To quote that FakeTaxi meme, this is becoming quite the f**king occurrence, isn’t it?
With football on hold, Dream Team have taken a keen interest in the past lives of the Premier League’s most-recognisable teams.
As always, the purpose of this exercise, aside from killing time, is to reveal the interconnected nature of football — think of it as a ‘six degrees of separation’ style pursuit.
KEPA ARRIZABALAGA & AYMERIC LAPORTE
Chelsea’s error-prone keeper has suffered a dip in reputation in the last year or so but he was admired at Athletic Bilbao, where he was protected by Aymeric Laporte.
The La Liga club have a policy of only employing players who are either from the Basque region or were nurtured at a Basque club at youth level.
Frenchman Laporte qualified through Basque descent dating back to his great-grandparents.
Man City signed him in January of 2018, meaning he and Kepa combined for just over a year, spread over two seasons.
Athletic finished 7th in 2017/18 but conceded just two fewer goals than champions Real Madrid.
Kepa was linked to a move to Los Blancos but ended up replacing Thibaut Courtois at Stamford Bridge after the Belgian made the Bernabeu his home.
CESAR AZPILICUETA & NACHO MONREAL
Cesar Azpilicueta has been a West London resident since 2012 and so his pre-Blues career is becoming increasingly difficult to recall.
He played alongside Gabriel Heinze and the Ayew brothers at Marseille but we went back further, to his Osasuna days, where he played with Nacho Monreal between 2006 – 2010.
Both ended up in England’s capital city via another club (Malaga for Monreal) on opposite sides of a fiercely contested rivalry.
This pair certain characteristics: professionalism, adaptability, positional sense… Spain.
KURT ZOUMA & PIERRE-EMERICK AUBAMEYANG
Chelsea signed Kurt Zouma from Saint-Etienne in 2014 as the statuesque centre-back followed Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang out of the door six months after the Gabon international’s departure.
Both used the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard as a stepping stone to bigger things, with Aubameyang signing for Borussia Dortmund after two consecutive impressive goalscoring seasons that coincided with Zouma’s flourishing years.
ANDREAS CHRISTENSEN & THORGAN HAZARD
We could have chosen Granit Xhaka to make it three Chelsea/Arsenal connections in a row but we assumed neither fan base would appreciate it.
Like many young talents curated in Cobham, Andreas Christensen was sent out on loan to gain first-team experience.
The Danish defender spent two season with Borussia Monchengladbach, more than holding his own in the Bundesliga.
Christensen is one of very few non-Belgians to have played with two Hazard brothers as his first proper run in Chelsea’s senior side coincided with Eden’s farewell campaign.
MARCOS ALONSO & RAUL
Marcos Alonso’s grandfather won five European Cups with Real Madrid in the 1950s and early 1960s.
And his father was a Castilla graduate but never played for the first team, instead representing Atletico Madrid and Barcelona most prominently.
Alonso just about managed to play for Real Madrid, he replaced Gonzalo Higuain in the 90th minute of a La Liga fixture at Racing de Santander in 2009/10.
His cameo may have been forgettable but it meant he became an official team-mate of Cristiano Ronaldo, Sergio Ramos, Iker Casillas and, perhaps most surprisingly of all, Raul, who was in his last season at the Bernabeu.
In terms of other candidates, Alonso has previously played with Micah Richards and Mohamed Salah at Fiorentina, Daniel Sturridge at Bolton (and Gary Cahill), and Jordan Pickford at Sunderland.
N’GOLO KANTE & THOMAS LEMAR
N’Golo Kante and Thomas Lemar have shared a pitch several times as France team-mates but they were also colleagues at club level at Caen.
Chelsea’s inexhaustible midfielder was still plying his trade as left-winger while Lemar was used sparingly as Caen earned promotion from Ligue 2 in 2013/14.
Kante joined Leicester in the summer of 2015 and soon became one of the world’s best players as the Foxes did the impossible.
Meanwhile, Lemar joined Monaco and would eventually win an improbably league title of his own (though not as remarkable as Leicester’s achievement) alongside Kylian Mbappe, Bernardo Silva, Fabinho and co.
JORGINHO & LUCA TONI
Jorginho’s time at Napoli is relatively well known so we trawled back through his formative years at Hellas Verona instead.
He enjoyed his best goalscoring campaign of his career in 2013/14, scoring seven goals in 18 Serie A appearances.
That same season, Luca Toni instigated his late-career revival, scoring 20 league goals, a tally only bettered by Ciro Immobile.
It was the first time the Italian target man had scored 20 league goals in a season since his first campaign with Bayern Munich, some six years earlier — and Jorginho had a front row seat.
If you insist on a former team-mate from Napoli, how about flash-in-the-pan specialist Michu?
The Swansea forward spent some time on loan in Naples after his magic had been exhausted.
MATEO KOVACIC & JAVIER ZANETTI
This pairing feels like a mismatch of eras.
25-year-old Mateo Kovacic seems like a typically modern player while Javier Zanetti rose to prominence in the late 1990s.
But these two shared a dressing room for one and half seasons at the very end of the legendary Argentine’s career.
A year after Zanetti ended his 19-season Inter career, Kovacic traded San Siro for the Bernabeu.
MASON MOUNT & ASHLEY COLE
Mason Mount’s obligatory loan spell at Vitesse revealed little in the way of fun exes, unless you count former Man United full-back Alexander Buttner as ‘fun’.
However, his temporary switch to Derby in 2018/19 meant he was exposed to the wisdom of experienced campaigner and former best left-back in the world, Ashley Cole.
Frank Lampard is the common link here and it’s no surprise the Rams have struggled this season without Lamps’ connections.
WILLIAN & SAMUEL ETO’O
You may think this a bit underwhelming, after all, most fans will have some memory of Samuel Eto’o in a Chelsea shirt.
That’s where you’d be wrong.
For the purposes of this article, we’re more interested in their time at Anzhi Makhachkala.
The Russian club made a daring attempt to become a global superpower through significant funding which brought the likes of Eto’o, Willian, Roberto Carlos, Chris Samba and Lassana Diarra through the door.
However, the bottom fell out of the project before it really got going and Chelsea picked up the pieces.
We hoped Willian’s time at Corinthians had overlapped with the final days of Carlos Tevez and Javier Maschaerano, but alas, the Argentina internationals had completed their controversial transfers to West Ham before the Brazilian broke through.
TAMMY ABRAHAM & RENATO SANCHES
Tammy Abraham is another who was forced to cut his teeth via loan moves before being given a chance to prove himself for Chelsea.
He linked up with Jack Grealish effectively to get Aston Villa promoted but before that he earned his stripes at Bristol City and Swansea.
The latter offered up the irresistible option of Renato Sanches, whose temporary switch to Wales from Bayern Munich made Abraham’s look successful!
Had Abraham exhibited the form he showed at Ashton Gate, Villa Park, or even Stamford Bridge this season – and if Sanches had been the raging bull who helped Portugal win Euro 2016 – the Swans may have avoided relegation in 2017/18.
As it is, both probably look at the Liberty Stadium as the venue for the lowest point of their respective careers so far.