Old Trafford will be a theatre full of dreamers on Saturday with the hope that Cristiano Ronaldo marks his second coming at Manchester United in glorious style.
Ronaldo is not the first idol to go back to the place where he was once feted.
There have been similarly evocative transfers in the Premier League era — and second home debuts for returning heroes have tended to be dramatic.
Cristiano Ronaldo is set to make his second Manchester United against Newcastle next week
Old Trafford has already been bursting with excitement after Ronaldo’s return from Juventus
JURGEN KLINSMANN: Tottenham 1 Arsenal 1 December 28, 1997
The Germany legend was adored at White Hart Lane when he played for Tottenham in 1994-95. Circumstances were different when he came back in 1997 from Sampdoria but his inspirational qualities remained, as team-mate RAMON VEGA recalls…
Our manager was Christian Gross, my fellow Swiss. He pulled me to the side one day and said: ‘I think Jurgen Klinsmann is going to join.’ Wow. It all happened very quickly and bang, Jurgen was here. I remember hundreds of fans waiting outside our training ground in Chigwell over Christmas.
Jurgen Klinsmann made his Tottenham return in time for a north London derby with Arsenal
The week before there had been no one waiting! I was hoping someone would ask for my autograph, but they were all there for Jurgen. The excitement around the club in those first few days was insane. Oh, and his debut was going to be in a north London derby!
You could feel the buzz in training. Tackles were flying in and everyone was going the extra mile to impress, because we all wanted to play in this game. Don’t forget, we were struggling in the Premier League, Jurgen was brought in to help save us. The decision was a masterstroke.
He was not the same player as three years earlier, but it did not matter. His presence alone gave everyone a lift — players and supporters. The roar when his name was read out at White Hart Lane ahead of the game was incredible.
And this was the Arsenal of old, a tremendous team with Patrick Vieira, Emmanuel Petit and Dennis Bergkamp. We were outsiders to win but we took the lead when Allan Nielsen scored in the first half. We could not hold on and Ray Parlour equalised.
Klinsmann’s presence helped Spurs to a 1-1 draw against their fiercest rivals
But, without the presence of Jurgen, I think we would have lost that game. Suddenly, we had a very motivated team.
The atmosphere in the dressing room changed. I’d seen Jurgen on TV as a fan and I had goosebumps when I looked across the room and he was sitting there.
Come the end of the season we were still in trouble in the league. In the second last game we were drawing 2-2 with Wimbledon at half-time and heading for relegation. Then Jurgen went out and scored a second-half hat-trick, making it four goals for him in the game. We won 6-2, job done.
DUNCAN FERGUSON: Everton 3 Charlton 0 August 23, 2000
The Scot was sold to Newcastle for £8million in November 1998 against his wishes but returned 20 months later for £3.75million. His first appearance back at Goodison Park was crowned with two goals after coming off the bench. For Ferguson, this was a love affair…
Those fans were infectious and made me want to be around them and the club. I love the city, I love the fans and I love being around them. I could relate to the fans because my background’s the same. They are working-class people, loyal people with strong family ties.
Duncan Ferguson (right) was sold by Everton to Newcastle only to return 20 months later
They know their football, too. They walk up to the game and they want to see someone like them on the pitch. They aren’t corporate. So when I played I tried to represent them.
Everton have a great tradition of centre forwards and to be part of that tradition and history is a special feeling. It’s nice to look back at my goals, to show my kids I was nae bad!
But I’m an Evertonian, I’m one of them. I have been a part of the club for a long, long time. The fans were waiting for something and I was maybe that something that the fans were looking for, a player with a wee bit of aggression.
JUNINHO: Middlesbrough 1 Everton 1 March 1, 2003
The Brazilian was adored on Teesside during his first spell, after he joined from Sao Paolo in October 1995. He was sold to Atletico Madrid two years later but briefly returned to Boro on loan in 1999. ‘The Little Fella’ came back permanently in 2002 but a knee injury delayed his debut by six months. As GARETH SOUTHGATE explains, the wait was worthwhile…
When Juninho arrived, it was incredible for people in Middlesbrough to be able to walk down the street and see a world star. He totally embraced the town during his first spell at the club, he loved it so much that he came back on two further occasions.
Brazilian Juninho mesmerised the city of Middlesbrough during his two stints in the north east
Though my memories are a little hazy, you could see that day against Everton what he meant to the fans, the ovation he received. He scored our equaliser, too. You see what he means to them now because when there are votes for who is the club’s greatest player, he tops them all the time.
The thing that made his story so special was the fact he played the day we won the club’s first ever trophy (the 2004 League Cup). It was a lovely way for that relationship to finish. He means everything to the people of Middlesbrough.
ROBBIE FOWLER: Liverpool 1 Birmingham 1 February 1, 2006
God, as he was known by the Kop for his finishing, moved to Leeds in 2001 before Kevin Keegan took him to Manchester City in 2003. But when Rafa Benitez needed experienced cover in the winter of 2006, he sanctioned one of Liverpool’s most emotional transfers, as Fowler recalls…
When the opportunity to come back popped up, I barely told anyone as I was terrified. I didn’t want to jinx things, I didn’t want my dreams to not come true. I have to thank Manchester City for helping the deal go so smoothly.
Robbie Fowler returned to Liverpool as cover for Rafa Benitez’s Reds in the winter of 2006
Once it was all completed and the paperwork had been signed, I sat in my car outside Anfield and couldn’t get the smile off my face. I started sending messages to friends then. I just said: ‘How happy am I?!’
You can use every superlative under the sun but it still won’t capture the joy I felt.
No disrespect to Leeds or City but this was something different, something they couldn’t offer. This was a move back to my club, to my people. I was going home, everything felt more comfortable and familiar. It just felt right. I never wanted to leave in the first place, so it was all perfect.
My debut against Birmingham a few days later was surreal. Standing on the touchline as a substitute, I was so anxious. I just wanted to get on. My fitness wasn’t up to scratch but I wanted to show the fans I could still do it. I wasn’t the same player who had left but I still had lots to offer.
Fowler’s return to Anfield was one of the most emotional transfers Liverpool have ever done
The ovation I got when Rafa finally sent me on will live with me for ever. I’ll put it like this — I won trophies with Liverpool, I did some incredible things with the team but that debut topped the lot. It meant the world… and it so nearly had a Hollywood ending.
In the final minute, the ball came into the box and I did this overhead kick — I caught it perfectly — and it flashed into the net. I ran off, I started screaming but out the corner of my eye, I saw the linesman flagging. I was offside. I hate to admit it but the decision was right.
My second ‘first’ goal arrived a couple of weeks later against Fulham and I got a few more before the end of the season to help us qualify for the Champions League and I earned another contract. I’m just glad I got the opportunity because Liverpool means everything to me.
THIERRY HENRY: Arsenal 1 Leeds 0 January 9, 2012
The greatest goalscorer in Arsenal’s history left in 2007 for Barcelona before moving on to New York Red Bulls. The MLS calendar opened up the prospect of loans in Europe. That avenue was exploited by Arsene Wenger, who brought the Frenchman back. He marked his second coming, in an FA Cup tie, as only he could. After the match he said:
The feeling I had when I scored was amazing. I am enjoying the club as a fan. I wasn’t before. Now I know what the guys at Chelsea, Liverpool, United feel when they score.
Thierry Henry scored the winning goal on his Arsenal return, a 1-0 FA Cup win over Leeds
I will always remember the night. I don’t know why but when it comes to Arsenal, something happens with me — sometimes in a bad way, but most of the way in history, in a good way. With one opportunity, it’s very important. You have to make sure you take it. I took it well.
That wasn’t the plan (to be a hero). It’s kind of weird. I came back from holiday in Mexico 15 days ago. I never thought I’d play for Arsenal again, let alone score the winner.
WAYNE ROONEY: Everton 1 Stoke 0 August 12, 2017
The world’s most expensive teen left for Manchester United in 2004. He achieved everything there but the chance to come home lit a fire. Back where it began, he scored the only goal on a day Rooney knew would be full of emotion…
I’d known for the last couple of weeks before it was official but I had kept it quiet from Kai (his eldest son and an Everton fanatic). I kept it quiet from my mum and dad because I knew they wouldn’t be able to hold it in!
I didn’t tell Kai because he was going to school and I didn’t want him speaking to his mates! It was literally once everything was agreed and the paperwork was coming through that I told Kai. He jumped on me, he was made up.
Wayne Rooney’s second coming at Everton saw him score the winning goal against Stoke
Kai had a season ticket the previous season and was coming with some of his cousins.
To come back and watch his dad play? He was buzzing. The goal I scored was at the same end as the goal I scored (aged 16) against Arsenal.
They are both special goals but that was special, coming back. I knew when I came back, I was putting a lot of pressure on myself. I’d waited a long time for that game and thankfully we got three points. It was a special moment.