Didier Drogba with Galatasaray, Frank Lampard with Manchester City, David Luiz with PSG. Daniel Sturridge, too, I suppose, though he didn't actually play in the final. (And soon, Juan Mata, too.) Some to great applause, some to mixed feelings. Ryan Bertrand may not get the biggest ovation of all the above named, but on Sunday, we'll get to add his name to the list of Champions League heroes returned to Stamford Bridge with their new employers.
"It will be nice to go back and see a few faces, but other than that it will be business as usual. I want to go there and play well."
"Going back will have some impact, definitely, but as soon as the whistle blows it will all be about doing my job."
-Ryan Bertrand; source: Southampton FC
We're all familiar with the events of May 19th of now almost three years ago, and Ryan Bertrand making his Champions League debut in the final -- something that no one else has ever done -- as a makeshift defensive left winger, a tactical wrinkle that Roberto Di Matteo had tested in a few league games prior, is just one tiny legendary detail from that night.
It looked for a while that Bertrand's career at Chelsea would take off from that point. The next season, under Di Matteo and especially his replacement, the left back made 19 appearances in the Premier League and 38 total in all-competitions. He probably would've started his second consecutive European final, but an injury ruled him out of the Europa League decider against Benfica.
Alas, it was not meant to be. The emergence of Cesar Azpilicueta as the primary left back option under Jose Mourinho made not only Ashley Cole expendable, but prompted the now 25-year-old Bertrand to look for regular playing time elsewhere as well. After 10 years at the club, much of which was actually spent on loan somewhere else, one could hardly fault him. He was ready to be the first-choice man somewhere, anywhere.
That place turned out to be Southampton. An initial season-long loan was made permanent in January, for a fee of around £10m. And while Southampton's top 4 challenge seems to have faded, it's still been an excellent first season down on the South Coast for one of Chelsea's Champions League heroes.
Welcome back, Ryan Bertrand! (Come on Chelsea!)