16 Jan 2014
In - Football

It's January so, like football fans everywhere, we're talking transfers.

These days big-money moves rarely raise an eyebrow – largely because they're preceded by weeks of fanfare, build-up and press speculation. So we asked the Mirror's John Cross to run down the switches that shocked – for a number of different reasons…

Eric Cantona (Leeds to Manchester United, 1992, £1.2m)
Cantona's move across the Pennines was so significant, he might as well have carried the league trophy in his suitcase. It all came from a phone call from Leeds managing director Bill Fotherby to ask about the availability of Denis Irwin. No chance, said the United chairman Martin Edwards. United then enquired about Lee Chapman (yes, really). Leeds said that was a no-go – but, incredibly, when Alex Ferguson urged Edwards to try for Cantona instead, Leeds boss Howard Wilkinson gave United the green light. The deal was agreed for a bargain fee within hours. Cantona went to Old Trafford, inspired them to their first title in 26 years and was the catalyst for an era of unbridled success.

Sol Campbell (Tottenham to Arsenal, 2001, free)
Campbell's move across north London was one of the most controversial deals in English football history. It was also one of the biggest in the post-Bosman era – if you can call a free transfer big. In terms of wages, it was huge. Campbell was Spurs captain, adored by the fans, a defender at the peak of his powers. Despite several public assurances that he would sign a new deal at White Hart Lane, Campbell finally decided to run down his contract, stating his desire to play in the Champions League. Many European giants expressed an interest but, to Spurs fans' horror – and Arsenal fans' glee – the defender headed down the road to Highbury. It's unlikely Campbell regrets his decision – Arsenal won the double in his first season, and he was an integral part of the 2003-04 'Invincibles'.

Luís Figo (Barcelona to Real Madrid, 2000, £52m)
You just can't move between these two clubs – unless, that is, you are Portuguese superstar Luís Figo. He was hero-worshipped at Barcelona and helped the club to La Liga titles in 1998 and 1999, but when Real Madrid held their elections in 2000, presidential hopeful Florentino Pérez promised to bring the midfielder to the Bernabéu to kickstart his galácticos policy. Pérez duly won the vote and, sure enough, Figo was soon being unveiled in front of the cameras, having taken the world transfer record to a new height. Figo got abuse for years when he played against Barca, even having a pig's head thrown at him during a game in 2002. How did they smuggle that in?

Allan Simonsen (Barcelona to Charlton, 1982, £300,000 - pictured)
Just think about this: Simonsen, the winner of the 1977 European Footballer of the Year award and midfielder for one of the biggest clubs on the planet, moves to Charlton – then in the Second Division and struggling to pay the bills. I don't think you can beat this one for the sheer bizarre nature of the transfer. Simonsen had been put out by Barcalona signing Diego Maradona, as Spanish league restrictions meant that the Danish international had to compete with the Argentine genius and Bernt Schuster for the two places allowed for foreign players. Having asked for his contract to be cancelled, Simonsen rejected Real Madrid and Tottenham to move to the lower-profile surrounds of the Valley, where he lasted just three months (scoring nine goals in 16 games), before the Addicks let him go because they couldn't pay his wages.

Gareth Bale (Tottenham to Real Madrid, 2013, £85m)
This one gets in because of the sheer size of the fee. Bale, who came close to being sold by then Spurs manager Harry Redknapp when things didn't go to plan during his early days at White Hart Lane, became the most expensive player in the world when the clubs finally agreed a deal last summer. The transfer saga dragged on for months as Spurs chairman Daniel Levy dug his heels in for the best possible deal, but when Real Madrid want someone, they usually get him. It was thought that the record deal might put the famously sensitive Cristiano Ronaldo's nose out of joint. But having overcome early injury problems, Bale has struck up a good rapport with the Ballon d'Or winner on the pitch.

John Cross has named his five most shocking transfers – but which big player move rocked your world? Let us know by tweeting @ProstateUK using the hashtag #MenUnited or leave a comment at the bottom of the page.

comments powered by Disqus