With the likes of Paul Scholes, Thierry Henry and Jose Antonio Reyes back at their former clubs, we take a look at some of the other players to have made memorable returns.
Billy Meredith (Manchester City, 1894-1906 and 1921-24)
Meredith became football's first true star after signing for Manchester City in 1894 and helping the club become established in the top-flight as well as winning the FA Cup in 1904. However, after blowing the whistle on City's refusal to adhere to the wage cap in 1906, he departed for local rivals Manchester United and helped his new club to two league titles and the FA Cup.
By 1921, he was in his 47th year and no longer a regular for United, but City, a respected top-flight club, decided to bring him back to Hyde Road that summer. He continued to attract positive notices for his performances on his return to City, though his declining stamina was an obvious issue, and made his final appearance in an FA Cup semi-final defeat to Newcastle in March 1929 at the age of 49 years and 245 days.
Giuseppe Meazza (Inter Milan, 1927-40 and 1946-47)
A two-time World Cup winner with Italy and considered by many to be the country's greatest ever player, this roguish forward became the ultimate hero at Inter.
He joined as a youth and, in 1929-30, his debut Serie A season, he scored 31 goals as the little-fancied Nerazzurri - then known as AS Ambrosiana - claimed the league title. As well as winning the 1934 and 1938 World Cups, Meazza helped Inter to another league title in 1937-38. They won the Coppa Italia in 1938-39, but by this stage Meazza was suffering with blood clots in his legs.
A move to AC Milan - the club he had preferred as a boy - followed in November 1940, and he spent two years with Inter's arch rivals, but in the words of the journalist Gianni Brera: "With Milan (what a horrible sight!), we saw Meazza wander aimlessly on the pitch, his face cyanotic, as if he was on the verge of dropping dead any minute."
He went on to have brief spells with Juventus, Varese and Atalanta but in 1946, as he approached the age of 36, he returned to Inter as player-coach, and scored twice in 17 games as the club finished five points clear of the relegation zone. He departed in 1948 for a brief spell in charge of Besiktas and even had a spell coaching the Italian national team, but he returned to Inter as a youth coach in the mid-'50s. In 1980, following his death, the San Siro stadium was renamed in his honour.
Stanley Matthews (Stoke City, 1932-47 and 1961-65)
Though a Port Vale fan as a youngster, Stoke boss Tom Mather managed to convince the young Matthews to join the Potters. "It was obvious he was going to develop into a genius," Mather said. "The chairman told me: 'Lose this signature and you get the sack'."
Matthews went on to spend the next 15 years with Stoke and became an England international, but the war interrupted his career from the age of 24 to 30. When football restarted in earnest in the 1946-47 season, he requested a transfer to Blackpool, having moved to the area during his RAF service, and made the switch at the age of 32.
There were questions as to long he would remain at Blackpool - manager Joe Smith asked him if he thought he could last "another couple of years" - but he remained at Bloomfield Road until 1961, winning the FA Cup - his first major trophy - in 1953 and then, in 1956, narrowly beating Alfredo Di Stefano to the first Ballon d'Or award.
In October 1961, at the age of 46, returned to Stoke in the Second Division. "I wouldn't sign for any other club," he told the Daily Mirror. "I don't see why I can't go on a season or two. I still get butterflies before a match - when I play at the Victoria Ground again, there will be a swarm inside me."
Matthews' return saw 35,000 fans pack into the ground - four times the club's average - for what the Daily Mirror called "a dazzling display" as he inspired a 3-0 win over Huddersfield. In 1962-63, Matthews was voted FWA Footballer of the Year as Stoke secured promotion to the top-flight, and in 1965, his final year as a professional, he was knighted for services to football.
Raymond Kopa (Stade de Reims, 1951-56 and 1959-67)
During a five-year spell with Reims from 1951 to 1956, Kopa won league titles in 1951 and 1956 and helped the club finish runners-up to Real Madrid in the first ever European Cup in 1956.
After his performance in the final, Madrid signed him up for a whopping £70,000 and, though the fans were slow to take to the Frenchman, he helped the club to win three successive European Cups as well as La Liga titles in 1957 and 1958. After helping France to third place at the 1958 World Cup, he won that year's Ballon d'Or.
However, in 1959 he returned to his former club at the age of 27. Kopa told the club he wanted to leave not long after the European Cup final victory over Reims, prompting mystified responses from the Madrid press, but it later emerged that the club's repeated refusals to make him available to the French national team may have made his mind up. Even so, while there was interest from a number of top sides - Anderlecht in particular - it became clear that his heart was set on a return to his former club.
He helped Reims to further titles in 1959-60 and 1961-62, but things turned sour in the 1963-64 season. He received a lengthy ban after writing in a France Dimanche article of July 1963 that "the professional footballer is the only man who can be bought and sold without his consent like a slave", and he received another ban when he refused to play for France against Bulgaria that October after a dispute.
Reims finished second bottom that season and were relegated, but Kopa hung around - "Had I left, I would have felt like a deserter," he said - and helped them secure promotion in 1965-66 before announcing his retirement a year later.
Johan Cruyff (Ajax, 1964-73 and 1981-83)
After joining Ajax at the age of ten, Cruyff made his debut at 17 and went on to become the club's greatest ever player during his initial spell, winning six Eredivisie titles, five KNVB Bekers and three successive European Cups. In 1973, he followed Rinus Michels, the architect of Total Football, to Barcelona in a world-record transfer, and won the Ballon d'Or for the third time in 1974.
He announced his retirement from football in May 1978 having just turned 31, but financial pressures saw him head for the US in 1979, joining Michels at Los Angeles Aztecs before moving on to Washington Diplomats. He then returned to the Netherlands with the intention of playing for Ajax as an amateur, but the KNVB refused him permission, so he acted merely as a technical adviser. Still just 33, he received offers from an array of clubs in England and Germany to resume playing but ultimately plumped for a return to Spain with Segunda Division side Levante. When that move failed to work out, he made a brief return to Washington before re-signing with Ajax as a professional in December 1981.
The return was successful: Ajax won league titles in 1982 and 1983 as well as the 1983 KNVB Beker - and it was in his second spell that the memorable penalty kick routine was performed. However, Ajax declined to extend his contract, which he did not take well: "When the people at Ajax told me, 'You're too old', I said: 'That's not something you decide. I decide that'."
He exacted revenge by joining arch-rivals Feyenoord, helping them to a league and cup double in 1984 and winning the Gouden Schoen.
Zico (Flamengo, 1971-83 and 1985-89)
After joining Flamengo as a 12-year-old, Zico - one of Brazil's all-time greats - helped the club to the Brasileirão, Copa Libertadores, Intercontinental Cup and six Rio State Championships.
However, in June 1983, at the age of 30, he rejected a contract extension and left for Udinese in a $4 million deal fraught with controversy. Zico, already on a huge salary, won a legal battle that said he was entitled to 15% of the fee, but he assured his former club: "When I come back, I'm prepared to play for Flamengo for nothing."
He scored 19 goals in 24 games in his first season but brought no silverware, and when he had played just six games in February of his second season, Udinese president Lambert Mazza said he had "come to the conclusion that Zico is a useless luxury". In May that year, while he was in Brazil, an Italian court sentenced Zico to eight months in prison and a hefty fine for "having illicitly accumulated money outside the country" after apparently selling his brand and image rights through a London firm.
He was later acquitted, but it all helped make up his mind to rejoin Flamengo that summer. His return was hindered by injury, but he was part of the side that won the Rio State Championship in 1986.
Mark Hughes (Manchester United, 1980-86 and 1988-95)
Hughes signed for Manchester United as a youth and marked himself out as a striker of high quality during his early years there, scoring 37 goals in 89 games and helping the club to the 1985 FA Cup. In the summer of 1986, he departed for Terry Venables' Barcelona and United went into decline, with Ron Atkinson sacked.
Alex Ferguson was appointed in November and immediately set about trying to bring Hughes back from Barca, where he struggled to make an impact, but in the end the striker was sent on loan to Bayern for the 1987-88 season. Bayern bid £1 million to make the deal permanent, but the clubs failed to come to an agreement and, in May 1988, United brought him back in a £1.8 million deal.
The return proved a major success as he helped United to win two league titles, two FA Cups and a League Cup, but most memorable was the 1991 Cup Winners' Cup, when he netted a brace to defeat Johan Cruyff's Barca 2-1.
Ian Rush (Liverpool, 1980-87 and 1988-96)
After joining from Chester for £300,000 in 1980, Rush won four First Division titles, an FA Cup, four League Cups and the European Cup with Liverpool, but in the summer of 1986 he agreed a lucrative deal with Juventus that would see him move to Turin a year later.
He departed after a disappointing campaign that saw Everton claim the title, but Liverpool were back with a bang for the 1987-88 season: Kenny Dalglish had reinvested the funds in John Aldridge, John Barnes and Peter Beardsley, and the new-look side reclaimed the title.
Even so, when Rush struggled to adapt to life in Italy and was made available at a cut-price fee, Liverpool brought him back in August 1988. "I missed the fans," he explained. That Aldridge - his like-for-like replacement - was still at the club made things more difficult, but Rush eventually established himself as Dalglish's preferred choice in attack. Aldridge was shipped off to Real Sociedad in September 1989, while Rush's second spell added a further league title, two FA Cups and League Cup to his trophy haul.
Diego Maradona (Boca Juniors, 1981-82 and 1995-97)
River Plate had apparently been interested in Maradona when he was with Argentinos Juniors but, given funding by local businessmen, it was Boca Juniors who tempted him away in February 1981 in an astronomical deal that was to last 16 months and was worth up to $9 million plus six players in part-exchange.
He became an instant hero, scoring the goal that gave Boca the Metropolitano Championship in August 1981, but the club could not keep up with the payments. A legal dispute ensued, with the Argentinian Football Association having to chip in to keep him in the country ahead of the 1982 World Cup, and in the end he left for Barcelona at the end of that tournament, with Argentinos Juniors getting $6 million and Boca $2.3 million.
He said he was joining the greatest club in the world, and would later build a special relationship with Napoli, but the love affair with Boca remained. Their fans would sing "Diego, Diego, you're my life", while the player expressed a desire to finish his career there at the 1990 World Cup; even so, as his agent later made clear, they couldn't afford him.
The return did happen, but in less than ideal circumstances. Maradona had already had a failed stint with Newell's Old Boys - terminated after he fired an air rifle at the press - and then been given a 15-month ban after testing positive for drugs at the 1994 World Cup. In September 1994, he returned to Boca as an unpaid coaching assistant, and then signed on as a player in July 1995, making his second debut when his suspension expired in September.
It didn't work out, and he abruptly quit the club and sought treatment for drug abuse in August 1996. In April 1997, he refused a return to Boca on the basis that they were sponsored by Nike - "I just can't stand the Americans," he said - but then changed his mind. After hiring drug-cheat Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson as his personal trainer in June, Maradona failed a drug test for the third time in August. In October, on his 37th birthday, he announced his retirement from football.
Lothar Matthaus (Bayern Munich, 1984-88 and 1992-2000)
In a four-year spell after Matthaus joined Bayern from Borussia Monchengladbach in 1984, the club won three Bundesliga titles and the DFB-Pokal as well as finishing runners up in 1987 European Cup
After Euro 88, Matthaus, along with Andres Brehme, left for Inter and became an international superstar. Inter won the Serie A in his first season, and as West Germany boss Franz Beckenbauer said in 1990: "We gave Inter a very solid player, and Inter have made him into a champion.''
Matthaus added the 1990 World Cup and the 1991 UEFA Cup to his trophy cabinet and was named the 1991 FIFA World Player of the Year, but things went awry in the 1991-92 campaign. Matthaus had agreed to join Juventus as Inter struggled in the league but, when he picked up an injury in April, that agreement was cancelled and he ended up returning to Bayern in August 1992.
There, he won four more Bundesliga titles, a DFB-Pokal and the 1996 UEFA Cup as he made the transition from midfielder to libero. He left in 2000 to join New York-New Jersey MetroStars, making his final appearance before 60,000 fans at the Olympic Stadium as Bayern defeated Real Madrid 4-1 to reach the Champions League quarter-finals. "You can't get a better farewell match than this," he said.
Robbie Fowler (Liverpool, 1993-2001 and 2006-07)
Toxteth-born Fowler became known as 'God' among Liverpool fans after scoring 120 goals in 236 appearances, but in 2001 he left Anfield. Fowler had endured a troubled relationship with Gerard Houllier, and when Emile Heskey arrived to partner Michael Owen in attack, leaving Fowler frustrated at a lack of first-team opportunities, he was moved on to Leeds United. "I felt like crying," he later recalled.
In January 2006, Rafael Benitez moved to take the 30-year-old Fowler back to the club on a free transfer from Manchester City. "I'm not sure I've ever seen a player quite so happy to be joining a club before," Benitez said.
Fowler was prolific in his first half-season, with a better goals-per-games ratio than any of his strike rivals, but was given limited opportunities in 2006-07 before being released to join Cardiff.