It’s become part of the transfer ritual. Players about to join a new club will be photographed on a bed or exercise bike, flashing a thumbs-up while a doctor fiddles with the sensors attached to his chest.
Pre-signing check-ups aren’t just a box-ticking exercise, though, and a number of deals have fallen through due to a fault discovered in one of the many tests conducted. In this slideshow, we pick out 10 of football’s maddest medicals.
Abou’s move off amid suggestions of cannibalism
“The lad went home to the Ivory Coast and got a bit of food poisoning. He must have eaten a dodgy missionary or something.”
Those were the words of West Ham manager Harry Redknapp, at his politically correct best, after Samassi Abou’s move to Bradford was called off in 1998. The striker complained of stomach pain during his once-over with the Bantams, and the transfer was duly aborted when he failed his medical. Dr. Redknapp was some way off with his diagnosis, though: poor Abou actually had malaria.
Kamel gets the hump with turncoat Rovers
After a tasty season with Celta Vigo, Algerian hotshot Kamel Ghilas was all set a move to Blackburn in 2009 when Rovers apparently had a last-minute change of heart. Cue claim and counter-claim.
The Lancastrian club said Ghilas failed his medical; Celta Vigo claimed Rovers tried to renegotiate his fee and wages at the 11th hour. A vexed Vigo even fielded the striker in a friendly the following day to prove he was fit, but Blackburn refused to budge and stuck with their original line. Ghilas later joined Hull, scoring just one goal in 13 league outings.
Gillespie puts his ankle in, puts his ankle out
Keith Gillespie’s move from Newcastle to Middlesbrough in 1998 was called off at the last minute. The Northern Irishman turned up at the Riverside Stadium for a pre-season tournament expecting to be unveiled, with manager Bryan Robson even hailing the signing in a press release.
Cue embarrassed back-tracking straight after the final whistle when Gillespie’s dodgy ankle was revealed. Magpies boss Kenny Dalglish was pleased with the news, though, having not been informed that the winger was being sold.
Asa doesn’t have the Hart to join Leeds
There was nothing simple about West Brom midfielder Asa Hartford’s proposed switch to Don Revie’s Leeds in the 1971. The deal was already done when the results of a medical revealed Hartford had a potentially career-threatening hole in his heart. Fat chance – the super-fit Scot went on to play until he was 41.
“A move to Leeds was like a dream, the best team in the country,” Hartford said. “I trained with Albion on the Friday morning and then had a medical and that's where the problem came up, they discovered I had a hole in my heart. It was literally a pinhole, but I ended up playing 800 games so it wasn’t that bad!”
Fourth time lucky for Hartson
“There is the possibility that the medical might not go well,” said Rangers chairman David Murray, fearing the worst as John Hartson prepared for his check-up ahead of an anticipated transfer to the Glasgow giants in 2000.
The striker, who had already failed medicals at Tottenham and Charlton, was again denied a move due to his results. He joined Celtic a year later instead, going on to score 109 goals and win three league titles with the Bhoys. “The best medical I’ve ever failed,” the Welshman said, but Rangers supporters probably disagree.
Hinchcliffe told: you’re not hired
Even when he was plain old Alan Sugar, the Apprentice star was known for his ruthlessness – just ask Andy Hinchcliffe. The England left-back was on the verge of a £3m move to Tottenham in January 1998 when Spurs chairman Sugar reportedly stepped in to prevent manager Christian Gross misspending any more of his cash.
Rumour has it Spurs even sent Hinchcliffe the bill for the medical, while Sugar eventually filled the left-back void with the signing of Paolo Tramezzani, an Italian journeyman who racked up just six Premier League appearances before leaving for Pistoiese.
Ravel a bit wrong in the tooth
Former Manchester United prodigy Ravel Morrison has been involved in a number of controversial incidents in his short career, leading to him being labelled ‘temperamental’, ‘chaotic’ and ‘bizarre’ during his short career. Just don’t call him ‘toothy’.
Before passing a medical to join Birmingham on loan in 2012, the then-West Ham midfielder required emergency treatment to have seven gnashers removed after complaining of toothache during a pre-season tour of Germany. Morrison was subsequently advised to have dental implants costing £28,000 – so make sure you brush twice a day, kids.
Crocked Motta plays up at Pompey
Motta called time on his playing career at the end of the 2017-18 campaign having won 14 major trophies in his six years at Paris Saint-Germain. Life wasn’t always so easy for the former Italy international, though. Back in 2008, the ex-Barcelona midfielder was between clubs after Atletico Madrid withdrew their offer of a new deal following a troubled season in the treatment room.
Wily Harry Redknapp was on hand to offer the then-26-year-old a fresh start at bank-busting Portsmouth, only for Motta to fail a medical at Fratton Park thanks to his dodgy knee. He failed another at Racing Santander, and started the next season without a club – but he returned via Genoa to play for Inter and PSG.
Three's a charm for Ruud
It took a year of waiting and three medicals, but Ruud van Nistelrooy's transfer to Manchester United was probably worth the wait, considering he then bagged 150 in 219 games. Alex Ferguson had been set to land the free-scoring PSV hitman for £18.5m in summer 2000, when a press conference was called to welcome the Red Devils’ new man.
Instead, though, the press were told that the move had been held up due to worries about the Dutchman's fitness. Days later he ruptured cruciate ligaments in training and the deal was held off for a year, but not before he failed another medical test a month before his eventual signing.
Frank shows the ladies his worth
Frank Worthington’s aborted move from Huddersfield to Liverpool in 1972 is the stuff of legend. After failing his medical due to high blood pressure apparently caused by having too much sex, Worthington was sent to ‘calm down’ in Majorca.
While there he continued to enjoy “the fruits of being young” – namely (in no particular order): Miss Great Britain, a Swedish mother and daughter, and an unnamed Belgian beauty. He returned, failed the medical again, and joined Leicester instead.
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