8 of the most controversial transfers in footballing history

Paul Fennessy
Soccer - UEFA Champions League - Semi-Final - Second Leg - Villarreal v Arsenal - El Madrigal
Soccer - UEFA Champions League - Semi-Final - Second Leg - Villarreal v Arsenal - El Madrigal


DESPITE PUBLICLY INSISTING he would stay at Tottenham and reportedly being given the chance to become the highest-paid player in Spurs’ history, Campbell ultimately turned down the club’s offer to join bitter rivals Arsenal. The announcement of the move on a free transfer after Campbell’s contract ran out prompted uproar in North London, with the defender subsequently being labelled ‘Judas’ by many Spurs fans for the remainder of his football career.

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Luis Figo — Barcelona to Real Madrid (2000)

Soccer - UEFA Champions League - Group B - Roma v Real Madrid
Soccer - UEFA Champions League - Group B - Roma v Real Madrid


Arguably the most controversial transfer in the history of the sport, in the summer of 2000, Real Madrid instigated a buy-out clause with a £35million (€43m) bid. Hence, Barcelona’s star player made the stunning move, receiving endless vitriol from the Barca fans as a result, with a pig’s head famously being thrown in his direction during one of the rivals’ subsequent clashes.

Ashley Cole — Arsenal to Chelsea (2006)

Soccer - Barclays Premier League - West Ham United v Chelsea - Upton Park
Soccer - Barclays Premier League - West Ham United v Chelsea - Upton Park


After Cole and his representative were both fined for making illegal contact with Chelsea while he was still an Arsenal player, he eventually moved to the Gunners’ London rivals, claiming in his autobiography that Arsenal had failed to adequately support him amid the controversy. A fee of £5 million plus William Gallas was eventually agreed, with Cole’s later revelations that he was angered by Arsenal only offering him £55,000 a week wages, compared to Chelsea’s £90,000, only further alienating him from the supporters who had previously adored him.

Roberto Baggio — Fiorentina to Juventus (1990)

Italian Soccer - Serie A - Juventus v Roma
Italian Soccer - Serie A - Juventus v Roma


Sold for a world record transfer of €10 million at the time, Baggio’s move prompted rioting on the streets of Florence that left 50 people injured. The Italian striker later caused further controversy when he was seen kissing a Fiorentina scarf during a Juventus game. “Deep in my heart, I am always purple [Fiorentina's colours],” he later explained.

Johan Cruyff — Ajax to Feyenoord (1993)

Soccer - Friendly - Feyenoord v Liverpool
Soccer - Friendly - Feyenoord v Liverpool


After Ajax, the club in which Cruyff rose to stardom, declined to offer the player a new contract, the veteran star provocatively opted to join their Dutch rivals Feyenoord. And the move was ultimately a successful if brief one, as he retired one year later having helped his side win the Eredivisie for the first time in a decade, gaining the Dutch Player of the Year accolade in the process.

Carlos Tevez — Man United to Man City (2009)

Soccer - Carlos Tevez Poster - Manchester
Soccer - Carlos Tevez Poster - Manchester


After the two Manchester clubs agreed an alleged fee of £47 million, Tevez became the first player to move from United to City since Terry Cooke made the same switch in 1999. He was thus vilified by United fans, with City rubbing salt in the wound with an incendiary ‘Welcome to Manchester’ sign replete with an image of the Argentinian star celebrating. He later further angered the Old Trafford outfit’s fans after becoming emroiled in argument over who was the bigger club and notoriously labelling United defender Gary Neville a “boot-licking moron”.

Mo Johnston — Nantes to Rangers (1989)

Scottish Soccer - Premier Division - Mo Johnston Signs For Rangers
Scottish Soccer - Premier Division - Mo Johnston Signs For Rangers


Having previously established himself as a Celtic hero after scoring 52 goals in 99 appearances for the club, that all changed when he made the move to Ibrox via Nantes. Billed as the club’s ‘first major Catholic signing’ in 1989, Johnston proved a divisive figure on both sides of Glagow — Celtic fans were inevitably unhappy that their former star had joined their rivals, while many Rangers supporters were reluctant to embrace Johnston, owing to his past affiliations.

Frank Lampard — New York to Man City (2014)

NYCFC Lampard Soccer
NYCFC Lampard Soccer


Lovingly dubbed ‘Mr Chelsea’ by the Stamford Bridge faithful, the 36-year-old is unlikely to be greeted warmly upon his return there after joining title rivals Manchester City on loan from New York in a move that has stunned many observers, with Arsene Wenger among others questioning the legitimacy of the deal. How successful it turns out to be from hereon in remains to be seen.

And the one that got away — Steven Gerrard to Chelsea (2005)

APTOPIX BRITAIN SOCCER FA CUP
APTOPIX BRITAIN SOCCER FA CUP


Frustrated by the club’s lack of ambition and what he deemed to be a derisory offer of a new contract only just after they had won the Champions League, Steven Gerrard handed in a transfer request in the summer of 2005. The action infuriated die-hard Liverpool fans, who were filmed burning Gerrard jerseys outside of Anfield. However, the Anfield club eventually improved their offer, with Gerrard subsequently withdrawing his transfer request, quelling the Reds fans’ angry protests and signing a new £100,000-a-week contract shortly thereafter.

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