Top 10 Players who returned to their former clubs in 2021

ABuffon is one among several players who returned to familiar surroundin
Buffon is one among several players who returned to familiar surroundings

Amid all the dealings of the footballing world, there is a special class of transfers, that is when players return to their boyhood clubs. These kinds of transfers are much more than a simple business transaction between two parties as they carry an emotional angle with them. The feeling of home fans welcoming a player back, having chanted his name in the past, transcends the financial aspect of the transfer. Not to mention the homely sentiment attached to a former club, for the player.

The act of coming home after having explored greener pastures has been repeated multiple times in the history of football. While some returns forged even fonder memories, some left a sour note on the player's legacy at the club.

A few noteworthy returns

Possibly the most famous homecoming of all, the return of Thierry Henry to Arsenal after three trophy-laden years at Barcelona and a couple of seasons in New York was met with widespread acclaim. Another second spell that has attained legendary status was Didier Drogba's 2014-15 season at Chelsea, when the Ivorian talisman led his team to Premier League glory.

As it is with life, not every such stint turned out to be a success. While Paul Pogba's highly anticipated return to Old Trafford has reaped mixed results, Carlos Tevez's rejoining with Boca Juniors encountered a premature disruption, due to his 'vacation' in China. Hence, fairytale come-backs can soon turn into nightmares, as proven by many such examples.

Here, we take a look at 10 such players who returned to their former clubs in 2021:

#10 Kevin-Prince Boateng to Hertha BSC Berlin

Enter caption Enter caption Enter caption Enter caption Enter caption Enter caption Boateng claims Hertha will be his final club
Enter caption Enter caption Enter caption Enter caption Enter caption Enter caption Boateng claims Hertha will be his final club

Kevin-Prince Boateng's illustrious career has taken him all across Europe, with the Ghanain having played in four out of the continent's top five leagues. His latest venture with Serie B side Monza ended in June when Hertha Berlin welcomed their prodigal graduate back to the Olympiastadion.

A regular starter in his Milan days under Massimiliano Allegri, Boateng saw his stock drop considerably after leaving the Rossoneri for the second time in 2016. However, he reappeared on the map after signing a short-term deal with Barcelona, to everyone's surprise.

Currently valued at just €1.8m, he returned to his boyhood club in Germany for free this summer.

#9 Angus Gunn to Norwich City

Gunn in his loan spell at Norwich nter caption Enter caption Enter caption Gamiero at Strasbourg's stadium
Gunn in his loan spell at Norwich nter caption Enter caption Enter caption Gamiero at Strasbourg's stadium

Signed as a vaunted prospect by Manchester City at just 15 years, Angus Gunn has had a turbulent time in England. The England U21 international recently made a permanent switch to his first ever club, Norwich City.

His 16 clean sheets in 51 matches, on loan with the Canaries in the 17/18 season, tempted Southampton to fork out €15.7m for his services. A reliable and sturdy keeper in his early days, Gunn's career never recovered after the 9-0 drubbing by Leicester City in 2019. He was almost immediately replaced by Alex McCarthy and sent out on loan to Stoke City the following season.

Following an injury-riddled season in the Championship with the Potters, Gunn returned to Norwich for an undisclosed fee.

#8 Kevin Gameiro to RC Strasbourg

Kevin Gameiro in action for Valencia
Kevin Gameiro in action for Valencia

Kevin Gameiro, at 34, finally headed back to where it all started for the French international. After 13 years away from the club, he returned to the Stade de la Meinau on a free transfer.

Having played for Paris Saint Germain in the initial years of their Qatari takeover, Gameiro is best remembered for his three year stay in Seville. His 30 goal involvements in just 54 games played a crucial role in Sevilla's run to three Europa League titles in as many years.

Gameiro's first stint at Strasbourg was glutted with injuries and promotional tussles. His boyhood side are currently in Ligue 1, in the bottom half of the table.

#7 Felipe Anderson to Lazio

Anderson endured a horrid time at Porto
Anderson endured a horrid time at Porto

Felipe Anderson's nightmare in England came to an end after it was announced that he would be returning to Lazio, the second club of his professional career. In his three years at West Ham United, one of which was spent out on loan, Anderson managed to make 73 appearances, scoring a triffling 12 goals.

His most productive season came with Lazio, when he scored 10 goals and laid out a further nine for his teammates, in the 2014-15 campaign. Following this, he was heavily linked with a hoard of clubs, especially Manchester United. But a falling out with newly-appointed manager Simone Inzaghi and a knee injury meant that nothing would ever materialize.

After a disappointing loan spell with Porto, Anderson made a permanent return to Lazio.

#6 Tom Heaton to Manchester United

Heaton will aim to impress in United's pre-season
Heaton will aim to impress in United's pre-season

In his 16-year-long career, Tom Heaton has only managed to muster over 50 league appearances for one club: Burnley. Having played most of his club football in the lower leagues of England, Heaton won promotion for the first time in his career with the Clarets in the 2013-14 season.

The 3-times-capped Englishman has spent more than a decent amount of time on the treatment table. He was the undisputed choice for the goalkeeping spot at Burnley but eventually lost his place to Nick Pope due to a long-term injury. Heaton joined Aston Villa in 2019 in pursuit of regular playing time but yet again, a knee injury ended his reign as Villa's number one.

The 35-year-old shotstopper returned to United in this transfer window as a third-choice keeper, behind Dean Henderson and David de Gea.

#5 Łukasz Piszczek to LKS Goczałkowice-Zdrój

Piszczek in his last season at Dortmund
Piszczek in his last season at Dortmund

A true one-club man, Łukasz Piszczek spent 11 fruitful years with Borussia Dortmund before calling it a day on his BVB career. He returned to his hometown club Goczałkowice-Zdrój in May 2021.

Piszczek was an instrumental part of the Dortmund team that reached the Champions League final against all odds in the 12/13 season, playing 11 out of a possible 12 matches. He spent his entire career playing as a right back but was often deployed in the central part of the defence due to his versatality.

After 17 years of being contracted to a German club: Hertha BSC Berlin(2004-2010) and Borussia Dortmund(2010-2021), Piszczek returns to his native country, Poland.

#4 Eric Garcia to FC Barcelona

Garcia at his presentation at the Camp Nou
Garcia at his presentation at the Camp Nou

Eric Garcia's keenly awaited return to Barcelona was made official by the club's social media handles on June 1st, 2021. Garcia came through the ranks of La Masia before joining Manchester City in 2017.

The Catalan-born defender's style of play is very similar to a certain Blaugrana legend named Gerard Pique. Garcia even has a similar career path to that of his compatriot, leaving Barcelona to join a club in Manchester, only to return after a couple of seasons. At 20 years of age, the ball-playing center-back can prove to be the perfect heir to Pique's throne at Camp Nou.

Pep Guardiola famously tried to convince the Spaniard to extend his stay at the Etihad, owing to his fantastic potential, but to no avail. He returned to his former club for free after his contract with City expired in May 2021.

#3 Ashley Young to Aston Villa

Young at Villa's training complex
Young at Villa's training complex

A product of the Watford academy, Ashley Young returned to the club where he exhibited his true potential: Aston Villa. Arguably, Young played some of his best football at Villa Park, which won him numerous accolades. He became only the fourth player to win the 'Premier League Player of the Month' award more than once, in his second season with the Villans.

The 2009 PFA Young Player of the Year awardee was mainly deployed on the wings in his days at Villa. A dream move to Manchester United soon derailed the once promising attacker's career. He was experimented upon a lot at Old Trafford, being used in various positions. Young was converted to a proper left-back by the end of his United career.

He enjoyed somewhat of a renaissance period at Inter, rediscovering his offensive traits as a wing-back. At 36, this may be Young's last chance to redeem his career.

#2 Douglas Costa to Gremio (loan)

Costa will wear the number 10 jersey upon his return to Gremio
Costa will wear the number 10 jersey upon his return to Gremio

After 5 years at Shakhtar Donetsk and 6 years of tossing between Bayern Munich and Juventus, Gremio made it official that Douglas Costa would be returning to the Brazilian giants on a season-long loan.

Known for his lethal dribbling skills, Costa made a name for himself during his early days in Ukraine owing to his versatality and ability to adapt. This earned him a move to Bayern Munich, where he won three league titles. A switch to Juventus earned Costa the same amount of trophies, three of them being the Scudetto.

A stereotypical 'player of the streets', Costa will now be showcasing his Brazilian flair at Gremio, until June 2022, at least.

#1 Gianluigi Buffon to Parma

Buffon surrounded by little Parma fans
Buffon surrounded by little Parma fans

This list was not devised in any particular order, but Gianluigi Buffon would've still ended up on the top, if it was. The legendary goalkeeper recently ended his 19-year-old love affair with Juventus to make a heroic return to his childhood club Parma.

Buffon moved to Turin in a €52m move which made him the most expensive keeper of all time as well as Juventus' most costly buy ever (both these records have been broken since). However, with his performances and records, the Juventus faithful will always view this deal as a bargain.

The Italian giant's longetivity at the top of the game is down-right scary. At 43 years of age, Buffon will lead his boyhood club's bid to win promotion to Serie A.

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Edited by Arnav Kholkar
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