The Traitors: football's most controversial figures including Arsenal, Liverpool, and Man Utd turncoats

These nine players showed little regard for loyalty in their transfer dealings.
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The Traitors is back. Chances are, even if you haven't watched the BBC's hit reality show, you will have heard all about it from a loved one or enthused associate. Fronted by professional fringe-with-a-woman-attached Claudia Winkleman, the format pits a number of strangers against each other as they set out to complete a series of tasks in the hopes of getting their hands on £120,000. But watch out!!! Three of the gang have been assigned 'traitor' status, and it is up to everybody else to root out the double agents before their chances are hamstrung completely. It's a bit like CBBC's Trapped, but for adults.

Anyways, the arrival of the second season got us thinking, as most things do, about football, and in particular, the beautiful game's biggest traitors. Over the years, there have been countless examples of players turning their backs on clubs in the individualistic pursuit of success elsewhere. With that in mind, we've picked out nine of the best case studies below, from iconic England internationals to legendary continental superstars to Jack Colback. Enjoy...

Sol Campbell

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Crossing the north London divide is bad enough. Crossing it on a free transfer is, in the eyes of many, frankly unforgivable. Sol Campbell came through Tottenham's youth academy, played nearly 300 times for the club, and then promptly walked out on them to sign for their bitterest rivals, Arsenal, when his contract ran down in 2001. At his unveiling, the centre-back asked Spurs supporters to respect his decision. As you can imagine, they did not.

Jack Colback

A similar situation to Campbell, Jack Colback was a Sunderland academy graduate who ran down his contract on Wearside before running down his deal at the Stadium of Light and jumping ship to Newcastle United, who he supported as a boy. Naturally, those of a red and white persuasion were incensed, although Lee Cattermole's subsequent Tyne-Wear derby day reducer on his former teammate, and the iconic photograph it spawned, went some way towards appeasing Mackems everywhere.

Luis Figo

Arguably the most illustrious name on this list, Luis Figo left Barcelona for El Classico adversaries Real Madrid in 2000, and it is safe to say that the Catalan giants did not take too well to his departure. Even a couple of years later, their supporters were frothing at the mouth, so much so that the Portuguese icon had a pig's head thrown at him during a game between the two clubs in November 2002.

Robin van Persie

Robin van Persie tried and tried and tried to win a Premier League title with Arsenal, to absolutely no avail. Then he took it upon himself to sign for old nemeses Manchester United, and he won one almost instantly. The moral of the story? Be selfish, I guess. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this whole debacle is that in the years since he hung up his boots, Van Persie has seemingly made a concerted effort to be remembered as a United legend, despite playing significantly more for the Gunners.

Mo Johnston

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Is there any footballing divide as entrenched or as bitterly contested as the Old Firm in Glasgow? Few rivalries can hold a candle to the one that rages between Celtic and Rangers, but such things evidently mattered for very little where Mo Johnston was concerned. The Scot spent three years at Celtic before moving to Nantes in France. Upon his return to his home country, however, he penned a deal with Rangers, and all hell broke loose. Not only had Johnston previously stated that he would never play for any other British club aside from Celtic, but as an openly Catholic man arriving at a devoutly Protestant institution, his new fans weren't too happy to see him either. Such things should not matter at all, but in this particular instance, they did. Ultimately, this was a transfer that suited nobody and angered everybody. Two years later, Johnston left Ibrox for Everton.

Eric Cantona

Nobody tells Eric Cantona what to do. The mercurial Frenchman is a riddle wrapped in an enigma wrapped in a sheath of high-collared cockiness, and he has built a reputation over the years for doing things his way and his way alone. Just ask that Crystal Palace fan. Anyways, taking all of this into account, was it really that much of a surprise when he left Leeds United to cross the county border and sign for their Manchester namesakes in 1992? Perhaps not. But, was it a shock when those associated with Elland Road vowed never to forgive him for his perceived treachery? Also, no.

Michael Owen

If Michael Owen had spent less time throwing apple cores at bins as a child, and more time studying the political and tribal history of the English top flight, he might have realised that signing for Manchester United after having come through the ranks at Liverpool isn't the wisest of ideas. Then again, such things probably don't bother a soul as brave as Michael's. It takes a lot of courage to chuck an apple at a bin, y'know.

Emmanuel Adebayor

Emmanuel Adebayor is arguably responsible for the greatest moment of s***housery in Premier League history. Having made a name for himself in England as an Arsenal player, the striker would eventually sign for Manchester City, and we all know what happened next. In a match between the two sides at the Etihad, the Togolese forward scored against his old club, and then ran the full length of the pitch to celebrate in front of the travelling Gunners support. Pettiness on an iconic level. To pour further fuel on the fire, he would also sign for Tottenham later in his career.

Ashley Cole

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And finally, one last example of a player screwing over Arsenal, seemingly just for the hell of it. Ashley Cole was widely regarded as the best left-back in the world during the latter stages of his stint in north London, so much so that a newly-moneyed Chelsea decided he was absolutely the kind of talent that their burgeoning Roman Abramovich project needed. From that point onwards, the Gunners faithful referred to him as 'Cashley Cole', but the countless pieces of silverware he would go on to win at Stamford Bridge probably went some way towards salving that particular verbal wound.

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