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10 great footballers who supported rival clubs growing up

Luka Modric poses with a personalised Barcelona jersey
Luka Modric poses with a personalised Barcelona jersey
ANALYST
Modified 10 Jun 2020, 21:11 IST
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Football fans are known to support their clubs religiously, and for many, the bond with their clubs is for life.

But some players have not had the good fortune of forming such a bond. They might've supported a club as a child, but never got the opportunity to play for them. What's worse is that they might have even ended up representing their rivals.

As professionals, they are bound by the contract to give their all for the club on the pitch, no matter what club they supported earlier or continue to support. This makes us wonder- do they regret supporting rival clubs as a kid?

Well, there might be dozens of players who have faced the same dilemma in their career, but here, we will take a look at 10 famous players who supported rival clubs growing up.


10. Frank Lampard

Frank Lampard, a Chelsea legend and current manager
Frank Lampard, a Chelsea legend and current manager

Frank Lampard was one of the most talented midfielders of his generation, and till date remains the highest-scoring midfielder in Premier League history.

After accomplishing multiple feats with Chelsea and retiring in 2016 from professional football, he returned to Stamford Bridge last year as their manager. So he's a true Blue, right? Well, though he might bleed blue now, he was a massive West Ham United fan growing up.

His father, also named Frank Lampard, was a West Ham legend, and made over 600 appearances across all competitions for the Hammers. So naturally, Lampard grew up with a love for the London club, and idolised striker Francis McAvennie.

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As we all know, he made his senior debut with the club and spent six seasons with them. But as he moved to their bitter city rivals Chelsea in 2001, and found success there. He became a hated figure in West Ham, and is still treated with hostility on his trips to East London.


9. Luka Modric

Real Madrid CF v CD Leganes - La Liga
Real Madrid CF v CD Leganes - La Liga

Luka Modric has flourished since moving to Real Madrid in 2012. He has helped the LaLiga giants win multiple trophies, and also led Croatia to their first-ever World Cup final in 2018, all of which culminated in him winning the 2018 Ballon d'Or.

It is interesting to note that though it is Real Madrid that has brought him success and fame, he was a huge fan of their arch-rivals Barcelona as a child.

His compatriot and Barcelona star Ivan Rakitic revealed the following in an interview in 2018:

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“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 favorite team, and it’s no secret that Luka loved the claret and blue colors.”

In 2008, rumours emerged that FC Barcelona were interested in signing Luka Modric from Dinamo Zagreb.

In the hope of convincing the player to join, Catalan-based paper Mundo Deportivo presented the Croatian star a Barça shirt with the number 14, that his idol Johan Cruyff had worn during his time at the club.

But he was snapped by Tottenham Hotspur, and eventually he went on to join Los Blancos, and became a Madridista.


8. Kevin De Bruyne

Manchester City v Manchester United - Carabao Cup: Semi-Final
Manchester City v Manchester United - Carabao Cup: Semi-Final

Manchester City star Kevin De Bruyne is a player who does not need an introduction. He has emerged as one of the top midfielders in the game over the last few seasons, and it is just a delight to watch him play.

It was revealed in a 2017 Guardian article that the player who had an immense role in the Sky Blues' back-to-back title runs last season was a devout Liverpool supporter. It was reported that he slept in Liverpool bed linen and wore the club tracksuit. A Michael Owen replica shirt was the pride of his collection, as he idolised the former Reds striker.

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As a professional, though, he has put the past behind him and has devoted himself to Manchester City.


7. Andres Iniesta

FC Barcelona v CA Osasuna - La Liga
FC Barcelona v CA Osasuna - La Liga

There are few players in the world as closely associated with Barcelona as Andres Iniesta. It is impossible to talk about Barcelona and not mention him- such is his iconic status at the Camp Nou.

But before he devoted his career and life to the Catalan club, there's a funny little story from his childhood that made him initially hate the club, and thus nudged him towards the Madrid giants instead.

So, here's how the story goes. As a young kid, he played for his local club Albacete, and that summer, Barcelona thrashed the club 7-0 in a fixture. This angered him so much so that he switched his loyalties from Barcelona to Real Madrid. He conceded the same in an interview years later, but explained that he was never close to signing for the club.

He said:

"It happened because Barcelona scored seven goals against Albacete and I got so angry and threw such a tantrum."
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"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."

6. John Terry

Chelsea v Sunderland - Premier League
Chelsea v Sunderland - Premier League

Former Chelsea captain and defender John Terry was born into a family of Manchester United fans, with the two generations before him being Old Trafford faithful. Before making a name for himself with the Blues, he was a big supporter of the Red Devils.

It is also well known that former United manager Sir Alex Ferguson had tried to sign Terry as a 14-year-old. But the youngster had already made up his mind to join the London side, much to the surprise of his father. He recalled in an interview that he loved Chelsea from the day he joined them and never looked back.

He said:

"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."
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"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."

5. Gareth Bale

Tottenham Hotspur v Los Angeles Galaxy
Tottenham Hotspur v Los Angeles Galaxy

Gareth Bale made a name for himself with Tottenham Hotspur in the Premier League, where he established himself as one of the top wingers in the game. He is one of the best players to have played at the White Hart Lane in recent memory, so it might upset a few fans that he was an Arsenal fan and watched the Gunners play growing up.

There's little love lost between Arsenal and Spurs, so it is highly unusual for a former Spurs player to admit his admiration for their North London rivals. But we change as we grow up, and even a football player's preferences can change over time, so it is not a big deal.

The Real Madrid star conceded in an interview last year that Arsenal legends Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp were his favourite players to watch growing up.

He said:

"I used to watch Arsenal a lot and I really enjoyed watching people like (Thierry) Henry."
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"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)!"

4. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

Manchester United v Manchester City - Premier League
Manchester United v Manchester City - Premier League

A Manchester United player for 11 years and now their head coach, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is believed to be a Liverpool fan as a young kid. However, we can say that after spending so much time with the Old Trafford based outfit, he is now a Manchester United fan through and through, at least professionally.

He is pictured wearing Liverpool's jersey in this old picture, though its authenticity is questionable. The Sun reported last year that the fact that he followed the Reds in his childhood is a known fact in his home town, although he won't admit it now.

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3. Jamie Carragher

Liverpool v Queens Park Rangers - Premier League
Liverpool v Queens Park Rangers - Premier League

Jamie Carragher is one of the Premier League's well-known one-club men. He spent 17 years at Anfield, and retired as the club captain with the famous Champions League medal from the Miracle of Istanbul game in 2005.

He holds an iconic status in the red half of the Merseyside, but was a die-hard Everton supporter growing up. He even joked that how Everton meant more to him than England when he was growing up.

He recalled in an interview in 2017:

 "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!"

2. Raheem Sterling

Manchester City v Manchester United - Carabao Cup: Semi-Final
Manchester City v Manchester United - Carabao Cup: Semi-Final
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Raheem Sterling is one of the top left-wingers in the game at the moment, and is a key member of the current Manchester City and England squad.

He started his Premier League career with Liverpool, and then earned a big-money move to City- two of the biggest rivals of his childhood's favourite club, Manchester United. He even confessed to having the club's jersey in his collection in an interview with Daily Mirror last year.

He said:

"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."

1. Paul Pogba

Manchester United v Arsenal FC - Premier League
Manchester United v Arsenal FC - Premier League

Paul Pogba's second-stint with Manchester United has not been a smooth ride and he continues to be linked with a move away from the Old Trafford.

Can an early affection for rival club Arsenal have something to do with his inability to settle with the club? Probably not, but still his passion for Arsenal in his early days is a matter that won't go down well with Old Trafford faithful.

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He conceded his liking of the Gunners in an interview, citing the role of top French players in the team as the obvious reason for the same, with Thierry Henry being one of his favourites.

He said:

"I will be honest. So, at the start, I was an Arsenal fan – obviously because of all the French players, you know."

He has also struggled with injuries since his move to the Premier League in 2016. But he has a chance to help the club finish in the top four this season when the league resumes after three months next week.


Published 10 Jun 2020, 21:11 IST
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