Champions League – Top footballers to face their former clubs in 2023

Champions League: Top footballers to face their former clubs in the Group Stage as there are many sensational homecomings in the 2023/24 season when elite European sides clash.

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Top footballers who returned to their former clubs in 2023

The UEFA Champions League is arguably the best club’s competition in Europe, or should we say, in the world.

It is exciting from the start, as the Group Stage is sometimes no less extreme than the latter. And the clashes with former clubs will make the game even more sensational.

We compile a list of top stars who will be on the way to face familiar faces and, probably and hopefully, will be warmly welcomed by their fans.

Joao Mario – Inter Milan vs Benfica (Group D)

Mario became Inter Milan’s fourth most expensive signing in history when Nezzazuri paid €40 million after Euro 2016, more than that club paid for Ronaldo, Lautaro Martínez, or Zlatan Ibrahimović.

The Portugal star struggled in Italy and scored just four goals and 13 assists in 69 games for Inter.

He spent seasons on loan before landing at Sporting CP and permanently moved to Benfica. The switch between the two Primeira Liga was controversial since Sporting and Benfica are arch-enemies.

Joao Mario
Champions League – Top footballers to face their former clubs in 2023- Joao Mario

Inter terminated Mário’s contract that was supposed to run until 2022 by mutual consent. According to various media reports, the contract termination was necessary to pave the way for a transfer to Benfica, as there was a clause to refrain him from joining the Eagles. At the same time, Mario did not want to join Sporting permanently.

The clash between Benfica and Inter will be emotional for Mario, who received massive favor from the Serie A giants.

Ousmane Dembele – PSG vs Borussia Dortmund (Group F)

Dembele was once one of the brightest projects at Dortmund when he was under Thomas Tuchel in 2016, but his spell in Signal Iduna Park was short.

Barcelona grabbed the French winger and made him one of the most expensive signings in football history as they signed him for £135m in 2017.

Ousmane Dembele PSG - Dortmund-min
Ousmane Dembele PSG – Dortmund-min

He spent five years at Camp Nou struggling with injuries before finally being sold to PSG for less than half of what the Blaugranas paid to Dortmund.

It’s hard to say that the Bundesliga side would miss their man as they have been producing and nurturing similar talents for ages, who they can make a fortune by selling to big European clubs. However, Dortmund’s defense will desperately try to stop Dembele during his best days.

Gianluigi Donnarumma – PSG vs AC Milan (Group F)

Donnarumma is on his way to San Siro, and Milan fans went wild when the UEFA Champions League draw brought back the black sheep of the family.

The Italian goalkeeper was once their treasure, gold, and future, but they all vanished as they turned to bitter rivals when he picked money over loyalty and joined PSG.

‘Traitor’, that was what Milan ultras called Donnarumma in 2017, and they still call him that by now.

Donnarumma PSG Milan-min
Donnarumma PSG Milan-min

“Just a few days after the farewell of Francesco Totti, in tears in front of his fans, a lad of 18 would prefer money to be treated like a god by his fans.” That was the official statement from Rossoneri’s ultra on Donnarumma’s decision to join the French capital side.

It’s hard to imagine the tension and the hate when Milan and PSG clash in UEFA Champions League group stage this September.

Sandro Tonali – Newcastle vs AC Milan (Group F)

While Donnarumma was hated to the bones by Milan fans, Tonali is a total opposite case.

The decision to sell Tonali to Newcastle certainly generated a fiery reaction from a fan base that had already bid farewell to Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Paolo Maldini not long before.

Tonali Newcastle Milan-min
Tonali Newcastle Milan-min

The winger was crucial in Milan’s Serie A winning season 2021/22 and last season when the club was UCL semifinalists. However, Tonali’s departure was inevitable because the sum of 65 million euros from selling him helped Milan rebuild the whole squad.

There will be only love from the fans when Tonali sets his feet back in San Siro.

Nico Gonzalez – Barcelona vs Porto (Group H)

Nico will have many things to prove when he faces Barcelona in UCL Group H fixtures.

The La Masia graduate never won Xavi’s trust when he moved to the first team and had been on loan in Valencia before permanently joining Porto in the 2023 summer transfer window.

Xavi isn’t quite convinced by Nico and does not see him as a replacement for Sergio Busquets but as a more attacking player like Frenkie de Jong – something he’s said openly.

Nico Gonzalez Porto Barcelona-min
Nico Gonzalez Porto Barcelona-min

The Barcelona coach has therefore told the youngster to take one of the offers that have arrived. Nico’s dad picked Porto, who promised the young talent game time, especially Champions League minutes.

Luuk de Jong – Sevilla vs PSV (Group B)

Sevilla’s fans adored the giant center-forward with his remarkable aerial ability and excellent attitude in Spain.

Joined Sevilla in 2019, he scored 19 goals in 94 matches for Los Nervionenses but struggled to lock down a starting spot at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan.

De Jong PSV Sevilla-min
De Jong PSV Sevilla-min

During their Europa League run to the 2019 trophy, he came to the fore, scoring the decisive goal in the semi-final against Manchester United and a brace in the final against Inter. He later joined Barcelona on a one-season loan deal before returning to his home, PSV Eindhoven.

The 31-year-old made a reputation for himself there between 2014 and 2019.

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