Football Features

Managers who loved players enough to sign them multiple times

By J Smith

Published: 16:35, 13 April 2023

It’s not uncommon for managers to have their favourites at a football club. Players they can rely on whatever the occasion.

We won’t stretch so far as dubbing them teacher’s pets, as that can sometimes have a negative connotation, they’re more trusted generals.

And some managers fall in love with those players so much that they don’t limit the partnership to just one club. When the manager moves on, they call their favourite player to join them – like Maurizio Sarri and Jorginho at Chelsea a few years ago.

But some go deeper than that. There are some managers that sign a certain player more than once, be it for different clubs or the same after some time away. It’s football meets consumer confidence.

Just like when you and I go out in search of a new pair of jeans or the latest games console and stick to the same brands, managers often buy players they’ve worked with before in hope of getting similar results.

To prove it, here’s a list of 12 times a manager signed a player on multiple occasions.

1. Nemanja Matic and Jose Mourinho

Clubs signed for: Chelsea, Manchester United, Roma
Appearances: 197

Chelsea as a club signed Nemanja Matic twice, first in 2009 before selling him to Benfica in the deal which brought David Luiz to Stamford Bridge and then re-signing him in 2014. Jose Mourinho was in charge of Chelsea at the time of Matic’s second arrival and the Serbian quickly played his way into his manager’s heart.

Matic was a key member of the Chelsea side that won the Premier League under Mourinho in 2014/15, the holding midfielder that allowed Cesc Fabregas to flex his creative muscles knowing the defence was protected. Mourinho would leave Chelsea in 2015 and eventually rocked up at Manchester United, later to be joined by Matic (fresh off the back of another Premier League title win).

The Serbian’s arrival was meant to strengthen the Man Utd midfield under Mourinho and it did, but the Portuguese manager would be sacked just over a year later ending their association. a second reunion transpired last summer after Matic joined Mourinho’s Roma, making 38 appearances so far.

2. Niko Kranjcar and Harry Redknapp

Clubs signed for: Portsmouth, Tottenham Hotspur, Queens Park Rangers
Appearances: 190

Harry Redknapp was arguably the most famous manager for signing his tried-and-tested generals. After all, he signed his own son at Southampton and took Peter Crouch and Jermain Defoe with him almost everywhere he went.

But arguably the most famous instance of Redknapp re-signing a player was that of Niko Kranjcar, whom he brought with him to Portsmouth, Tottenham and QPR. It was almost as if signing Kranjcar was top of Redknapp’s to-do list as soon as he got his new office chair warm.

3. Salomon Rondon and Rafael Benitez

Clubs signed for: Newcastle United, Dalian Professional, Everton
Appearances: 76

Especially since his Liverpool days, much of Rafa Benitez’s success has come thanks to a pragmatic approach, soaking up pressure and being clinical when chances come along. Key to that style at Newcastle United was Salomon Rondon, who scored 11 goals in 32 Premier League games while on loan from West Brom. More than that, Rondon’s ability to hold the ball up, win aerial duels and put in the hard yards defensively made him a vital pressure-relief valve for the Magpies.

So impressive was Rondon that Benitez took him to China with Dalian Professional in 2019 and after 14 goals in 28 appearances, they reunited once again at Everton.

4. Marouane Fellaini and David Moyes

Clubs signed for: Everton, Manchester United
Appearances: 193

Now, if you thought Redknapp was a sucker for a familiar face, wait until you hear about David Moyes. The Scotsman broke Everton’s transfer record with the £15m signing of Marouane Fellaini in 2008 and after five strong years together, Moyes then took the Belgian with him for his ill-fated spell with Man Utd, though Fellaini himself still went on to be a decent servant for the Red Devils. In fact, Moyes loved Fellaini so much that he even signed his clone at West Ham, Tomas Soucek.

“David found in Soucek his new Fellaini. They fought very hard to be lucky, so I praise them,” Jose Mourinho said a few years ago as Moyes’ West Ham drew 3-3 with his Spurs side.

But Moyes’ love for his old favourites doesn’t stop there. While at Sunderland, he signed the likes of Steven Pienaar, Darron Gibson, Bryan Oviedo and Victor Anichebe with him, while former United States international Brian McBride enjoyed loan spells under his management at Preston North End and Everton.

5. James Rodriguez and Carlo Ancelotti

Clubs signed for: Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Everton
Appearances: 77

Carlo Ancelotti loves James Rodriguez but will probably wish he got more out of the Colombian. The Italian has signed Rodriguez for three different clubs, but has only managed him 77 times.

When Rodriguez made his move to Real Madrid following the 2014 World Cup, it was hoped he would help build a dynasty at a Los Blancos side fresh from winning La Decima. He would play 46 games in total in his first season but that would be it under Ancelotti at Real Madrid, with the Italian leaving in the summer of 2015.

Ancelotti re-signed Rodriguez on loan at Bayern Munich in 2017 but lasted just a few weeks before being sacked. They reunited again at Everton in 2020/21, and Rodriguez is looking for a new club if you’re reading this Carlo.

6. Ricardo Carvalho and Jose Mourinho

Clubs signed for: Chelsea, Real Madrid
Appearances: 292

Ricardo Carvalho was one of the key pillars of the Jose Mourinho Porto side that won the Uefa Cup and Champions League in back-to-back seasons in the early noughties. So, why wouldn’t he be one of the first through the door when Mourinho made the jump to Chelsea?

And after helping his compatriot win back-to-back Premier Leagues (conceding just 15 goals and losing once in his first season) and a League Cup in his first two seasons at Chelsea, why wouldn’t Carvalho once again be top of Mourinho’s wish list at Real Madrid? Things didn’t quite go as well at the Bernabeu, but Carvalho and Mourinho still did team up to win the Copa del Rey, finish second in La Liga and reach the Champions League semi-finals in 2010/11.

7. Paddy Kenny and Neil Warnock

Clubs signed for: Bury, Sheffield United, Queens Park Rangers, Leeds United, Rotherham United
Appearances: 336

Even more than Kranjcar and Redknapp, Paddy Kenny and Neil Warnock was the ultimate player-manager partnership.

Warnock signed the Republic of Ireland international goalkeeper for no fewer than five clubs, with Kenny going on to make 336 appearances under his management, at least 219 more than any other manager.

“He’s genuine, his man-management is unbelievable,” Kenny told Sky Sports of Warnock in October 2020. “I have so much respect for him. I remember asking him when I was at Leeds why he kept signing me. He said, ‘I know what I’m going to get from you. I know there’ll be a bit of trouble off the pitch but you’ll always produce on it’.”

8. Kolo Toure and Brendan Rodgers

Clubs signed for: Liverpool, Celtic
Appearances: 64

You’ve all seen the Kolo/Yaya song, right? Well, with a chant that good, why not take the player responsible with you everywhere you go?

That’s dramatising a little, but Kolo Toure offered up his defensive nous and experience for Brendan Rodgers at both Liverpool and Celtic, and he was also part of his coaching staff at Leicester City.

9. Mohamed Zidan and Jurgen Klopp

Clubs signed for: Mainz, Borussia Dortmund
Appearances: 118

With a surname like Zidan, you’d better be good. Even if it is missing an ‘e’ on the end.

Well, Mohamed Zidan was once the face of Egyptian football and was so good that Jurgen Klopp signed him for both Mainz and Borussia Dortmund. In fact, Klopp even supposedly declared him “100 times” better than Mohamed Salah.

So, why did he only manage 38 goals in 118 appearances under the German? Well, as Zidan tells it, Klopp repeatedly had to pull the striker up on his lack of professionalism.

“Klopp told me that I was better than Salah 100 hundred times but I needed to be more professional,” he said. “Klopp said to me that I have a great talent and skills but I need to concentrate more. If I did this I could be one of the best players in the world.”

Zidan actually agreed with Klopp, adding: “I had to be more dedicated to training and be more professional to reach Salah’s level in the past. Salah is more professional than me and more dedicated to football like Ronaldo and Messi.”

Oh, what could have been…

10. Thierry Henry and Arsene Wenger

Clubs signed for: Arsenal (x2)
Appearances: 378

A lesser-known fact is that Arsene Wenger gave Thierry Henry his professional debut for Monaco way back in August 1994. Even then, Wenger believed Henry to be a striker, but deployed him on the left to exploit his pace.

Well, after a failed spell as a wing-back at Juventus, Wenger then brought his young protege to Arsenal and, well, you know the rest…

But that wasn’t the only time Wenger signed Henry for Arsenal. The French duo linked up again in 2012 as Henry was signed on loan from the New York Red Bulls, going on to score winning goals on his debut in the FA Cup for Leeds United and on his final game in the Premier League against Sunderland.

11. Morgan Gibbs-White and Steve Cooper

Clubs signed for: Swansea, Nottingham Forest
Appearances: 36

When you know, you know. Steve Cooper has been playing real-life Football Manager this summer as Nottingham Forest continue to spend money at a blink-of-an-eye pace, but he appeared insistent on getting Morgan Gibbs-White in from the start. Cooper and MGW have built up a strong working relationship ever since they combined to win the 2017 U17 World Cup (with a bit of help from the likes of Phil Foden and Jadon Sancho).

When Cooper took his first steps into club management with Swansea City, he brought Gibbs-White to South Wales in 2020/21 on loan from Wolves, but unfortunately a fractured foot cut short the midfielder’s time at the Liberty Stadium. Still, Cooper knew enough about him to have no doubts about making him the 10th most expensive English players of all-time, signing the 22-year-old for a potential £42.5m last summer for Nottingham Forest.