Even though Italian football is never going to steal the limelight in the transfer season amidst the current financial woes, Serie A clubs are causing quite the fuss with some eyebrow-raising sagas and dramatic twists and turns.
For instance, who would have thought that Romelu Lukaku and Juan Cuadrado – who almost came to blows in a recent Derby d’Italia clash – may end up swapping clubs… at least based on circulating reports.
The Belgian striker and the Colombian winger have been fan favorites at Inter and Juventus respectively, so neither fanbase would have envisioned nor fancied such a scenario.
However, the two won’t be the first nor the last to leave their supporters shell-shocked by choosing to cross enemy lines. In fact, Italian football is filled with stars who took the “professional” choice, even if it meant breaking some hearts.
So let’s take a look at the Top XI Serie A stars who stunned their fanbase by joining a rival club.
PS: Italian football history is filled with star players who represented rival clubs, but we’re only picking those who truly caused a stir by making an unforeseen switch. On the other hand, you won’t see the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Mario Balotelli on the list, as they never quite cemented themselves as flag-bearers before switching allegiance.
Coach: Maurizio Sarri (Napoli to Juventus)
Before we get to the players, we begin with the men on the sidelines. While Maurizio Sarri wasn’t the first manager to “betray” his old fanbase – the likes of Fabio Capello, Marcello Lippi and Antonio Conte come to mind – he gets the nod for the sheer absurdity of his appointment at Juventus.
The Tuscan was celebrated as a hero at Napoli for his entertaining brand of football and brilliant results while his political beliefs only enhanced his reputation at the San Paolo Stadium.
On the other hand, it was painfully obvious that the chain-smoking tactician was a misfit at Continassa. From struggling to comply with the club’s dress code to failing to connect with the fanbase, no wonder the Bianconeri pulled the plug at the end of the first season despite winning the Scudetto title.
Goalkeeper: Angelo Peruzzi (Juventus to Inter)
Apparently, goalkeepers are a loyal bunch, so you won’t find too many viable candidates. However, Angelo Peruzzi fills the requirements thanks to his transfer to Inter following a successful eight-year spell at Juventus.
The 2006 World Cup winner did fairly well with the Nerazzurri, although it was a disappointing campaign for the club overall. Therefore, he joined Lazio a year later, spending seven solid campaigns to end his career in fashion.
Interestingly though, Peruzzi had started his playing days at Roma, so the switch to Lazio only consolidated his spot on the list.
Right-Back: Juan Cuadrado (Juventus to Inter)
This one isn’t official yet, but reports suggest it’s an imminent transfer. Throughout his eight years at Juventus, Cuadrado cemented himself as the ultimate bogeyman for Inter: Scoring crackers, deciding matches, sparking melees, La Vespa repeatedly stole the show in the Derby d’Italia.
So in one of the most bizarre transfers in recent memory, the 35-year-old will now don the black-and-blue shirt, much to the dismay of his former Bianconeri comrades.
Center-Back: Alessandro Nesta (Lazio to Milan)
While this one isn’t included due to the heated rivalry between the two clubs, Alessandro Nesta’s move to Milan still sent shock waves in the Eternal City. At one point, the prospect of seeing the elegant Lazio captain donning another jersey was almost unthinkable.
Yet, the capital side suffered bankruptcy in the early noughties, prompting the defender’s transfer to San Siro where he cemented himself as a Bona Fide Rossoneri legend.
Center-Back: Leonardo Bonucci (Juventus to Milan)
After seven largely successful years in Turin, a rift with head coach Massimiliano Allegri encouraged Leonardo Bonucci to try his luck elsewhere. The hot-headed defender had a point to prove to his manager, his Juventus teammates and possibly to himself.
The defender made the switch to Milan, believing that this would be the move that shifts the power balance in favor of the Diavolo and their mysterious Chinese owners.
But once the dust had settled, it proved to be quite the opposite. Leo became the poster boy who depicted an entire crooked project. After one forgettable campaign, the Italian couldn’t believe his luck when Juventus offered him a second chance.
Bonucci returned to Turin, and reconciled with Allegri, his teammates and the fanbase with all implicitly agreeing to pretend that this Milano misadventure never ensued.
Left-Back: Aleksandar Kolarov (Roma to Lazio)
While transfers between Milan and Inter are quite common, the list of players who switched allegiance within the Italian capital is significantly thinner. Simply put, Roma and Lazio share one of the fiercest rivalries in European football, and the two fanbases are unforgiven when it comes to crosstown transfers.
Yet, Aleksandar Kolarov became one of the few to dare and pull off such a mischievous act. The Serbian made a name for himself during his time with Lazio, earning the love and support of the Biancocelesti fans for his generous displays and famous scorchers.
The left-back’s impressive stint earned him a big-money transfer to Manchester City. But after seven years on English shores, he was itching for a return to the Eternal City, even if it meant burning bridges with his old Lazio faithful.
Kolarov enjoyed an Indian summer at Roma between 2017 and 2020, before ending his career in an underwhelming spell at Inter. But for Lazio supporters, he’ll always have a special place on the blacklist.
Right Central Midfielder: Hakan Calhanoglu (Milan to Inter)
As we mentioned above, crosstown switches in Milano are surprisingly common, with a host of top-notch stars representing both Milanese giants. So although Hakan Calhanoglu wasn’t exactly a pioneer in this regard, his switch from Milan to Inter caused a stir due to the circumstances and demeanor that accompanied it.
The Turkish star saw out his contract with the Rossoneri before signing for the Nerazzurri. But if this wasn’t enough to irk his old supporters, the midfielder immediately pledged his allegiance to his new employers in a rather unapologetic manner, paying no heed at all to the feelings of the Milan faithful.
Since then, Calhanoglu has been the target of insult and mockery from Milan supporters in every Derby della Madonnina, and even Zlatan Ibrahimovic infamously led the Anti-Hakan chorus during the club’s Scudetto celebrations in 2022.
Regista: Andrea Pirlo (Milan to Juventus)
Here’s another midfielder who left Milan as a free agent to sign for an arch-rival. But unlike Calhanoglu, Andrea Pirlo still holds the respect and esteem of most Milan supporters, as it was the management that pushed him towards the exit door, deeming him as an over-the-hill veteran following an injury-riddled campaign.
Yet, the club’s supporters still loathed seeing their beloved Maestro joining Juventus, and to add insult to injury, the Italian star enjoyed an Indian summer in Turin, lasting for four successful years.
In fact, many fans and pundits believe that this was the move that tipped the scale in favor of the Old Lady, as the club ushered in an era of total dominance over Italian football lasting for nine years.
So perhaps he wasn’t THAT finished after all.
Left Central Midfielder: Edgar Davids (Juventus to Inter)
In this spot, it could have been either Edgar Davids or Arturo Vidal. The two bulldozers have almost identical playing styles and underwent similar career trajectories. Both enjoyed their finest days at Juventus, but were already in sharp decline at the time they joined Inter. Ironically, both signed for the Nerazzurri following a spell at Barcelona.
However, we eventually opted for the more iconic footballer. Davids simply embodied the Bianconeri spirit and was always willing to sacrifice himself for the bigger cause. Unfortunately for Inter, they weren’t able to savor none of the Dutchman’s best career displays.
Trequartista: Roberto Baggio (Fiorentina to Juventus)
In the last 15 years, Felipe Melo, Federico Bernardeschi, Federico Chiesa and Dusan Vlahovic all made the controversial switches from Fiorentina to Juventus. Those are all star players who were celebrated by the purple crowds at the Artemio Franchi Stadium.
Nevertheless, none of those transfers is comparable to the “Original Sin”. Of course, we’re talking about the ground-shattering transfer of Roberto Baggio back in 1990.
“The Divine Ponytail” was an absolute icon who was almost worshipped in Florence. But in a nightmarish scenario for the Viola supporters, their adored Number 10 joined their most hated rivals, prompting riots on the streets.
No other transfer on the list can match the astronomic impact this switch had on Calcio.
Striker: Christian Vieri (Inter to Milan)
Christian Vieri wasn’t the first nor the last to switch sides in the fashion capital. But in the striker’s nomadic career, Bobo had finally found himself a home at Inter, spearheading the club’s lineup while consistently finding the back of the net.
Therefore, seeing Bobo donning the black-and-red stripes was a hard pill to swallow for the Nerazzurri fans who had grown incredibly fond of the Italian bomber after a six-year collaboration.
However, the former Italy international failed to replicate the same heroics during his time with the Rossoneri. He only lasted for six months at the club where he only managed to score twice in 14 appearances across all competitions.
The striker tried to resurrect his career with following spells at Monaco, Atalanta and Fiorentina, but the writing was on the wall, so he eventually hanged up his boots in 2009.
Striker: Gonzalo Higuain (Napoli to Juventus)
To say that Neapolitans are an emotional people would be a major understatement. If you earn their affection, they’ll take you over the moon. But if you land on their bad side for one reason or another, brace yourself for a genuine inferno.
If you don’t believe us, then feel free to seek Gonzalo Higuain for confirmation. The Argentine striker had experienced both the overwhelming love of the Napoli supporters as well as their shattering loathing. The striker’s status amongst the Partenopei dramatically shifted following a mega-money transfer to Juventus.
During the 2015/16 season, Napoli cemented themselves as one of the main challengers for Juve’s crown, and were even leading the Scudetto race at one point. For his part, El Pipita valiantly led his club’s charge in a record-breaking campaign that saw him bag 36 goals in 35 Serie A appearances.
So after an unceremonious fallout with club president Aurelio De Laurentiis, Higuain decided to pack up his bags and move to Turin, in what was perceived in Naples as the ultimate betrayal.
In the following years, chaos, goals and some back-and-forth gesturing ensued every time Juventus and Napoli crossed paths on the pitch, with the Argentine hitman at the very center of the action.
|Follow us on Google News for more updates on Serie A and Italian football