This Valentine’s Day, take a look at LaLiga footballers who rekindled romances with their first loves

There is no connection like that of a first love, and several footballers have understood this over the years by returning to their first Spanish clubs for a second time

New Delhi, Feb 14 (IANS) There is no connection like that of a first love, and several footballers have understood this over the years by returning to their first Spanish clubs for a second time. This Valentine’s Day, take a look at some of the best player-club relationships that have existed in recent years.

Antoine Griezmann

Between 2014 and 2019, Antoine Griezmann gradually became the leader of Atletico de Madrid’s attack. So impressive was Griezmann for club and country, winning the 2018 World Cup with France, that FC Barcelona decided to sign him in 2019 after almost securing his services in 2018. Despite scoring 35 goals in two seasons in Catalonia, he never seemed to fully fit in and a move back to Atleti materialised at the end of the 2021 summer transfer window. “Knowing that Atleti wanted me back, I wanted to return no matter what and this is the best place for me to be happy on and off the pitch,” Griezmann said before his re-debut with Los Rojiblancos, where has become the club’s all-time top scorer.

Gerard Pique

Gerard Pique was just 10 years old when he joined FC Barcelona’s academy. After climbing through the various youth categories at La Masia, his first professional contract then came with Manchester United in England. Piqué later debuted in LALIGA EA SPORTS during a loan spell at Real Zaragoza, where he played 28 times and scored three goals. After making several appearances for Manchester United following that loan experience, Piqué then signed with FC Barcelona again ahead of the 2008/09 season, ready to fulfil his dream and play for the first team. After 14 and a half seasons defending the colours of his beloved team in LALIGA EA SPORTS, winning eight league championships, Gerard Pique announced in December 2022 that he was hanging up his boots.

Dani Carvajal

The case of Dani Carvajal is very similar to that of Piqué, but this time with Real Madrid. The Spaniard progressed through the Real Madrid academy after joining as a young boy and then made the move to Germany with Bayer Leverkusen. There, he proved that he had what it takes to be a top-level right-back and he was brought back to Real Madrid ahead of the 2013/14 campaign. Since then, he has become one of the club’s most valuable assets and has won three LALIGA EA SPORTS championships during his 10 seasons with Los Blancos. He has become vice-captain and his aim is to keep representing his boyhood club for several years to come.

Diego Simeone

Diego Simeone has spent most of his sporting life with Atletico de Madrid. After arriving ahead of the 1994/95 campaign, the Argentine midfielder was then a key member of the historic side that won the double the following season. A spell in Italy followed, before Simeone returned to Atlético de Madrid in 2003 to spend two more years wearing the red and white stripes. In 2011, he came back again, this time as a coach, to lead Los Rojiblancos to a golden age. El Cholo is a living legend at Atlético de Madrid and has lifted three Spanish championships there, two as a coach and one as a player.

Gerard Moreno

Gerard Moreno signed with Villarreal CF’s academy when he was playing at the Juvenil level and earned his senior debut at the club when they were competing in Spain’s second division. Promotion was secured that season and his LALIGA EA SPORTS debut followed, before the forward moved to RCD Espanyol and scored more and more goals. Having kept an eye on their academy product, Villarreal CF decided to sign Gerard Moreno back and he couldn’t say no to a team he loves so much. In 2020/21, he netted 23 league goals and was the top-scoring Spaniard in the entire division, while he has more than 100 LALIGA EA SPORTS goals from his spells at both clubs.

Ivan Rakitic

Ivan Rakitic is a LALIGA EA SPORTS legend, having won this competition four times while wearing the shirt of FC Barcelona. However, the club he most treasures is Sevilla FC, where he played his first minutes in Spanish football and where he became club captain. Following a successful stint with Barça, Rakitić decided to return to his first Spanish home to pull the strings of Sevilla FC’s midfield once again, and won the Europa League in 2022/23 before leaving the club in the recent winter transfer window.

Fernando Torres

Atletico Madrid have more than a century of history, but have few legends quite like Fernando Torres. El Niño, or The Kid in English, came out of the academy to debut with the team at just 17 years of age, doing so when Atleti were struggling in Spain’s second division. Torres helped return them to their place in the top flight and then, after seven seasons, he departed to embark on a successful career with various foreign clubs. After winning almost every title there is to win in football, Torres returned to Atlético de Madrid in 2014/15 to reconnect with his first fanbase, the fanbase he himself was a part of. The striker enjoyed four more campaigns with the club, adding to his goals and appearances tallies to finish his career with 103 strikes across 281 matches in LALIGA EA SPORTS.

Iago Aspas

Iago Aspas is a key part of RC Celta’s history and vice versa. The forward who joined RC Celta’s academy aged nine was able to become an immediate hero when he eventually debuted for the senior side. After eight seasons with the Celeste, Aspas went off to try his luck elsewhere, but he was never as happy as when he was wearing his favourite club’s sky blue shirt. As such, he returned home in 2015 and is now the club’s top scorer with 198 total goals in 480 official matches.

Joaquin Sanchez

To speak about Joaquín is to speak about one of the icons of Spanish football and of Real Betis. He is Real Betis’ record appearance holder and the joint-top appearance holder in LALIGA EA SPORTS history, having matched Andoni Zubizarreta’s tally of 622 in his final game, before retiring at the end of last season. He had two spells at Real Betis and, during the first, he exploded onto the scene after coming through the club’s academy. Following time with teams such as Valencia CF and Málaga CF, the winger returned to Real Betis in 2015 to make Spanish football fans smile once more and to win another Copa del Rey in 2022/23.

Jesus Navas

On the other side of Seville, Jesús Navas is still playing football and still playing for Sevilla FC. The winger and full-back reached the first team after progressing through Sevilla FC’s academy and played 10 seasons at the top level of Spanish football. An adventure in England followed, before Navas decided to come home and he is now the captain of the current Sevilla FC side. With the Andalusian club, he has played 675 official matches and netted 38 goals.

Ruben Baraja

When Ruben Baraja was signed to be the coach of Valencia CF midway through the 2022/23 season, Los Che were bringing back a club legend. During his playing career, the midfielder spent 10 glorious years at Mestalla, winning five trophies, including two LALIGA EA SPORTS titles. He was an idol for the Valencia CF fanbase and is adding to his legacy by leading the team back towards the top half of the table from the dugout.

–IANS/cs/bc

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