2010 Craig Bellamy Man City to Cardiff City (loan)
One of football's oddest little characters, Craig Bellamy seems to have got under more people's skin than a north European
sheep tick, particularly as his career progressed and he ...er, matured.
There's never been any doubt about his footballing talent and there have always been numerous clubs willing to put up
with his stormy character. So when Bellamy fell out with Roberto Mancini at the end of Man City's 2009-10 season and
then into the start of the next it was time for the Welsh forward to move on again.
Spurs were the favourites for his signature, but City were reluctant to let him to go to one of their main rivals
for a Champions League spot. However, with the North London side out of the picture there were still a whole
host of other Premiership clubs and even some top-notch continental ones who were prepared to take the plunge.
When Man City left him out of their 23 man Europa League rumours started circulating that Bellamy was about to
ignore the overtures from Premiership clubs and sign on loan with Championship outfit Cardiff City.
A big surprise given that Bellamy was in the form of his life and would have livened up most Premiership
starting XI's, but it was his home-town club. However, the strangest part of the situation was that Cardiff City were
facing a winding-up order from Inland Revenue only the day before Bellamy signed. The club also signed fellow Welsh
star Jason Koumas on a similar deal from Wigan - bizarre signings for a Championship club who'd spent the previous
seasons with transfer embargoes and all sorts of concerns over the state of their finances.
We're not sure how they managed it, or how the football authorities let them get away with it, but Cardiff seemed to be able
to operate in some sort of extra dimension where the worlds of football, debt and finance were so hideously warped that
it began to create its own reality. A bit like that movie Inception but with Peter Ridsdale instead of Leonardo di Caprio.
2009 Julien Faubert West Ham to Real Madrid (loan)
Definitely one of the oddest transfers of recent times - French right winger Faubert had hardly been a
sparkling success for the Hammers since his 6 million pound move from Bordeaux in the summer of 2007.
Consistently hampered by injury, when he had played he'd struggled to make an impact. So when stories
surfaced that none other than Real Madrid were interested in signing him, people laughed it off as
classic rumour-mongering. But there's often no smoke without fire when it comes to football gossip - and
when ex-Spurs boss Juande Ramos did actually sign him for Real in January
2009 at a cost of 1.5m for the rest of the season (with an option to buy him permanently at the end of it)
you can only imagine the look of bewilderment on Hammers fans faces as they read the story in the London Evening Standard
whilst tucking into their jellied eels, pie and mash. A truly bizarre signing, but the story doesn't end
there. Rather than grasping the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity with both hands, Faubert's spell there
was wonderfully comical - he missed training as he thought he'd been given a day off, and then he was famously
pictured asleep on the substitutes bench during the match against Villareal. He played only two matches and
returned to Upton Park when the loan ended. Needless to say, the Spaniards didn't take up the
option to sign him on for 2009-10.
2006 Carlos Tevez / Javier Mascherano Corinthians to West Ham (undisclosed fee)
If any TV pundit had suggested during the middle of the 2006 World Cup that Argentinian duo Tevez and
Mascherano would sign for West Ham only a couple of months later then they would have been declared
clinically insane and be scouring the situations vacant columns with Big Ron and Rodney Marsh.
But on transfer deadline day in August 2006 that's exactly what did happen. Fully expecting the pair to
sign on for one of the Champions League heavyweights, the football world was shocked and stunned
when the players owners Media Sports Investment announced the pair would be packing their bottles
of jellied eels and heading for Upton Park. The move was surrounded in mystery, with rumours of
a £35m release-clause in their contracts. The mystery was partly unravelled a few months later
when it became clear that MSI's president was in the running to buy the east London club.
As for the players, both had nightmare starts and Mascherano was soon on his way when
Alan Curbishley took over as manager, however Tevez remained, found his feet, became a cult-hero, and almost single-handedly
kept the Hammers in the Premiership, scoring the winner at Old Trafford on the final
day of the season.
2006 Jean-Alain Boumsong Newcastle Utd to Juventus £3.25m
Following his disastrous £8m move from Rangers to Newcastle, one has to ask "Did Juve see him play?".
Obviously not. Or was this part of their punishment for the match-fixing scandal ? Relegation,
points deduction and Jean-Alain Boumsong. What else can explain the signing of Boumsong for money.
His performances at St James Park were probably best summed up by the Observer, who once
described him as "not so much a weak link at the back, as an extra attacker for the opposition".
2006 Craig Davies Oxford Utd to Verona £85,000
Okay, so the Verona of 2006 may not have been up to the same standard as the 1984-85 team that famously won
the Scudetto with the likes of Hans-Peter Briegel, Antonio Di Gennaro and Preben Elkjaer in the line-up, but
the 40,000 Stadio Marcantonio Bentegodi was still a far cry from the League 2 grounds that Craig Davies was used to
with Oxford Utd. To be fair, the young striker had already been capped by Wales against Slovenia but when Verona snapped
him up in February he wasn't even being picked for a struggling U's team that were about to be relegated to the Conference.
Rather unsurprisingly, Davies' move to the Gialloblu didn't prove too successful - just 1 game and 0 goals,
and he was farmed out to Wolves a few months later, where he didn't score either, before being transferred to Oldham Athletic.
2004 Socrates Unattached to Garforth Town (no fee)
When it was announced that the legendary, 50 year old Brazilian, Socrates, was about to
sign for Garforth Town in 2004, the words 'elaborate' and 'hoax' were on most people's
lips. How could this classic Brazilian playmaker, captain of the great Brazilian side
from the 1982 World Cup, wash up in West Yorkshire playing football at the 10th rung
of the competitive ladder in England? A man whose club experience included Flamengo,
Botafogo and Fiorentina, and the owner of 63 Brazil caps.
The answer was through Garforth's owner, Simon Clifford. Clifford oversees an empire of
football schools based on Brazilian coaching techniques. Through his business interests
they became friends, hence the invitation. Socrates, famous for his cigarette addiction
and being a qualified doctor, captained his country in the Mexico World Cup of 1986 in
addition to 1982. Socrates made his debut for Garforth against Tadcaster United in
November 2004. A crowd of 1,300 turned up, Garforth's biggest for 40 years. He'd
warmed up for his non-league debut in the traditional manner, a personal appearance at
Sheffield's Meadowhall Shopping Centre, before wrapping himself against the elements on
the bench. He played 12 minutes as a substitute and clearly enjoyed himself commenting
"It was far too cold. The second I got out I had this incredible headache, I'm just not
used to it". Still, a great day was had by all and Socrates left the ground to chants of
"We love you Socrates, we do". Which is something you probably don't hear every day in
Yorkshire mining villages. Clifford, clearly trying to avoid accusations of a publicity
stunt, went on to try and entice Careca, Zico and Bebeto to join his football revolution
but they had gone out and their mums didn't know when they'd be back in.
2003 David Bellion Sunderland to Man Utd £2.0m
Avid follower's of the country's top football gossip columns were left constantly bewildered throughout 2002
as Sir Alex was repeatedly linked with a player who never even seemed good enough to play for a side
relegated from the Premiership with what was then the lowest ever points total. But Fergie seemed that
desperate to get him that there were even allegations of the French youngster being "tapped up". Why ? Surely
an offer of a bag of balloons and a pencil would have secured his signature, but amazingly the Black Cats chief
Bob Murray managed to wangle £2million (that's million) from them. Not so amazingly, Bellion scored
less than a handful of goals at Old Trafford and was eventually farmed out on loan as Fergie tried to forget all
about the whole sorry episode.
2001 Andy Booth Sheffield Wednesday to Spurs (loan)
A traditional old-style target man, Booth was never going to be a hit with the footballing
aristocrats of White Hart Lane (TM). The fact that Spurs fans voted the big Yorkshire lummox
as the worst Spurs player of all time pretty much sums it up.
The Lord only knows why caretaker manager David Pleat thought it would end up any other way.
His four game loan spell ended as it started - with the Tottenham fans looking on in horror and
sheer disbelief. Needless to say, they didn't attempt to make the deal permanent.
2000 Claudio Caniggia No Club to Dundee (free)
Most football fans know the name of Claudio Caniggia - those long flowing locks of golden hair, those decent
World Cup performances, that night in jail, that cocaine, and, of course, Cameroon's Benjamin Massing's attempts
to launch him into space with 'that foul' at the 1990 World Cup.
Yes, back in the early 90's, Caniggia was a household name, a global star, Argentina's 2nd most famous footballer.
So when Dundee fans woke up on the 4th October 2000, to the news that their small Dens Park club was trying to
sign Caniggia, they must have thought that April the 1st had come 172 days early. Even chairman Peter Marr thought
he was being wound up when manager Ivano Bonetti suggested that there was a chance to get Caniggia over to discuss
a potential deal. Italian midfielder Bonetti was Dundee's player manager at the time, and along with his brother
Dario they knew Caniggia from some old connections at Italian club Atalanta. This was key to any proposed deal,
no disrespect to previous manager Jocky Scott, but if he'd still been manager it's doubtful that Caniggia would
have even got out of his Buenos Aires bed to check where Dundee was, let alone get on a plane to Glasgow.
Despite the fact that Caniggia wasn't tied to a club (he hadn't played since leaving Atalanta in June) the
supporters were sceptical that he'd even come over for talks, stunned when news filtered through that he'd been
seen at the airport, and gobsmacked when he actually struck a deal to play until the end of the season. When he
arrived at Dens Park he was mobbed for autographs, and that wasn't the fans, it was the Dundee players. Ok,
so he had no other club at the time, but it was still an incredible coup to get him to sign for a small Scottish
club - this wasn't just big news at Dens Park, but for football in Scotland as a whole. It's often said that many
people of a certain age can remember where they were when John Lennon died, but Dundee fans remember where they
were when Claudio Caniggia signed. "Dun time. Dun coke. Dun dee" screamed one of the newspaper headlines, and
whilst the fans were ecstatic, the media were suspicious, thinking it was just an easy pay day. So when Caniggia
spoke of the move as a great chance for him to play again, to get back in the Argentinian set-up and ultimately
play in the 2002 world cup, you could almost hear the sniggers in the press conference. But they were soon proved
wrong. 10 days after signing he made his debut up at Aberdeen. Thousands of Dundee fans made the trip, and the
dream scenario arrived late in the game as Caniggia came on as a substitute to inevitably scored the final goal.
Fans and players alike were left mesmerised by some of his deft touches, back-heels, general trickery and vision.
And any suspicions that the Argentine wouldn't take the Scottish league seriously were blown away as he led the
team up the table and into the top 5. Caniggia had initially been brought in on a short contract as a replacement
for injured forward Fabien Caballero, but such was the impact he'd made that in January 2001 the club managed to
get him to sign a 2 year contract extension. Yet whilst the Dundee fans lived the dream and loved every minute
of it, it only lasted 7 months, despite their best efforts to keep him, Glasgow giants Rangers swept in and
signed him during May 2001. It's worth noting that for a man whose career was often blighted by indiscipline he
was almost a model professional in Scotland, and the move did mean he achieved his goal and was named in the
Argentinian squad for 2002, although he did manage to get sent off without even playing a game - receiving
a red card for dissent whilst on the bench against Sweden !
1999 Ronnie O'Brien Middlesbrough to Juventus (Free)
There are strange transfers, there are bizarre transfers, and then there is the Ronnie O'Brien
transfer. A member of the fine Irish national youth side of the 90's, midfielder O'Brien was
tipped for great things along with fellow starlets Robbie Keane and Damien Duff, and so it was
no surprise when he signed professional terms with Middlesbrough in 1997. However, after 2 years
sat in the reserves at the Riverside, with no sign of a breakthrough to the 1st team, he
decided it was time for a move elsewhere. So where would you expect a 20 year old Irish lad,
with no top-level experience, to head for in his quest for first team football ? Maybe stay
in the area and go to somewhere like Hartlepool ? A decent little set-up like Crewe ? Or try
for something a bit higher - like a 1st division outfit ? Sod that! O'Brien got himself a
top agent and told him "Get me a contract with the biggest club in Italy". Well, that's
not exactly what happened, but he did get himself a decent agent, and having been spotted by
a Juventus scout, they somehow ended up negotiating a 5 year deal with the Turin giants.
"It's a dream move for me", he said at the time. You're not kidding. That was almost
the understatement of the 20th century. However, after 2 years of being farmed out on loan to
various Italian and Swiss clubs, O'Brien had enough and asked for a move back to England.
Quite what he was expecting we're not sure. To just walk into the dressing room and grab the
number 8 shirt ? Maybe his agent should have insisted in a contract clause stipulating that
'if Zidane plays, then so does Ronnie'. Strangely, Juventus still insisted that a great future
lay ahead for him at the club, but eventually agreed that he could move to a non-European team,
whereby the farce ended with a move to FC Dallas.
1996 Ali Dia Unattached to Southampton (Trial)
Ali Dia, or Ali Dire as he became known, will go down in history as possibly the worst ever
Premiership player, but also the cheekiest. Having struggled to make a living in the lower
reaches of French football, the 30 year-old Dia turned his attention across the English
Channel, where, with the help of BSkyB, the roads to football stadiums had become paved with
gold. Turned down by Bournemouth and Gillingham, he managed to sign semi-pro terms with
non-league outfit Blyth Spartans, which was probably just about his level. However, the
ambitious Dia wanted more, so armed with a cunning plan he set about making the step-up to
the Premiership. And Southampton's manager Graeme Souness was on his radar... Dia
pretended to have won 13 caps for Senegal (he hadn't) and that he was related to top
Liberian striker George Weah (he wasn't). However, a phone call from Weah was enough to
convince Souness to hand him a 30 day contract. Dia was lined up to play in a reserve game,
but after it was cancelled he was thrown straight into the deep-end with a place on the
bench against Leeds in November 1996. When Le Tissier was injured after half an hour there
was high expectation in the crowd as the new signing, the cousin of the great George Weah,
came on to a rapturous welcome. And what a debut it was - 50 spectacularly bad minutes later,
the likes of which has not been since anywhere in professional football, Dia was himself
substituted in front of a disbelieving Dell crowd. It later transpired that the crackly
voice on the other end of the phone hadn't been the AC Milan legend Weah after all but
Dia's agent. Southampton cancelled his contract, Gateshead snapped him up for some
publicity, and he hasn't been seen since. Or has he ? Did anyone double-check Jean-Alain
Boumsong's details ?
No video clip of the
great man in action, but click here for Matt Le Tissier's view.
1996 Fabrizio Ravanelli Juventus to Middlesborough £7m
In May 1996 the White Feather was one of the world's hottest properties, scoring in the
Champions League final as Juventus beat Ajax to win the title.
So imagine the surprise when he swapped what was then possibly the biggest name in club
football for a team who's honours list rather sheepishly read just 2 things... the
Anglo-Scottish Cup and the Zenith Data Systems Cup.
For a bit of a comparison - imagine Samuel Eto'o signing for Watford in the summer of 2006.
Anyway, back to Boro and 1996... Having spent about £15m on Barmby, Juninho and Emerson,
manager Bryan Robson splashed out a whopping £7m and offered the player
one of the best contracts in the world. However, despite scoring 16 goals in his
opening season, Ravanneli hardly endeared himself to the club's supporters by
constantly slating the town, complaining about the weather and generally moping around with a face like fizz.
1986 Enzo Francescoli River Plate to Matra Racing de Paris (aka Racing Club de Paris)
Another former South American player of the year who strangely opted for a lesser known club when many of
the big teams were interested in him. Francescoli apparently wanted to move to Paris for the city's
cultural style, and with the Matra Group
heavily investing in the club at the time, 'Le Prince' joined other football luminaries such as
Pierre Littbarski, Luis Fernandez, David Ginola, Ruben Paz, Rabah Madjer and Maxime Bossis for what was expected to be a
real footballing revolution. It may have been a French super-team on paper, but on the pitch it was pants,
and it's widely acknowledged that Francescoli wasted 3 of his best years at a club that was
eventually in complete disarray. To be fair to the Uruguayan, he did want to leave in 1987, when Juventus
were interested in him, but Matra's owner Jean-Luc Lagardere refused to sell him.
1983 Zico Flamengo to Udinese £2.5m
Having resisted all previous temptation to leave Flamengo for the riches of Europe,
Zico shocked the football world when he eventually arrived in Italy and landed not in Turn,
Milan, Rome or Naples, but the small north eastern city of Udine.
The speculation was that Udinese were gambling on him starting off well so that they could
sell him on to Juventus at a large profit. And the Brazilian did not disappoint -
getting off to a flyer with 19 goals in his first season. It looked like the Friuli club's
gamble would pay off. However, they surprised everyone again by keeping Zico, along with
other big-earners Edinho and Causio. But an injury hit 2nd season left the Bianconeri
kicking themselves, and Zico moved back to Flamengo at then of the season.
1983 Luther Blissett Watford to AC Milan £1.0m
Ex Watford player and TV coach to the 'Legends', Luther Blissett bemused many, if not all,
Milanese fans back in 1983 when he was transferred to AC for one million pounds. Back then
that sort of fee could buy you almost anyone in world football. So what did the aristocrats
of Italian football see in this bustling, if not too skilful, striker ? Some say that the
Italian scouts sent back reports on the wrong player, and no, we don't mean Wilf Rostron.
During his one season in Serie A he notched a measly 5 league goals in 30 appearances and was
shipped back to Vicarage Road within the year. 'Luther Missett' may well have
been a name nearer the mark, but don't mock it - from this bizarre transfer a cult arose:
the "Luther Blissett Project", in a nutshell a phenomenon that started in Italy and involves
performers, artists, even activists, using the name of the Hornet's legend as an alias, or a
nom de plume. Books, poems, media hoaxes, have all used the name in places all over the
world, and all thanks to that transfer.
1983 Allan Simonsen Charlton Athletic to Vejle BK
Ok, so we've got the great Dane in for his move from Barca, but this was equally bizarre because
his form for struggling Charlton (9 goals in 16 games) showed he could hack it in the English
league as well as the Spanish. When Charlton's desperate finances forced him to be sold, he
had a whole host of top English, Italian and Spanish clubs interested in taking him. However,
he decided to surprise everyone again by signing for Vejle BK, the home-town club where he'd started
his playing career. Good man.
1983 Allan Simonsen Barcelona to Charlton Athletic £0.3m
Following three successful seasons at Barcelona, the former European player of the year was
forced to move on after the Catalans signed Maradona and the club had to bow to the rules
regarding the number of foreign players. So where would one of Europe's brightest attackers go ?
Back to the Bundesliga ? Maybe one of the Serie A clubs who were interested in him ? Another
Spanish club ? Spurs ? You must be kidding. That would have been the easy option for the
likeable Dane. Instead, he decided to plump for Charlton, a financially crippled English 2nd
division club, whose prospects on the pitch were even worse than those off it. Simonsen did the
business on the pitch though, 9 goals in his first 16 games quickly establishing him as a firm
favourite with the crowd. However, with the club unable to pay his wages they were forced to
sell him on before the year was out.