The draw for the group stages of the 2015/2016 UEFA Champions League which begins on September 15 took place Thursday evening and Completesportsnigeria.com’s IZUCHUKWU OKOSI presents some of the ties involving returning heroes…
1. ANGEL DI MARIA (PSG vs Real Madrid)
Former Manchester United flop Angel Di Maria will come face to face against familiar faces when the group stage hostilities begin.
Di Maria was a player of Real Madrid between 2010 and 2014 but shockingly, and despite playing a big part in the Spanish side’s winning of the UEFA Champions League title for the 10th time (La Decima) on May 24, 2014 against city rivals, Atletico Madrid, was eventually sold to Manchester United.
Things didn’t go well at United and the Red Devils have sold him to PSG who have been drawn to play Real Madrid in Group A of the European club tournament.
2. MEMPHIS DEPAY (MANCHESTER UNITED vs PSV)
Manchester United’s new boy, Memphis Depay, was a player of PSV between 2011 and 2015. He moved to United this summer.
United had to navigate through the qualifiers to reach the group stages and they have been grouped alongside the Dutch side in Group B that also contains CSKA Moscow and Wolfsburg.
The one-time PSV youth player has become a fan favourite among the Old Trafford faithful and it will be interesting to see the reception he gets when manager Louis van Gaal and his team travel to Holland.
3. SEYDOU KEITA (AS ROMA vs Barcelona)
Mali skipper Seydou Keita is a leader on the pitch and in the dressing room.
The former youth international who was the star of the 1999 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Nigeria (actually voted the tournament’s Most Valueable Player) played for Barcelona between 2008 to 2012.
Keita won many honours with the Blaugrana. He won three La Liga titles (2008–09, 2009–10, 2010–11), two Champions League titles (2008-2009, 2010-2011), two UEFA Super Cups in 2009 and 2011, three Supercopa de Espana and two Copa del Rey titles in 2008-2009 and 2010-2011, and the Supercopa de España: 2009, 2010, 2011.
It will be an emotional return to Barcelona but Keita will be hoping to add more feathers to his footballing cap, setting aside any attachments to his former club.
4. JOEL CAMPBELL (ARSENAL vs Olmpiakos)
Arsenal forward Joel Campbell has not really been a favourite of manager Arsene Wenger since his return from several loan spells abroad though much of it is due to the work permit issues he experienced when he was signed from Costa Rican club, Saprissa.
Campbell was on loan at Olympiakos between 2013 and 2014. He also had loan stints at Lorient, Real Betis and Villarreal.
Signed by Arsenal on 19 August 2011, the highlight of Campbell’s career at Olympiakos was the UEFA Champions League game against Manchester United on 25 February 2014.
The left-footed star scored the second goal as Olympiacos romped to a 2–0 win over Arsenal’s EPL rivals in the last 16 of the Champions League though the Greeks fell 3-0 in the return leg.
Whether he will face his former side in the Group F clashes between both teams is another matter entirely, that is, if he even remains a Gunner after the transfer window.
5. JOSE MOURINHO (CHELSEA vs Porto)
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has been a success at club management.
The Blues chief tactician led the Portuguese side to win the 2003 UEFA Champions League, beating Monaco in the final.
Mourinho won the Portuguese titles in 2002-2003 and 2003-2004 seasons.
The 2010 FIFA World Coach of the Year winner will know one or two things about the mentality and playing styles of his former team when they square up in Group G that also has Dynamo Kiev and Maccabi Tel Aviv.
6. ZLATAN IBRAHIMOVIC (PSG vs Malmo FF)
PSG superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovic started his career at hometown club Malmo FF and he will face his boyhood club in Group A of the tournament.
The Sweden international interestingly has hinted that he could end his illustrious career at Malmo where he was a youngster between 1995 to 1999. Zlatan is a cult hero in Malmo.
The games between both sides over two legs will be ones to watch.