The FA Cup semi-final between Manchester United and Manchester City has all the signs of a white-hot encounter. Not only is it a local derby between two sides that are competing in the upper reaches of this year’s Premier League, yet more fuel will be thrown on the fire by the fact it is also Carlos Tevez’s latest clash with his former employers from Old Trafford.
“I’m no traitor,” said the Argentinian striker on his unveiling as a Citizens’ player in summer 2009, having crossed the Manchester divide. However, the hard-running front-man would quickly discover that in football as in life, there is a fine line between love and hate, especially where supporters are concerned. El Apache has faced Sir Alex Ferguson’s team six times since his departure, but has been on the winning team only once, when he scored a brace in a 2-1 Carling Cup semi-final first-leg success. United promptly overturned that lead, winning 3-1 in the return, so can Tevez and Co get their revenge come 17 April at Wembley Stadium?
Tevez is not the only Argentinian forward to have risked the wrath of the fans that once idolised him. Albiceleste legend Claudio Caniggia took his first steps in the professional game at Buenos Aires giants River Plate in 1985, only to return from a lengthy spell abroad to sign for eternal rivals Boca Juniors ten years later.
“Why did I join this club? I’ve always been a Boca fan,” El Pájaro told the stunned assembled media on his official presentation for Los Xeneizes, a club which has acquired a taste for signing former Millonarios. Caniggia rubbed salt in River fans’ wounds a year later by firing a hat-trick against his former club, though the team in red and white would eventually get a measure of revenge via Jonatan Maidana.
Hugely successful during a three-year stay at Boca, a period featuring a Copa Libertadores triumph and two Copa Sudamericana wins, the centre-back ended a spell with Ukraine’s Metalist Kharkiv in 2010 by joining River. In the last official superclásico between the pair at the Estadio Monumental it was Maidana who notched his new club’s winner, though he did at least opt for a muted celebration. That was in stark contrast to Caniggia 15 years earlier, who charged towards his new club’s fans arms aloft before being enveloped by team-mates including Diego Maradona.
PSG’s Marseille jinx
When it comes to signing new players, reigning French champions Marseille could do much worse than putting their faith in former stars of their fierce rivals Paris Saint-Germain. In recent years, no fewer than 14 ex-PSG men have scored for L’OM against their ex-employers, including the likes of Lorik Cana, Gabriel Heinze and Florian Maurice. “I felt a mix of satisfaction and vengeance when I scored against PSG,” said the latter, who struck four times in clashes with the Parisian outfit. “I wasn’t well-treated up there, so I was always keen to take them on and score against them – it had a special flavour.”
Fellow French club Caen are also acutely aware of the pain that former heroes can cause, with 2009’s relegation from Ligue 1 sealed by a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Bordeaux – for whom the three points clinched that season’s league title. Scorer of the decisive strike was Yoan Gouffran, who had left Caen for Les Girondins the previous summer. “I feel really sad for the fans and my former team-mates,” said Gouffran afterwards. “Will I be celebrating the title win? Maybe tomorrow or when we get back to Bordeaux, but not here and not tonight. I just can’t.”
Crossing enemy lines
Two of the biggest names in the history of the Egyptian game, brothers Ibrahim and Hossam Hassan, starred for Al Ahly for nearly 15 years before a shock 2000 switch to arch-rivals Zamalek. The latter subsequently went on to win the league title in their new recruits’ first season, with Hossam scoring a brace in a derby win over his former club. The prolific striker is one of only two players to have scored for both teams in the Al Ahly-Zamalek clash, though it is safe to say that any goodwill he may have had with the Al Ahly supporters has evaporated since he took his current role of Zamalek coach.
Staying in Africa and we find Samuel Eto’o, a man who likes nothing more than scoring against former club Real Madrid. The Cameroonian hitman, who had an unhappy spell with Los Blancos, has struck ten times against the capital club for Mallorca and Barcelona and even lifted the 2009/10 UEFA Champions League with Inter Milan at Madrid’s Estadio Bernabeu. “Over the years I’ve fallen in love with Barcelona and Mallorca, but I’d never rejoin Madrid,” Eto’o has said, though intriguingly he was linked with a move to Jose Mourinho’s side in the January transfer window.
Another former Barcelona and Real Madrid forward, Ronaldo, has scored for both Inter and AC in Milan derbies. Meanwhile, his 2002 FIFA World Cup™-winning strike-partner Rivaldo earned himself notoriety among fans of ex-club Corinthians when firing three goals past O Timão to help Palmeiras win the 1994 Brazilian national title.
Yet more dramatic was the explosive case of Mo Johnston. Having decided to end a two-year sojourn with Nantes, the club he’d joined from Celtic in 1987, Johnston stated that “there is no other British club I could play for apart from Celtic”. Yet days after posing at Celtic Park in the green and white hoops, he signed on the dotted line for the Bhoys' age-old enemies Rangers, bringing a spectacular end to the Gers' policy of refusing to sign Catholic players. His first Old Firm derby in a blue shirt in November 1989 was suitably climactic, with the fiery-haired striker scoring a last-minute winner, celebrating wildly and finding himself engulfed by delighted members of his new club’s faithful.
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