The transfers that rocked the world: Part V

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And so we bring to a close our look back at the 25 transfers that shook the world.

Not literally, you understand; figuratively. Starting with one which changed the way transfers are conducted...

Jean-Marc Bosman, RFC Liege to Dunkirk
August 1990, Fee: ‘a Bosman’

Who could have predicted that Dunkirk’s decision to sign a journeyman Belgian striker in 1990 would change football forever and allow today’s players, some of whom weren’t born when Bosman began his career, to earn their current salaries?

Bosman had seen out his four-year contract at RFC Liege and rejected their new deal on a reduced wage. He agreed terms with Dunkirk, and signed a contract when the clubs settled on a fee.

But when Liege changed Bosman’s valuation to €400,000, over four times what he originally cost them, Dunkirk dropped out of the deal – and Bosman was left clubless.

"Pleeeeease release me, let me goooooo..." 

He sued Liege and the Belgian FA, and took the case to the European Court of Justice who five years later, ruled that Liege should have allowed the transfer as he was out of contract.

By then, Bosman was playing for fourth-division club Vise, and in his first game after the ruling, he was substituted to jeers of, “Free transfer for you, Bosman!”

The ruling immediately handed players the power to run down their contracts and switch clubs with huge signing-on fees.

Wage inflation soon followed, and as the players got richer, Bosman was frustrated that his efforts were not better rewarded than the £720,000 he earned from the settlement.

“It makes me most happy when people stop me to say thank you,” he says, but his bitterness at missing the gravy train he helped build is all too apparent.

Alfredo di Stefano, Millonarios to Real Madrid
September 1953, Undisclosed

Probably the most controversial and significant transfer in football history.

Alfredo di Stefano arrived in Spain in March 1952 to play for Colombian side Millonarios in Real Madrid's 50th-anniversary tournament and immediately became the subject of the greatest tug-of-war of all time – a messy, political battle that remains extremely controversial and shrouded in mystery.

Both Barça and Madrid claimed to have signed him – Barça from Argentinian side River Plate, the club who owned him, Madrid from Millonarios, where he was playing.

Di Stefano even played three friendlies for the Catalans before General Franco’s Sports Minister, General Moscardo – who had previously banned the signing of all foreign players in Spain – imposed a share.

Each club would get the Argentinian for two years, starting with Madrid. Barça rejected the deal, so Di Stefano stayed in the capital.

"Pass the Brasso" 

Still considered the greatest player of all time by many Spaniards, ‘The Blond Arrow’ won the European Footballer of the Year award twice, was top scorer in five of his first six seasons and changed history for ever.

With Di Stefano leading them, the club that had only won two league titles – 20 years earlier – gained eight more and five successive European Cups. Barcelona, meanwhile, gained an enormous chip on the shoulder.

Mo Johnston, Nantes to Rangers
July 1989, £1.1 million

Without a doubt the most notorious transfer in Scottish football history.

When Mo Johnston, a Catholic and former Celtic star, joined Rangers, he was breaking an age-old taboo. But it was the manner of his crossing of the Old Firm divide that caused particular controversy.

During the mid-’80s ‘MoJo’ was a huge hit at Celtic, scoring 55 goals in three seasons, before moving to French club Nantes, declaring that he’d wouldn’t return to Scotland.

However, after two seasons, he had a change of heart, and announced he would be rejoining the Hoops, stating that they were “the only club I want to play for.”

However, in July 1989, in a dramatic 11th hour U-turn, he declared that he would instead be signing for Rangers.

The revelation managed to enrage supporters on both sides of the Old Firm divide.

For many Gers fans, the arrival of a former Hoops star, not to mention a ‘Celtic-minded’ one, was too much to stomach.

For Hoops fans, it was, of course, a case of pure betrayal.

"Surprise Surprise!" 

From that moment, in the East End of Glasgow, he was no longer ‘MoJo’ but ‘Judas’.

Johnston went on to replicate his goalscoring feats for Rangers, scoring 46 goals in 100 games and winning two league titles before moving to Everton in 1991.

Sol Campbell, Spurs to Arsenal
July 2001, Free

Sol Campbell was not the first to make the switch across North London.

Some, such as Pat Jennings and Terry Neill, have even gone on to achieve success at both clubs, but no other player to do so has generated so much bile.

Having come up through the ranks at White Hart Lane, Campbell was not just Spurs’ captain and best player, he was a cult hero in the making. He also had ambitions that the club couldn’t match, primarily a desire for Champions League football.

More realistic Spurs supporters accepted his eventual departure as inevitable, and during protracted talks over his future in 2001, it was clear that Manchester United and several top European clubs were also interested.

He had gone on record in the Spurs magazine saying he would never sign for the Gunners. The fact that he opted to do so, and ‘on a Bosman’ so that Spurs received nothing for a player they had nurtured for a decade, simply fanned the flames.

Welcome home... 

Some Spurs fans posted Campbell’s mobile phone number onto the internet, prompting Arsenal to consider hiring a bodyguard to ensure his safety.

Arsenal, with no transfer fee due to pay, allegedly broke their wage structure and pay him £100,000 a week – reinforcing Campbell’s image as a money-grabbing mercenary, forever to be known as ‘Judas’ at the Lane.

Luis Figo, Barcelona to Real Madrid
July 2000, £38 million

It nearly didn't happen.

Figo had helped Barcelona win the European Cup Winners’ Cup and two la Liga titles before Real Madrid presidential candidate Florentino Perez used the promise of signing the Portuguese winger to propel himself to power.

Madrid agreed a world-record £38m fee with Barcelona but Figo, worried that furious Barcelona fans would ruin the Japanese restaurant he had just opened, got cold feet. 

Marc Roger, one of the agents involved in the deal, wrote in his book that Paolo Futre then met his compatriot in Sardinia and talked him round.

According to Roger, he was helped when Futre allegedly took out a knife, cut a vein and stuck his blood on Figo’s face, saying, “This is Portuguese blood, but you are no longer Portuguese.”

Figo, terrified, moved to Madrid and started the ‘galactico’ era.

Barcelona fans never forgave him: a urine-filled whisky bottle and a pig’s head were among objects thrown at him on one return to the Nou Camp while four years later, during the Euro 2004 final, a Barcelona fan ran onto the pitch and threw the club’s flag in his face.

What's Catalan for 'Judas'? 

Figo enjoyed success in Madrid, winning two more la Liga titles and the 2002 Champions League.

Perez continued the galactico experiment, with subsquent seasons (and presidential election campaigns) marked by the arrivals of Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldo and David Beckham.

But time was running out for the 'fantasy football' idea, as Perez neglected to look after dull but important players like Ivan Helguera... and Claude Makelele.

Makalele's departure was a turning point. Popular and vital but underpaid, he asked for a small rise to his decidely unGalactic salary.

Perez flatly refused, eventually shooing the Frenchman out of the club with the stinging words: "We will not miss Makélélé. His technique is average, he lacks the speed and skill to take the ball past opponents, and 90 percent of his distribution either goes backwards or sideways."

An attempt to sign Patrick Vieira foundered when Perez refused to pay decent wages for mere defensive players.

Ah, OK 

While Makalele reinvigorated Chelsea, Perez ploughed on, signing the likes of Michael Owen, Robinho and Julio Baptista until the squad became increasingly imbalanced – and ineffective.

Overloaded with diffident attackers, Madrid struggled to cope with the last thing Perez could afford – a resurgent Barcelona, with Frank Rijkaard's side combining fantasista attacking with defensive diligence and teamwork.

The president resigned in February 2006, acknowledging that the club needed a new direction.

Madrid regained the league title in 2007 and retained it in 2008, but Perez was to return in summer 2009 with a open chequebook and an eye on history repeating.

The transfers that rocked the world: Part One
The transfers that rocked the world: Part Two

The transfers that rocked the world: Part Three
The transfers that rocked the world: Part Four

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