The weirdest transfer moments ever

Socrates, Garforth Town
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Clubs have been signing and selling players in the transfer market for well over a century – which means there's been plenty of time for some very strange things indeed to happen.

From Premier League stars taking matters into their own hands to try and secure a move, to clubs falling victim to wild pranks, FourFourTwo has trawled through the history books to find the weird and the wonderful from the world of transfers.

Without further ado, these are the weirdest transfer moments of all time...

32. FC United taken for a ride

Oldham Athletic's Bobby Grant warming up before the Sky Bet League 2 match between Carlisle United and Oldham Athletic at Brunton Park, Carlisle on Saturday 27th February 2021. (Photo by Eddie Garvey/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

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Of all the ways to go viral… In November 2023, Bobby Grant signed for non-Leaguers FC United of Manchester; the club announced his arrival and he gave an interview for their social media (all very standard stuff).

Within mere hours, though, Grant was on the move again, having told FC United he had taken up a “more attractive offer” from Litherland REMYCA – a club three tiers below… who he had previously signed for just the month before!

31. Jamie Stevenson: a Scotsman in Spain

Jamie Stevenson of Alloa Athletic

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After his team’s 4-2 defeat at Arsenal on the final day of the 2005/06 Premier League season, Pascal Chimbonda walked into the Wigan Athletic dressing room and handed in a transfer request – while still wearing his kit.

Needless to say, it didn’t go down too well, with chairman Dave Whelan telling Chimbonda he would spend the remaining two years of his contract in the reserves unless another club met his £6m valuation (Wigan sold the defender to Tottenham for £4.5m that summer).

30. Pascal Chimbonda’s audacious transfer request

19/11/2005 - FA Premiership Football - Wigan Athletic v Arsenal, Pascal Chimbonda of Wigan appeals after being fouled during their game against Arsenal. (Photo by Matt Roberts//Offside via Getty Images)

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If you take a look at Jamie Stevenson’s career summary on Wikipedia, one entry sticks out like a sore thumb: a brief stint with Real Mallorca between 2003 and 2004 (he spent the entire rest of his career in the lower leagues of his native Scotland).

And the circumstances in which he joined Mallorca couldn’t have been much more Roy of the Rovers: Stevenson was spotted by a scout from the Spanish club while having a kickabout with his uncle on holiday.

He returned to Alloa Athletic without making a single first-team appearance for the Balearic outfit.

29. Julian Faubert joins Real Madrid

Julian Faubert of Real Madrid

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Real Madrid made a number of curious signings during the post­-Galacticos era – and Julian Faubert was certainly one of them, arriving on loan from West Ham late in the January 2009 transfer window.

So taken aback by the move was Sky Sports pundit Paul Merson that he said the French midfielder’s agent “should be knighted” for securing him a switch to Real (where he would go on to make a grand total of two appearances).

28. Ashley Cole almost crashes his car

London, UNITED KINGDOM: Arsenal defender Ashley Cole sips water after a practice session at the clubs training compound in north London, 18 April 2006 ahead of their first leg semi-final match against Spanish side Villarreal 19 April. AFP PHOTO / ODD ANDERSEN (Photo credit should read ODD ANDERSEN/AFP via Getty Images)

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Ashley Cole left Arsenal for Chelsea rather acrimoniously in the summer of 2006 – and the ex-England left-back almost did some serious damage to himself in the process…

Cole revealed in his autobiography that he “nearly swerved off the road” after hearing Arsenal were only willing to pay him £55,000 a week.

So, he joined the Blues – and he didn’t do too badly, helping them to Premier League and Champions League glory.

27. Miguel Angulo's Arsenal 'fear'

MILAN - NOVEMBER 2: Miguel Angel Angulo of Valencia during the Champions League Group G match between Inter Milan and Valencia at the San Siro Stadium on November 2, 2004 in Milan, Italy. (Photo by Phil Cole/Getty Images)

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Late in the summer 2004 transfer window, Spanish midfielder Miguel Angel Angulo looked set to join Arsenal from Valencia. In fact, he had already undergone the first part of his medical with the Gunners.

Then, it seems, he got cold feet, with Angulo’s agent claiming that he lacked the “sufficient strength for a change of lifestyle [from living in Spain to living in England]”.

26. The 'Babelcopter'

Ryan Babel of Liverpool

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Where did the helicopter take Ryan Babel on deadline day of the summer 2010 transfer window? Was the Liverpool forward even onboard at all?

The Dutchman had supposedly flown to London amid interest from West Ham – with Carlton Cole slated for a move to Anfield in a swap deal – but no such transfer ever materialised (although Babel did only make nine more Premier League appearances for the Reds).

25. Benjani nods off (apparently)

Benjani Mwaruwari of Manchester City (Photo by AMA/Corbis via Getty Images)

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In 2008, striker Benjani left Portsmouth for Manchester City – only he really didn’t want to, according to Pompey’s then boss Harry Redknapp.

Rumours circulated that the Zimbabwean frontman fell asleep and missed his flight to Manchester – and, although he has staunchly denied that, maybe he wishes he had: he scored just seven goals in 31 outings for City.

24. Darren Bent's Sunderland desire

WIGAN, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 28: Darren Bent of Sunderland looks on during the Barclays Premier League Match between Wigan Athletic and Sunderland at The DW Stadium on November 28, 2009 in Wigan, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

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In the summer of 2009, Darren Bent wanted to leave Tottenham for one destination only: Sunderland – as he made abundantly clear through a furious tweet at the time.

Accusing Spurs chairman Daniel Levy of holding up the deal, Bent wrote: “Do I wanna go Hull City NO. Do I wanna go Stoke No. Do I wanna go Sunderland YES.” Well, the striker got his wish in the end – and he went on to bang in 36 goals in 63 games for the Black Cats (including the infamous ‘beach ball goal’ against Liverpool).

23. Roberto Baggio starts a riot

28 November 1993 - Italian Football, Serie A - Internazionale v Juventus - Juventus captain Roberto Baggio holds the match pennant - (Photo by David Davies/Offside via Getty Images)

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He was one of the best players on the planet during the 90s – but Roberto Baggio literally sparked a riot at the beginning of the decade, after breaking the world transfer record by joining Juventus from Fiorentina for £8m.

It all kicked off on the streets of Florence, leaving 50 people injured, but the Divine Ponytail insisted that he had felt “compelled to accept the transfer” between the two Serie A clubs.

He went on to score 115 goals in 200 games for Juve.

22. George Boyd, Nottingham Forest and the failed eye test

MILTON KEYNES, ENGLAND - MARCH 21: George Boyd of Peterborough United in action during the npower League One match between MK Dons and Peterborough United at Stadium mk on March 21, 2011 in Milton Keynes, England. (Photo by Pete Norton/Getty Images)

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In 2013, George Boyd was poised to join Nottingham Forest from Peterborough United – but the deal all fell apart because of what Peterborough called an “inconclusive eye test”.

Peterborough chairman Darragh MacAnthony was left absolutely livid. “Total disgrace, the whole thing,” he tweeted. “I’m devastated for George … He’s played 300 games and scored from the halfway line the other month, but Forest say he has an eyesight problem.”

21. Steed Malbranque's strange Saint-Etienne situation

Steed Malbranque, 2014

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Former Fulham and Tottenham midfielder Steed Malbranque was at Saint-Etienne for barely a month in 2011 before mutually terminating his contract with the French club – after the emergence of quite hurtful rumours that he had asked to be released due to his son having cancer.

Here’s the thing: Malbranque didn’t even have a son – and he released a statement through a London-based law firm calling the stories “wholly without foundation”.

20. Tino Asprilla jilts Darlington

17 September 1997 Newcastle-upon-Tyne - UEFA Champions League - Newcastle United v FC Barcelona - Faustino Asprilla of Newcastle celebrates the third of his three goals. (Photo by Mark Leech/Offside via Getty Images)

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A cult hero at Newcastle in the 90s, Faustino Asprilla almost returned to English football in 2002 – only to rather brutally snub Darlington, then of the fourth tier.

Darlington chairman George Reynolds had even paraded Asprilla to the fans, believing the Colombian had all but signed a two-year deal with the club. As it turned out, he had not; instead, he hot-footed out of the country, apparently to accept a more lucrative offer in the Middle East (although that never came to pass either).

19. Manchester United sign Bebe

Bebe of Manchester United (Photo by AMA/Corbis via Getty Images)

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Did Manchester United sign Bebe in 2010 as a favour to super-agent Jorge Mendes after another of his clients, Sir Alex Ferguson’s assistant Carlos Queiroz, allegedly helping yet another client, Nani, escape a doping ban?

There’s a lot to unpack with this conspiracy theory – but that’s the gist of it. As for Bebe, he was little more than a £7.4m flop at Old Trafford after moving from Portuguese outfit Vitoria Guimaraes.

18. Ander Herrera and the fake lawyers

Ander Herrera, 2014

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Manchester United signed Ander Hererra from Athletic Bilbao in the summer of 2014 – after they had tried and failed to do so amid peculiar circumstances the year before.

That deal was scuppered by ‘lawyers’ purporting to represent Hererra – who later admitted that he didn’t have a clue who they were and that they were just out “to make easy money”.

The midfielder later became Louis van Gaal’s first acquisition as United manager.

17. Coventry, Real Madrid and Robert Jarni

8 July 1998, Paris - FIFA World Cup - France v Croatia - Robert Jarni of Croatia. (Photo by Mark Leech/Offside via Getty Images)

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Coventry City in cahoots with Real Madrid? Some say that’s what was going on when Robert Jarni joined the Sky Blues from Real Betis in 1998 – only to leave almost immediately for Los Blancos.

The best bit about the whole thing for Coventry? They actually made a small profit on Jarni, signing the Croatian World Cup semi-finalist for £2.6m and selling him for £3.4m. Not bad business, really!

16. Sol Campbell's brief Notts County spell

NOTTINGHAM, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 05: New Notts County Signing Sol Campbell watches from the stands during the Coca-Cola League Two match between Notts County and Burton Albion at Meadow Lane on September 5, 2009 in Nottingham, England. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

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Three years after scoring in the 2006 Champions League final for Arsenal, Sol Campbell rocked up at League Two Notts County.

The curious appointment of Cambpell’s former England boss Sven-Goran Eriksson as County’s new manager swayed the centre-back – who left the club *checks notes* three days later, citing that he was “being a mug” by thinking their new owners were billionaires set on reaching the Premier League (they weren’t).

15. David de Gea and the fax machine

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 28: David De Gea of Manchester United reacts after a missed chance during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester Untied and Chelsea at Old Trafford on December 28, 2015 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Matthew Ashton - AMA/Getty Images)

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David de Gea left Manchester United as a free agent in the summer of 2023 – but the goalkeeper was almost on his way eight years earlier, only for a dodgy fax machine to scupper a move to Real Madrid.

With Spain’s pesky tax rules requiring relevant paperwork to be processed via the antiquated technology, it was the only way – and when the device failed, De Gea’s proposed transfer fell through at the 11th hour.

14. Ronaldinho's clubbing clause

Ronaldinho of Flamengo

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When Ronaldinho joined Flamengo in 2011, his contract came with one of the more curious clauses we’ve ever seen: he was allowed to go out partying two nights a week.

The Brazilian icon was said to have made it a condition of signing for the Rio-based giants – who obliged, and got 19 goals and 13 assists out of Ronaldinho during his one-year stay at the club.

13. Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano head to West Ham

LONDON - SEPTEMBER 05: (L-R) Carlos Tevez, West Ham manager Alan Pardew and Javier Mascherano pose with their squad numbers during a West Ham United press conference to unveil the new signings at Upton Park on September 5, 2006 in London, England. (Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images)

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West Ham’s 2006 double capture of Argentine duo Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano stunned the football world.

With a number of top European clubs missing out on Tevez and Mascherano, something didn’t quite add up – and it transpired that both players were owned by third parties, ultimately leading to major rule changes.

Both players were gone within a year of their arrival: Tevez to Manchester United and Mascherano to Liverpool.

12. Chelsea sign Robinho (or not)

Manchester City's Brazilian forward Robinho celebrates after scoring against Chelsea during their English Premier League football match at The City of Manchester Stadium in Manchester, north west England on September 13, 2008. AFP PHOTO/ADRIAN DENNIS

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Remember when Robinho signed for Chelsea in 2008? Probably not, because he actually signed for Manchester City – but he was poised to join the Blues.

Chelsea even showed images of a shirt bearing his name on their official website – much to the chagrin of Real Madrid, who instead sold him to City, where he bagged 15 goals in his first season before his form went off a cliff.

11. Arsenal's transfer drinking game

Herbert Chapman, 1932

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Legendary Arsenal manager Herbert Chapman (pictured) was a fine coach – and a sneaky old so-and-so, as evidenced by, er, tactic for securing the transfer of David Jack from Bolton Wanderers in 1928.

Negotiating with Bolton’s representatives in a hotel bar, Chapman drunk gin and tonics without any gin in them – while getting the waiter to serve double measures to the Wanderers entourage. And it worked: he managed to bring them down to a bargain price for the inside forward, who would go on to score 124 goals for the Gunners.

10. John Obi Mikel agrees to join Chelsea AND Manchester United 

John Obi Mikel, 2005

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In 2005, Chelsea and Manchester United both thought they had signed John Obi Mikel from Norwegian outfit Lyn; the Nigerian even took part in a press conference at United.

Mikel, who had just turned 18, later claimed that he had been pressured into signing a contract at Old Trafford – and, after much dispute, he eventually joined Chelsea (for real).

He would enjoy a successful 11-year spell with the Blues, winning every major trophy on offer.

9. Didi Hamann's rapid double transfer

MANCHESTER, UNITED KINGDOM - DECEMBER 15: Dietmar Hamann of Manchester City celebrates scoring his team's second goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Bolton Wanderers at The City of Manchester Stadium on December 15, 2007 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

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In July 2006, Did Hamann achieved the remarkable, er, feat of signing for two clubs in the space of two days, leaving Liverpool for Bolton Wanderers – then joining Manchester City, where he would spend the rest of his top-flight career.

Why? Well, legend has it that the German midfielder popped into a local branch of McDonald’s and struggled to make sense of the Bolton accent…

8. Tyrone Mears' daring Derby escape

MANSFIELD, UNITED KINGDOM - JULY 28: Tyrone Mears of Derby County pictured during the pre season friendly match between Mansfield Town and Derby County at Field Mill on July 28, 2007 in Manfield, England. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

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Tyrone Mears must have been desperate to get out of Derby County in 2008: the defender jetted off to Marseille for a trial, completely against the wishes of his employers, after sneaking through boss Paul Jewell’s office and climbing out of a window at the training ground.

He was fined six weeks’ wages by Derby – but he did end up joining the French giants on loan, so his Mission Impossible-esque efforts were worth it (kind of).

7. Socrates goes to Garforth

Socrates

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Brazilian midfield magician Socrates spent the vast majority of his career in his homeland – but he did make a couple of moves to Europe: to Fiorentina in 1984 and, truly bizarrely, to Yorkshire non-League outfit Garforth Town in 2004 (having retired in 1989…).

Then 50, Socrates joined Garforth as a player-coach at a time when the club had ambitions of reaching the top flight by 2025 (uh…). His sole appearance was a 12-minute runout off the bench against Tadcaster Albion.

6. Sunderland's case of mistaken identity?

1 Sep 2001: Joy for Milton Nunez of Honduras after he scores the winning goal during the FIFA 2002 World Cup Qualifier between USA and Honduras played at the RFK Stadium in Washington, USA. Honduras won the match 3 - 2. \ Mandatory Credit: Clive Brunskill /Allsport

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Only those involved truly know who Sunderland meant so sign here – but it wasn’t Milton Nunez, the Honduras striker who arrived from Greek giants PAOK for £1.6m in March 2000.

It has been suggested that the Black Cats were actually after Nunez’s PAOK striker partner Adolofo Valencia, while Nunez himself claimed that Sunderland thought he and international teammate Eduardo Bennett – who had never even been at PAOK – were the same player and wanted the latter.

Nunez made just two appearances for Sunderland. Not exactly value for money…

5. The LEGO house clause

Giuseppe Reina

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We’ve got to admit this one made us chuckle. In the summer of 1996, German striker Giuseppe Reina made the switch from SG Wattenscheid 09 to Arminia Bielefeld. So far, so normal…

There was a bit of a twist, though: Reina demanded that Arminia build him a house for every year of his contract – and the club accepted, taking advantage of the fact their new signing hadn’t been specific enough and giving him a LEGO house at the end of each season. Brilliant.

4. Perugia try to sign Swedish women's star for their men's team

PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 25: Forward Hanna Ljungberg #10 of Sweden dribbles around Hye Yong Jon #17 of Korea DPR during their FIFA Women's World Cup match at Lincoln Financial Field on September 25, 2003 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

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In what it’s fair to say was an audacious attempt, in 2007, Italian club Perugia tried to sign Swedish legend Hanna Ljungberg – a 2003 Women’s World Cup runner-up – for their men’s team.

Why? Probably for publicity, it’s widely thought – although the same owner had previously terminated the contract of South Korean star Ahn Jung-hwan after his goal knocked Italy out of the 2002 World Cup, and signed the son of Libyan dictator Colonel Gaddafi.

3. Sunderland stop Stefan Schwarz from going to space

27 Nov 1999: Stefan Schwarz of Sunderland during the FA Carling Premiership match against Watford at Vicarage Road in Watford, England. Sunderland won 3-2. \ Mandatory Credit: Gary Prior /Allsport

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It’s better to be safe than sorry – and it certainly seems like Sunderland adopted that approach when they signed Swedish star Stefan Schwarz from Valencia in 1999.

Schwarz had previously stated his desire to go into space – so, naturally, Sunderland inserted a clause in his contract banning him from doing so. And he didn’t, spending the remaining four years of his career on Wearside.

2. Peter Odemwingie bizarrely turns up at QPR

Peter Odemwingie of West Bromwich Albion (Photo by AMA/Corbis via Getty Images)

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On January deadline day 2013, Peter Odemwingie waited to complete a move from West Brom to Queens Park Rangers – by literally parking up outside QPR’s Loftus Road ground.

There was just one slight hitch: no offer was ever accepted for the forward, and he returned to West Brom to face the music – then left for Cardiff City that summer.

1. Southampton sign Ali Dia on recommendation from 'George Weah'

26 Jul 1996: Graeme Souness the manager of Southampton signs autographs during a pre-season friendly. Mandatory Credit: Steve Morton/Alsport UK

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Ali Dia’s 1996 move from non-League Blyth Sparts to top-flight Southampton is widely considered to be one of the worst transfers of all time. It’s definitely one of the weirdest.

Signed by Graeme Souness (pictured) on the recommendation of someone purporting to be George Weah – and claiming that he and Dia were cousins – the Senegalese striker made a single Saints appearance before being released two weeks after his arrival. Oh dear.

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