Five players who crossed a fierce divide to win a league title


Barcelona couldn’t get rid of Luis Suarez quickly enough last summer. The Catalans drove the Uruguayan out of the club, and in doing so they won Atletico Madrid the 2020/21 LaLiga Santander title.

Although they almost got cold feet when Los Rojiblancos stepped forward to sign the forward last summer, despite having spent most of the off season trying to force him out, a deal was agreed for Suarez to move to the capital in the end.

A few comments were made comparing Suarez’s move to that made by David Villa in 2013. Then, the Spaniard left the Catalans, joined Atletico Madrid and went on to win the title for his new side at the Camp Nou on the final day of the season.

While Suarez didn’t quite do that, the Uruguayan did bag 21 times over the course of the campaign, including the winning goal at Real Valladolid which, as it turned out, was the goal that won Atletico their first LaLiga Santander title since 2013/14.

Villa and Suarez aren’t the only players to move between rivals, Bernd Schuster, Andrea Pirlo and Gonzalo Higuain did similarly, and we’ve got a list of five other players who did the same.

Johan Cruyff

It could be forgotten that Johan Cruyff played with Feyenoord, with him being so synonymous with Ajax and Barcelona, but he spent the 1983/84 season there.

At the end of the previous season, Ajax decided against renewing his contract. Annoyed, he joined rivals Feyenoord and won them their first Eredivisie in a decade, also winning the KNVB Cup.

Rio Ferdinand

Back at the beginning of the century, Rio Ferdinand was one of the hottest properties in English football and had stepped up to another level after joining Leeds United from West Ham in 2000.

In 2002, Manchester United came knocking and made the centre-back the most expensive British player in history. Having won the Intertoto Cup with West Ham and nothing at Leeds, Ferdinand would win six Premier Leagues, two League Cups, four Community Shields, a Champions League and a Club World Cup with United.

Luis Figo

Perhaps the most well known case of a player crossing the lines of a rivalry, Luis Figo joined Real Madrid from Barcelona in a controversial move in 2000.

With Los Blancos, the Portuguese equalled the two LaLiga Santander titles he won with the Catalans, but also lifted the Supercopa de Espana twice, the UEFA Super Cup, an Intercontinental Cup and the Champions League.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been around the block more than once, particularly in Italy. The Swede has played for each of Serie A’s three most successful clubs, but his move from Juventus to Inter in 2006 raised eyebrows, as did his arrival at AC Milan just two years after leaving Inter for Barcelona.

Ibrahimovic won Serie A three times with Inter, and two Supercoppa Italianas as well. With Milan, he has one Serie A title and one Supercoppa Italiana.

Mario Gotze

Bayern Munich snatching a player away from Borussia Dortmund has become a trend over the last decade, and Mario Gotze was one of those cases when he moved in 2013.

The World Cup winner, having won the Bundesliga twice, the DFP Pokal twice, and the Supercup once with Dortmund, won three Bundesligas, two DFP Pokals, a UEFA Super Cup and a Club World Cup with the Bavarians.

He did, though, later head back down the road he had come to rejoin Dortmund in 2016.


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