Italian football owners must have a strange hankering for pain.
It’s the only way to explain why they consistently sell their best midfielders to arch-rivals for puzzlingly reasonable prices.
Radja Nainggolan is the latest midfielder to move between two direct rivals, joining Inter Milan from Roma and following in the footsteps of some nostalgia-inducing midfield maestros.
Juan Sebastian Veron- Parma to Lazio for €30million (1999)
Sir Alex Ferguson once told the British media: “On you go. I’m no fucking talking to you. He’s a fucking great player. Yous are fucking idiots.”
The player in question was Veron, whom Fergie signed from Lazio in 2001 with, at risk of producing a stream of f-bombs, mediocre results.
Two years earlier Lazio coach Sven Goran-Eriksson had convinced Parma to sell, presumably in a slightly more relaxed tone than Fergie took.
Hidetoshi Nakata- Perugia to Roma for €21.7million (2000)
There’s something of a mythical quality to Perugia, given they’ve had, at one time or another, Hidetoshi Nakata, Jay Bothroyd and Muammar Gaddafi’s son on their books.
Nakata left Perugia for Roma, helping Francesco Totti to his one and only Serie A title win in the process.
It was during that campaign that he sparked a rousing comeback against Juventus by whistling one past Edwin van der Saar from 30-yards out. One to tell the grandkids about.
Rui Costa- Fiorentina to AC Milan for €42million (2001)
Costa spent seven seasons in Florence, regularly mixing it with Zinedine Zidane, Youri Djorkaeff, Francesco Totti and Roberto Baggio as one of Italy’s premier playmakers.
In 2001 he ended his seven-year love affair with Florence to join AC Milan’s star-studded squad in what was, at the time, the Rossoneri’s most expensive transfer.
The Portuguese no.10 spent five years in Milan, winning a Serie A title and the Champions League among other honours, before heading back to Benfica to see out his days at the club where it all started.
Pavel Nedved- Lazio to Juventus for €38.7million (2001)
How do you fill a Zizou shaped hole? You sign the walking Head and Shoulders advert that was Nedved.
The Czech midfielder took his game to another level after leaving Lazio and was voted UEFA’s Best Midfielder in 2003, the same year in which he lifted the Ballon d’Or award ahead of Thierry Henry.
As the fashion juggernaut he was, he celebrated in fitting fashion.
Emerson- Roma to Juventus for €28million (2004)
Emerson followed Fabio Capello to Juventus in 2004, which might come as a surprise to those England players forced to watch Wayne Rooney’s wedding tape (no, not that one) on international duty out of boredom.
His trophyless spell at Juventus ended in relegation as a result of the Calciopoli scandal so the Brazilian again followed Capello, this time to Juventus.
One season later he was back in Italy with Milan, although there wasn’t a Capello in sight.