The transfers that rocked the world: Part IV

As Real Madrid noisily go about assembling a fantasy football team, we look back through the FourFourTwo archives to remind ourselves that shocking transfers are nothing new. Here's some more examples.

Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano, Corinthians to West Ham

August 2006, Unknown fee

When it seems too good to be true, it often is.

Argentinian World Cup stars Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano arrived at West Ham in a blaze of publicity, 24 hours before talk of a takeover by their transfer broker, Kia Joorabchian.

Though Joorabchian never saw the deal through – West Ham were sold to Icelandic biscuit magnate Eggert Magnusson for £85 million in November – the tangled web he’d weaved plunged the Hammers’ season into pure farce.

Attempts to unravel the transfers’ legality played out across the back pages for months, with uncertainty over who actually ‘owned’ the players: Joorabchian or the Hammers.

All but unused on the pitch, Mascherano left for Liverpool in January, eventually having his registration cleared in mid-February.

"Is this real?" 

Tevez, who’d disappeared off the radar altogether under Alan Pardew, then inspired West Ham to a Lazarus-style comeback under Alan Curbishley, saving them on the final day of the season with the only goal at Manchester United... whom he joined that summer.

The gnashing of teeth at Sheffield United – relegated in the Hammers’ stead, or so they believed – could be heard all the way to Premier League HQ, where an angry ‘Gang of Four’ (Sheffield United, Charlton, Fulham and Wigan) pushed for West Ham to be docked points that would have seen them demoted.

Instead, they were slapped with a world-record £5.5 million fine.

Trevor Francis, Birmingham City to Nottingham Forest
February 1979, £1 million

In February 1979, one month after West Brom boss Ron Atkinson made Middlesbrough’s David Mills British football’s first £500,000 man, he was spectacularly trumped by his Midlands rival Brian Clough.

In a typically flamboyant gesture, Clough doubled Atkinson’s record, paying Birmingham £1 million to bring striker Trevor Francis to Nottingham Forest.

It was, recalled Clough’s biographer Duncan Hamilton, “football’s equivalent of breaking the sound barrier.”

Clough: No expense spared... except on coats 

Seldom has such a high-profile signing made such an impact. Less than four months after his arrival, Francis headed the winner against Malmo in the European Cup Final.

“He added a sparkle to any team that he played for,” Clough later said. “And that goal in Munich will put his name up in Forest lights forever.”

Francis joined Manchester City in 1981 and later had a long spell in Italy, before embarking on a managerial career of varying success.

He now works as a Sky Sports pundit. But even after all these years, the ‘million pound man’ tag won’t leave him.

“Even to this day, it is what I am introduced as,” he said in 2004. “Which is strange because I have been involved in the game since 1969 and played and managed some big teams, but it is always the thing that comes up.”

Allan Simonsen, Barcelona to Charlton Athletic
October 1982, £300,000

For a brief, dream-like period in 1982-83, Charlton fans could face their Cockney counterparts heads held high – they had a former European Footballer of the Year in their ranks.

Danish midfielder Allan Simonsen had swapped the sun and sangria of Barcelona for SE7 and Second Division football. It soon became the stuff of nightmares.

New Charlton chairman Mark Hulyer, an ambitious young man keen to flex his muscles, had failed to realise he wasn’t doing business with greenhorns here: Barcelona wanted their money up-front.

The deal sprang a leak when the Spaniards demanded bank guarantees of £100,000 – delaying Simonsen’s debut by six weeks (he scored in November’s 3-2 defeat to Middlesbrough – one of nine goals in his 16-game stay).

Simonsen at The Valley: "Where the f...?" 

By February, the Addicks were haemorrhaging cash and facing the drop.

Even in the Thatcherite age of Club Tropicana and boom-and-bust, paying Simonsen £82,000 a year on an average gate of 6,000 was foolhardy, to put it politely.

Simonsen left in March, and Charlton only survived relegation with a last-day win.

Hulyer had to reach an agreement with the Inland Revenue in the summer of 1983 over a £145,000 tax bill, and also faced a petition for bankruptcy from former chairman Michael Gliksten. And a winding-up order from creditors Leeds.

Happy Valley? Hardly.

Alf Common, Sunderland to Middlesbrough
February 1905, £1,000

It's not difficult to pinpoint the moment at which the transfer market lost touch with reality: it was in February 1905, when the forward Alf Common, a rapid and muscular Wearsider with a bristling moustache, became the first four-figure transfer.

Born in Millfield, he played for South Hylton and Jarrow before joining Sunderland as a 20-year-old in 1900.

He managed six goals in 18 appearances as they finished runners-up in 1901, before being sold to Sheffield United. It was a deal that seemed to suit both parties: Sunderland won the league, while Common scored in the final as the Blades won the FA Cup.

He ain't 'alf common... oh, actually, he is 

He averaged a goal every three games over three seasons at Bramall Lane, but in 1904 he refused a new contract, insisting he had to return to the North East to oversee his business interests.

Sunderland obliged, signing him and United’s reserve keeper Albert Lewis for a combined fee of £520, but he had played just 20 games when Middlesbrough, desperately looking to avoid relegation, shelled out £1,000 to persuade Sunderland to let him make the 35-mile journey south.

He made his debut – as is the way of such things – away to Sheffield United, scoring the only goal from the penalty spot as Boro won their first away match in almost two years.

They subsequently avoided the drop, and Common spent five years on Teesside before moving to Woolwich Arsenal.

Diego Maradona, Barcelona to Napoli
June 1984, £6.9 million

“I truly believed Barcelona was the club for me, the best club in the world,” declared Maradona, who joined the Catalans for a world record £4.5 million fee from Argentinos Juniors in 1982.

“But I didn’t anticipate the idiosyncrasies of the Catalans. I didn’t imagine, either, that I was going to come up against an imbecile like the president, Nunez.”

Two unhappy years later and El Diego was transferred to Napoli, a club he admitted he knew nothing about.

“My time at Barcelona was ill-fated,” Maradona claimed. “Because of hepatitis, injury, the city and because I’m more… Madrid. Because of my bad relations with Nunez and because there my relationship with drugs began.”

"All my people, right here, right now..." 

Maradona may have blamed everyone but himself for his Catalan ills, but he admitted that he was “down to zero, 25 and without a penny,” and needed a signing-on fee to clear debts. And that he’d continually threatened to leave.

A mediocre Barça side had tired of his spoilt antics and were happy to sell him to a team they didn’t consider rivals for £6.9m.

Napoli was a perfect fit as they indulged the diminutive Argentinian from the minute 80,000 Neapolitans saw him presented.

A revelation, he stayed for seven years and won six trophies, including their first two Scudetti.

Transfers that rocked the world: Part I
Transfers that rocked the world: Part II
Transfers that rocked the world: Part III
Transfers that rocked the world: Part V

---------------------------------------------- More to read...
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