Six Transfers to Raise an Eyebrow

For me, the signing of Jack Wilshere by Bournemouth (on loan for the season) was a real wow! moment. It got me thinking about other transfers which have (at least) made me raise an eyebrow. These are the half-dozen transfers which sprang immediately to mind…

Diego Maradonna to Napoli

July 1984, Barcelona to Napoli, £6.9m

Maradonna in his Napoli heyday.
Maradonna in his Napoli heyday.

At the time of this transfer, Diego Maradonna was the undisputed best player in the world… and yet he was moving to a tiny little Italian club who had never previously had any major success – no league titles and no success in European competition.

Maradonna’s arrival, for a world record £6.9m, triggered Napoli’s most successful era to date. He was there seven years. Between 1986 and 1990 they won the league title twice and were runners-up twice. They also won the Italian Cup (Supercoppa Italiana) in 1990 and the UEFA Cup in 1989.

Unfortunately, Maradonna’s days at Napoli were numbered when he received a 15 month ban for drug use – he was never the same player again. His last match for Napoli was a 4-1 defeat to Sampdoria in June 1991 – Maradonna scored Napoli’s only goal from the penalty spot that day.

Paul Gascoigne to Lazio

July 1992, Tottenham Hotspur to Lazio, £5.5m

Gazza in his Lazio heyday.
Gazza in his Lazio heyday.

Those of a certain age will recall that Gascoigne’s move to Lazio was more soap opera than football transfer!

Gazza had his move to Lazio all set-up and ready to go ahead of his appearance in the 1991 FA Cup Final for Tottenham against Nottingham Forest.

However, a reckless challenge after just 15 minutes of that final damaged his knee ligaments so badly that his move to Italy wouldn’t complete for more than a year, as he missed the whole of the 1991/92 Premier League season. The situation wasn’t helped when he damaged the same knee further in a nightclub incident later that year!

The move eventually happened at the start of the 1992/93 season. His move coincided with Channel 4 covering Italian football in the UK and his debut against Genoa on 26 September was shown live.

The rest of his time in Italy was as soap-like as the transfer, including…

  • Belching down the microphone in a television interview – which would have been bad enough in this country, but is considered a huge insult in Italy!
  • Greeted the Lazio owner by saying “Tua figlia, grande tette!” – which roughly translated is “Your daughter, big tits!”!
  • Broke his cheekbone on international duty in April 1993.
  • Lazio finished fifth in the 1992/93 season, qualifying them for European football for the first time in sixteen years.
  • At the start of the 1993/94 season, Manager Dino Zoff told Gazza he had to lose two stone in order to retain his place in the team. He lost the weight and retained his place.
  • In April of that season he broke his leg in training in a tackle with Alessandro Nesta!

“Tua figlia, grande tette!” 

Gazza Greeting the Lazio Owner with the words “Your Daughter, Big Tits!”

He departed Italy at the end of the 1994/95 season, heading to Glasgow Rangers for £4.3m and more controversy.

Despite being a former Tottenham player, Gazza remains one of my all time favourite players.

Dennis Bergkamp to Arsenal

July 1995, Inter to Arsenal, £7.5m

It’s over twenty years since Bruce Rioch made his first signing as Arsenal manager, in the process breaking Arsenal’s then record transfer fee of £2.5m by bringing the Dutchman, Dennis Bergkamp, to Highbury for £7.5m. An actual established international star had joined Arsenal for the first time that I could remember.

Bergkamp in a typically acrobatic position.
Bergkamp in a typically acrobatic position.

He was Dutch Footballer of the Year in 1991 and ’92 and played for the defending European Champions (Holland) at the 1992 European Championships, but lost to the eventual (surprise) winners, Denmark.

He had a slow start for Arsenal, not scoring a goal in any of his first six matches. The early indications were that Arsenals recent slump would pull Bergkamp down, rather than his presence lift them! By the end of the season though, Arsenal were fifth and qualified for European Football – they’ve not finished outside of the top four of the English top flight in any of the twenty seasons since.

Bergkamp’s last appearance for Arsenal was as a substitute on the last day of the 2005/06 season. He came on in the 79th minute at home in a 4-2 win against Wigan.

Edwin van der Sar to Fulham

August 2001, Juventus to Fulham, £7.1m

I can remember being in the car when I heard on the radio that Edwin van der Sar, Holland’s top keeper, had signed for newly promoted Fulham. It was a real “what did they just say?” moment!

Edwin van der Sar in action for Fulham. Photo. Javier Garcia
Edwin van der Sar in action for Fulham. Photo. Javier Garcia

van der Sar had decided to leave Juventus after they signed Gianluigi Buffon for a world record goalkeeper fee of £32.6m. He made it clear he didn’t want to be second choice and wanted out. What wasn’t expected, is that he would sign for Fulham.

Fulham had just been promoted to the top flight of English football for the first time since 1968. They’d spent Mohamed Al-Fayed’s money wisely to earn three promotions in five seasons to reach the Premier League – van der Sar described the club as having a “…nice friendly atmosphere…” on signing.

He stayed for four years and 127 league appearances before being tempted away to Manchester United.

Rio Ferdinand to Man Utd

July 2002, Leeds United to Manchester United, £39.1m

My mate Rio Ferdinand became the world’s most expensive defender in the Summer of 2002 when he swapped the United of Leeds for Manchester. Alex Ferguson shelled out a whopping  £39.1m to bring him to the Theatre of Dreams.

Rio Ferdinand looking pretty pleased with life. Photo by Tom Purslow
Rio Ferdinand looking pretty pleased with life.
Photo by Tom Purslow

So, you might ask, what gives me the right to call him my mate? Well, not a lot actually! Rio made ten appearances on loan (from West Ham) at AFCB Bournemouth in the 1996/97 season when I worked there. I played pool with him a couple of times and we shared some lunches together, but that’s about it. Doesn’t stop me telling everyone in earshot about it when’s he’s on TV though!

While Rio was winning six league titles and the Champions League (from 2002 to 2013), Leeds United were busy falling from the Premier League to the third tier of English football. They were promoted back to The Championship in 2010, but I think it’s fair to say Rio’s move to Old Trafford was probably the best option.

Jack Wilshere to Bournemouth

Jack Wilshere and SPAGames Thomas Thorne... (Jack is on the left!)
Jack Wilshere and SPAGames Thomas Thorne… (Jack is on the left!)

August 2016, Arsenal to AFC Bournemouth, Season Long Loan

Even when Bournemouth were flying high (up in the sky, we’ll keep the red flag flying high) at the top of The Championship with just a few matches of the 2014/15 season to go, most Bournemouth fans couldn’t quite let themselves believe that their heroes might actually make it to the promised land of the Premier League. I certainly never thought I’d see it in my lifetime.

As big a moment as that was, it was a few months in the making and despite the pessimism of that season, despite it’s ultimate success, it still doesn’t seem as important and as much of a watershed as the loan deal that has secured Jack Wilshere’s services for the season. He’s like a proper player and everything!

I’m pretty sure Jack could have chosen any number of high profile clubs to play for, but he’s chosen to come and play for the smallest club ever to appear in the English top flight. In my opinion, Little Bournemouth (they should trademark that name!) have a much better chance of securing more high profile players now that Jack has made the move.

Despite being at Arsenal since 2008, Jack has actually only started 80 times in the league for the Gunners – a situation that hopefully his time at Dean Court can help him overcome.

Share the Brows!

If you’ve read this far, maybe you’d like to share the story with your friends, or perhaps tell us below the transfers that raised your eyebrows.

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