Lists

9 football players who went on the run when their transfer requests were turned down

At least Leicester's Riyad Mahrez never went to these lengths – Jon Spurling on the players who did a runner, featuring errant texts and rotters in the reserves

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1. George Eastham (Newcastle)

By 1959, Newcastle’s promising Under-23 England international had had enough of life at St. James’ Park and dared to ask the club for a transfer. In the era of the ‘slavery contract’ and the minimum wage, this was a daring request by Eastham. Over the next two years, with Arsenal keen to whisk Eastham to north London, the forward was kept under virtual house arrest by his club, refusing to budge on his request, and living in self-imposed exile in the capital.

To fill the time and earn a living (because Newcastle refused to pay his wages), Eastham became a cork salesman down south. Eventually, Newcastle accepted Arsenal’s whopping £47,000 offer in late 1961, ending Eastham’s spell in limbo.

2. Paulo Cezar Lima (Flamengo)

The sublimely gifted ‘Caju’ announced in typically grandiose fashion that the 1974 World Cup would be his tournament. Yet the Ipanema icon spent much of the time making fraught phone calls to his Brazilian club, Flamengo, persuading them to allow him to join Olympique Marseilles.

After they consistently refused to release him, Caju disappeared for a month (“I travelled around Europe and stayed in some great hotels”), before Flamengo caved in and let him join the Ligue 1 club. His time in France was hardly unsuccessful (16 goals in 31 games) but he missed the Rio beaches and joined Fluminense by season’s end.

3. Pierre van Hooijdonk (Nottingham Forest)

Furious that strike partner Kevin Campbell and defender Colin Cooper had been sold by newly promoted Nottingham Forest in the close season, the outspoken Dutch striker returned from the 1998 World Cup and promptly informed manager Dave Bassett that not only was he handing in a transfer request, but that he would returning to Holland until the matter was he was allowed to leave the City Ground.

Following a two-month stand-off, during which Forest plummeted to the bottom of the Premiership, Van Hooijdonk returned to first-team action. But despite scoring six goals in 19 starts, Forest fell through the trap door, and Pierre’s unforgiving team-mates refused to have much to do with him. Famously, he was snubbed after putting Forest ahead against Derby, with players running to provider Scott Gemmill instead.

A year after going to ground, Van Hooijdonk moved back to Holland to join Vitesse Arnhem and quickly rediscovered his free-scoring form.

4. Nicolas Anelka (Arsenal)

'The Incredible Sulk' had become an increasingly morose presence around Highbury as the 1998-99 campaign progressed. Signed from Paris Saint-Germain for a miniscule £500,000, Anelka’s rise to prominence during Arsenal’s '97-98 Double-winning season made Real Madrid sit up and take notice, as the Frenchman claimed to be “bored in London”.

By late July, with Anelka intent on forcing a move through to the Spanish giants and Arsenal playing hardball over his demands, he holed himself up in an economy Martinique hotel with brothers (and advisors) Claude and Didier. There were no telephones in the room, and his brothers contacted Real officials via their mobile phones.

With the Anelka family doctor insisting Nicolas was unable to return to training in N5 due to stress, the teenager finally moved to Madrid for a whopping £23m, 46 times the amount Arsenal paid for him two years earlier.

The stroppy Frenchman lasted just a year at Real and, in a turbulent career, became a (sometimes successful) soccer nomad thereafter.

5. Diego Costa (Chelsea)

Informed by manager Antonio Conte that he was not part of his Chelsea first-team plans for the 2017-18 campaign, the Blues’ furious frontman spent the summer in Brazil, then refused to return to pre-season training, hoping to force through a move to former club Atletico Madrid.

Initially told via text that he was no longer wanted at Stamford Bridge, Costa claimed he was prepared to stay in Brazil and keep being fined for the entire season if Chelsea did not agree to a deal to sell him to Atletico. Despite Costa protesting that he was being treated like a “criminal”, both sides finally relented and it was announced in September that he would indeed return to Madrid in January 2018 for a reported £57m.