All-Star: Many happy returns for ex-Premier League rivals

John Terry en el All-Star Game 2012

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CHESTER, Pa. – There were pleasantries exchanged, hugs and pats on the backs between some old acquaintances before the 2012 AT&T MLS All-Star Game even began. It almost made you forget the heated ferocity between them in English Premier League battles nearly a decade ago.

When David Beckham was playing out his final season with Manchester United nine years ago, it marked the last time he butted heads in top-of-the-table clashes with Arsenal’s Ashley Cole and Thierry Henry, and Chelsea’s John Terry and Frank Lampard.

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Wednesday night’s game was a reunion of sorts for that quintet. And though the jerseys may have changed a bit, the memories have not faded.

“It brought back a lot of memories from back in the Premier League,” Terry (above) told reporters of facing Beckham and Henry again. “They have been great for football over here and it is great to see.”

Lampard was able to exchange a few quick words with both MLS stars before kickoff as well, and left the pitch enjoying the experience despite the 3-2 loss.

“They’re huge personalities in the world game, let alone the MLS,” he said. “So to play against them is an honor. You can still see the quality they have and desire to go and play their best.”

Beckham, on the other hand, has had the opportunity to play alongside Henry before, as recently as last year’s MLS All-Star Game. But he rarely gets the opportunity to face off against not only old rivals in Terry, Lampard and Cole, but also his former teammates on the English national team.

“I’ve known them for so many years and I’ve watched them grow,” the 37-year-old former England captain told MLSsoccer.com, congratulating the Chelsea trio for also winning last year’s UEFA Champions League trophy.

“Obviously, I’m a lot older than them," he smiled. "I’ve seen them grow from young kids into men and into winners as well, so it’s great to see them here. Good luck to them next season.”