Soccer

Footballers really do play better against former clubs proves new study

Footballers really do play better against their former clubs.

Fans fear the worst when a star they once idolised turns up – in an opponents’ strip and now a study of six major European leagues, including the Premier League, has shown concerns are well founded.

In the Premier League, for instance, they had more shots. In Italy’s Serie A, they scored more goals, though the phenomenon is not confined to football. It was also identified in other sports – including basketball and hockey.

Scientists put it down to extra motivation – rather than inside knowledge. It may be useful for coaches, managers, bookmakers – and gamblers. The discovery also has implications for headhunters in business – who may be tempted to target a direct rival.

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Dr Artur Assanskiy, of the Higher School of Economics, Moscow, said: “Employees are motivated to perform better against their former employers.

"Situations in which one’s former and current employers compete are not limited to sports but include bidding for contracts, power struggles between political parties and marketing campaigns."

Manchester United and Chelsea are among a host of clubs to have been haunted by some of their former players.

In 1974, an ageing Denis Law returned to Old Trafford to score one of his most famous goals – for Manchester City. His cheeky backheel confirmed United’s relegation.

Which former player do you hate your team playing against the most? Let us know in the comments section below.

As a Chelsea player, Frank Lampard seemed to relish playing against West Ham, the club where he initially made his name, scoring seven times and winning 14 of his 20 fixtures against his former club.

The prospect of having to appear against Chelsea when he left appeared slim after he signed for New York City, only for a surprise loan move to Manchester City.

With remarkable predictability, Lampard bagged a late equaliser when Chelsea visited the Etihad in 2014 – and looked apologetic for doing so.

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