55 shocking football transfers that shook the world: 20-11

We're approaching the final part of our list recognising the wackiest transfers in football – but first, this bunch of stonkers

Words: Gary Parkinson, Seb Stafford-Bloor, Jon Spurling, Andrew Murray, Alex Hess.

20. Clive Allen (Arsenal to Crystal Palace, 1980)

Fee: Swap deal
If breaking the bank to buy a teenage striker wasn’t very Arsenal, swapping him for a left-back two months later was even less believable. But it happened.

In summer 1980, barely a year after Trevor Francis broke the £1m barrier, the Gunners splurged £1.25m on Clive Allen, the 19-year-old who’d bagged 32 in 49 for QPR.

Three pre-season games later, he was bundled off to Crystal Palace (with reserve keeper Paul Barron) in exchange for Kenny Sansom. Sansom racked up nearly 400 Gunners games; Allen may be the only man to play for Arsenal, Tottenham, Chelsea, West Ham, Millwall, QPR and Palace. GP

19. Fernando Torres (Liverpool to Chelsea, 2011)

Fee: £50m
For Andriy Shevchenko in 2006, read Fernando Torres in 2011: for a while, Chelsea seemed to be the last club in the world to know when a player's legs were gone.

Had his Stamford Bridge malaise (20 goals in 110 league games) arrived unexpectedly, the British transfer record-breaking £50m that Roman Abramovich agreed to pay would have been easy enough to justify: Torres had been an outstanding forward and Liverpool considered Chelsea a rival. As it was, though, they paid through the nose in the hope that the six-month decline he was suffering through was a blip rather than the new normal.

It wasn't. Torres's Chelsea career was frequently excruciating to watch, and over the next seven seasons – spent between south-west London, Milan and back in Madrid – he would reach double figures just once in league competitions. SSB

18. Tommy Lawton (Chelsea to Notts County, 1947)

Fee: £20,000
It was Notts County manager Arthur Stollery, once physio at Stamford Bridge, who convinced England striker Tommy Lawton to leave First Division Chelsea and try his luck at County, two divisions below.

After learning that the player was unsettled in west London, a British record £20,000 outlay lured Lawton – still at the height of his powers – to Meadow Lane in 1947, and his arrival had crowds swelling to around 30,000 a game.

Doubters suggested that Lawton's spell there would be brief, but he stayed for five seasons, netting 103 goals in 166 appearances. During that time, he helped guide the team to Division Two thanks to his fearless displays up front for the Magpies. JS

17. Robin van Persie (Arsenal to Man United, 2012)

Fee: £24m
Beware, beware the expiring contract. "I always listen to the little boy inside of me in these situations – when you have to make the harder decisions in life. What does he want? That boy was screaming for Man United."

The bittersweet irony for Arsene Wenger was that Van Persie's best season for Arsenal occurred at a time when the club was least protected against his departure. Before 2011/12, the Dutch forward had never returned even 20 Premier League goals in a season – that year, however, he not only appeared in all 38 games and dispelled perceptions about his fragility, he also managed to score 30 times in the process.

In July 2012, a year away from being a free agent, Van Persie announced that he wouldn't be extending his contract. Arsenal had been boxed into a corner and the club agreed to sell their talisman for an initial £22m, which rose when – like night following day – Manchester United won the Premier League with Van Persie's goals a year later. SSB