince’s situation, really. Just in reverse, and much sh**ter.
He endured plenty of abuse from Arsenal fans after he chased the money in his move to Man City in 2009. But Adebayor got his revenge when he scored against his old club just months after signing, and launched into that celebration. Just look at that hummus and olive pots fly from the away end!
That moment says it all, really. We didn’t even need to mention his later move to Tottenham.
Long before ‘Arry endeared himself to the nation by chomping on kangaroo gonads, he was flip-flopping between south coast clubs.
After guiding Portsmouth to the Premier League and keeping them up, Redknapp resigned following a dispute with the board in November 2004. Just a few weeks later he took the reins at their bitter rivals Southampton.
Pompey fans were incensed – even that annoying bloke who rings the bell relentlessly for 90 minutes gave it a rest so he could shout “Judas!” – but in hindsight it could’ve all been one brilliant practical joke.
Redknapp oversaw the Saints’ relegation, before returning to Fratton Park and winning the FA Cup.
Robin van Persie
For seven years, Arsenal stood by the mercurial Dutchman through various controversies, disciplinary issues and countless long-term injuries. The Gunners eventually saw the best of him in 2011/12, when their newly-appointed club captain hit 30 league goals and scooped the Players’ Player and Footballer of the Year awards.
So, how did he repay Arsenal for their faith in him? By refusing to sign a new contract, demanding a move to Man Utd, and promptly firing them to the league title the following season. Charming!
Van Persie did get a taste of his own medicine the following year, reportedly being reduced to tears when Sir Alex Ferguson – the man who he went to Old Trafford for – announced his retirement.
What goes around, comes around…
Ah, good ol’ Will Gallas. The man who threatened to score a deliberate own goal against his own team if Chelsea didn’t sell him. The man who then became Arsenal captain, sulked on the pitch and criticised all his teammates in public. The man who left the club and directly joined Tottenham.
He should’ve made one more London transfer: straight to the Tower of London’s cells for footballing treason.
The fiery Scot spent four years in charge of Birmingham, guiding them to League Cup glory in comical circumstances against Arsenal in 2011. However, they ended up getting relegated to the Championship on the last day of the season.
Appreciative of his efforts, the Blues’ board gave McLeish their full backing to stay on and get them back into the Premier League. Rather than showing gratitude, McLeish stabbed them right in the back, resigning by email and taking up the reins at their arch-rivals Aston Villa.
There’s a special place in football for traitors like McLeish. Specifically, it’s in an away team dugout in Kazakhstan watching your team get humiliated.
As Jack Grealish recently found out, the rivalry between Midlands clubs is a little bit intense. Which makes Craig Gardner’s career moves all the more confusing.
The Aston Villa academy graduate spent five years at the club before crossing the city to join Birmingham, where he won the League Cup under his traitor tutor McLeish. He then moved on to West Bromwich Albion, via a few years at Sunderland, before rejoining the Blues in 2017.
Make your mind up where your loyalties lie, Craig. Or just head for Coventry, Walsall and Wolves and complete the set.
The archetypal hometown hero, Smith won Leeds Supporters’ Player of the Year in 2003 and 2004 as the bankrupt Whites finally succumbed to Premier League relegation.
All heroes become villains at some point, though. Just weeks after kissing the badge, Smith packed his bags and headed to Old Trafford, despite promising fans he would “never” play for Man Utd.
Arsenal fans could just about understand the reasoning when their captain went home to Barcelona in 2011. They were certainly more than happy to retweet the life out of his “Once a Gunner, always a Gunner” tweet after the move went through.
But when he wanted out of the Nou Camp three years later, Fabregas opted for a move to Chelsea rather than push for an Emirates return, where he’d have been welcomed back with open arms.
Cue Arsenal Twitter simultaneously sending approximately 3.7 billion snake emojis to the Spaniard’s profile. Yeah, that showed him…
When a player only has loyalty to his bank balance, any cares about the fans are instantly disregarded, and so it proved with Carlos Tevez.
After winning two Premier Leagues and the Champions League with Man Utd, chants of “Fergie, sign him up!” rang around Old Trafford in an attempt to persuade the club to keep hold of their Argentinian star.
Tevez repaid this deafening level of support the only way he knew how… by immediately getting a transfer to moneybags Man City. How about that for loyalty, eh?
Although in fairness, it was probably all worth it just for how much that Welcome to Manchester poster wound United fans up.