Ranking the 12 players who had the best second spells at clubs | OneFootball

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·28 September 2023

Ranking the 12 players who had the best second spells at clubs

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There is an adage in football that says you should never go back and, in some cases, that has proved to be true. But we have seen examples where this has turned out to be a blessing in disguise for some players and their respective careers.

Just think of Chelsea ill-advisedly breaking their transfer record to re-sign Romelu Lukaku and trying desperately to offload him permanently for the last year. Or Paul Pogba's disastrous return to the club that had sold him as a promising youngster.

For others, individuals have made the right decision in giving it another go at a club they used to call home. A recent example of this is Manchester United's Jonny Evans may prove to be the latest example after an impressive second full debut against Burnley earlier this year. To try and help provide further reassurances to the centre-half that things will work out for him at Old Trafford this time, we at GIVEMESPORT thought we'd look at 12 other players who have enjoyed a successful second spell at a club.

David Luiz

David Luiz's erratic tendencies are probably what prevented him from ever being considered a truly elite defender, but there's no denying the Brazilian has enjoyed a successful career. The defender spent three-and-a-half seasons with Chelsea, winning the Champions League in his first full campaign, before making a big-money move to PSG in 2014.

He spent two years in the French capital, winning the title both times, before returning to Stamford Bridge and winning the Premier League in his first season back in England. Luiz spent another two seasons at Chelsea, winning his second Europa League title in 2019, before joining Arsenal and later returning to his native country with Flamengo.

Diego Costa

Diego Costa had three spells at Atletico Madrid but failed to make a single senior appearance in his first stint and left for Real Valladolid in 2009, aged 20. He returned to the capital a year later and this time enjoyed more opportunities, becoming a first-team regular by the time the Colchoneros won the league title in 2014.

The striker earned a move to Chelsea that summer, where he won two league titles in three years before falling out with manager Antonio Conte and returning to Atletico for a third time in January 2018. Costa struggled to be the key man up front ahead of Antoine Griezmann and later Luis Suarez but still contributed to his side winning the Europa League in 2018 and La Liga in 2021 before departing the club for a third time that summer.

Dirk Kuyt

While the most fruitful period of Dirk Kuyt's career almost undoubtedly came during his six years with Liverpool, the Dutchman also enjoy a fairytale story with Feyenoord. He joined the club in 2003 after impressing with Utrecht, and was a fan favourite during his time in Rotterdam, scoring 83 goals and earning his move to Merseyside three years later.

After leaving the Reds, Kuyt spent two years in Turkey with Fenerbahce before returning to Feyenoord in 2015, at the age of 35. He picked up where he left off in Holland, scoring 23 goals in his first campaign, before scoring a hat-trick in his final ever professional game to win Feyenoord their first ever Eredivisie title for 18 years.

Fernando Torres

Another Spanish forward who returned to Atletico Madrid, although their supporters probably found this one a lot more special than Costa's. Fernando Torres was adored at the club after breaking into the first team in 2001 and becoming club captain two years later, aged just 19.

His goalscoring exploits caused Liverpool to pay big money for him in 2007 and he became a hero at Anfield before a move to Chelsea saw his career spiral out somewhat, and he returned to Atletico in 2015. Torres spent 18 months on loan before spending another two seasons with the Colchoneros permanently, helping them win the Europa League in 2018 and scoring twice in his final-ever match for the club.

Gianluigi Buffon

Gianluigi Buffon has had two spells at two different clubs, as his 20 years with Juventus was interrupted by a year with PSG, but his return to Parma in 2021 was particularly memorable as it was the club he started his career with. The Italian made his debut for the club at the age of 17, and spent six years with the Crusaders, winning the UEFA Cup and Coppa Italia in 1999.

After 20 years away, during which time he won a whopping 10 league titles with The Old Lady, the 43-year-old returned to his boyhood club. Despite his age, he was still the starting keeper but was unable to help them back into Serie A before retiring in August 2023.

Ivan Rakitic

Ivan Rakitic has enjoyed a glittering career and will undoubtedly go down as one of the greatest Croatian players of all time. After impressing with Basel and Schalke, he was signed by Sevilla in 2011 where he spent three-and-a-half years, captaining them to Europa League glory in his final season before a big move to Barcelona.

Rakitic spent six seasons with the Catalan giants, winning four La Liga titles and a Champions League before returning to Sevilla at the age of 32. In 2023, he won his second Europa League with the club, nine years after his first.

Jermain Defoe

Jermain Defoe was the first of several players poached from Portsmouth by Harry Redknapp after he left Pompey to become Tottenham manager in 2008, but what stood the forward apart was that he'd been at White Hart Lane just 12 months before his return in January 2009. Initially signed by Spurs in 2004, he was a regular goalscorer for several years before the emergence of Robbie Keane and Dimitar Berbatov as a formidable strike force saw him starting less frequently, and he left for the South Coast in January 2008.

Defoe was Tottenham's main striker during his first full season back at the club and scored 24 goals to help his side qualify for the Champions League for the first time since 1961. He would score a further 51 goals for the North London outfit before departing for Toronto in 2014.

Martin Keown

Martin Keown comfortably enjoyed the most successful second spell at a club out of anyone on this list. After coming through the Arsenal youth ranks, he left in 1986 after a disagreement in contract negotiations, and the centre-back would prove a key player at Aston Villa and Everton before returning to North London in 1993.

Keown spent 11 years with the Gunners in his second stint and played a big hand in them winning three league titles, three FA Cups and a European Cup Winners' Cup. He ended his time at Highbury as an Invincible and played briefly for Leicester City and Reading before retiring from professional football in 2005, aged 39.

Mathieu Flamini

Mathieu Flamini was another player who returned to Arsenal after being sold, although he didn't quite hit the heights that Keown did in his second spell. Flamini was signed by Arsene Wenger in 2004 and was a reliable member of their squad, helping them win the FA Cup in his first season, before departing for AC Milan four years later.

After struggling with injuries and falling out of favour with the Italians, he returned to the Gunners in 2013. He won a further two FA Cups with the side and also scored twice in a League Cup win over deadly rivals Tottenham before he was released in 2016.

Mats Hummels

Mats Hummels has gone to and fro from Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund throughout his career, but it's his time with the latter that we're choosing to focus on here. Aged 20, he was snapped up by Jurgen Klopp's Dortmund side having made just one senior appearance for Bayern.

Hummels was a key member of the side that won two consecutive league titles, a DFB-Pokal and reached the Champions League final in 2013 and had 309 appearances for the Black and Yellows, by the time he returned to the Bavarians in 2016. Three years later, Dortmund paid £33 million to re-sign the centre-back, and he remains a regular starter at the club, helping them win another DFB-Pokal in 2022.

Nemanja Matic

Nemanja Matic was signed by Chelsea as a 21-year-old from Slovakian side Kosice but found first-team opportunities limited under Carlo Ancelotti, who sold him 18 months later as part of the deal that brought David Luiz to the club from Benfica. The pair would become teammates when Jose Mourinho re-signed the Serbian in January 2014.

The defensive midfielder would prove to be a vital cog in two title-winning campaigns and scored seven times for the Blues, including a bullet of a strike in an FA Cup semi-final win over Tottenham in 2017. Matic made 151 appearances during his second stint at Stamford Bridge before Mourinho again signed him for Manchester United.

Wilfried Zaha

It seems hard to imagine Wilfried Zaha at any club other than Crystal Palace but that is the tough reality their supporters now have to face after the Ivorian departed for Galatasaray this summer. He joined the club aged eight and broke into the first team as a 17-year-old, making 143 appearances in the Championship before joining Manchester United in 2013.

Zaha failed to settle at Old Trafford and returned to South London a year later, with the Eagles now in the Premier League. He is one of the main factors behind them remaining at that level ever since, frequently committing his future to the club amid interest from top teams, and has earned legend status at Selhurst Park.

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