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La Liga feature: Five players who returned to their first love

Gerard Pique

Bengaluru, February 14: Valentine's Day is a time for love. And what greater love is there than that for your club? It is an emotion we most often associate with fans, but players are often huge fans too.

You never forget your first love goes the adage!

With MSL Media inputs, myKhel.com looks at five La Liga players who had moved around, but ultimately came back to their first love -- their childhood clubs -- to have greater success in life.

Gerard Pique (Barcelona)

Gerard Pique (Barcelona)

Pique came through the La Masia academy at Barcelona, but it was not until he moved to Manchester United and Real Zaragoza that he made his name as a future star of the game.

But his great success has come back at his childhood club, where he has won 8 La Liga titles, 6 Copa del Reys and 3 UEFA Champions Leagues since being brought back by Pep Guardiola in 2008.

Santi Cazorla (Villarreal)

Santi Cazorla (Villarreal)

Back in 2018, Cazorla was unveiled by a magician on the pitch at the Estadio de la Ceramica, returning to the club he took his first professional steps with. Many wrote him off, with his chances of truly overcoming the horrendous ankle injury he had been sidelined for almost two years at Arsenal with looking slim.

But over the last season and a half, the Spaniard has turned that narrative on his head, propelling his beloved Villarreal to the verge of a European spot and even earning a call-up to the Spanish national team. Now that is a successful homecoming.

Jesus Navas (Sevilla)

Jesus Navas (Sevilla)

Hometown icon Navas joined Sevilla's youth academy aged 15 and went on to win six trophies as part of the iconic Sevilla side before leaving for Manchester City in 2013.

After four trophy-laden seasons in England the pull of his childhood club proved too much and Navas returned, converted into a full-back. Since 2017, Navas has been named club captain, broken the club's all-time appearance record and had the club's reserve team stadium renamed in his honour.

Aritz Aduriz (Athletic Club)

Aritz Aduriz (Athletic Club)

Though he was born and grew up in nearby San Sebastian, Aduriz moved across the Basque Country to start out his career in Bilbao with Athletic Club. The striker has had stints away from San Mames, most notably with RCD Mallorca and Valencia CF, but the draw of his first club has always held strong.

In fact, the prime of Aduriz's career has come since his return aged 30 in 2012. He has announced that he will retire at the end of the 2019-20 season, and it is fitting that he will do so in the red and white stripes of Athletic Club.

Joaquin (Real Betis)

Joaquin (Real Betis)

There is no legend at Real Betis quite like Joaquin. Currently a player, captain and even a shareholder at the Benito Villamarin, Joaquin personifies the club.

He has also spent time at other clubs, notably Valencia, Malaga and Fiorentina, before returning in 2015. Having just renewed his contract at the club until 2021, Joaquin will be playing for the club he loves for some time yet. And he has showed no signs of slowing up quite yet as he recently became the oldest player in La Liga history to score a hat-trick.

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Story first published: Friday, February 14, 2020, 11:31 [IST]
Other articles published on Feb 14, 2020
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