Football Players Who Were Forced to Change Their Allegiance
Football players don’t always get to play for the teams they supported as children; here we look at some famous cases of split loyalties.
Many football fans will support the same team for life starting from a very young age and there are countless children who have grown up dreaming of playing for their favourite team. However, the lucky few who do make it as professional footballers often find themselves having to switch allegiances for the sake of their careers. Worst of all, some players may find themselves playing for their favourite club’s rivals.
There are many instances of players signing for clubs that they do not support. Here we look at some of the most famous players who have ended up playing for rival teams.
There is no doubt that Frank Lampard was one of the most talented midfielders of all time and to this day, he remains the highest-scoring midfielder in Premier League history. Following a hugely successful career, Lampard retired as a player from Chelsea in 2016 before returning as the team’s manager in 2019. While this suggests that Lampard has spent his life devoted to Chelsea, in his childhood he was a huge West Ham United fan.
Lampard’s father, also called Frank, was a legend at West Ham and made more than 600 appearances for the team in all competitions. Therefore, it is no surprise that Lampard junior grew up supporting the team and he was known to be a big supporter of the striker Francis McAvennie.
Lampard junior made his senior debut with West Ham and spent six seasons with them. However, he moved to their direct London rivals Chelsea in 2001 and enjoyed great success with the team. Unsurprisingly, West Ham fans were unimpressed and to this day, he receives a frosty reception when visiting the East London team.
Since joining Real Madrid in 2012, Luka Modric has gone from strength to strength. He has helped the team lift numerous trophies and he also led Croatia to its first World Cup final in 2018, and was recognised for his success when he was awarded the 2018 Ballon d’Or.
While Modric may have flourished at Real Madrid, as a child he was a huge supporter of their bitter rivals Barcelona. In a 2018 interview, Barcelona star and Modric’s compatriot Ivan Rakitic said, “Many times I joke with him, telling him not to get mad, because he is even more culé than me. When we were young we all had a favourite team, and it’s no secret that Luka loved the claret and blue colours.”
There were rumours in 2008 that Barcelona were interested in signing him from Dinamo Zagreb and the Catalan paper Mundo Deportivo gave Modric a Barcelona shirt with the number 14, which was work by his idol Johan Cruyff during his time with the club. However, Modric was signed by Tottenham Hotspur and is now known to be fully committed to Real Madrid.
Kevin De Bruyne
Kevin De Bruyne is well known as a Manchester City star and widely regarded as one of the best midfielders currently in the game. However, despite his pivotal role in the team’s recent successes and title wins, it was revealed in a 2017 article that he is in fact a massive Liverpool fan.
De Bruyne reportedly slept in Liverpool bedding while wearing a club tracksuit. He is also a proud owner of a Michael Owen replica shirt and is said to idolise the former Liverpool striker. However, as a consummate professional, there is no sign of this when he is on the pitch and he is fully devoted to his current team.
Andres Iniesta is one of Barcelona’s iconic player. It is basically impossible to talk about the club without recognising the immense role he has to play in the squad. However, prior to devoting himself to the club, a childhood incident meant that he was known to loath the team and was a keen supporter of their rivals Real Madrid.
As a young man, Iniesta played for his local club Albacete and while he was there, Barcelona destroyed the club 7-0. Iniesta was reportedly so upset by the result that switched his loyalties from Barcelona to Real Madrid. He admitted as much in an interview years later but also said that he has never been approached by Real Madrid.
“It happened because Barcelona scored seven goals against Albacete and I got so angry and threw such a tantrum. I was unhappy that Barcelona had done that to my Albacete… so I had a difficult time which included a change of team. There has never been any contact though, I was never close to signing for Madrid.”
John Terry, the former Chelsea defender and captain, was born into a family of Manchester United fans with at least two prior generations being devoted to the Old Trafford side. Prior to rising to prominence at Stamford Bridge, Terry was also a known supporter of Manchester United.
Former United manager Sir Alex Ferguson did in fact try to sign Terry as a 14 year old. However, by that point he had already decided to join Chelsea, much to the surprise of his family. Speaking in an interview he revealed that from the moment he joined, he was devoted to the Blues, “I was Man United growing up, you know what it’s like when you’re a boy, you want to support the team that’s winning everything. And my dad and granddad were Man United fans. But my first day at Chelsea I knew that was the club I wanted to be at. I just loved it. But Man United also approached me.”
Gareth Bale rose to fame as a player with Tottenham Hotspur and was considered one of the sport’s top wingers. He is certainly one of the best players to have played for Spurs in recent memory, so it is likely to surprise many that he was a huge Arsenal fan during his childhood.
The teams are bitter North London rivals but there was never any hint of Bale’s previous loyalties when playing at White Hart Lane. Speaking last year, Bale said that Arsenal legends Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp where his idols as a child, “I used to watch Arsenal a lot and I really enjoyed watching people like Henry. I used to like watching Dennis Bergkamp as well. They had a great team, Tottenham fans won’t be happy that I am holding this [Henry’s Arsenal jersey]!”
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was a Manchester United player for 11 years and is currently their head coach. However, as a child he is thought to have been a Liverpool fan. There are pictures of him in a Liverpool jersey and reports have emerged from his hometown that he was a devoted Liverpool supporter as a child. However, he has never admitted to it and there has been no sign of it whatsoever throughout his professional life.
Jamie Carragher is another player who has spent his entire professional life with one club. He played for Liverpool for seventeen years and retired as the club’s captain having won the Champions League medal in Istanbul in 2005.
While Carragher is certainly a Liverpool icon, as a child, he was devoted to bitter rivals Everton and he has even said that Everton meant more to him than England at the time.
In a 2017 interview Carragher said, “As a kid my life revolved around Everton, in 1985 and throughout my childhood, all I cared about was Everton. I’d watch the 1986 World Cup. Everton lost the double that season to Liverpool. If you’d have asked me would I rather Everton won the double or England win the World Cup… Everton win the double every day of the week!”
Raheem Sterling is considered one of the best left-wingers around and he is currently a key member of both Manchester City and the England squad. Sterling began his Premier League career at Liverpool before moving to City, both of which are huge rivals of his favourite childhood team, Manchester United.
Sterling revealed his previous loyalties in an interview last year, but insists that he has changed his alliance, “I shouldn’t really say this – not now, definitely not now! – but when I was young I was a massive United fan. I had an old United kit, from when they won the last FA Cup. I was at the final in 2007.”
Paul Pogba has not had the smoothest of times since re-joining Manchester United and there is continual talk about him moving away. However, despite his continued association with Old Trafford, Pogba is known to have been a passionate Arsenal supporter as a child.
He revealed his love for the Gunners in a recent interview and explained that the role of top French players in the team was one of the reasons behind it, “I will be honest. So, at the start, I was an Arsenal fan – obviously because of all the French players, you know.”
Despite this, Pogba is sure to do his upmost to help United realise their chances of a top three finish now that the Premier League is finally back underway.