Portsmouth to Real Madrid? QPR to Milan? Brazil to Boro?
Footballers don't always do the expected when it comes to moving clubs, and PSG's new signing Lassana Diarra is a case in point. The Parisian has earned a 'dream move' home to join the Ligue 1 leaders after spells in Dagestan, Moscow, Madrid and Portsmouth. We take a look at those who chose the path less travelled in their careers, including a London-born Turkish international playing in Brazil, a former England youth international who's kicked a ball around in no fewer than 12 different countries and a Brazilian maestro who loved the north east of England so much he moved there on three separate occasions.
Altidore is back in Major League Soccer with Toronto FC following an inconsistent time in Europe. He started his career with New York Red Bulls in 2006, earning a first shot at European football with Villarreal. He was unable to make a significant impression during his time at El Madrigal and was loaned to Xerez (where he failed to make a single appearance due to injury), Hull City and then a short spell in the Turkish Super Lig with Bursaspor.
The third-highest scorer in U.S. men's national team history was then sold to Eredivisie side AZ – where he enjoyed comfortably his best spell in Europe, scoring 39 goals over two seasons. He impressed enough to be given another crack at the Premier League with Sunderland, where he infamously managed just a single league goal in two years, before making the move to Toronto as part of the deal that took Jermaine Defoe to Sunderland.
Ghana international striker started out in his homeland with Liberty Professionals before a move to Udinese in Italy when he was just 17. Quite a common thing for young African talent to do – but his career path from that point onward has been anything but normal.
After spending some time in Serie B with Modena on loan, Gyan found himself in France with Rennes, where he spent two years before moving to the Premier League with Sunderland. After a full season in England he was loaned out to Al Ain in the UAE, for whom he signed permanently the following year.
With more than 50 international goals to his name for the Black Stars, Gyan has also spent time in China with Shanghai SIPG before a loan move back to the United Arab Emirates with Al-Ahli. Now 32, he’s in the Turkish Super Lig with Kayserispor.
Brazilian winger Bastos earned 10 caps for his country and currently plies his trade back home with Palmeiras. He began his career in his home-town with Pelotas before his first foray into European football with Feyenoord. A loan spell across the city with Excelsior followed but he failed to impress the hierarchy at De Kuip and made his return to Brazil at the end of his first season in Europe.
During a three-year spell with Atletico Paranaense he was also loaned out to both Gremio and Figuerense. Since then he's been on something of a world tour. He moved to Lille in France in 2006, and Lyon three years later. He was loaned out to Schalke in 2013, and then sold to Al Ain. Bastos's one year in the UAE was interrupted by another loan spell, this time with Roma, before he returned home to play for Sao Paulo in 2014.
Best is remembered for his time with Manchester United, but he played for another decade after leaving Old Trafford aged 28.
In 1974 Best was loaned out to obscure South African club Jewish Guild, and non-league Dunstable Town, before going on to play for a number of other English clubs including Fulham and Bournemouth. He also played in Ireland for Cork Celtic, for several clubs in the USA, for Hibs in Scotland, two clubs in Hong Kong, two clubs in Australia, and finally Tobermore United in his native Northern Ireland.
Best's career was one of an infamously troubled man who loved playing football and did so wherever he could. But it’s still one of the strangest, as he transitioned from one-club legend in the first decade of his career to wandering journeyman in the second.
The Brazilian’s career started off in perfectly normal fashion with Vitoria. That was about as regular as it would ever be, though. Givanildo Vieira de Sousa – as he is almost never known – moved to top Japanese side Kawasaki Frontale in 2005 when he was still a teenager. Loan moves to the J2 league ensued with Consadole Sapporo and Tokyo Verdy, for whom he then signed join permanently, and it was in Japan's capital where he caught the attention of Portuguese giants Porto.
From that point on, Hulk's career path has been paved with gold. He moved to Russian giants Zenit in 2012 and then to Shanghai SIPG in China in 2016, where former Porto boss Vitor Pereira is his coach. The fact that he’s yet to test himself in any of Europe’s top leagues hasn’t damaged his chances with the national team – he’s nearing 50 caps for Brazil.
The diminutive Brazilian remains one of the most exciting players to have graced the Premier League, delighting Boro fans during three separate spells in the northeast. Starting off with hometown club Sao Paulo, Juninho headed to the Riverside Stadium for the first time in 1995. After a two-year spell, he moved to Spain with Atletico Madrid, before being loaned back to Boro for a second spell on Teesside. His third spell came in 2002 following temporary moves back to Brazil with Rio clubs Vasco da Gama and Flamengo, before one final club in Europe – Glasgow giants Celtic.
Another spell with Flamengo came after a short stint with Palmeiras before finishing his career – or so we thought – after a year in the A League with Sydney FC. In 2010, Juninho came out of retirement for one last hurrah, back to Brazil as player-president of Ituano. He played only twice for the Sao Paulo club, but scored two goals – including one in a come-from-behind victory that saved them from relegation. What a way to go out.
Colin Kazim-Richards has never shied away from alien environments. The Leystonstone-born attacker hit the headlines in 2005 after being signed by Brighton, who'd signed him with the £250,000 won from a Coca-Cola competition. A move to Premier League Sheffield United followed a year later, before a move the following summer to Istanbul giants Fenerbahce, shortly after making his debut for the Turkish national side. Kazim-Richards was loaned out to Ligue 1 side Toulouse but by the following January he'd had his Fenerbahce contract terminated and joined their fiercest rivals, Galatasaray.
Loans at Olympiakos and Blackburn followed, before a permanent switch to Bursaspor in 2013. A contract dispute led to another temporary switch, this time to Eredivisie outfit Feyenoord, where he thrived and earned a permanent move. He wound up at Celtic in January 2016 for the rest of the campaign following his departure from Rotterdam. Next up was Brazil – his wife's country of birth – and after a fruitful spell at Coritiba, Kazim-Richards moved to giants Corinthians in January 2017.
Until the age of 33, the only extraordinary thing about Larsson's career was his success with Feyenoord and Celtic. The Swede had started his career with Hogaborg and Helsingborg before earning a move to Rotterdam. He averaged slightly better than a goal every four games in the Eredivisie and was almost 26 when he headed to Scotland with Celtic in 1997; in seven seasons there he bagged 242 goals in all competitions and achieved legend status in Glasgow.
His outstanding goalscoring record eventually led him to Barcelona, where he spent two seasons – the highlight being lifting the 2006 Champions League trophy - before returning home to play for Helsingborg. Manchester United came calling, and Larsson enjoyed a short but sweet spell on loan at Old Trafford in 2007, during the Swedish off-season. Larsson ended his career in Sweden with very brief spells at Raa and his first club Hogaborg.
Lassana Diarra’s move to PSG this winter ranks as one of the strangest in recent memory, having been signed on a free transfer following his release from Al Jazira of Abu Dhabi.
Diarra started out at Le Havre before a successful 2005 trial at Chelsea prompted the Blues to splash out £1m. After failing to break into the first team he moved on to Arsenal and then Portsmouth, where he did well enough to earn a €20m move to Real Madrid, before opting for a move to mega-rich Anzhi Makhachkala in Russia. It didn't last long: budget cuts meant he was sold to Lokomotiv Moscow before moving back to France with Marseille.
Diarra enjoyed brief career resurgence with Les Olympiens - even being recalled to the national team - but plumped for that move to Al-Jazira in the UAE last year. Now 32, Diarra is back in the city he was born with PSG.
Luca Toni’s 22-year professional career took him to 12 different Italian sides. For the first 11 years, he hopped between small and medium-sized clubs – Modena, Empoli, Fiorenzuola, Lodigiani, Treviso, Vicenza, Brescia and Palermo. His form for the Sicilians earned him a move to Fiorentina in 2005. He was 28 in the 2005/06 season when he won the Capocannoniere award for top scorer in Serie A with 31 goals.
A move to Bayern Munich brought goals but a falling-out with boss Louis van Gaal. He was loaned to Roma, before returning to Italy permanently with Genoa and then Juventus. Aged 34, he moved to the UAE with Al-Nasr for what seemed like one final hurrah. But after a single season he re-signed for Fiorentina, then spent his final three campaigns in Serie A with Verona – finishing as Serie A’s top scorer again in 2014/15 with 22 goals, before retiring at the end of the following season aged 39. He's now Director of Football at Hellas Verona.
Paulinho moved to the Camp Nou for €40m last summer from Guangzhou Evergrande in China. The move signified a career peak for the midfielder, at the age of 29, which was met with raised eyebrows by many - including, if reports are to be believed, some of Barcelona's biggest stars. His path to Catalonia has been one of the more bizarre in football history.The 41-cap Brazil international arrived via FC Vilnius in Lithuania, LKS Lodz in Poland, three clubs in his native Brazil and a forgettable spell in the Premier League with Tottenham.
Ricketts has played in no fewer than 12 countries during his globetrotting career. The midfielder came through the ranks at Arsenal before crossing the north London divide to join Tottenham. Loans at Coventry and Wolves preceded a permanent move to Molineux in 2005, which was followed by another loan move – this time to QPR – and a permanent switch to Barnsley. So far, so normal.
Following a single season in Yorkshire, Ricketts spent a year with Toronto in MLS before joining Hungarian side Diósgyőri and then moving to Moldovan side Dacia Chişinău. He left Moldova three months later after not being paid and joined German regional league side Wilhelmshaven. Spells at Shamrock Rovers in Ireland, Exeter City, Dempo in India, Quevedo in Ecuador, PTT Rayong in Thailand, Eastern Sports Club in Hong Kong and Dhaka Abahani Limited in Bangladesh all followed before he hung his boots up in 2016 after a short spell with Leatherhead in the Isthmian League.
The enigmatic Moroccan is supremely talented, but flashes of brilliance have been overshadowed by a bad attitude, laziness and an inability to keep himself in shape.
Having come through the ranks at RC Lens, Taraabt earned a place in the French side's first team and made just one appearance before attracting the interest of Tottenham. A loan move to White Hart Lane was made permanent but was quickly followed by a host of short-term moves including stints at QPR, Fulham and Milan. He's currently back in Serie A with Genoa – another loan move, this time from latest parent club Benfica.
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