It feels almost inevitable every time the Champions League Gods reunite stars with their former employers.
Indeed this was the case when the draw for this year’s group stage was made in Istanbul, with Barcelona’s marquee summer signing Robert Lewandowksi primed for a return to his old hunting ground at Bayern Munich, and Manchester City’s flashiest new toy Erling Haaland set to line up against his ex-teammates at Borussia Dortmund.
It’s safe to say the two strikers, arguably the most in-form players in Europe at the moment, have hit the ground running at their respective new clubs.
On top of their impressive domestic form, with Lewandowski taking to La Liga life like a duck to water and Haaland blowing the Premier League to bits, the former Bundesliga rivals have also both already opened their Champions League accounts for the season.
Barca bagsman Lewandowski fired a blistering hat-trick in a 5-1 win against Czech champions Viktoria Plzen at Camp Nou last week, whilst City sensation Haaland also got off the mark in Europe on Spanish soil with a brace in a 4-0 romp against Sevilla.
In a long line of football heroes to have gone face to face with their former clubs in Europe’s premier competition before them, the Polish and Norwegian hitmen will be hoping to break the hearts of their previously adulating fans and add to their Champions League goals tallies this week.
We’ve taken a look at how other distinguished Champions League goalscorers have famously fared against their former clubs, in anticipation of Lewandowksi and Haaland’s own dates with destiny.
Our traders have priced both players to score against their former clubs this week at 23/10, with both strikers to score first priced at 16.6/1.
Widely considered as one of the greatest footballers of all time, Cristiano Ronaldo’s legend is felt most strongly at perhaps the two most famous clubs in the world – Real Madrid and Manchester United.
It was the meeting of these two super-clubs in the 2012/13 Champions League’s Round of 16 when the then-Real Madrid icon Ronaldo was forced to compete against the side which helped mould him into the worldwide phenomenon he stands as today – Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United.
In the opening leg at the Santiago Bernabeu, Ronaldo was inevitably on the scoresheet in a 1-1 draw. Cancelling out a Danny Welbeck goal for United with a trademark header in the 30th minute, the Madeiran-born forward’s celebrations were muted.
The Portuguese legend received a hero’s welcome upon return to Old Trafford in the second leg, holding his hands up in apology after scoring a decisive second goal as a 2-1 victory saw Los Blancos progress through to the quarter-finals.
Ronaldo’s former teammate at the Spanish champions, this year’s odds-on favourite to win the Ballon d’Or, Karim Benzema, has also faced the awkward task of reuniting with his former club in Europe.
An academy product of Lyon back in his homeland in France, it was Benzema’s form in the Champions League for Les Gones which largely caught the attention of the Spanish giants.
Registering 12 Champions League goals for Lyon by the age of 20, Real Madrid eventually swooped to sign Benzema in the summer of 2009 for a fee of €35 million.
As fate would have it, Benzema’s new club would be paired with Lyon in the Round of 16 in the Champions League the very next season.
In one of the competition’s most memorable upsets, Lyon overcame Real Madrid 2-1 on aggregate on the way to the club’s first appearance in the semi-finals where they were defeated by Bayern Munich. Benzema came off the bench at Groupama Stadium in the first leg, but was absent from the squad as Real Madrid crashed out to a Miralem Pjanic strike in the return fixture.
It was revenge for the Spanish side at the very same stage the following season, however, as Benzema was on target on two occasions as Real Madrid beat Lyon 4-1 on aggregate in the Round of 16 stage of the 2010/11 tournament.
In the third meeting of the two sides in successive years, Benzema’s latest tussle with his hometown club arrived in the 2011/12 group stages. In two comfortable victories for the competition’s most successful club, with Real Madrid triumphing 4-0 at home and 2-0 away, it was in the tie at the Bernabeu where Benzema grabbed one goal.
One of the Premier League’s biggest stars today – Liverpool’s Egyptian King Mohamed Salah – is also no stranger to this scenario. During his blistering debut season at Anfield in 2017/18, in which he scored an incredible 44 goals in all competitions, Salah came up against former team AS Roma in the semi-finals of the Champions League.
Bagging a breathtaking brace at a bouncing Anfield in the first-leg, the first of which an unbelievable solo effort from the edge of the box, Liverpool blew away their Italian opponents in a 5-2 win. After an awkward second leg which Liverpool just sneaked past following a 4-2 defeat with Sadio Mane and Gini Wijnaldum on target, Salah and co eventually succumbed to a 3-1 defeat in a famous final against Real Madrid in Kyiv.
From a current Liverpool star to an Anfield hero of yesteryear, Uruguayan hitman Luis Suarez took part in a classic Champions League tie for Barcelona against his former club back in 2018-19.
Sliding home Barça’s opener in the first leg of the semi-finals before a magisterial brace from teammate Lionel Messi secured an emphatic 3-0 win for the Catalan giants, Suarez drew criticism from Liverpool fans for the manner in which he celebrated his goal on the night and his on-field tussles with Reds left-back Andy Robertson.
Met with boos from a vociferous Anfield crowd during the return leg, Suarez would suffer one of the lows of his glittering football career as his Barcelona side capitulated to blow their three-goal lead and bow out of the Champions League in an ignominious 4-0 defeat.
The Uruguayan would again face Liverpool in the Champions League in the group stages of the 2021/22 season, this time on the books of Atletico Madrid. Despite featuring in both of Atletico’s defeats to the Reds – 3-2 in Madrid and 2-0 in Merseyside – Suarez failed to score.
When it comes to playing against a former club in the Champions League, nobody is as well versed in the matter as Swedish legend Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
The first man to score Champions League goals for six different clubs – Ajax, Juventus, Inter, Barcelona, Milan and PSG – Ibrahimovic is regarded as one of the best ever players to have never won the competition.
Currently enjoying his second stay at Milan, Ibrahimovic has notched against a former club in the Champions League on a total of six occasions. Perhaps most famously, the Swede scored one and set up the other for PSG in a 2-2 draw against Barcelona in the first-leg of the quarter finals back in 2012/13. The Catalans would have the last laugh however, with PSG bowing out on away goals following a 1-1 draw at Camp Nou in the return leg.