After weeks of endless chatter and everyone knowing what was coming, Paul Pogba is finally a Manchester United player. Again. The Red Devils shelled out a world record €110 million to get a player they once allowed to walk for nothing -- the most epensive return in the history of sports. While we’re reasonably confident we’ll never see something like that again, Pogba most certainly won’t be the last to go back for a second stint with a big club. Heck, he’s not even the first to do so this summer. (Hi, Mario Goetze). And while this reunion looks like a slam dunk, many before it have produced mixed results. Here’s a look at some of the most noteworthy homecomings in world football - and how they panned out.
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Johan Cruyff, Ajax (1957-73, 1981-83)
Cruyff scored an incredible 190 goals in 240 games and won three successive European Cups with Ajax while becoming Europe’s answer to Pele in the early ‘70s. After stops at Barcelona and the American NASL, where he won two titles, Cruyff returned to his first love and managed two more Dutch titles in his mid-30s. One year after retiring he kicked off his impressive managerial career with Ajax as well.
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Diego Maradona, Boca Juniors (1981-82, 1995-97)
Maradona played just one season for his dream club before Barcelona lured him to Europe for a then world record $7.6 million. He made it count though, scoring 28 goals that year to lead Boca to the league title. It took 13 years before Maradona returned, but by then “El Pibe de Oro” was a shell of his former self as drug abuse had already taken a hefty toll. He also sported the worst hairdo of his career.
Ian Rush, Liverpool (1980-87, 1988-96)
Rush prolonged Liverpool’s golden era with 139 goals in 224 games as he helped the Reds gobble up four league titles and an FA Cup in seven seasons, including one on loan after signing for Juventus in 1986. When he finally suited up in Serie A, Rush struggled immensely, and opted for a hero’s return to Anfield just one year later. Rush spent another eight successful seasons with Liverpool, finishing as the club’s all-time leading scorer.
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Lothar Matthäus, Bayern Munich (1984-88, 1992-99)
Germany’s all-time caps leader won three Bundesliga titles before leaving for Inter, back when Serie A was still the best league in the world. (I know, it’s weird). One Scudetto and UEFA Cup later, Maradona’s “greatest rival” returned to Bayern, and he had plenty left in the tank, winning four more Bundesliga crowns and capping his stay with a German Footballer of the Year award at 38 years old.
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Frank Rijkaard, Ajax (1980-87, 1993-95)
Rijkaard won three league titles and three cups in seven seasons at Ajax, before storming out of training following an argument with coach Cruyff, vowing to never play for him again. After stops in Zaragoza and Milan, where Rijkaard won two Serie A and Champions League titles, the Dutch all-rounder did return to Ajax, then coached by Louis van Gaal. Rijkaard won the Eredivisie twice more and finished his career with another Champions League triumph in his very last match.
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Stefan Effenberg, Mönchengladbach (1986-90, 1994-98) and Bayern Munich (1990-92, 1998-2002)
Effenberg is one of the rare few who’ve had successful reunions with two clubs. Like Lothar Matthaeus before him, “Effe” started his career at Gladbach, then joined rivals Bayern before a move to Serie A. Relegated with Fiorentina in his first season, Effenberg returned a year later to Gladbach, with whom he won his first major title. In 1998, a 30-year-old Effenberg took another run with Bayern, winning three straight Bundesliga titles and captaining them to the 2001 Champions League.
Cesc Fàbregas, Barcelona (1997-2003, 2011-14)
Similarly to Pogba, Fàbregas was just a teenager when he left his youth club for free in search of first-team minutes at a perennial European powerhouse. He got them at Arsenal almost immediately, became a starter by 18, and starred for several years before Barca came calling again. The Catalans paid £35 million to bring him back, but Cesc would only win one La Liga and Copa del Rey before leaving for Chelsea.
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Gerard Pique, Barcelona (1997-2004, 2008-present)
Like Fabregas, Pique left Barcelona’s talent factory La Masia for the Premier League as a teenager. Like Pogba he went to Man United, but only made a handful of appearances for the senior side in three seasons (Pique spent one year on loan) before Barca paid just £5 million to bring him back to Camp Nou. It was a fairly successful move: he’s only won 6 La Ligas, 4 Copa del Reys and 3 Champions Leagues since.
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Kaka, AC Milan (2003-09, 2013-14)
Kaka was an instant hit with the Rossoneri as a 21-year-old, supplanting the great Rui Costa and winning both the Serie A title and player of the year honors in his first season. A Champions League and Ballon d’Or followed before Kaka made a world record move to Real Madrid. He returned to the San Siro four years later but couldn’t inspire a mediocre Milan, so the next summer he opted to become Orlando City’s first signing in MLS.
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Fernando Torres, Atletico Madrid (1995-2007, 2015-present)
Torres began his Atletico career at 11 years old, made his first-team debut at 17, helped the club get promoted to La Liga at 18 and was made captain by 19. A few years later, though, Liverpool snatched Torres up for £27 million, getting much more joy out of him than what Chelsea did for the whopping £50 million price tag that we all loved so much to joke about. After flopping spectacularly at Stamford Bridge, Torres happily returned home in 2015, first on loan before sealing a permanent move.