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'Loyalty is a thing of the past': Footballers who've crossed the great derby divide

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Roar Guru
2nd August, 2021

One of football’s greatest unwritten rules is never to sign for a direct rival of a club.

In 1964 Phil Chisnall made history when he crossed over from Liverpool to bitter rivals Manchester United. Since then the likes of Paul Ince, Peter Beardley and Michael Owen have all followed suit.

The Old Firm derby between Scottish giants Rangers and Celtic is one of football’s most passionate and it’s deemed almost sacrilegious to play for the other side. Alfie Conn, Mo Johnstone and Kenny Miller are just a few of the brave souls to have crossed that bridge.

Barcelona and Real Madrid are two of the biggest clubs in the world and have a loyal fan-base to suit. A pig’s head narrowly missed Luis Figo in a match when he made the move between the two enemies. Others like Luis Enrique, Bernd Schuster and Michael Laudrup fared better.

In Italy, the hollowed turf of the San Siro that cross-city rivals AC Milan and Internationale share has seen 27 players make that infamous switch. Football royalty in Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Clarence Seedorf, Ronaldo, Christian Vieri and Roberto Baggio are all on that list.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic of AC Milan

(Photo by Francesco Pecoraro/Getty Images)

The above-mentioned teams have long storied rivalries that have gone on in some case for over a hundred years and have been passed down from generation to generation.

It’s difficult to have any rivalry like this in a relatively new league like the A-League. Rivalries in Australian sports tend to be based on neighbouring states.

The rivalry between South Australia and Victoria has raged on for over 120 years and transfers between sporting teams normally will not happen.


Adelaide United fans this past week have been quick to voice their displeasure at the club signing Victorian-born and former player of arch rival Melbourne Victory, Nick Ansell.

Ansell is a talented centre back and said all the right things at his initial press conference.

However the move has left a very sour taste in many fans’ mouths – especially as he is replacing a local South Australian mainstay Jordan Elsey.

To get supporters onside Ansell will need to work twice as hard, because if things start going wrong in defence he will be the first name parochial Adelaide supporters will boo or whistle.

If Ansell needs any insight in how to win over a fan-base being a Victorian, all he has to do is talk to current goalkeeping coach Eugene Galekovic.


Galekovic also transferred across from Melbourne Victory and local fans at the time were not happy.

Through sheer hard work and determination, Galekovic went on to have a legendary career with Adelaide United that puts him in the conversation of greatest ever goalkeeper in the A-League.

All throughout the A-League players have moved between rival states.

Antony Golec and Liam Reddy have been involved in several rivalries due to playing for more than half the clubs in the league.

Liam Reddy

(Photo by Etsuo Hara/Getty Images)

Kosta Barbarouses made the move between interstate rivals Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory while there has been fierce social media uproar aimed at Joshua Brillante, who had previously represented Sydney FC, Melbourne City and transferred recently to Melbourne Victory.

Loyalty is a thing of the past in football – even more so in the A-League, where players will routinely leave each season searching for the highest salary.

For the players that make the risky move to a direct rival, they need to make sure they do everything possible to buy into not only that club’s culture, but the new state or city they reside in.


Passionate rivalries between the states or cities are one of the best things about football anywhere in the world.

Much like our counterparts in Europe and South America, fans adore a player who was born in the same city as them or an adopted one that is willing to work hard for the badge.

For any player in NSW interested in a move to Queensland or any Victorian wanting to play in SA, or vice versa, a move to a bitter rival can be successful albeit fraught with danger. The divide is sometimes too great to conquer.