What happens when managers cross divide in football's bitter rivalries

From Harry Redknapp’s death threats to Jose Mourinho’s Barcelona exile – here’s what happens when managers leave for rival clubs as Rafa Benitez crosses the Merseyside divide to take the reigns at Everton

  • Rafa Benitez is the first man since the 1890s to manage Liverpool and Everton
  • His appointment as Toffees boss, driven by Farhad Moshiri, has split the fanbase
  • He is not the only coach to have joined a rival club during his managerial career
  • Jose Mourinho left Barcelona for Real Madrid and Chelsea for Manchester United
  • George Graham left Arsenal for Spurs while Brian Clough left Derby for Forest 

Everton have finally found a replacement for Carlo Ancelotti after confirming the appointment of Rafa Benitez as their new manager. 

However, Farhad Moshiri’s decision to hire a former Liverpool boss has split the Toffees’ fan base. Many cannot and will not forget Benitez’s six years stint at Anfield.

Despite the fact Benitez will become the first man to have managed both Liverpool and Everton since William Edward Barclay in the 1890s, there are a host of other managers that have done the unthinkable and joined a rival club. 

From Jose Mourinho to Brian Clough, Sportsmail has rounded up six managers that have gone to the dark side, and assessed how the move worked out.

Rafa Benitez (above) is the first man since the 1890s to manage Liverpool and Everton 

His appointment as Toffees boss, driven by Farhad Moshiri, has split the Everton fanbase 

George Graham was regarded as a hero among the Arsenal fan base after ending the club’s 18-year wait for a title with an unforgettable victory at Anfield in 1989. 

However, his nine-year spell at the helm was abruptly brought to an end in February 1995 after it emerged he had accepted an illegal £400,000 payment from the transfers that brought John Jensen and Pal Lydersen to the club in 1992.

As a result, Graham joined Arsenal’s north London rivals, Tottenham, just three years later in 1998. However, he only lasted three years after being sacked in 2001 for an alleged breach of contract. 

George Graham was regarded as a hero among the Arsenal fan base after ending the club’s 18-year wait for a title with an unforgettable victory at Anfield in 1989 (above)

However, he went on to join Arsenal’s north London rivals, Tottenham, after being sacked

Brian Clough

Clubs: Derby County to Nottingham Forest 

Brian Clough was a highly-renowned manager that experienced successful spells with several different clubs. However, it was his transition from Derby County to Nottingham Forest that remains a talking point. 

Clough worked miracles with both – causing them to honour his managerial career with the ‘Brian Clough Trophy’ which is fought for whenever the East Midlands rivals meet.

Clough was appointed as the Rams manager in 1967 and remained in charge until 1973. During that time he helped them earn promotion to the top flight and win the First Division title in the 1971-72 season.

Brian Clough helped Derby County earn promotion to the top flight and win the First Division title in the 1971-72 season before later joining their rivals Nottingham Forest

Following that, he parted ways with the club and joined their rivals, Nottingham Forest, just 15 months after his resignation.

Although Clough joined Derby’s arch-rivals, fans were more frustrated with the board for letting such a phenomenal manager leave in the first place. 

Clough enjoyed another successful spell at Forest – winning back-to-back European Cups in 1979 and 1980.      

Clough enjoyed a successful spell at Forest – winning two European Cups in 1979 and 1980

Jose Mourinho 

Clubs: Barcelona to Real Madrid / Chelsea to Manchester United

Known as ‘The Special One’, Jose Mourinho tends to do exactly what he wants irrespective of people’s opinions. Therefore, it comes as no surprise to see him lining up alongside a host of other managers that have joined rival teams.

Mourinho’s first controversial move came at the start of his career when he left Barcelona for their rivals Real Madrid – a move no one else would be mad enough to make. 

Although Mourinho was never appointed as the first-team manager at Barcelona, he spent four years working closely alongside Louis van Gaal as their assistant coach. 

Jose Mourinho (right) was never appointed as the first-team manager at Barcelona, he spent four years working closely alongside Louis van Gaal as their assistant coach

However, he left Barcelona and then 10 years later joined their arch-rivals Real Madrid 

Mourinho went on to launch his own managerial career in 2000, before returning to Spain 10 years later to take the reins at Real Madrid.

The Portuguese manager successfully claimed the LaLiga title in the 2011-12 season – achieving a record points tally and becoming the fifth coach to have won a league title in four countries. He also won the Copa del Rey and a Spanish Super Cup.

However, he was relieved of his duties in 2013 as the club were 13 points behind Barcelona in the league and were beaten by their rivals Atletico in the Spanish Cup final.

Real Madrid had also crashed out of the semi-finals of the Champions League in all three seasons under the former Porto and Inter Milan boss. Not to mention the fact he lost his first El Clasico 5-0. 

This wasn’t the first and last time ‘The Special One’ joined a rival team – having managed Chelsea (above) before taking charge of rivals Manchester United

This wasn’t the first and last time Mourinho joined a rival team – having managed Chelsea before taking charge of rivals Manchester United. 

During his first stint at Chelsea Mourinho won six trophies in three years, making him the most successful Blues boss to date. However, left Chelsea on September 20, 2007 ‘by mutual consent’ – although there were rumours over several disagreements with owner Roman Abramovich.

However, he returned for a second spell in charge at the club in 2013 but was later sacked after a poor run of form saw them sit 16th in the division and one point above the relegation zone.

As a result, he moved to rivals Manchester United in 2016 and won the UEFA Europa League, League Cup, and FA Community Shield in his first season at the club. 

Nevertheless, Mourinho was then sacked in 2018 as the Red Devils sat 19 points behind league leaders Liverpool.  

Mourinho joined the Red Devils in 2016 and won the UEFA Europa League, League Cup and FA Community Shield in his first season at Manchester United 

Sam Allardyce 

Clubs: Newcastle to Sunderland 

Several coaches have managed both Newcastle and Sunderland. However, it is unusual to see a gaffer leave the former for the latter… but that’s where Sam Allardyce comes in.

‘Big Sam’ took charge of Newcastle in May 2007 and lasted until January 2008 after a bad run of results saw the Magpies sit 11th in the table. 

As a result, Allardyce became the eighth manager of the season to leave a Premier League club.

He went on to join rivals Sunderland in October 2015 and helped the Black Cats triple their points total in a fortnight. He also delivered a satisfying 3-0 win over his former club Newcastle. 

Sunderland subsequently stayed in the Premier League that season and Allardyce went on to leave the club to become England manager in 2016.   

Sam Allardyce (above) took charge of Newcastle in May 2007 and lasted until January 2008 after a bad run of result saw the Magpies sit 11th in the table

He went on to join rivals Sunderland in October 2015 and helped the Black Cats triple their points total in a fortnight. He also delivered a 3-0 win over his former club Newcastle

Harry Redknapp 

Clubs: Portsmouth to Southampton  

Harry Redknapp kicked off his managerial career with Bournemouth in 1983 before joining West Ham in 1994. He then took charge of Portsmouth in 2002. 

Redknapp guided Portsmouth into the Premiership and ensured their survival in their first season back in the top flight during his time at the club. 

However, Redknapp walked out on Portsmouth in November 2004 (citing personal reasons) and joined bitter rivals Southampton.

Redknapp’s tenure at Southampton was not quite as successful – having failed to keep the club in the Premiership during the 2004-05 season. 

As a result, he made a sensational U-turn and re-joined Portsmouth saying: ‘It was a bad mistake to go to Southampton and that’s not being disrespectful to them, but really I shouldn’t have done it for the sake of the fans.

‘I know how people must have felt when I left. When I left I genuinely never thought I would go to Southampton.’

He later left the club to join Tottenham in October 2008.    

Harry Redknapp guided Portsmouth into the Premier League and ensured their survival in their first season back in the top flight (pictured here with the 2008 FA Cup success)

Redknapp’s tenure at Southampton was not quite as successful – having failed to keep the club in the Premier League during the 2004-05 season

Danny Wilson 

Clubs: Sheffield Wednesday to Sheffield United 

Sheffield Wednesday fans thought Danny Wilson’s stance on the Steel City rivalry was clear after playing for the club between 1990–1993. However, it seems like they were wrong to assume such a thing.  

Wilson was another footballer who transitioned into management and later did the unthinkable. The former Sheffield Wednesday midfielder took charge of the club in 1998.

Wilson coped well in the hotseat initially – guiding Wednesday to a 12th place finish in the 1998-99 season. However, he was sacked in March 2000. 

Later on in his career, Wilson decided to join rivals Sheffield United. Having put pen-to-paper in 2011, the former Wednesday boss lasted just two years at Bramall Lane before being turfed out.

Wilson not only failed to get the club promoted to the Championship, he also failed to get the fans on his side.  

Danny Wilson coped well in the hotseat initially – guiding Sheffield Wednesday to a 12th place finish in the 1998-99 season and was awarded a Manager of the Month award 

Wilson decided to join rivals Sheffield United. Having put pen-to-paper in 2011, the former Wednesday boss lasted just just two years at Bramall Lane before being turfed out




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