Former Liverpool striker Craig Bellamy was notoriously a bit of a hothead in his playing days.
Caught in a series of bitter disputes and controversies during his 18-year playing career, his most famous altercation saw him infamously drunkenly swing at Reds teammate John Arne Riise with a golf club in the early hours of a training trip in the Algarve, after the pair had fallen out out earlier in the day.
That exchange helped end the Wales international’s first stay at Anfield after just one season, when he was sold to West Ham United in a £7.5m deal in the summer of 2007. Manager Rafa Benitez would eventually tell the forward that he was free. to leave the club on the plane back after their 2007 Champions League final defeat to AC Milan, informing Bellamy that he would sign a new striker with Liverpool’s own club-record signing of Fernando Torres pushing him further down the pecking order.
However, Bellamy was back at Anfield just four years later when he was re-signed by Kenny Dalglish on a free transfer from Man City. Another fall out, this time with manager Roberto Mancini, saw the Welshman frozen out at the Etihad and opened the door to his Reds return.
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Banished by the Italian after a training ground row saw him sent home, Bellamy would spend the 2010/11 season on loan at boyhood club Cardiff City before belatedly securing a free transfer to Liverpool on transfer deadline day in August 2011.
Yet such a move came after City had spent the summer refusing to cancel his contract, and were ruled out of the first team for the entirety of pre-season as he was placed with the reserves.
“At this point I expect to go back there and stay the whole year,” Bellamy shared The telegraph in July 2011, eight weeks before his final exit. “And if Mancini is still there, I’ll probably do very little. Obviously I won’t be involved with him and the first team.
“It was tough (when former manager Mark Hughes left) – it was like losing someone. It was probably as bad as losing a family member in some ways. I even struggled to eat for a few days.
“It was a completely different structure which affected me completely. Mancini told me to stay with the team all the time. We had longer training sessions but without any intensity.
“He seemed to know my knee better than I did myself. He tried to explain why I was having trouble with it and what I should do about it. When I told him my knee hurt, he tried to tell me it wasn’t .
“Mancini wanted me to come in another day and do some work—but I told him I was done with my work that day, that I was keeping my own schedule. That’s when he started my program that I not being able to follow my own schedule while he was in charge – and that I had to do what he told me.
“He said ‘If you don’t, you can go home now. And don’t come back in’. I said ‘Okay, no problem, I’ll go home’. It was a week after he arrived – and then spoke he never to me again.
“If they pay me the last year of my salary then I’m sure I can go wherever I want. In that case my first option would be Cardiff.”
But while Bellamy’s record might paint a picture of a difficult character, with a row with his manager perhaps to be expected as a result, former team-mate Wayne Bridge’s own recollection of events plays down the initial breakdown in the pair’s relationship to an innocent question in training.
“I just don’t understand how when you’re in training and you meet mannequins, we have to do this, this and this,” Bridge said when he spoke exclusively for the Daily Star at the launch of Clubhouse 5.
“I remember one time Bellamy asked him a question and Bellamy was our best player at the time – and he sent him home. And that was it Bellamy!
“He basically said something like ‘What happens if the centre-back goes this way?’ Something like that. And he just told him to “shut up and do what you’re told!”
“He just asked what would happen if something happened and he didn’t want to answer it. He thought Bellamy was disrespecting him but he wasn’t.
“He was one of the best coaches, he was great with the kids and I think he was a bit misunderstood sometimes. He wanted to work for you and I think Mancini saw that as disrespect , but it wasn’t at all. Bellamy loves the game and would put his heart and soul into it.”
Bridge continued: “Bellamy lives in the moment, he says what he has to say. I like Bellamy, he gives you everything. I’ve seen fans give him sh**t and he’d say something back.
“Don’t get me wrong, he can give people a hard time, but if you do your job right, he probably won’t give you a hard time.
“He was great with the kids at City. He would take 10 minutes with the right-back at the end of a training session and say to him ‘If I do this, you do that’. He was really, really good. He gets more stick than he deserves.”
Man City’s loss would ultimately be Liverpool’s gain, with Bellamy enjoying a successful second spell at Anfield. Despite Cardiff making a late bid to re-sign him, he couldn’t resist the lure of playing for Reds legend Dalglish.
“I grew up with Kenny Dalglish, now to be signed by him is a huge honour,” he said at the time. “This is an exciting time. When Kenny took over, watching as a fan last season I got a buzz too and it was great to see Liverpool finish the season well.
“I’m very happy. It’s been a long few months, I had to be patient and believe that something like this could happen.”
Bellamy would ultimately have the last laugh on his old manager, Mancini, also at some point after his return to Anfield. Registering nine goals from 36 appearances, the forward would score the goal that booked the Reds’ place in the League Cup final at Man City’s expense, playing in front of the Kop to earn a 2-2 draw and 3-2 aggregate win.
Dalglish’s side would go on to win the League Cup, which would prove to be the only major prize of Bellamy’s career in English football. Meanwhile, the Wales international also started in the FA Cup final at Wembley against Chelsea, having set up Andy Carroll’s late semi-final winner over Everton.
Bellamy would then rejoin Cardiff City that summer for personal reasons, despite new manager Brendan Rodgers wanting him to stay at Liverpool. He spent two seasons with the South Wales club, helping them win promotion to the Premier League in 2013, before retiring in 2014.
Now a successful manager, the 43-year-old will return to Anfield again this year. Bellamy joined Burnley last summer as assistant manager to Vincent Kompany and helped the Clarets win promotion back to the Premier League last season by winning the Championship.