Obviously not every big name transfer is going to turn out positively
(see our list of the worst transfers).
The transfers you have to consider as great are ones like Ronaldinho to Barca
and Cantona to Leeds or Man Utd, where a signing has transformed the fortunes
of a club. There are also great signings like Bergkamp and Henry to Arsenal,
where despite the high fees involved, a player was struggling at their previous
club but a manager has seen something, signed him and then reaped the rewards.
And don't forget the transfers of lesser known players, such as when Celtic signed
Henrik Larsson, who have then gone on to become legends at their new club.
Charlie Adam 2009 Rangers to Blackpool (£0.5m)
Charlie finds himself amongst some great names on this page but so what - we at MD towers are a fair bunch and no one can deny that this was a
truly great transfer by Blackpool gaffer Ian Holloway. The left-footed midfielder had been at Rangers since 2003 but had been farmed out
on loan several times, to Ross County, St Mirren and finally Blackpool. It wasn't a great start with the Seasiders though - he was sent
off on his debut in a 3:2 defeat against Donny Rovers ! However, some man-of-the-match performances and a couple of goals endeared him
to the Bloomfield Road faithful and having helped the club survive in the Championship Tangerines caretaker boss Tony Parkes said they were
keen to make the deal permanent. Holloway took over in the summer of 2009 and one of his first acts was to smash Blackpool's transfer
record - signing Adam for 500k (a modest sum for many Championship clubs but a hell of a lot of money at the time for Blackpool).
The idea was for Adam to help them secure their place in the Championship, what actually happened was fairytale stuff - Adam was in
sensational form from the start of the season, scoring 16 goals from midfield as the relegation favourites stormed up the table and
sneaked into the play-offs. Adam, captaining the team, topped off his season with a stunning free-kick in the final against Cardiff
as his side came from behind twice to win 3:2 and famously seal their place in the Premiership.
And quite simply, without the signing of Adam, it wouldn't have happened.
Paulo Di Canio 1999 Sheffield Wednesday to West Ham (£1.7m)
Following his infamous 11 match ban for pushing over Paul Alcock, nobody seemed to
want to touch the charismatic Italian forward with the proverbial bargepole.
Except for the poor old Wednesday fans - they knew exactly how good he was and
were desperately awaiting his return, but their boss Danny Wilson didn't fancy
managing him and it became clear that the Hillsborough hierarchy would not have
him back when the ban was complete. Just when it looked like he might be heading
back to Italy up stepped cockney laffing boy 'Arry Redknapp.
Di Canio's skill was unquestionable, but it was being able to control his
temperament that all the other managers were worried about. But Redknapp thought
he could handle it. It was seen as something of a gamble when he persuaded the
West Ham board to write a cheque for 1.7 million, but it soon became apparent
that they'd got him for peanuts. Paulo and 'Arry got on famously and following
numerous moments of trickery, man-of-the-match performances, goals and
goal of the season awards, Di Canio soon became the most popular Hammers player
since Trevor Brooking. Cor blimey, he even won acclaim for his sportsmanship
after he famously caught the ball at Everton whilst the goalie was down injured.
As a perennial wheeler dealer, this has to go down as Redknapp's finest hour.
Neil Lennon 1999 Crewe to Leicester City (£750,000)
When Martin O'Neill left Norwich for Leicester in 1995 one of his first signings would
be that of Neil Lennon in February 1996. Many clubs had looked at the Crewe
midfielder, but it was O'Neill who gambled 750k and snapped him up. And whilst O'Neill
quite rightly takes the plaudits for transforming the Foxes from 2nd tier nearly-men
to one of the country's top 10 teams, it was his signing of Lennon that would be the
catalyst for the club's most successful period in their history. Lennon formed a fine
midfield partnership with Muzzy Izzet (and later Robbie Savage), and even though a key
part of the team's success was based on commitment and work rate, Lennon's passing and
probing was at the time second to none, and he was undoubtedly the key player as
Leicester went on to win the League Cup in 1997 and 2000, finish runners-up in 1999,
qualified for Europe and never dropped out of the Premiership top 10.
However, by 2000 Leicester's board decided they'd had enough of silly things like
winning trophies and hanging around with the big boys at the top of the table and
decided to prepare the club for relegation
and fan misery by allowing both Lennon and O'Neill to move to Celtic, replacing them
firstly with Junior Lewis and Peter Taylor and then Dennis Wise and Dave Bassett.
Henrik Larsson 1997 Feyenoord to Celtic (£650k)
The o650,000 that Celtic paid Dutch club Feyenoord in July 1997 will go down in the club's history as one of their finest
bits of business.
Celtic had only just appointed a new manager - Dutchman Wim Jansen, which in itself proved to be something of a master-stroke.
Jansen, a legend from his days at the Rotterdam giants, had also managed the club and knew that Larson was in the middle of
a contractual dispute with them. Having scored goals for fun earlier in career in Sweden with Helsingborg, goals had been
harder to come by in the Eredivisie but Jansen persuaded the Celtic hierarchy that just over half a million pounds would be
money well spent on the 26 year old Larsson. However, his Parkhead career hardly got off to the best of starts - a wayward
pass on his debut against Hibs resulted in a 2-1 defeat, followed by an own goal against FC Tirol ! But from that
moment on things got better, and better. He finished the first season as the club's top scorer, scoring 16 league goals,
but more importantly for the Celtic faithful, his goals and assists helped stop Rangers from winning a record 10th title in a row.
From that moment on he effectively became a club legend and the goals, quite literally, started to fly in - 38 goals, 35 goals,
29 goals, 28 goals, all seasonal totals done in a ratio of just under a goal a game. By the end of the 2003-04 season,
following 7 seasons at the club Larsson had scored an incredible 242 goals in just 315 matches for the club.
He had effectively cost the club a paltry o2,700 per goal ! Despite his overwhelming goalscoring record much of the
English media were still unconvinced about just how good he was, claiming that in a stronger league than the SPL,
Larsson would not have the same impact. They were made to eat their words though, as spells with
Barcelona (as a 33 year old) and even Man Utd (as a 36 year old) proved his class at the top level,
even at such a late stage in his career. But it will be his time, and goals, at Celtic for which he will best be remembered.
Eric Cantona 1992 Leeds Utd to Man Utd (£1.2m)
Looking back now it seems incredible that Utd had to wait 26 years for a title win.
And who knows, if Fergie hadn't pulled off a master-stroke and persuaded Leeds to
let them have Cantona then they might still be waiting. Admittedly, they were
getting close to winning it, but Cantona gave them something extra that they
were missing. 4 titles in 5 years says all you need to know, and despite the
infamous Kung-Fu kick ban, he came back better than ever and inspired the team
to a famous title win in 1995-96, overhauling Newcastle's massive 12 point gap.
At Leeds he'd been an idol, at Man Utd he was considered a God.
Eric Cantona 1992 Nimes to Leeds Utd (£1.0m)
Having just "retired" from the game after being banned for throwing a ball at a referee
whilst playing for French club Nimes, Cantona was persuaded by Michel Platini to try a fresh
start in English football. He first arrived in England at Yorkshire rivals Sheffield
Wednesday, but after a weeks trial they stalled and asked him to stay on for another
week. Cantona was having none of it and Leeds boss Howard Wilkinson sneaked in and
offered him a permanent deal. The signing proved inspired as it gave Leeds the
momentum to see off Man Utd and Sheffield Wednesday in a close title race to
claim their first championship since 1974.
It would all end in tears though, Cantona being sold to their arch rivals across
the Pennines for only 1.2m, less than a year after he'd joined, much to the disgust
of their fans.
Steve Bull 1986 West Brom to Wolves (£65,000)
The transfer of local Tipton lad Steve Bull to Wolves in November 1986 for just
£65,000 would still have been one of the finest in English football, but the fact that
it was from bitter rivals West Brom only makes the story even greater for fans of the
Molyneux club. His phenomenal strike rate at the club began almost immediately - Bull
clocking up a half century of goals in his first full season as Wolves stormed to the old
Division 4 title. Incredibly Bull would achieve another 50 goal haul in the following
season, as his goals fired the team to a 2nd successive promotion. In those first few
seasons he was untouchable, scoring 6 hat-tricks in a season, achieving a goal ratio of
roughly one per game, and a prolific partnership with Andy Mutch. By 1989 he'd been capped
by England and he played 4 times in the 1990 World Cup. Bully was already a legend amongst
the Wolves fans but endeared himself further by resisting overtures from many top clubs to
stay loyal to the club and fans, although Jack Hayward and the club deserve praise for
keeping him rather than cashing in. By 1992 he'd become Wolves all-time leading goalscorer
when he went past John Richard's previous record of 194. And still he kept banging
them in. However, he was never able to achieve the Premiership dream, and by the summer of
1999 his knee injuries had finally taken their toll and he announced his retirement.
Nearly 13 years after signing for Wolves this incredible striker had scored more than 300
goals for the club, an average of nearly 25 per season. Not bad for 65 grand.
Stuart Pearce 1985 Coventry City to Notts Forest (£0.3m)
When Brian Clough agreed to pay Coventry £300k for central defender Ian Butterworth he also made a late request to include
left back Stuart Pearce as part of the deal. Coventry manager Don Mackay agreed and so started the rise of one of English football's
favourite sons. Although not immediately - shortly after the move Pearce even advertised his services as an electrician in the Forest match-day
programme to earn himself a few extra quid (we imagine Ashley Cole often considers doing the same at Chelsea). However, when he got the chance
Pearce's non-nonsense tackling and 100% effort quickly endeared him to the City Ground faithful and earned him the tag Psycho.
He played more than 400 games for the club, many as captain, and became the regular left-back for England following his debut in 1987.
Forest fans hoped he would end his career there but, having been persuaded to take a caretaker role as player-manager, the club were relegated from
the top flight in 1997 and he moved to Newcastle Utd for the following season.
Diego Maradona 1984 Barcelona to Napoli (£5.9m)
It may have cost them a world record fee at the time and ended in controversy, but ask the Neapolitans if it was
worth it and you will get a resounding "Si!". At the time of the transfer Maradona was enduring a tough time in La Liga
with Barcelona whilst Napoli had been flirting with relegation to Serie B for a number of years. The men who held the Lira
at the Azzurri did a fine job in persuading Maradona to join, because at the time there were no other players
of real quality at the club. However, over the next few seasons the likes of De Napoli, Ferrara, Carnevale, Giordano and Careca
would also arrive, and together with the genius of Maradona they would soon become a force. Third place in 1985-86 was followed
by the club's first ever Scudetto , with Maradona's goals and assists proving instrumental as they won the title on the
last day of the season. Two runners-up spots were followed by another title in 1989-90, with Maradona finishing the season as
it's top-scorer. Having given the city two championships, Maradona was now a Neapolitan legend, but his career there would end on
a sour note as he was banned for 15 months after the World Cup for testing positive for cocaine and never played for the