Pogba to Juventus, Henry to Arsenal & 15 times players made emotional transfer returns

Paul Pogba Thierry HenryGetty/GOAL

Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku are poised to leave the Premier League behind after difficult second spells at Manchester United and Chelsea - and seem set to join old flames Juventus and Inter, the Serie A clubs at which they played their best football.

The history of football is littered with players making emotional returns to their old clubs, here GOAL takes a look through some of the players who decided to try and rekindle the old spark...

  • Paul Pogba JuventusGetty Images

    Paul Pogba (Juventus → Manchester United → Juventus)

    After six years at Old Trafford, the France international is heading back to Turin - and will be hopeful that his second homecoming spell proves more fruitful than his first.

    Pogba originally joined Juventus as a teenager after an acrimonious departure from Manchester United in 2012 where he was the outstanding youth player, and claimed four successive Serie A titles there before a €105 million (£90m/$110m) bid took him back to the Premier League.

    It wasn't all bad back at Old Trafford, and there were times he looked like the inspirational world class midfielder who was a key cog in France's World Cup win, but too often he didn't, and a succession of coaches failed to rouse him to find his best form.

    His free transfer back to Juventus is an opportunity for Pogba to show he can drive a club team forward, at a time the Bianconeri need it most.

  • Romelu Lukaku Inter 2020 2021Getty Images

    Romelu Lukaku (Inter → Chelsea → Inter)

    If one story might trump Pogba's return, then it is Romelu Lukaku's San Siro homecoming merely a year after he left for his own comeback at Chelsea.

    Just like the France international, the Belgium star initially returned to a former Premier League club with a point to prove, and tasted Club World Cup success while back with the Blues in his first season.

    Lukaku's return to Stamford Bridge has been a disaster. A player who thrived in Antonio Conte's system becoming increasingly straitjacketed by Thomas Tuchel's tactics, with his performances nosediving as the season went on.

    You get the feeling this isn't the last the Premier League has seen from the youngest player to join the 100 goal club, but he may not get a third bite at emulating Didier Drogba at the club he supported as a teenager.

  • Cristiano Ronaldo of Manchester United Getty Images

    Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus → Manchester United)

    When news broke that Cristiano Ronaldo might be headed to bitter rivals Manchester City last summer, the uproar was understandably toxic.

    But a quick intervention from Sir Alex Ferguson and Rio Ferdinand - who told CR7 that his Manchester United legacy would be tarnished - and it was instead an emotional homecoming for the Portugal captain to Old Trafford, the place where he went from skinny, showboating teenager to free-scoring superstar.

    He's been an easy target for a press obsessed with the fall of Manchester United, but gave the fans more moments to remember than any other player this season, and will be a more than useful lieutenant for Erik ten Hag if they gel.

  • GriezmannGetty Images

    Antoine Griezmann (Barcelona → Atletico Madrid)

    Another forward who just couldn't wait to get home after his big money move to Barcelona went belly up.

    Given the acrimonious circumstances in which he departed Wanda Metropolitano, it almost felt something of a surprise to see Griezmann back from Camp Nou, particularly after Diego Simeone's side won La Liga in his absence.

    But return Griezmann did, netting eight goals in 36 games as the Rojiblancos struggled in an unsuccessful title defence, the striker haven't recently appealed to the club to make his return permanent.

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    Gianluigi Buffon (Paris Saint-Germain → Juventus → Parma)

    The greatest keeper of his era, and almost certainly in the shake-up for the all-time list, Buffon has only played for three clubs in his long and storied career, and he can't keep away from two of them.

    Buffon originally started at Parma in the 1995-96 campaign, playing for one of the era's great cult teams, before switching to Juventus in 2001, where he spent the next decade-and-a-half establishing himself as the best keeper in the world.

    His story looked to be over when he moved to PSG in 2018 - but he was back at Juventus again a year later to pick up another Serie A crown, before moving back to Parma last year to complete the perfect career circle and lead the charge for promotion from Serie B.

  • Gareth Bale Tottenham 2021Getty

    Gareth Bale (Real Madrid → Tottenham)

    Not many saw a return to Spurs for the Wales international on the cards when the forward made the move back to North London on a season-long loan in 2020.

    But given Bale had been gradually frozen out at Santiago Bernabeu and needed to maintain his fitness ahead of the rescheduled Euro 2020, then a return to the club where he went from reserve left-back to free-roaming attacker made sense.

    It was a strange season for Spurs, but the 16 goals he scored in 34 games gave the fans something to hold onto and he also showed that he could still cut it in the Premier League. He is now on the hunt for a new club again following his exploits to take Wales to a first World Cup since 1958, but we doubt that will be in North London.

  • Wayne Rooney Everton v Villarreal 020815

    Wayne Rooney (Manchester United → Everton)

    England's and Manchester United's all-time record goalscorer will probably never get the credit he deserves for his exploits as a hard-running, team-first striker, and although he left Everton as a teenager he always held a desire to return to the club he loved

    In 2017, 13 years after he departed, Rooney made that return, spending one final year there and captaining the club - the highlight of which was an impressive hat-trick against West Ham, including one outrageous long-range finish.

    He subsequently moved in 2018 to D.C. United where he won over fans with his workrate and the way he coaxed the young players, and then returned to England to play for Derby County, where he ultimately became the club's manager.

  • Thierry Henry Arsenal Leeds 2012

    Thierry Henry (New York Red Bulls → Arsenal)

    There were few things better than watching Thierry Henry in full flow for the Gunners - and for a brief, shining moment, the France international gave a whole new generation of fans an encore performance.

    Having originally played for Arsene Wenger's side between 1999 and 2007, the forward returned for a two-month loan from New York Red Bulls at the start of 2012, in order to provide cover amid the Africa Cup of Nations.

    He played only seven times and scored two goals - but both proved crucial, steering Arsenal to an FA Cup win over Leeds that sent the Emirates crazy, and a last-gasp victory over Sunderland.

  • Zlatan Ibrahimovic AC Milan 2021-22Getty Images

    Zlatan Ibrahimovic (LA Galaxy → Milan)

    Few players of Zlatan's calibre have delivered such a journeyman CV, with Ibrahimovic seldom spending more than a few years at one side before moving on.

    But he has only returned to one so far, and that's Milan, where he helped the club add another Serie A crown to his remarkable haul of honours, his influence on and off the pitch vital in shepherding a young squad over the finish line.

    At 40, the attacker continues to defy biology - and we imagine he will be hellbent on having one last crack at The Champions League.

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    Shinji Kagawa (Manchester United → Borussia Dortmund)

    The Japan international was a key figure for Jurgen Klopp during his Black and Yellow days, before making the leap to the Premier League in 2012 following back-to-back Bundesliga triumphs.

    There, he won the Premier League in Sir Alex Ferguson's final season before retirement, but a struggle to fully settle saw him head back to Dortmund in 2014.

    Kagawa spent another five years with the team, helping them to DFB-Pokal success in 2017.

  • Didier Drogba | Manchester United Chelsea | 26102014Getty

    Didier Drogba (Galatasaray → Chelsea)

    The legendary Blues forward seemed to have signed off on the perfect high note in 2012, when he fired Chelsea to Champions League success - but his story at Stamford Bridge was not quite over.

    Two years later, after spells in China and Turkey, he was back and reunited with Jose Mourinho - and promptly repaid the faith by firing them to another Premier League.

    He subsequently left for Montreal Impact, with his record as the African player with the most goals in the English top-flight unbeaten until 2021 when Mohamed Salah went past him.

  • Mario Gotze Dortmund

    Mario Gotze (Bayern Munich → Borussia Dortmund)

    The former Germany international will be forever remembered as the man who nabbed the Brazil 2014 World Cup against Argentina for his country - but he too had a homecoming at club level.

    Having transferred to Bayern Munich in 2013, Gotze helped the club to a slew of Bundesliga triumphs - but the call of old club Borussia Dortmund proved too strong and he returned after three years in 2016.

    DFL Cup and DFL-Supercup triumphs followed his return, though he arguably failed to hit the heights that earned him his move to Bavaria in the first place.

  • Juninho Paulista MiddlesbroughGetty Images

    Juninho (Atletico Madrid → Middlesbrough)

    It still seems remarkable nearly a quarter of a century on, but Boro boasted a team with Fabrizio Ravanelli, Brazilian Emerson, and, of course, Juninho.

    A blistering 1996-97 campaign saw him named Premier League Player of the Season before departing for Atletico Madrid - but the love affair was too strong to resist, and he returned for a loan spell two years later to help them stave off relegation.

    In 2002, he made a permanent homecoming to the club for another two years, freshly minted as a World Cup winner with the Selecao - and he worked his magic to help the club win what remains their only major honour, the 2003–04 Football League Cup, under captain Gareth Southgate.

  • Cesc Fabregas Barcelona Real Madrid La Liga 10262013

    Cesc Fabregas (Arsenal → Barcelona)

    One of Lionel Messi's best mates when the pair came through together at La Masia, Cesc was prised away from Barcelona by Arsene Wenger's promise of first-team football.

    It was a move that ultimately paid off for club and player, but when Barca came knocking in 2011 - three years after Gerard Pique had made a similar switch from England back to Spain - Fabregas could not resist the romance of a return to play alongside his mate Lionel.

    A three-year stay between 2011 and 2014 yielded half-a-dozen pieces of silverware, including La Liga in 2013.

    Since then, he has played for Chelsea and Monaco - but he'll always be a Culé.

  • Jose Mourinho Chelsea Premier LeagueGetty

    Jose Mourinho (Real Madrid → Chelsea)

    This group is going to need someone to get them into shape, and who better than Jose?

    The Portuguese maestro originally arrived at Stamford Bridge in 2004, fresh from a shock Champions League trophy with Porto, and set about transforming both the Blues and the Premier League, clocking up six domestic honours in all before he suddenly departed in September 2007.

    But his love for Chelsea never died, and after his incendiary spell at Real Madrid ended he was soon back at the Bridge, winning the domestic double in 2014-15 before leaving again after a row the following season.