12 popular English football returns including ex-Burnley ace which shows how Gareth Bale back to Spurs could go one of two ways

How English football stars have fared on returning to former clubs

By Joel Sked
Wednesday, 16th September 2020, 4:58 pm
Updated Wednesday, 16th September 2020, 4:59 pm
Gareth Bale may be making an appearance at Turf Moor next season. Picture: Getty
Gareth Bale may be making an appearance at Turf Moor next season. Picture: Getty

Tottenham Hotspur are keen on bringing Gareth Bale back to the Premier League in a huge move, seven season after he departed for Real Madrid. He netted more than 100 goals for the Spanish giants in 251 matches, winning a raft of trophies including two La Ligas and four Champions League titles.

The old adage is that you never go back, that it wouldn’t be the same. In recent English football history that has been the case in some circumstances but there have been incidents of success, even if it is short-lived.

We have taken a look at some of the hits and misses of players returning to a former club. Click and scroll to find out how certain stars got on.

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A transformative signing for Chelsea in 2004, he hit double figures for the club in eight successive seasons. His return for a season in 2014/15 did bring with it too many goals but he did a Premier League and League Cup.
More than 170 goals in 330 games saw Liverpool fans call him ‘God’. There are few better nicknames for a footballer. Spells at Leeds United and Manchester City followed but he never recaptured the goalscoring form of the mid-90s, even when he did return to Anfield.
Third tier, second tier or first tier, Glenn Murray has scored goals for the Seagulls across two spells with more than 110 strikes to his name, including two double figure seasons in the Premier League. In between his spells he also played for rivals Crystal Palace.
When the Frenchman left Old Trafford in 2012, it was believed the club were losing a gem and so it proved with Pogba emerging as a totemic figure for Juventus across four Serie A winning campaigns. Manchester United were forced to hand over a near £90m for him to come back.
Batty was part of two excellent Leeds sides. He was a member of the 1992 league title winning side before moving to Blackburn Rovers where he won the Premier League. He would return to Leeds to finish his career, playing a key role in the club’s Champions League run.
The striker is currently in his third spell at Bramall Lane. The current stint is by far his most successful in terms of run of games and goals. Over the years he has proven to be a fine Championship striker.
Moving to Pompey in 2006 and helping the club stay in the Premier League, Benjani became a hugely popular figure. However, the success of his first spell could not be replicated when he returned in 2011.
Palmer was a stalwart for the Owls in the 90s, playing nearly 250 games. He won all 18 of his England caps during his time at Hillsborough. He returned for a loan spell at the end of his career.
Thirty three goals in 91 appearances for his boyhood club prompted Liverpool to spend £35m on the target man. However, injuries have hampered his career, from Newcastle to Liverpool to West Ham and back to St James’s Park where he hasn’t yet opened his account since returning.
A bona fide club legend. He wowed crowds in the 90s after a surprise arrival from Sao Paulo. He showed how much he cared when he shed tears on the club’s relegation. He returned to the club a World Cup winner and helped Boro to League Cup success.
One of the most memorable moments in the Emirates Stadium's short history is Thierry Henry’s goal against Leeds United in the FA Cup on his return to the club on loan from New York Red Bulls. It proved to be the winner and was one of two he netted in a four-month stint. His first period as an Arsenal period saw him become a Gunners great.
Coming back to England from Marseille, Burnley proved an ideal fit as he became an integral part of the side which won the English Championship under Sean Dyche. He decamped to Rangers for a short spell before returning but it was short-lived after getting banned for betting offences.