The Transfer Window: The Good, The Bad and the Bizarre

[Originally featured in Liquid Football Magazine Issue One – January 2016]

The Transfer Window has officially “swung open” and for many, it feels like Christmas and New Year rolled into one….

Social media usage multiplies dramatically as your eyes are kept peeled, in anticipation of seeing a brand new signing holding your team’s scarf up with pride. Or that you’ve finally managed to hoof that wage-sponge, donkey out of the door.

But, just like Christmas, it might not be all fun and games. Your club could decide to cash-in on your star player, just days after you’ve spent a small fortune having their name and number pressed onto the back of your brand new, overpriced shirt.

It can also be a torrid time for the gullible, as the likes of Indy Kaila and the rest of the Twitter ‘ITKs’ are working overtime (no, not at KFC), getting ready to pounce on your vulnerability – building your hopes up, before reality mercilessly knocks you back down to earth [tip; don’t be wasting your time entering one of Indy’s giveaway competitions. His cousin won the last one – convenient, don’t you think?]

In a nutshell; the Transfer Window is usually a mixed bag. Here’s a selection of some of the good, the bad and the bizarre from modern times…

THE GOOD

Alan Shearer – Blackburn Rovers
At just 21 years of age, Alan Shearer became the most expensive player in British football when he joined Blackburn from Southampton for £3.6 million (plus David Speedie) in 1992. In his first two seasons he scored 47 goals. And In ’95, his and Chris Sutton’s (the original SAS) 49 goals – 34 of those from Shearer – lead Blackburn Rovers to the Premier League title. Although Rovers never repeated their success of that season, Shearer continued to find the net. In his four years at Ewood Park, he bagged 130 times, before earning the club over £11 million in profit via a then-world-record transfer to Newcastle United.

Eric Cantona – Manchester United
In 1992/93, United were lagging behind. But the arrival of Eric Cantona in November for just £1.2 million from Leeds proved to be a superb piece of business. The Frenchmen was key to guiding the club to their first league title in 26 years. In fact, during his five seasons at Old Trafford, the only time they didn’t win the league was 1995 – which Cantona was absent for most of, after that incident at Selhurst Park.

Thierry Henry – Arsenal
Eyebrows were raised in the summer of 1999, when Arsene Wenger splashed the cash (it happened, honestly) with an £11 million move for Thierry Henry from Juventus. Many thought that, as he’d struggled to make an impact in Italy, that Arsenal had wasted their money. But the critics couldn’t have been more wrong, as Henry went on to become Arsenal’s greatest ever player, scoring 174 goals in eight seasons with the Gunners.

Nicolas Anelka – Arsenal
Anelka was one of Wenger’s first signings upon his arrival at Highbury. At 17, he wasn’t expected to be in the first team picture for a few seasons, but an injury to Ian Wright offered a way in for the young Frenchman, and he capitalised on it. But, after just two and a half years, “Le Sulk” was sold to Real Madrid for £22.3 million resulting in a stunning profit of £21.8 million.

Luis Suárez – Liverpool
He was a bit of a pain in the arse for Liverpool, but there’s no doubting that his £22.8 million price tag was worth it. Especially when you take into consideration the fact that Andy Carroll cost the club £12 million more than that! And if you sweep the biting under the carpet for a bit, you can appreciate the fact that he almost single-handedly won the Premier League title in 2014, and scored 69 goals during his time at Anfield. But after he bit another player (sorry, tripped and fell into Chiellini’s shoulder) at the World Cup, it was the right time for Liverpool to cash in. But they made a tidy £52 million profit. Not bad business at all.

Gareth Bale – Tottenham
At first, it seemed like the £7 million that Spurs paid Southampton for the young, Welshmen was a massive waste of money. In fact, he went 24 league games without being on the winning side and with a poor record of injuries, he was almost sold to Nottingham Forest – a move that only fell through following another injury. But a drastic improvement during two superb seasons saw him instead sold to Real Madrid, for a world record £85 million.

Cristiano Ronaldo – Manchester UTD
There was mass excitement in the Summer of ’03, as the headlines read “Manchester United sign Ronaldo”. But that joy soon faded when it turned out that it wasn’t Il Fenomeno heading to the Premier League, but instead it was some Portugeuse impostor. But no one would have imagined how good he was actually going to be – almost as good as the real Ronaldo. Manchester United had actually managed to unearth the best player in the world, for a bit. During his time at Old Trafford, he won a plethora of trophies, including three leagues and one Champions League, but they could not keep hold of him as Real Madrid circled, and he was reluctantly sold to the Spanish giants. But for no less than a then-world-record fee of £80million. Not bad at all for a £12million investment.

Lionel Messi – Barcelona
Didn’t cost the Catalonians a single peseta. There is nothing else to say.

THE BAD

Francis Jeffers – Arsenal
Arsene Wenger thought that he had secured the services of one of the country’s hottest, young talents when he signed Francis Jeffers for £8million in 2001. And Jeffers himself, who burned his bridges with the Everton faithful by forcing the move, thought he’d made the big time. But little did either of them know that the move to Highbury would be the beginning of the end of the Scouser’s career. After failing to impress, the misfiring striker was sold to Charlton (via a disappointing loan spell back at Goodison) for a quarter of what the Gunners paid for him. Amazing to think that a man with such big ears would fail to fly.

Andriy Shevchenko – Chelsea
In 2006, Chelsea paid an English-record transfer fee for Milan legend Shevchenko. At the time, it seemed that the hefty price tag was completely justified, as the Ukrainian was considered one of the best players in the world, and was a sign of intent from Roman Abramovic. But the striker just couldn’t get a stranglehold on the Premier League, and quickly went from “completely justified” to a “complete waste of money”.

Robbie Keane – Liverpool
Since childhood, it was Robbie Keane’s dream to join Liverpool FC (as well as Celtic, La Galaxy, Leeds, Accrington Stanley and god knows who else), and his dream came true in the summer of 2008, as Liverpool forked out £19million to secure the Irishman’s services. But the ‘dream’ soon turned into a nightmare, as Keane failed to live up to expectations at Anfield and was remarkably sold back to Tottenham (probably a dream of his) for £12million just six months later. Liverpool had effectively paid £7million for an ill-fated six-month loan deal. But it wouldn’t be too long before they made another monumental calamity in the transfer market…

Andy Carroll – Liverpool
A Newcastle United youth product. He looked promising at a young age, a typical English centre forward – immobile but great in the air. After a few goals for Newcastle, Liverpool splashed out £35million on the big geordie. What makes this transfer even worse, is the fact that they signed Suarez on the same day – and for less money! Carroll failed to cut it at Liverpool, scoring just six goals in 44 appearances. His price-tag almost makes me cringe as much as his old social networking account.

Fernando Torres – Chelsea
This is where Liverpool got the money to waste on Carroll in the first place. Fernando Torres was, at one time, the best striker in the world. However, in 2011, when Chelsea forked out £50million for his services, the long-haired Spaniard was already on the decline. Like Jimmy Grimble without his magic boots. In the first couple of seasons, Chelsea would persist in keeping him in the side. But after that sort of money, you’d have to, you can’t just return him with the receipt. He scored twenty odd goals for Chelsea in over one hundred outings, poor return.

Falcao – Manchester United/Chelsea
When United signed Falcao at the start of last season, I was excited to see what he could do. ‘Nothing’, is the answer. Four goals in twenty something games for United, he scored just four times. Then onto Chelsea in another disastrous loan deal. There’s only one thing to come out of Columbia worth £350k per week and, it’s not Radamel Falcao.

Jonathan Woodgate – Real Madrid
Probably one of the worst transfers of all. In 2004, Woodgate had a few good games for Newcastle in Europe, then Spanish giants Real Madrid came calling. Having paid a fee of over £13million to secure his services, what service he provided I’m still yet to work out. He failed to make a single appearance in the 2004/05 season, and when his debut finally did arrive, he probably wishes he was still crocked. He scored an own goal and got sent off for two bookable offences. But Jonathan Woodgate played for Real Madrid, there’s hope for us all yet.

Anderson – Manchester United
Yanited forked out £20million on this one-footed Brazilian. He remained at Old Trafford for eight years… because nobody would take him off their hands. Eventually they managed to ship the tubby Anderson off to Fiorentina where he was subbed off on his debut and received oxygen for fifteen minutes. Which is exactly how my sports days used to end as at school.

THE BIZARRE

Bojan Krkic – Stoke City
This one falls into the ‘bizzare’ category, without question. The talented Spanish winger boasts giants Barcelona, Milan, Ajax and Roma as his former clubs. But could he do it on a cold, wet night in Stoke? Of course he could. After failing to leave a lasting impression at his previous clubs (although he could be forgiven for that, considering who they are), Bojan decided that Stoke would be his next destination. Although the move was more than likely just a stepping stone.

Robinho – Manchester City
Signing players for £30million plus is no great shakes for Manchester City, these days, but in 2008, they were still idolising Shaun Goater. Not only that, but Robinho was seen as one of the best in the world and was close to joining either Chelsea or their rivals, United. Players of that calibre simply did not go to City – it literally shook the football world. But money talks, and for Man City, it’s been talking ever since.

Xherdan Shaqiri – Stoke City
Old Sparky might not be the best manager around, but you can’t fault his ability to lure top talent to small clubs. This time signing “The Magic Dwarf” from European giants, Inter Milan. Shaqiri was a Champions League winner with Bayern just two years previous, but he still fancied a go at Stoke City. Another stepping stone.

Sol Campbell – Notts County
Ol’ Sol’s recent antics have shown that he might be a few sandwiches short of a full picnic. But the warning signs were there a few years ago, when he decided to drop three divisions to sign for League Two’s Notts County. In fairness to the former Arsenal and England powerhouse, the World’s oldest football club had recently been taken over by a group calling themselves “Munto” – who claimed to have ambitions of turning the Magpies into a Premier League force. But eyebrows were raised soon after when the new owners talked of changing the club’s name to Harchester United – from that crap Sky One show, Dream Team. For Campbell though, it was far from a dream and he got on his bike just three days after his debut.

Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano – West Ham
Probably the most bizarre transfer in recent years. West Ham fans couldn’t believe their luck when it was announced that they’d signed two of Argentina’s World Cup stars from Corinthians. But when something seems too good to be true, it usually means it is. And it was. It turned out that there was confusion over who “owned” the players, and West Ham were fined a record £5.5million for their part in breaking third-party rules. Before leaving the club though, Tevez scored the winner against Manchester United – who he then went on to sign for – keeping The Hammers in the Premier League. Sheffield United fans still, to this day, blame the Argentine for their downward spiral.

Faubert – Real Madrid
In the bizarre stakes, this one is also right up there. Julien Faubert was your bang average, mid-table Premier League player, when Real Madrid came calling in 2009. The Spanish giants, in their attempts to buy all of the best players, must have got their wires crossed somewhere. During his loan spell at the Bernabéu he turned up late to training and fell asleep on the bench vs Villarreal. His loan was not extended.

Dale Jennings – Bayern Munich
German giants Bayern wouldn’t normally scout for players in England, outside of the Premier League. Let alone at Tranmere Rovers. But word was spreading on their young talent Jennings, so they thought ‘warum zum teufel nicht’ and signed the youngster. He never actually broke into the side though, and inevitably ended up back in England. Tranmere to Barnsley via Bayern Munich. I saw something similar in the Twilight Zone.

Júlio César – QPR
The shot-stopper had a plethora of medals under his belt; Five Italian league titles, a Champions League, and the Copa America. So when Mark Hughes (again) lured the Brazillian to Loftus Road in 2012, we were all gobsmacked. Ok, this was during the period when QPR were trying to buy success. And as we established earlier, money talks, so it wasn’t that bizarre. It was harsh on Rob Green, though.