The Spoiler’s “Crossing the Divide” XI

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Heading off to Man United?


In a move now commonly known as “The Reverse Carlos Tevez”, it looks like Micah Richards might yet navigate himself across the Manchester divide during the January transfer window. With that in mind, here’s a team of maniacs who risked everything to play for a rival club…

Goalkeeper, Pat Jennings – Spurs (1964-1977), Arsenal (1977-1985)

After thirteen very impressive years at White Hart Lane, the consensus was that Pat Jennings was just about ready to hang up his gloves. Instead, he threw caution to the wind, and waltzed over to Arsenal to carry on for another eight years. He then returned to Spurs to play in the reserve team. A hunch suggests that a similar gesture perhaps wouldn’t be afforded to Sol Campbell.

Right Back, Nelson Vivas – Boca Juniors (1994-1997), River Plate (2003)

Most of you probably remember Nelson Vivas as the plucky understudy to Lee Dixon and Nigel Winterburn at Arsenal. And you’d be right! But he was also the daring Argentine defender who has played for both of the featured teams in the fiercely fought Superclasico, which finds the angry poor people of Boca Juniors throwing their mucky kitchen sinks at the hoity toity poshos from River Plate.

Centre Back, Gheorghe Popescu – Steaua Bucharest (1988), Dinamo Bucharest (2002)

In Romania, the most thrilling game on the football calendar is the Eternal Derby between the two biggest sides in Bucharest. Gheorghe Popescu – formerly of PSV, Spurs, and Barcelona – has somehow mustered up the daring to trot out for both teams. He got away with it too, thanks to around 115 caps for Romania, buying him a place in the nation’s collective hearts.

Centre Back, Sol Campbell – Spurs (1992-2001), Arsenal (2001-2006)

Oh dear, it all went a bit weird for Sol. Probably mainly because after categorically stating that he’d never even dream of moving to Arsenal (according to Spurs Monthly magazine), that’s exactly what he did. He then piled more salt into the gaping Tottenham sore by doing so for free. One day they might forgive him. But chances are they won’t.

Left Back, Gabriel Heinze – Paris Saint-Germain (2001-2004), Marseille (2009-)

Gabriel Heinze might have taken to the pitch for big Man United and Real Madrid games, but nothing will quite match the Gallic intensity of Le Classiquebetween the gritty Southern Frenchmen of Marseille – with their sausages eaten straight from switchblades – and the ever-so-cultured sophisticats of Paris Saint-Germain.

Right Midfield, Luis Figo – Barcelona (1995-2000), Real Madrid (2000-2005)

They loved Figo at Barcelona. Absolutely loved him. Right up until he moved across to Real Madrid for around £37 million. Then they started throwing pig’s heads at him during the 2002 El Clasico. Not a compliment.

Centre Midfield, Clarence Seedorf – Inter (1999-2002), AC Milan (2002-)

He’s been around for ever, that Clarence Seedorf. He must be, like, fifty or something. And yet, he’s still playing magnificent football. He’s famously won the Champions League with three different clubs (Ajax, Real Madrid, AC Milan), and in 2002 he pulled off the impressive feat of crossing the Milan border without anyone kicking up too much of a fuss.

Centre Midfield, Steve McMahon – Everton (1979-1983), Liverpool (1985-1991)

A childhood Everton supporter, Steve McMahon was voted the fan’s Player of the Year in 1980/81, and even captained the side. Then fast forward a few short years, and he became Kenny Dalglish’s first Liverpool signing, just shortly before scoring his opening goal for the club – the winner in the Merseyside Derby. How deliciously fitting.

Left Midfield, Johan Cruyff – Ajax (1964-1973, 1981-1983), Feyenoord (1983-1984)

An Ajax legend, Cruyff became so enraged when the club refused him a contract in 1983 that he signed for their fiercest rivals, Feyenoord. The club then, rather predictably, went on to win their first league title in around a decade, leaving Cruyff to bask in the knowledge that he had probably proved some kind of point.

Forward, Denis Law – Man City (1960-1961), Man United (1962-1973), Man City (1973-1974)

In 1960, Man City paid the then-princely sum of £55,000 for Denis Law. Then two years later, Man United upped the British record transfer fee to £115,000 when they bought him across the divide from sunny Italy. He famously refused to celebrate his winning goal for City in the Manchester Derby in his last ever professional game. Man United were relegated that day.

Forward, Ronaldo – Barcelona (1996-1997), Real Madrid (2002-2007). AND Inter (1997-2002), AC Milan (2007-2008)

Ronaldo – a man who could eat a grapefruit through a tennis racket – has scored for both sides in the Milan Derby, as well as starting for both teams in El Clasico. Wisely, however, he has never moved directly from one club to the other, so he remains, for the most part, unscathed. Just a little bit fat.

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