55 shocking football transfers that shook the world: 55-41
How many of our most shocking football transfers do you remember? And what was the real story behind the switch? Read on as we chart the deals that almost broke the game.
First, a couple of caveats: we've tried to include a fair range of transfers from every time period, and where some transfer fees were not disclosed, we've gone for the most often cited (if disclosed). We've also converted them to pounds sterling. As ever, tell us what we got right or wrong in the comments below, on Facebook, or on Twitter.
Words: Andy Murray, Harriet Drudge, Chris Flanagan, Gregor MacGregor, Joe Brewin, Jon Spurling, Marcus Alves, Greg Lea, Alex Hess, Seb Stafford-Bloor
55. Ronaldinho (Milan to Flamengo, 2011)
It was 2011, and Ronaldinho Gaúcho was sick and tired of Massimiliano Allegri at Milan, so he asked his brother and agent Roberto de Assis to find a club in Brazil after 10 years far from home.
Palmeiras, Grêmio and Flamengo were all interested in the five-time world champion (as were Blackburn), and each had to face a soap opera-style saga that had most of its scenes set in a Rio de Janeiro steak house.
Palmeiras had coach Big Phil talk to Assis and convince him of the deal, while Grêmio put speakers on the stadium’s pitch to celebrate with the fans after claiming to have had Ronaldinho's comeback confirmed. In the end, though, the Brazilian ace signed for Flamengo. Saga over. MA
54. Andrea Pirlo (Inter to Milan, 2001)
Fee: Part exchange
While it may now seem odd, Andrea Pirlo should actually have been an Inter legend. The Nerazzurri signed him from Brescia in 1998, back when he didn’t have a beard and played as a No.10. A brief loan spell back with his former club proved the making of him, however, with coach Carlo Mazzone being the first to deploy him as the deep-lying playmaker he became.
That caught the attention of Carlo Ancelotti and Milan, who somehow convinced Inter to part with Pirlo in exchange for €2.8m and average Argentine Andres Guglielminpietro. They would repeat the feat by taking Clarence Seedorf from their neighbours in a straight swap for Francesco Coco. Pirlo won two Scudetti and two Champions League titles before moving to Juventus for free in 2011 – another shockingly good value deal for the Italian schemer. AD
53. Paul Pogba (Juventus to Man United, 2016)
There always seems to be at least one long-running saga dominating during the summer transfer window. In 2016 it was the ‘Paul Pogba: will-he-won’t-he’ drama that resulted in Manchester United paying a world-record fee – £89m and then some in add-ons – for a player they let leave for free in 2012.
When he departed United for Juventus as a 19-year-old, Pogba told team-mate Rio Ferdinand it was to become the best player in the world. He needed playing time that he wasn’t guaranteed under Sir Alex Ferguson at Old Trafford, with Paul Scholes, Michael Carrick and even Anderson getting the nod ahead of him.
Fast-forward four years, with four Serie A titles, two Coppa Italia and two Supercoppa Italiana trophies to his name: #POGBACK is trending on Twitter, as the France international announces his shock return to the club he says is his home. HD
52. Carlos Gamarra (Palmeiras to Olimpia, 2007)
Carlos Gamarra didn't concede a single foul in the 1998 World Cup campaign that almost saw Paraguay beat hosts France. Much later on his career he could have had his pick of clubs after a fine career in Europe with the likes of Inter, Benfica and Atletico Madrid – but anyone but Olimpia.
Well, according to Cerro Porteño fans anyway – the club he'd began his career with in 1990, and where he became an idol after winning two Paraguayan titles. So when he returned home in 2007, it was expected that Gamarra would announce one final move to end his career at Cerro.
He'd probably wished he did. Instead, the stopper ended up signing for rivals Olimpia, and felt the supporters’ wrath so badly that they tried to set his house on fire. MA
51. Cafu (Zaragoza to Palmeiras, 1995)
São Paulo and Palmeiras’s training grounds are separated by a wall in the Barra Funda neighborhood. The rivals have never had a great relationship and, among others, you can blame former right-sided defender Cafu for it.
The two-time world champion won everything with São Paulo at the beginning of the '90s and was sold to Zaragoza in 1994, with a special clause saying that the Spanish side would have to pay the additional amount of US$3.6 million if they sold Cafu to Palmeiras before 1996.
Back then, Palmeiras had milk company Parmalat as a heavyweight sponsor and somehow found a way to sign Cafu by using a smaller team, Juventude, who were also partners of the nine-time Brazilain champions. The right-back spent only a month at the satellite team, and is still hated by São Paulo’s fans. MA