Football is an incredibly cruel game where the very best teams have to be ruthless in order to carve out success, at pretty much any level.
That means unfortunately sometimes players can suddenly find themselves on the chopping block when many assumed they were rather happy at a club and quite comfortable within the furniture.
Be it a monstrous offer that the club simply can’t turn down, or the request of a new manager to try and shape their squad by any means possible, we’ve identified nine examples of players who were forced out of their club.
And there’s still time for you to join this list, Frenkie de Jong. Don’t think you’re safe.
Angel Di Maria
It became very clear very quickly that Di Maria did not want to join Manchester United in 2014, which is hilarious considering they paid a British record fee to sign the Argentine.
He’d been linked with a move to Paris Saint-Germain all summer, with Real Madrid putting the winger up for sale seemingly against his will, but Les Parisiens didn’t come calling. As a result, Di Maria spent one miserable year in Manchester before getting his move to PSG, who snapped him up at a discounted price.
Despite taking to English football immensely well and immediately blossoming into one of the best defenders in Europe as he helped United to their treble in 1998-99, Stam was very surprisingly sold to Lazio in 2001 for £16.5million.
The transfer was a surprise to everyone, including the Dutchman himself, who was pushed out of the exit door after getting on the bad side of Sir Alex Ferguson following the release of his auto-biography, whereby some comments had angered the boss.
Stam has since explained that Ferguson made him aware of his displeasure through a series of meetings, before one day learning he had been sold via one phone call from his agent and a visit from the boss at a petrol station.
It all started to go pear-shaped when Toure didn’t receive a birthday cake from Manchester City in 2014, which got right under the skin of their midfield maestro.
But even when that was resolved, the Ivorian’s days were number upon the arrival of Pep Guardiola two years later.
It was Pep who had sold Toure to Manchester City in 2010 while the pair were at Barcelona, and he would make sure he was let go again in 2018, despite Yaya still being a very handy, veteran midfielder.
David de Gea
After 12 years at United, De Gea’s career in Manchester came to an incredibly ruthless, abrupt end in 2023 at the request of Erik ten Hag.
He won the Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year award a record four times, blossomed into the best goalkeeper in the world and became the stopper with the most appearances for the club during his time at United, but his fading powers had become noticeable in recent years and Ten Hag took action.
United had offered their legendary Spaniard a new deal – which he had agreed to – but then took the deal off the table following a poor end to the season and allowed his contract to expire to the surprise of everyone, including De Gea himself.
Much has been made of Tonali’s move to Newcastle. Did he want to go, or did he not?
Reports after the deal was complete claimed that Tonali broke down into tears upon learning that he would be leaving Milan. And considering it was the club he supported as a boy, took a pay cut to join and then later played a key part in winning their first Scudetto in nine years with, it adds up.
We’re not saying Tonali can’t learn to love the North East, but it might take a while. That man loved Milan.
It seems Sandro Tonali is really satisfied after moving from Milan to Newcastle 👀😭 pic.twitter.com/kl2ho3NncB
— Football Factly (@FootballFactly) July 11, 2023
Real Madrid found themselves at somewhat of a crossroads in 2015. Long-standing goalkeeper Casillas was getting no younger and they had missed out on David de Gea – see fax machine incident.
Their legendary Spaniard had fallen out of favour under Carlo Ancelotti in domestic competition, and by 2015, he had agreed to join Porto. Casillas’ parents claimed he was forced out of the club by Florentino Perez, with even Barcelona legend Xavi chiming in to call Real ungrateful for Casillas.
Tough gig is goalkeeping, if you can’t already tell.
Hart’s sudden exile at City was a serious shock in 2016. Guardiola arrived and immediately decided the Englishman wasn’t good enough to play with the ball at his feet, consequently replacing him with Claudio Bravo and shipping Hart out on loan to Torino.
This was a man largely considered a City legend and a player who had won the Premier League Golden Glove award four times previously. Gone, just like that.
Pep’s ruthlessness proved to be pivotal to eventual success, but Hart’s career never really recovered from that.
Oh, Mesut. Forced out not once, but twice.
First it was Arsenal, who had distanced themselves from Ozil after he spoke out against the treatment of Uighur Muslims in China. That, combined with a need to trim the wage bill for Mikel Arteta saw them exile the German and eventually sell him to Fenerbahce in 2021.
It all started well for Ozil in Turkey, with him playing for his boyhood club. But things turned sour after about a year, with him being excluded from the Fenerbahce squad and later shipped off to Istanbul Basaksehir before his eventual retirement.
Good morning. Here's Mesut Ozil taking the proverbial to start off your Wednesday.pic.twitter.com/oFpxDzGTk8
— Planet Football (@planetfutebol) June 14, 2023
Signing for Barcelona in 2014 and taking his ruthless goalscoring to absurd new heights alongside Lionel Messi and Neymar, Suarez’s Barcelona exit was ugly and sudden in 2019.
After the club hit rock-bottom on the pitch in an 8-2 defeat against Bayern Munich in the Champions League, Suarez was as a scapegoat and listed for sale by Josep Bartomeu, while also being deemed surplus to requirements by new manager Ronald Koeman.
The Uruguayan made no effort to hide his emotions at being forced out of Barcelona, but signed for Atletico Madrid and fired them to the La Liga title instead the following season.