You should never go back they say but Wayne Rooney has ignored that rule with a return to his boyhood club, Everton.
The Merseyside born, record England goalscorer burst onto the scene at youth level at the Toffees, scoring eight goals in eight games in their run to the 2002 FA Youth Cup Final.
Already, everyone was tipping Rooney to the top, especially when his wonder goal in October 2002 ended reigning Champions Arsenal’s 30-match unbeaten run having broken into David Moyes’ first-team in the 2002/03 season.
The current England captain would spend two seasons at senior level with Everton, scoring 17 goals in 77 games and being named BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year in 2002 Golden Boy in 2004.
His standout performances in UEFA Euro 2004 which saw him named in the Team of the Tournament were enough to convince Sir Alex Ferguson to part with £25.6m for Rooney – the highest fee paid for a teenager at that time.
Rooney more than paid off the fee, winning five league titles as well as the UEFA Champions League in 2008 and last season broke Sir Bobby Charlton’s Manchester United all-time scoring record – months after breaking Charlton’s England record.
His powers may have wained in recent seasons, with his league goals decreasing every season since 2013 and off-field contract disputes disrupting seasons and his standing with some fans, however, undoubtedly Rooney will go down as a Manchester United legend.
His return to Everton holds a lot of sentimental value, there was resentment between the two parties for several years after his 2004 summer move to Old Trafford but the relationship seems to have been mended in recent seasons and seeing the boy that once proclaimed “Once a Blue, always a blue” will be a sight some Toffees fans would never think they’d see again.
If the local boy done good can lift Everton into the top four this season, it will certainly be worth it.
However, Rooney isn’t alone in returning to his former club after good and awful spells away, these ten players all returned to their former loves, each with differing fortunes.
Having come up through the Arsenal academy at the same time as centre-back partner Tony Adams, Keown wasn’t deemed good enough by Gunners boss George Graham at the time and was sold to Aston Villa in 1986. After spells at Villa Park and later Everton, Graham and Arsenal re-signed Keown for £2m in 1993 and the defender would go onto win three league titles (two doubles) and the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup before being released in 2004. Image Source: Twitter
Another Merseyside native, Fowler began his career at Liverpool and burst onto the scene with similar success to Rooney - if not greater. The spiritual successor to Ian Rush, Fowler was referred to as ‘God’ by the Anfield faithful and scored a staggering 171 goals in his first spell at the club. The establishment of Michael Owen and Emile Heskey during 2001 saw Fowler fall down the pecking order and was later to sold to Leeds United for £11m. Rafa Benitez would bring back Fowler in 2006 to a rapturous reception from the Reds fans. In his 18 months back at Anfield he scored 12 more goals for the club which took him to sixth on the all-time Liverpool goalscorer list. Image Source: Twitter
Labelled as one of the best young players in Europe during his first spell at Old Trafford, pundits were astounded when the French midfielder was allowed to leave for Juventus for a nominal fee after limited game time under Sir Alex Ferguson. It proved to be one of Fergie’s biggest mistakes, Pogba set Serie A alight during his time with the Old Lady, winning four consecutive league titles and helping Juve to the UEFA Champions League final in 2015. In summer 2016, United paid a world record £89.3m to get Pogba back where he’s had a mixed success so far. Often criticised, the midfielder was a part of the League Cup and UEFA Europa League successes in his first season back in England, being named in the UEFA Europa League Squad of the Season. Image Source: Twitter
At Atletico Madrid since 1995, Fernando Torres was the beloved star of Atleti’s fledgling team during the early 2000s, even being handed the captaincy at aged 19. After holding out from bids from Premier League clubs as long as possible, Torres finally moved to Liverpool in 2007 for around £20m. At Anfield he netted 81 goals in 142 games before a shocking £50m move to Chelsea in January 2011. His time at Stamford Bridge was a near disaster as Torres struggled with fitness and form, although he did enjoy a decent record in Europe, scoring nine goals in 16 games as Chelsea won the UEFA Europa League in 2013. After a tough loan spell at AC Milan, Torres returned home in 2015 to a hero’s welcome, drawing a crowd of around 45,000 at the Vicente Calderon. At Atleti he has struck up a partnership with Antoine Griezmann as the club have got to the UEFA Champions League final in 2016 and the semi-finals last season. Image Source: Twitter
When he joined from Juventus as a left winger in 1999, nobody could quite foresee the striker he would later become. After a slow start, Henry would go on to become Arsenal’s record goalscorer and one of the best players in world football before moving to FC Barcelona in 2007. Winning the treble in 2009 under Pep Guardiola, Henry moved to New York Red Bulls the following year and talks of a temporary return ‘home’ to Arsenal were always on the cards. In 2012, the dream return finally happened and the Frenchman showed that none of the magic had been lost as he scored minutes into his return against Leeds in the FA Cup. He also scored the winning goal against Sunderland before returning to New York. Image Source: Twitter
After eight years at Stamford Bridge, Drogba left a Chelsea legend when he scored the winning penalty in the UEFA Champions League Final in 2012 in Munich - his last kick for the club. However, two years later, he was back, re-signed again by Jose Mourinho after his spells in China and Turkey. Drogba’s last season at Chelsea would end in silverware again, as his last season ended the same way as his first, Chelsea winning the League and League Cup double. The Ivorian forward was given a heroes reception on his final Stamford Bridge appearance, carried off the pitch by his teammates to a standing ovation. Image Source: Twitter
With English clubs expelled from European competitions during the late 1980s, a lot of the British Isles’ best talents looked abroad for their football, including Hughes in 1986. Moving alongside Everton’s Gary Lineker, Hughes struggled at the Nou Camp whilst Lineker flourished, as the Welshman could only score five goals in his one season in Catalunya as he was loaned to Bayern Munich, where he would only score seven goals in Germany. Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson re-signed Hughes for a club record £1.8m in 1989. Hughes would win PFA Player of the Year in 1989 and 1991, would score the winning goals against Barcelona in the 1991 UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup Final and be a part of United’s first league title successes under Fergie. Image Source: Twitter
Like Welsh teammate Hughes, Liverpool’s Ian Rush was another player that left England to play European football. At Anfield, Hughes was an unstoppable force in the Reds’ team of the 1980s, one season scoring 47 goals in 65 games. At Juventus, however, he suffered a similar fate to Hughes. Struggling to acclimatise, Rush scored just 14 in 39 games and returned to Liverpool after one season on a loan deal made permanent. Back in England, Rush would overtake Roger Hunt as Liverpool’s all-time record goalscorer with 346 goals - a tally that may never be matched. Image Source: Twitter
Having joined Feyenoord in 2003, Kuyt would go onto strike up a great partnership with future Chelsea forward Salomon Kalou as Kuyt bagged 71 goals in 101 league games. The Feyenoord skipper was sold to Liverpool for £10m in 2006, reaching the UEFA Champions League final in his first season at Anfield and later winning the League Cup before joining Fenerbahce. In 2015, Kuyt returned to his former love to finish his career, ending his career on the biggest high, scoring a hat-trick on the final day of the Eredivisie season to clinch the Rotterdam club’s first league title since 1999. Image Source: Twitter
A mercurial talent, Beardsley had started his youth career at Newcastle United before eventually signing for the senior team in 1983, having been released as a schoolboy. Beardsley was an instant favourite back on Tyneside, helping the Geordies to promotion to Division One in 1984 and scoring many spectacular goals. In 1987, he left Newcastle for Merseyside, enjoying decent spells at both Liverpool and Everton where he won two league titles at Anfield. In 1993, former teammate Kevin Keegan (now Newcastle manager) re-signed Beardsley, who would go on to strike up a brilliant partnership with Andy Cole, scoring 21 goals in his first Premier League season with the Magpies. Despite the signings of Les Ferdinand, David Ginola and Faustino Asprilla, Beardsley remained a key part of Keegan’s Entertainers who so nearly won the league title in 1996. Image Source: Twitter
It would surprise everyone should league titles be heading to Goodison Park but with less pressure for results at Everton, maybe Rooney could re-ignite his career and become a standout player in the Premier League again.
Rooney’s return is an emotional one, returning back to his spiritual home. But no one would begrudge the 31-year-old a fond farewell at the top level.