Football transfers can often be dirty affairs. Clubs want to keep hold of their star players but often those players want to move on or play at a higher level. Throw in rumors, difficult sports agents and tricky contracts and it can be a recipe for disaster. Fans can be forgiving if a player wants to move on from their club but there is no bigger football crime than leaving for a rival team.
Some of the transfers on the list below would have affected the English premier league predictions at the time. As a result, the players were never forgiven for their betrayal. On the other hand, some of the departures to local rivals were surprisingly amicable. We’ve chosen our top 7 Premier League players who have been transferred between city rivals.
Kevin Phillips: Aston Villa to West Brom to Birmingham City
Kevin Phillips didn’t just move from one team in Birmingham to another, he actually did it twice. That means he has played for three of the big teams in Birmingham. He joined Aston Villa in 2005 from Southampton and only stayed at Villa Park for one season before moving to rivals West Brom. At the time were plying their trade in the Championship.
In his first season with West Brom the club narrowly missed out on a place back in the Premier League, losing 1-0 to Derby County in the play-off final. He was injured early on in the 2007/08 season however he made his return a month and a half later to help West Brom win the Championship. The upshot was a place back in the Premier League.
With his contract expiring at the end of the Championship-winning season, he moved to newly relegated Birmingham City and once again played in the Championship. He helped Birmingham win an instant return to the Premier League. By 2011, Birmingham were relegated again and Phillips was let go from the club. He went on to play for Blackpool, Crystal Palace, and Leicester City before retiring in 2014.
Nick Barmby: Everton to Liverpool
Nick Barmby originally joined Everton from Middlesbrough back in 1996. His first season at Goodison Park saw Everton involved in a relegation battle where the club finished in 15th, 2 points above the relegation zone.
The following season Everton once again found themselves struggling for survival in the Premier League. This time they finished in 17th place and survived on goal difference. His final two seasons with the club saw them finish more comfortably and it was in the summer of 2000 that both Manchester United and Everton’s arch-rival Liverpool were interested in signing the midfielder.
Opting to move to Liverpool, he was the first player since 1959 to directly move from Everton to Liverpool. It proved to be a good move for Barmby, who went on to win five trophies at Anfield. However, he only spent two seasons at Liverpool before leaving for Leeds United.
Carlos Tevez: Manchester United to Manchester City
Carlos Tevez moved to Manchester United from his third party owners, MSI on a two-year loan deal back in 2007. During his two-year loan spell, he helped United win two Premier League titles and a Champions League title. A key member of the squad, Sir Alex Ferguson, the then manager suggested that the club should sign Tevez on a permanent deal.
The deal to Old Trafford never materialised and Tevez stated that he would never join their North-West rivals Liverpool. However, in July 2009 Tevez joined Manchester United’s cross-town rivals Manchester City instead. The deal was said to be around £47 million, although this figure has been denied by all parties. In his four seasons at Manchester City, he won one Premier League and on FA Cup before leaving for Italian giants Juventus in the summer of 2013.
Jermain Defoe: West Ham to Tottenham
The current Rangers striker joined West Ham back in 1999. He endeared himself to Hammers’ fans over his four and a half years but it all turned sour at the end of the 2002/03 season.
That season West Ham were relegated from the Premier League. On the advice of his representation at the time, he handed in a formal written transfer request. Handing in a transfer request doesn’t always result in hatred and bitterness towards the player. But when that request is made the day after the club is relegated, it hurts the fans.
The timing of the request was criticised heavily by everyone including his own teammate, goalkeeper David James. West Ham rejected the request. Defoe started the season playing for West Ham, but in February 2004, the club accepted an offer of around £7million for Defoe from Tottenham. He has since admitted that he regrets the manner in which he left West Ham and still loves the club, even if the fans feel the opposite.
Petr Cech: Chelsea to Arsenal
During his 11 year career at Chelsea, he practically won it all with multiple Premier League and FA Cups titles, a Champions League and Europa League cup win. However, in the summer of 2015, Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich allowed his transfer to city rivals Arsenal to go ahead.
Many jokes were made about his move to Arsenal, with Chelsea fans suggesting that he would never win a league title ever again. And they were right. After four seasons with Arsenal he only won an FA Cup and retired in 2019.
Out of all of the transfers on this list, this one is arguably the friendliest. So much so that once he retired from playing football, he went back to Chelsea and was appointed to the club's coaching and backroom staff.
Ashley Cole: Arsenal to Chelsea
In stark contrast to Cech’s move, Ashley Cole’s transfer from Arsenal to Chelsea back in 2006 was full of bitterness and ill-feeling. During his Arsenal career, he won two Premier Leagues and three FA Cups. His final trophy was won in the 2004/05 season after a penalty shoot-out win against Manchester United in the FA Cup final.
In January 2005, months before the FA Cup final win, Cole had a meeting with then Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho, Chelsea’s chief executive Peter Kenyon and two football agents, Pini Zahavi and Jonathan Barnett. The meeting took place in a London restaurant and this led to all of them being found guilty for breaching Premier League rules following the league’s tapping-up probe.
Cole’s reason for wanting to leave Arsenal was that he felt the club didn’t offer him enough of a pay rise. Meanwhile, Chelsea was reportedly prepared to offer him more than he had asked for. As part of the transfer, William Gallas, Chelsea’s French international defender moved in the opposite direction. Ashley Cole has never been forgiven over the whole debacle and given how it all played out, that’s hardly surprising.
Sol Campbell: Tottenham to Arsenal
Sol Campbell caused an uproar when he moved from Tottenham to Arsenal on a free transfer. He was forever known by Spurs’ fans as “Judas”. In 2001 Sol Campbell’s contract with Tottenham expired. Despite a number of interested clubs, he reiterated in the press that he would be staying at White Hart Lane.
It was an Arsenal press conference at the training ground that made this transfer so infamous. The press conference was expected to be for the unveiling of goalkeeper Richard Wright from Ipswich Town. Instead, it was a press conference to unveil Sol Campbell, who had previously stated he would never join Arsenal. From that moment onwards his reputation amongst Spurs’ fans was tarnished.