Aberdeen

Aberdeen slideshow

In contrast to last season’s inexorable progress to a clean sweep of the domestic honours, Celtic have had to break step during this campaign and did so again in a game which saw St Johnstone – not for the first time in recent seasons under Tommy Wright – leave the east end of Glasgow with reward to show for their efforts. The outcome of a goalless contest was, nevertheless, a reminder that championships can be acquired in diverse fashions. Celtic shed two points yet found themselves better off than they had been before the weekend because, yet again, the nearest contenders were unable to muster the victories that would have put at least a nominal degree of pressure on them. When Celtic lost at Kilmarnock at the start of the month Rangers lost at home to Hibernian. On Saturday, Aberdeen had the opportunity to move to within five points of the leaders, a prospect which evaporated when they were deservedly beaten 2-0 by Hibs at Easter Road. The upshot is that Celtic, despite failing to score at home in a league fixture for only the second time under Brendan Rodgers, are now nine points clear of Rangers, who overtook Aberdeen on goal difference with their 5-3 win at Hamilton. If Celtic are not invincible in Scotland, as they were last season, their horizons have expanded to include the possibility of Europa League football in the last 16 of the competition next month. History has demonstrated that expeditions to Russia are notoriously hazardous but Rodgers exercised the opportunity to harbour his resources ahead of Thursday’s return leg meeting with Zenit in St Petersburg, where Celtic will attempt to capitalise on the 1-0 lead posted at home in the first instalment. Celtic made no fewer than seven changes from the Europa League match, with only Dorus de Vries, Kris Ajer, Callum McGregor and Eboue Kouassi retained for the visit of a St Johnstone side coming off the back of three successive defeats. McGregor and Kouassi, though, were switched from advanced midfield positions to fill the holding roles usually taken by Olivier Ntcham and Scott Brown. Tom Rogic was back in action Credit: PA The use of squad players was notable at full-back, where Cristiam Gamboa and Calvin Miller were summoned from the fringes of the squad. One particularly heartening inclusion was that of Tom Rogic, back on his familiar beat behind the front three for the first time since the 1-0 home defeat by Anderlecht in the Champions League, after which he sustained a disruptive knee injury. The Australian looked entirely comfortable during an opening spell of almost complete Celtic dominance when, for 10 minutes, Saints could scarcely get a touch on the ball. For all their command of possession, though, the Hoops managed only a single attempt on target, when Ajer met a free kick from the right with a header that was parried by Alan Mannus and nodded clear by Steve Anderson. To the audible frustration of the home support, the visitors began to break out of the quarantine zone around their own penalty area and fashioned a series of alarms at the other end of the field. This switch was signalled by a cross from David Wotherspoon headed narrowly over by Blair Alston, followed immediately by a free kick touched by Wotherspoon to Richard Foster, whose drive from the edge of the box swept just high of the crossbar. St Johnstone came close on two more occasions, with another Wotherspoon delivery that squirmed narrowly past the post and then an Alston delivery pitched fractionally too high. The second half simply extended the pattern of the first and, as the proceedings wore on, Rodgers attempted to break the deadlock from the bench in the form of Kieran Tierney, James Forrest and Moussa Dembele. St Johnstone’s response was to replace George Williams with Matty Willock and the on-loan Manchester United midfielder might have put his team in front when he burrowed behind the Hoops defence had he chosen to shoot rather than cut back to Steven MacLean. As it was, while Celtic conserved their energy for Zenit, Saints departed with an unanticipated bonus in their battle to clear the relegation zone.
Celtic 0 St Johnstone 0: Brendan Rodgers keeps Europa League in mind as much-changed side go nine points clear
In contrast to last season’s inexorable progress to a clean sweep of the domestic honours, Celtic have had to break step during this campaign and did so again in a game which saw St Johnstone – not for the first time in recent seasons under Tommy Wright – leave the east end of Glasgow with reward to show for their efforts. The outcome of a goalless contest was, nevertheless, a reminder that championships can be acquired in diverse fashions. Celtic shed two points yet found themselves better off than they had been before the weekend because, yet again, the nearest contenders were unable to muster the victories that would have put at least a nominal degree of pressure on them. When Celtic lost at Kilmarnock at the start of the month Rangers lost at home to Hibernian. On Saturday, Aberdeen had the opportunity to move to within five points of the leaders, a prospect which evaporated when they were deservedly beaten 2-0 by Hibs at Easter Road. The upshot is that Celtic, despite failing to score at home in a league fixture for only the second time under Brendan Rodgers, are now nine points clear of Rangers, who overtook Aberdeen on goal difference with their 5-3 win at Hamilton. If Celtic are not invincible in Scotland, as they were last season, their horizons have expanded to include the possibility of Europa League football in the last 16 of the competition next month. History has demonstrated that expeditions to Russia are notoriously hazardous but Rodgers exercised the opportunity to harbour his resources ahead of Thursday’s return leg meeting with Zenit in St Petersburg, where Celtic will attempt to capitalise on the 1-0 lead posted at home in the first instalment. Celtic made no fewer than seven changes from the Europa League match, with only Dorus de Vries, Kris Ajer, Callum McGregor and Eboue Kouassi retained for the visit of a St Johnstone side coming off the back of three successive defeats. McGregor and Kouassi, though, were switched from advanced midfield positions to fill the holding roles usually taken by Olivier Ntcham and Scott Brown. Tom Rogic was back in action Credit: PA The use of squad players was notable at full-back, where Cristiam Gamboa and Calvin Miller were summoned from the fringes of the squad. One particularly heartening inclusion was that of Tom Rogic, back on his familiar beat behind the front three for the first time since the 1-0 home defeat by Anderlecht in the Champions League, after which he sustained a disruptive knee injury. The Australian looked entirely comfortable during an opening spell of almost complete Celtic dominance when, for 10 minutes, Saints could scarcely get a touch on the ball. For all their command of possession, though, the Hoops managed only a single attempt on target, when Ajer met a free kick from the right with a header that was parried by Alan Mannus and nodded clear by Steve Anderson. To the audible frustration of the home support, the visitors began to break out of the quarantine zone around their own penalty area and fashioned a series of alarms at the other end of the field. This switch was signalled by a cross from David Wotherspoon headed narrowly over by Blair Alston, followed immediately by a free kick touched by Wotherspoon to Richard Foster, whose drive from the edge of the box swept just high of the crossbar. St Johnstone came close on two more occasions, with another Wotherspoon delivery that squirmed narrowly past the post and then an Alston delivery pitched fractionally too high. The second half simply extended the pattern of the first and, as the proceedings wore on, Rodgers attempted to break the deadlock from the bench in the form of Kieran Tierney, James Forrest and Moussa Dembele. St Johnstone’s response was to replace George Williams with Matty Willock and the on-loan Manchester United midfielder might have put his team in front when he burrowed behind the Hoops defence had he chosen to shoot rather than cut back to Steven MacLean. As it was, while Celtic conserved their energy for Zenit, Saints departed with an unanticipated bonus in their battle to clear the relegation zone.
In contrast to last season’s inexorable progress to a clean sweep of the domestic honours, Celtic have had to break step during this campaign and did so again in a game which saw St Johnstone – not for the first time in recent seasons under Tommy Wright – leave the east end of Glasgow with reward to show for their efforts. The outcome of a goalless contest was, nevertheless, a reminder that championships can be acquired in diverse fashions. Celtic shed two points yet found themselves better off than they had been before the weekend because, yet again, the nearest contenders were unable to muster the victories that would have put at least a nominal degree of pressure on them. When Celtic lost at Kilmarnock at the start of the month Rangers lost at home to Hibernian. On Saturday, Aberdeen had the opportunity to move to within five points of the leaders, a prospect which evaporated when they were deservedly beaten 2-0 by Hibs at Easter Road. The upshot is that Celtic, despite failing to score at home in a league fixture for only the second time under Brendan Rodgers, are now nine points clear of Rangers, who overtook Aberdeen on goal difference with their 5-3 win at Hamilton. If Celtic are not invincible in Scotland, as they were last season, their horizons have expanded to include the possibility of Europa League football in the last 16 of the competition next month. History has demonstrated that expeditions to Russia are notoriously hazardous but Rodgers exercised the opportunity to harbour his resources ahead of Thursday’s return leg meeting with Zenit in St Petersburg, where Celtic will attempt to capitalise on the 1-0 lead posted at home in the first instalment. Celtic made no fewer than seven changes from the Europa League match, with only Dorus de Vries, Kris Ajer, Callum McGregor and Eboue Kouassi retained for the visit of a St Johnstone side coming off the back of three successive defeats. McGregor and Kouassi, though, were switched from advanced midfield positions to fill the holding roles usually taken by Olivier Ntcham and Scott Brown. Tom Rogic was back in action Credit: PA The use of squad players was notable at full-back, where Cristiam Gamboa and Calvin Miller were summoned from the fringes of the squad. One particularly heartening inclusion was that of Tom Rogic, back on his familiar beat behind the front three for the first time since the 1-0 home defeat by Anderlecht in the Champions League, after which he sustained a disruptive knee injury. The Australian looked entirely comfortable during an opening spell of almost complete Celtic dominance when, for 10 minutes, Saints could scarcely get a touch on the ball. For all their command of possession, though, the Hoops managed only a single attempt on target, when Ajer met a free kick from the right with a header that was parried by Alan Mannus and nodded clear by Steve Anderson. To the audible frustration of the home support, the visitors began to break out of the quarantine zone around their own penalty area and fashioned a series of alarms at the other end of the field. This switch was signalled by a cross from David Wotherspoon headed narrowly over by Blair Alston, followed immediately by a free kick touched by Wotherspoon to Richard Foster, whose drive from the edge of the box swept just high of the crossbar. St Johnstone came close on two more occasions, with another Wotherspoon delivery that squirmed narrowly past the post and then an Alston delivery pitched fractionally too high. The second half simply extended the pattern of the first and, as the proceedings wore on, Rodgers attempted to break the deadlock from the bench in the form of Kieran Tierney, James Forrest and Moussa Dembele. St Johnstone’s response was to replace George Williams with Matty Willock and the on-loan Manchester United midfielder might have put his team in front when he burrowed behind the Hoops defence had he chosen to shoot rather than cut back to Steven MacLean. As it was, while Celtic conserved their energy for Zenit, Saints departed with an unanticipated bonus in their battle to clear the relegation zone.
Celtic 0 St Johnstone 0: Brendan Rodgers keeps Europa League in mind as much-changed side go nine points clear
In contrast to last season’s inexorable progress to a clean sweep of the domestic honours, Celtic have had to break step during this campaign and did so again in a game which saw St Johnstone – not for the first time in recent seasons under Tommy Wright – leave the east end of Glasgow with reward to show for their efforts. The outcome of a goalless contest was, nevertheless, a reminder that championships can be acquired in diverse fashions. Celtic shed two points yet found themselves better off than they had been before the weekend because, yet again, the nearest contenders were unable to muster the victories that would have put at least a nominal degree of pressure on them. When Celtic lost at Kilmarnock at the start of the month Rangers lost at home to Hibernian. On Saturday, Aberdeen had the opportunity to move to within five points of the leaders, a prospect which evaporated when they were deservedly beaten 2-0 by Hibs at Easter Road. The upshot is that Celtic, despite failing to score at home in a league fixture for only the second time under Brendan Rodgers, are now nine points clear of Rangers, who overtook Aberdeen on goal difference with their 5-3 win at Hamilton. If Celtic are not invincible in Scotland, as they were last season, their horizons have expanded to include the possibility of Europa League football in the last 16 of the competition next month. History has demonstrated that expeditions to Russia are notoriously hazardous but Rodgers exercised the opportunity to harbour his resources ahead of Thursday’s return leg meeting with Zenit in St Petersburg, where Celtic will attempt to capitalise on the 1-0 lead posted at home in the first instalment. Celtic made no fewer than seven changes from the Europa League match, with only Dorus de Vries, Kris Ajer, Callum McGregor and Eboue Kouassi retained for the visit of a St Johnstone side coming off the back of three successive defeats. McGregor and Kouassi, though, were switched from advanced midfield positions to fill the holding roles usually taken by Olivier Ntcham and Scott Brown. Tom Rogic was back in action Credit: PA The use of squad players was notable at full-back, where Cristiam Gamboa and Calvin Miller were summoned from the fringes of the squad. One particularly heartening inclusion was that of Tom Rogic, back on his familiar beat behind the front three for the first time since the 1-0 home defeat by Anderlecht in the Champions League, after which he sustained a disruptive knee injury. The Australian looked entirely comfortable during an opening spell of almost complete Celtic dominance when, for 10 minutes, Saints could scarcely get a touch on the ball. For all their command of possession, though, the Hoops managed only a single attempt on target, when Ajer met a free kick from the right with a header that was parried by Alan Mannus and nodded clear by Steve Anderson. To the audible frustration of the home support, the visitors began to break out of the quarantine zone around their own penalty area and fashioned a series of alarms at the other end of the field. This switch was signalled by a cross from David Wotherspoon headed narrowly over by Blair Alston, followed immediately by a free kick touched by Wotherspoon to Richard Foster, whose drive from the edge of the box swept just high of the crossbar. St Johnstone came close on two more occasions, with another Wotherspoon delivery that squirmed narrowly past the post and then an Alston delivery pitched fractionally too high. The second half simply extended the pattern of the first and, as the proceedings wore on, Rodgers attempted to break the deadlock from the bench in the form of Kieran Tierney, James Forrest and Moussa Dembele. St Johnstone’s response was to replace George Williams with Matty Willock and the on-loan Manchester United midfielder might have put his team in front when he burrowed behind the Hoops defence had he chosen to shoot rather than cut back to Steven MacLean. As it was, while Celtic conserved their energy for Zenit, Saints departed with an unanticipated bonus in their battle to clear the relegation zone.
Alex McLeish backed Hampden Park to remain Scotland’s home ground as he began the preparations for his second spell as national manager. The Scottish Football Association are in the process of considering whether to remain at Hampden – where their administrative offices are based, alongside those of the Scottish Professional Football League – or switch major internationals and Scottish Cup finals to Murrayfield, the home of Scottish rugby. The stadium in Mount Florida saw McLeish win many of 77 Scotland caps between 1980 and 1993 and it was there that he scored in Aberdeen’s 4-1 Scottish Cup final victory over Rangers on his 200th appearance for the Dons. “I would like to stay here,” McLeish said. “If it is a question of modernisation, sometimes we have to move forward but I’ve got to say it would be hard to leave Hampden.” The venerable ground will be the venue for the first contest of McLeish’s second tenure in charge when the Scots host Costa Rica in a Friday night friendly on March 23. The countries have met only once and recollections of the occasion are painful for McLeish, who was a member of the Scotland side beaten 1-0 by Costa Rica in the Italia ’90 World Cup finals. It is a measure of the decline in Scotland’s fortunes that 28 years ago a defeat in the finals of a major tournament was regarded as a calamity. “The front of the Daily Record was brilliant - or when I look back on it now it was brilliant!” said McLeish. “It was a big picture of the world with ‘Stop the World, we want to get aff!’ written on it. Then there were a few faces which “had to go” and I was one of them. “Fortunately, we redeemed ourselves against Sweden but it was a very apprehensive game. Now, after 22 years of not being at a big tournament we would bite your hand off to do it. “Everyone would be grateful for an early exit just because it would mean that we are there at last but, in saying that, in those days and even now, you always have to be ambitious. “When we got there, we tried to get to the next stage, even if we never quite made that. Just to get to three finals in my playing days was a fantastic feeling.” Scotland failed to qualify for the World Cup in Russia after a 2-2 in Slovenia Credit: PA Given that the transition from Gordon Strachan to McLeish is also a handover from one former Aberdeen player to another who was a Pittodrie team mate, it is possible to wonder if there will be discernible difference between the two regimes. “I have spoken about attention to detail,” said McLeish. “I'm not saying Gordon didn't do that but I believe that a year on - and a tournament - a lot of the lads were involved in these games and you would expect them to learn from that. What I can do is empower players. “How do you empower them? You can show things they have done well to give them the chest puffed out but you can also show them things from the past that they could have done better. These are the little details. “I am not discarding anybody at the moment. I believe there are little tweaks that can happen. A lot of them play in England at the highest level and I've seen a huge difference with a lot of the young players who are coming through in Scotland so, having moved on a season, I feel it's time to qualify for the finals of Euro 2020.” Martin Boyle celebrates scoring the opening goal for Hibernian Credit: Getty Images Two of McLeish’s former clubs met in the game of the day at Easter Road, where Hibs – whom he managed between 1998 and 2001 – hosted Aberdeen, who were bidding for a win that would cut Celtic’s lead at the top of the table to five points ahead of today’s (Sun) home outing against St Johnstone. By way of contrast, Celtic’s advantage over Aberdeen on the same weekend last year was a massive 27 points from one game fewer played. Easter Road accommodated 17,205 spectators and, after a goalless first half, the home fans celebrated when Hibs netted within a minute of the restart. Jamie Maclaren had two efforts blocked by Freddie Woodman but the rebound from his second attempt was headed home by Martin Boyle. Hibs doubled their advantage om the hour when a Martin Boyle shot diverted into the path of Florian Kamberi, who found the mark from close range. Elsewhere, two late goals by Simon Murray thwarted Partick Thistle, for whom Conor Sammon had struck the opener just before half time. Kilmarnock’s fine run continued at Fir Park where Stephen O’Donnell’s strike saw the Ayrshire side leapfrog Motherwell into the top six of the Scottish Premiership table.
Alex McLeish backs calls for Scotland to remain at Hampden Park
Alex McLeish backed Hampden Park to remain Scotland’s home ground as he began the preparations for his second spell as national manager. The Scottish Football Association are in the process of considering whether to remain at Hampden – where their administrative offices are based, alongside those of the Scottish Professional Football League – or switch major internationals and Scottish Cup finals to Murrayfield, the home of Scottish rugby. The stadium in Mount Florida saw McLeish win many of 77 Scotland caps between 1980 and 1993 and it was there that he scored in Aberdeen’s 4-1 Scottish Cup final victory over Rangers on his 200th appearance for the Dons. “I would like to stay here,” McLeish said. “If it is a question of modernisation, sometimes we have to move forward but I’ve got to say it would be hard to leave Hampden.” The venerable ground will be the venue for the first contest of McLeish’s second tenure in charge when the Scots host Costa Rica in a Friday night friendly on March 23. The countries have met only once and recollections of the occasion are painful for McLeish, who was a member of the Scotland side beaten 1-0 by Costa Rica in the Italia ’90 World Cup finals. It is a measure of the decline in Scotland’s fortunes that 28 years ago a defeat in the finals of a major tournament was regarded as a calamity. “The front of the Daily Record was brilliant - or when I look back on it now it was brilliant!” said McLeish. “It was a big picture of the world with ‘Stop the World, we want to get aff!’ written on it. Then there were a few faces which “had to go” and I was one of them. “Fortunately, we redeemed ourselves against Sweden but it was a very apprehensive game. Now, after 22 years of not being at a big tournament we would bite your hand off to do it. “Everyone would be grateful for an early exit just because it would mean that we are there at last but, in saying that, in those days and even now, you always have to be ambitious. “When we got there, we tried to get to the next stage, even if we never quite made that. Just to get to three finals in my playing days was a fantastic feeling.” Scotland failed to qualify for the World Cup in Russia after a 2-2 in Slovenia Credit: PA Given that the transition from Gordon Strachan to McLeish is also a handover from one former Aberdeen player to another who was a Pittodrie team mate, it is possible to wonder if there will be discernible difference between the two regimes. “I have spoken about attention to detail,” said McLeish. “I'm not saying Gordon didn't do that but I believe that a year on - and a tournament - a lot of the lads were involved in these games and you would expect them to learn from that. What I can do is empower players. “How do you empower them? You can show things they have done well to give them the chest puffed out but you can also show them things from the past that they could have done better. These are the little details. “I am not discarding anybody at the moment. I believe there are little tweaks that can happen. A lot of them play in England at the highest level and I've seen a huge difference with a lot of the young players who are coming through in Scotland so, having moved on a season, I feel it's time to qualify for the finals of Euro 2020.” Martin Boyle celebrates scoring the opening goal for Hibernian Credit: Getty Images Two of McLeish’s former clubs met in the game of the day at Easter Road, where Hibs – whom he managed between 1998 and 2001 – hosted Aberdeen, who were bidding for a win that would cut Celtic’s lead at the top of the table to five points ahead of today’s (Sun) home outing against St Johnstone. By way of contrast, Celtic’s advantage over Aberdeen on the same weekend last year was a massive 27 points from one game fewer played. Easter Road accommodated 17,205 spectators and, after a goalless first half, the home fans celebrated when Hibs netted within a minute of the restart. Jamie Maclaren had two efforts blocked by Freddie Woodman but the rebound from his second attempt was headed home by Martin Boyle. Hibs doubled their advantage om the hour when a Martin Boyle shot diverted into the path of Florian Kamberi, who found the mark from close range. Elsewhere, two late goals by Simon Murray thwarted Partick Thistle, for whom Conor Sammon had struck the opener just before half time. Kilmarnock’s fine run continued at Fir Park where Stephen O’Donnell’s strike saw the Ayrshire side leapfrog Motherwell into the top six of the Scottish Premiership table.
Alex McLeish backed Hampden Park to remain Scotland’s home ground as he began the preparations for his second spell as national manager. The Scottish Football Association are in the process of considering whether to remain at Hampden – where their administrative offices are based, alongside those of the Scottish Professional Football League – or switch major internationals and Scottish Cup finals to Murrayfield, the home of Scottish rugby. The stadium in Mount Florida saw McLeish win many of 77 Scotland caps between 1980 and 1993 and it was there that he scored in Aberdeen’s 4-1 Scottish Cup final victory over Rangers on his 200th appearance for the Dons. “I would like to stay here,” McLeish said. “If it is a question of modernisation, sometimes we have to move forward but I’ve got to say it would be hard to leave Hampden.” The venerable ground will be the venue for the first contest of McLeish’s second tenure in charge when the Scots host Costa Rica in a Friday night friendly on March 23. The countries have met only once and recollections of the occasion are painful for McLeish, who was a member of the Scotland side beaten 1-0 by Costa Rica in the Italia ’90 World Cup finals. It is a measure of the decline in Scotland’s fortunes that 28 years ago a defeat in the finals of a major tournament was regarded as a calamity. “The front of the Daily Record was brilliant - or when I look back on it now it was brilliant!” said McLeish. “It was a big picture of the world with ‘Stop the World, we want to get aff!’ written on it. Then there were a few faces which “had to go” and I was one of them. “Fortunately, we redeemed ourselves against Sweden but it was a very apprehensive game. Now, after 22 years of not being at a big tournament we would bite your hand off to do it. “Everyone would be grateful for an early exit just because it would mean that we are there at last but, in saying that, in those days and even now, you always have to be ambitious. “When we got there, we tried to get to the next stage, even if we never quite made that. Just to get to three finals in my playing days was a fantastic feeling.” Scotland failed to qualify for the World Cup in Russia after a 2-2 in Slovenia Credit: PA Given that the transition from Gordon Strachan to McLeish is also a handover from one former Aberdeen player to another who was a Pittodrie team mate, it is possible to wonder if there will be discernible difference between the two regimes. “I have spoken about attention to detail,” said McLeish. “I'm not saying Gordon didn't do that but I believe that a year on - and a tournament - a lot of the lads were involved in these games and you would expect them to learn from that. What I can do is empower players. “How do you empower them? You can show things they have done well to give them the chest puffed out but you can also show them things from the past that they could have done better. These are the little details. “I am not discarding anybody at the moment. I believe there are little tweaks that can happen. A lot of them play in England at the highest level and I've seen a huge difference with a lot of the young players who are coming through in Scotland so, having moved on a season, I feel it's time to qualify for the finals of Euro 2020.” Martin Boyle celebrates scoring the opening goal for Hibernian Credit: Getty Images Two of McLeish’s former clubs met in the game of the day at Easter Road, where Hibs – whom he managed between 1998 and 2001 – hosted Aberdeen, who were bidding for a win that would cut Celtic’s lead at the top of the table to five points ahead of today’s (Sun) home outing against St Johnstone. By way of contrast, Celtic’s advantage over Aberdeen on the same weekend last year was a massive 27 points from one game fewer played. Easter Road accommodated 17,205 spectators and, after a goalless first half, the home fans celebrated when Hibs netted within a minute of the restart. Jamie Maclaren had two efforts blocked by Freddie Woodman but the rebound from his second attempt was headed home by Martin Boyle. Hibs doubled their advantage om the hour when a Martin Boyle shot diverted into the path of Florian Kamberi, who found the mark from close range. Elsewhere, two late goals by Simon Murray thwarted Partick Thistle, for whom Conor Sammon had struck the opener just before half time. Kilmarnock’s fine run continued at Fir Park where Stephen O’Donnell’s strike saw the Ayrshire side leapfrog Motherwell into the top six of the Scottish Premiership table.
Alex McLeish backs calls for Scotland to remain at Hampden Park
Alex McLeish backed Hampden Park to remain Scotland’s home ground as he began the preparations for his second spell as national manager. The Scottish Football Association are in the process of considering whether to remain at Hampden – where their administrative offices are based, alongside those of the Scottish Professional Football League – or switch major internationals and Scottish Cup finals to Murrayfield, the home of Scottish rugby. The stadium in Mount Florida saw McLeish win many of 77 Scotland caps between 1980 and 1993 and it was there that he scored in Aberdeen’s 4-1 Scottish Cup final victory over Rangers on his 200th appearance for the Dons. “I would like to stay here,” McLeish said. “If it is a question of modernisation, sometimes we have to move forward but I’ve got to say it would be hard to leave Hampden.” The venerable ground will be the venue for the first contest of McLeish’s second tenure in charge when the Scots host Costa Rica in a Friday night friendly on March 23. The countries have met only once and recollections of the occasion are painful for McLeish, who was a member of the Scotland side beaten 1-0 by Costa Rica in the Italia ’90 World Cup finals. It is a measure of the decline in Scotland’s fortunes that 28 years ago a defeat in the finals of a major tournament was regarded as a calamity. “The front of the Daily Record was brilliant - or when I look back on it now it was brilliant!” said McLeish. “It was a big picture of the world with ‘Stop the World, we want to get aff!’ written on it. Then there were a few faces which “had to go” and I was one of them. “Fortunately, we redeemed ourselves against Sweden but it was a very apprehensive game. Now, after 22 years of not being at a big tournament we would bite your hand off to do it. “Everyone would be grateful for an early exit just because it would mean that we are there at last but, in saying that, in those days and even now, you always have to be ambitious. “When we got there, we tried to get to the next stage, even if we never quite made that. Just to get to three finals in my playing days was a fantastic feeling.” Scotland failed to qualify for the World Cup in Russia after a 2-2 in Slovenia Credit: PA Given that the transition from Gordon Strachan to McLeish is also a handover from one former Aberdeen player to another who was a Pittodrie team mate, it is possible to wonder if there will be discernible difference between the two regimes. “I have spoken about attention to detail,” said McLeish. “I'm not saying Gordon didn't do that but I believe that a year on - and a tournament - a lot of the lads were involved in these games and you would expect them to learn from that. What I can do is empower players. “How do you empower them? You can show things they have done well to give them the chest puffed out but you can also show them things from the past that they could have done better. These are the little details. “I am not discarding anybody at the moment. I believe there are little tweaks that can happen. A lot of them play in England at the highest level and I've seen a huge difference with a lot of the young players who are coming through in Scotland so, having moved on a season, I feel it's time to qualify for the finals of Euro 2020.” Martin Boyle celebrates scoring the opening goal for Hibernian Credit: Getty Images Two of McLeish’s former clubs met in the game of the day at Easter Road, where Hibs – whom he managed between 1998 and 2001 – hosted Aberdeen, who were bidding for a win that would cut Celtic’s lead at the top of the table to five points ahead of today’s (Sun) home outing against St Johnstone. By way of contrast, Celtic’s advantage over Aberdeen on the same weekend last year was a massive 27 points from one game fewer played. Easter Road accommodated 17,205 spectators and, after a goalless first half, the home fans celebrated when Hibs netted within a minute of the restart. Jamie Maclaren had two efforts blocked by Freddie Woodman but the rebound from his second attempt was headed home by Martin Boyle. Hibs doubled their advantage om the hour when a Martin Boyle shot diverted into the path of Florian Kamberi, who found the mark from close range. Elsewhere, two late goals by Simon Murray thwarted Partick Thistle, for whom Conor Sammon had struck the opener just before half time. Kilmarnock’s fine run continued at Fir Park where Stephen O’Donnell’s strike saw the Ayrshire side leapfrog Motherwell into the top six of the Scottish Premiership table.
Alex McLeish backed Hampden Park to remain Scotland’s home ground as he began the preparations for his second spell as national manager. The Scottish Football Association are in the process of considering whether to remain at Hampden – where their administrative offices are based, alongside those of the Scottish Professional Football League – or switch major internationals and Scottish Cup finals to Murrayfield, the home of Scottish rugby. The stadium in Mount Florida saw McLeish win many of 77 Scotland caps between 1980 and 1993 and it was there that he scored in Aberdeen’s 4-1 Scottish Cup final victory over Rangers on his 200th appearance for the Dons. “I would like to stay here,” McLeish said. “If it is a question of modernisation, sometimes we have to move forward but I’ve got to say it would be hard to leave Hampden.” The venerable ground will be the venue for the first contest of McLeish’s second tenure in charge when the Scots host Costa Rica in a Friday night friendly on March 23. The countries have met only once and recollections of the occasion are painful for McLeish, who was a member of the Scotland side beaten 1-0 by Costa Rica in the Italia ’90 World Cup finals. It is a measure of the decline in Scotland’s fortunes that 28 years ago a defeat in the finals of a major tournament was regarded as a calamity. “The front of the Daily Record was brilliant - or when I look back on it now it was brilliant!” said McLeish. “It was a big picture of the world with ‘Stop the World, we want to get aff!’ written on it. Then there were a few faces which “had to go” and I was one of them. “Fortunately, we redeemed ourselves against Sweden but it was a very apprehensive game. Now, after 22 years of not being at a big tournament we would bite your hand off to do it. “Everyone would be grateful for an early exit just because it would mean that we are there at last but, in saying that, in those days and even now, you always have to be ambitious. “When we got there, we tried to get to the next stage, even if we never quite made that. Just to get to three finals in my playing days was a fantastic feeling.” Scotland failed to qualify for the World Cup in Russia after a 2-2 in Slovenia Credit: PA Given that the transition from Gordon Strachan to McLeish is also a handover from one former Aberdeen player to another who was a Pittodrie team mate, it is possible to wonder if there will be discernible difference between the two regimes. “I have spoken about attention to detail,” said McLeish. “I'm not saying Gordon didn't do that but I believe that a year on - and a tournament - a lot of the lads were involved in these games and you would expect them to learn from that. What I can do is empower players. “How do you empower them? You can show things they have done well to give them the chest puffed out but you can also show them things from the past that they could have done better. These are the little details. “I am not discarding anybody at the moment. I believe there are little tweaks that can happen. A lot of them play in England at the highest level and I've seen a huge difference with a lot of the young players who are coming through in Scotland so, having moved on a season, I feel it's time to qualify for the finals of Euro 2020.” Martin Boyle celebrates scoring the opening goal for Hibernian Credit: Getty Images Two of McLeish’s former clubs met in the game of the day at Easter Road, where Hibs – whom he managed between 1998 and 2001 – hosted Aberdeen, who were bidding for a win that would cut Celtic’s lead at the top of the table to five points ahead of today’s (Sun) home outing against St Johnstone. By way of contrast, Celtic’s advantage over Aberdeen on the same weekend last year was a massive 27 points from one game fewer played. Easter Road accommodated 17,205 spectators and, after a goalless first half, the home fans celebrated when Hibs netted within a minute of the restart. Jamie Maclaren had two efforts blocked by Freddie Woodman but the rebound from his second attempt was headed home by Martin Boyle. Hibs doubled their advantage om the hour when a Martin Boyle shot diverted into the path of Florian Kamberi, who found the mark from close range. Elsewhere, two late goals by Simon Murray thwarted Partick Thistle, for whom Conor Sammon had struck the opener just before half time. Kilmarnock’s fine run continued at Fir Park where Stephen O’Donnell’s strike saw the Ayrshire side leapfrog Motherwell into the top six of the Scottish Premiership table.
Alex McLeish backs calls for Scotland to remain at Hampden Park
Alex McLeish backed Hampden Park to remain Scotland’s home ground as he began the preparations for his second spell as national manager. The Scottish Football Association are in the process of considering whether to remain at Hampden – where their administrative offices are based, alongside those of the Scottish Professional Football League – or switch major internationals and Scottish Cup finals to Murrayfield, the home of Scottish rugby. The stadium in Mount Florida saw McLeish win many of 77 Scotland caps between 1980 and 1993 and it was there that he scored in Aberdeen’s 4-1 Scottish Cup final victory over Rangers on his 200th appearance for the Dons. “I would like to stay here,” McLeish said. “If it is a question of modernisation, sometimes we have to move forward but I’ve got to say it would be hard to leave Hampden.” The venerable ground will be the venue for the first contest of McLeish’s second tenure in charge when the Scots host Costa Rica in a Friday night friendly on March 23. The countries have met only once and recollections of the occasion are painful for McLeish, who was a member of the Scotland side beaten 1-0 by Costa Rica in the Italia ’90 World Cup finals. It is a measure of the decline in Scotland’s fortunes that 28 years ago a defeat in the finals of a major tournament was regarded as a calamity. “The front of the Daily Record was brilliant - or when I look back on it now it was brilliant!” said McLeish. “It was a big picture of the world with ‘Stop the World, we want to get aff!’ written on it. Then there were a few faces which “had to go” and I was one of them. “Fortunately, we redeemed ourselves against Sweden but it was a very apprehensive game. Now, after 22 years of not being at a big tournament we would bite your hand off to do it. “Everyone would be grateful for an early exit just because it would mean that we are there at last but, in saying that, in those days and even now, you always have to be ambitious. “When we got there, we tried to get to the next stage, even if we never quite made that. Just to get to three finals in my playing days was a fantastic feeling.” Scotland failed to qualify for the World Cup in Russia after a 2-2 in Slovenia Credit: PA Given that the transition from Gordon Strachan to McLeish is also a handover from one former Aberdeen player to another who was a Pittodrie team mate, it is possible to wonder if there will be discernible difference between the two regimes. “I have spoken about attention to detail,” said McLeish. “I'm not saying Gordon didn't do that but I believe that a year on - and a tournament - a lot of the lads were involved in these games and you would expect them to learn from that. What I can do is empower players. “How do you empower them? You can show things they have done well to give them the chest puffed out but you can also show them things from the past that they could have done better. These are the little details. “I am not discarding anybody at the moment. I believe there are little tweaks that can happen. A lot of them play in England at the highest level and I've seen a huge difference with a lot of the young players who are coming through in Scotland so, having moved on a season, I feel it's time to qualify for the finals of Euro 2020.” Martin Boyle celebrates scoring the opening goal for Hibernian Credit: Getty Images Two of McLeish’s former clubs met in the game of the day at Easter Road, where Hibs – whom he managed between 1998 and 2001 – hosted Aberdeen, who were bidding for a win that would cut Celtic’s lead at the top of the table to five points ahead of today’s (Sun) home outing against St Johnstone. By way of contrast, Celtic’s advantage over Aberdeen on the same weekend last year was a massive 27 points from one game fewer played. Easter Road accommodated 17,205 spectators and, after a goalless first half, the home fans celebrated when Hibs netted within a minute of the restart. Jamie Maclaren had two efforts blocked by Freddie Woodman but the rebound from his second attempt was headed home by Martin Boyle. Hibs doubled their advantage om the hour when a Martin Boyle shot diverted into the path of Florian Kamberi, who found the mark from close range. Elsewhere, two late goals by Simon Murray thwarted Partick Thistle, for whom Conor Sammon had struck the opener just before half time. Kilmarnock’s fine run continued at Fir Park where Stephen O’Donnell’s strike saw the Ayrshire side leapfrog Motherwell into the top six of the Scottish Premiership table.
In the case of Alex McLeish’s appointment as Scotland manager, it seems - if one may plunder an immortal line from Casablanca – that destiny has taken a hand. The Tartan Army remain to be persuaded, to judge by the predominantly negative social media reaction to the 59-year-old’s return to the job he quit in 2007 to move to Birmingham City, but McLeish does not see himself as third choice, although Michael O’Neill and Walter Smith rejected advances by the Scottish Football Association before the governing body turned to him. “It feels a bit surreal but I believe I’m the guy for the job,” McLeish said. “When I looked at other guys who have gone back to take charge of their national teams for a second time - like Dick Advocaat and Louis Van Gaal - I thought ‘Yeah, that could be on for me some time’. “The opportunity arose and I felt I had to go for it, because I believe it was my destiny.” Asked how he had reacted to the invitations extended to O’Neill and Smith in the aftermath of Gordon Strachan’s departure, along with their subsequent rejections, McLeish said: “One was ‘Ya beauty!’, the next one was ‘Oh, Walter is getting it.’ “When Walter abdicated I thought, ‘I’m in again’ but, honestly, I felt it was fate. It was meant to happen. Michael was the first choice, let’s not make any bones about that, but I have always felt I was the right guy to be the next Scotland coach.” Scotland’s first outing under McLeish will be the home friendly with Costa Rica on March 23 but he faces formidable opposition from Tartan Army supporters who have expressed disapproval of his decision to move to the Premier League in England 11 years ago, in the aftermath of the Scots’ narrow failure to qualify for Euro 2008. “Listen, of course I can understand it,” he said. “You get divided opinion. The only way to change it is by performing well and getting good results. That is the cure for dissent. “I had seven months to wait before the next tournament started. I would have been a professional supporter, watching all the games, watching all the players up and do the country, but I really missed the day to day stuff. “There was an element of thinking that I was still young enough to go and take that challenge on. To be asked to go to the Premier League is an ambition that a lot of managers would have taken, probably the majority. “If we had just qualified there is no way that I would have left. I would have seen us right through to the finals, ambition or not. “I would probably have been offered something after the finals. I was so gutted that we missed it by a whisker. Faddy (James McFadden) had a wee chance at 1-1 in the final qualifier against Italy, when the ball came across the box and he slid at it. Your life flashes in front of your eyes.” With no active interest in this summer’s World Cup finals and the Euro 2020 qualifiers not scheduled to begin until March next year, McLeish will have to get the best from a programme of six friendlies and two home-and-away Nations League meetings with Albania and Israel. His political skills will be tested by the demands of two challenge matches arranged for the close season, one against Peru in Lima on May 29 and the other against Mexico in the Azteca Stadium on June 2. Celtic provided the core of Scotland’s strength during Strachan’s unbeaten run of seven games last year, with Craig Gordon, Kieran Tierney, Stuart Armstrong, Scott Brown, James Forrest and Leigh Griffiths all named for the final World Cup qualifiers against Slovakia and Slovenia. Celtic, however, completed a clean sweep of the domestic honours last season and are on course to repeat the feat but must negotiate four round of Champions League qualifiers if they win the Scottish title again this time around. McLeish was unveiled on Friday at Hampden Park Credit: Getty Images The prospect of sending players to South America after another draining club season has not enchanted Brendan Rodgers, the Celtic manager. McLeish acknowledged the concerns, while comparing current circumstances with his own career as a central defender with Aberdeen. “Back in my day if we had been promised a trip to Peru and Mexico in the summer we’d have been ecstatic,” he said. “It would have been, ‘Hallelujah, brilliant’ but, yeah, I can understand the clubs’ stance with the way European football is now mapped out. “I do understand that they maybe feel it wasn’t appropriate timing, but it’s there, we are going to go and it may be a good opportunity for other players. We are borrowing their players to turn out for the national team. “We have to address that nearer the time. I have to have a rapport with the clubs. We will talk, we’ll communicate and see what kind of answers we get.” McLeish has already begun the task of assembling a backroom staff – “I’ve made some phone calls and I’m hopeful of announcing that maybe some time next week” – before he returned to his opening theme. “I feel I’m a better manager now. The common-sense factor grows and you see things from a different way. In terms of destiny, I just feel it’s the right time for me.”
Eleven years after quitting, returning Scotland boss Alex McLeish aims to quieten Tartan Army dissent
In the case of Alex McLeish’s appointment as Scotland manager, it seems - if one may plunder an immortal line from Casablanca – that destiny has taken a hand. The Tartan Army remain to be persuaded, to judge by the predominantly negative social media reaction to the 59-year-old’s return to the job he quit in 2007 to move to Birmingham City, but McLeish does not see himself as third choice, although Michael O’Neill and Walter Smith rejected advances by the Scottish Football Association before the governing body turned to him. “It feels a bit surreal but I believe I’m the guy for the job,” McLeish said. “When I looked at other guys who have gone back to take charge of their national teams for a second time - like Dick Advocaat and Louis Van Gaal - I thought ‘Yeah, that could be on for me some time’. “The opportunity arose and I felt I had to go for it, because I believe it was my destiny.” Asked how he had reacted to the invitations extended to O’Neill and Smith in the aftermath of Gordon Strachan’s departure, along with their subsequent rejections, McLeish said: “One was ‘Ya beauty!’, the next one was ‘Oh, Walter is getting it.’ “When Walter abdicated I thought, ‘I’m in again’ but, honestly, I felt it was fate. It was meant to happen. Michael was the first choice, let’s not make any bones about that, but I have always felt I was the right guy to be the next Scotland coach.” Scotland’s first outing under McLeish will be the home friendly with Costa Rica on March 23 but he faces formidable opposition from Tartan Army supporters who have expressed disapproval of his decision to move to the Premier League in England 11 years ago, in the aftermath of the Scots’ narrow failure to qualify for Euro 2008. “Listen, of course I can understand it,” he said. “You get divided opinion. The only way to change it is by performing well and getting good results. That is the cure for dissent. “I had seven months to wait before the next tournament started. I would have been a professional supporter, watching all the games, watching all the players up and do the country, but I really missed the day to day stuff. “There was an element of thinking that I was still young enough to go and take that challenge on. To be asked to go to the Premier League is an ambition that a lot of managers would have taken, probably the majority. “If we had just qualified there is no way that I would have left. I would have seen us right through to the finals, ambition or not. “I would probably have been offered something after the finals. I was so gutted that we missed it by a whisker. Faddy (James McFadden) had a wee chance at 1-1 in the final qualifier against Italy, when the ball came across the box and he slid at it. Your life flashes in front of your eyes.” With no active interest in this summer’s World Cup finals and the Euro 2020 qualifiers not scheduled to begin until March next year, McLeish will have to get the best from a programme of six friendlies and two home-and-away Nations League meetings with Albania and Israel. His political skills will be tested by the demands of two challenge matches arranged for the close season, one against Peru in Lima on May 29 and the other against Mexico in the Azteca Stadium on June 2. Celtic provided the core of Scotland’s strength during Strachan’s unbeaten run of seven games last year, with Craig Gordon, Kieran Tierney, Stuart Armstrong, Scott Brown, James Forrest and Leigh Griffiths all named for the final World Cup qualifiers against Slovakia and Slovenia. Celtic, however, completed a clean sweep of the domestic honours last season and are on course to repeat the feat but must negotiate four round of Champions League qualifiers if they win the Scottish title again this time around. McLeish was unveiled on Friday at Hampden Park Credit: Getty Images The prospect of sending players to South America after another draining club season has not enchanted Brendan Rodgers, the Celtic manager. McLeish acknowledged the concerns, while comparing current circumstances with his own career as a central defender with Aberdeen. “Back in my day if we had been promised a trip to Peru and Mexico in the summer we’d have been ecstatic,” he said. “It would have been, ‘Hallelujah, brilliant’ but, yeah, I can understand the clubs’ stance with the way European football is now mapped out. “I do understand that they maybe feel it wasn’t appropriate timing, but it’s there, we are going to go and it may be a good opportunity for other players. We are borrowing their players to turn out for the national team. “We have to address that nearer the time. I have to have a rapport with the clubs. We will talk, we’ll communicate and see what kind of answers we get.” McLeish has already begun the task of assembling a backroom staff – “I’ve made some phone calls and I’m hopeful of announcing that maybe some time next week” – before he returned to his opening theme. “I feel I’m a better manager now. The common-sense factor grows and you see things from a different way. In terms of destiny, I just feel it’s the right time for me.”
In the case of Alex McLeish’s appointment as Scotland manager, it seems - if one may plunder an immortal line from Casablanca – that destiny has taken a hand. The Tartan Army remain to be persuaded, to judge by the predominantly negative social media reaction to the 59-year-old’s return to the job he quit in 2007 to move to Birmingham City, but McLeish does not see himself as third choice, although Michael O’Neill and Walter Smith rejected advances by the Scottish Football Association before the governing body turned to him. “It feels a bit surreal but I believe I’m the guy for the job,” McLeish said. “When I looked at other guys who have gone back to take charge of their national teams for a second time - like Dick Advocaat and Louis Van Gaal - I thought ‘Yeah, that could be on for me some time’. “The opportunity arose and I felt I had to go for it, because I believe it was my destiny.” Asked how he had reacted to the invitations extended to O’Neill and Smith in the aftermath of Gordon Strachan’s departure, along with their subsequent rejections, McLeish said: “One was ‘Ya beauty!’, the next one was ‘Oh, Walter is getting it.’ “When Walter abdicated I thought, ‘I’m in again’ but, honestly, I felt it was fate. It was meant to happen. Michael was the first choice, let’s not make any bones about that, but I have always felt I was the right guy to be the next Scotland coach.” Scotland’s first outing under McLeish will be the home friendly with Costa Rica on March 23 but he faces formidable opposition from Tartan Army supporters who have expressed disapproval of his decision to move to the Premier League in England 11 years ago, in the aftermath of the Scots’ narrow failure to qualify for Euro 2008. “Listen, of course I can understand it,” he said. “You get divided opinion. The only way to change it is by performing well and getting good results. That is the cure for dissent. “I had seven months to wait before the next tournament started. I would have been a professional supporter, watching all the games, watching all the players up and do the country, but I really missed the day to day stuff. “There was an element of thinking that I was still young enough to go and take that challenge on. To be asked to go to the Premier League is an ambition that a lot of managers would have taken, probably the majority. “If we had just qualified there is no way that I would have left. I would have seen us right through to the finals, ambition or not. “I would probably have been offered something after the finals. I was so gutted that we missed it by a whisker. Faddy (James McFadden) had a wee chance at 1-1 in the final qualifier against Italy, when the ball came across the box and he slid at it. Your life flashes in front of your eyes.” With no active interest in this summer’s World Cup finals and the Euro 2020 qualifiers not scheduled to begin until March next year, McLeish will have to get the best from a programme of six friendlies and two home-and-away Nations League meetings with Albania and Israel. His political skills will be tested by the demands of two challenge matches arranged for the close season, one against Peru in Lima on May 29 and the other against Mexico in the Azteca Stadium on June 2. Celtic provided the core of Scotland’s strength during Strachan’s unbeaten run of seven games last year, with Craig Gordon, Kieran Tierney, Stuart Armstrong, Scott Brown, James Forrest and Leigh Griffiths all named for the final World Cup qualifiers against Slovakia and Slovenia. Celtic, however, completed a clean sweep of the domestic honours last season and are on course to repeat the feat but must negotiate four round of Champions League qualifiers if they win the Scottish title again this time around. McLeish was unveiled on Friday at Hampden Park Credit: Getty Images The prospect of sending players to South America after another draining club season has not enchanted Brendan Rodgers, the Celtic manager. McLeish acknowledged the concerns, while comparing current circumstances with his own career as a central defender with Aberdeen. “Back in my day if we had been promised a trip to Peru and Mexico in the summer we’d have been ecstatic,” he said. “It would have been, ‘Hallelujah, brilliant’ but, yeah, I can understand the clubs’ stance with the way European football is now mapped out. “I do understand that they maybe feel it wasn’t appropriate timing, but it’s there, we are going to go and it may be a good opportunity for other players. We are borrowing their players to turn out for the national team. “We have to address that nearer the time. I have to have a rapport with the clubs. We will talk, we’ll communicate and see what kind of answers we get.” McLeish has already begun the task of assembling a backroom staff – “I’ve made some phone calls and I’m hopeful of announcing that maybe some time next week” – before he returned to his opening theme. “I feel I’m a better manager now. The common-sense factor grows and you see things from a different way. In terms of destiny, I just feel it’s the right time for me.”
Eleven years after quitting, returning Scotland boss Alex McLeish aims to quieten Tartan Army dissent
In the case of Alex McLeish’s appointment as Scotland manager, it seems - if one may plunder an immortal line from Casablanca – that destiny has taken a hand. The Tartan Army remain to be persuaded, to judge by the predominantly negative social media reaction to the 59-year-old’s return to the job he quit in 2007 to move to Birmingham City, but McLeish does not see himself as third choice, although Michael O’Neill and Walter Smith rejected advances by the Scottish Football Association before the governing body turned to him. “It feels a bit surreal but I believe I’m the guy for the job,” McLeish said. “When I looked at other guys who have gone back to take charge of their national teams for a second time - like Dick Advocaat and Louis Van Gaal - I thought ‘Yeah, that could be on for me some time’. “The opportunity arose and I felt I had to go for it, because I believe it was my destiny.” Asked how he had reacted to the invitations extended to O’Neill and Smith in the aftermath of Gordon Strachan’s departure, along with their subsequent rejections, McLeish said: “One was ‘Ya beauty!’, the next one was ‘Oh, Walter is getting it.’ “When Walter abdicated I thought, ‘I’m in again’ but, honestly, I felt it was fate. It was meant to happen. Michael was the first choice, let’s not make any bones about that, but I have always felt I was the right guy to be the next Scotland coach.” Scotland’s first outing under McLeish will be the home friendly with Costa Rica on March 23 but he faces formidable opposition from Tartan Army supporters who have expressed disapproval of his decision to move to the Premier League in England 11 years ago, in the aftermath of the Scots’ narrow failure to qualify for Euro 2008. “Listen, of course I can understand it,” he said. “You get divided opinion. The only way to change it is by performing well and getting good results. That is the cure for dissent. “I had seven months to wait before the next tournament started. I would have been a professional supporter, watching all the games, watching all the players up and do the country, but I really missed the day to day stuff. “There was an element of thinking that I was still young enough to go and take that challenge on. To be asked to go to the Premier League is an ambition that a lot of managers would have taken, probably the majority. “If we had just qualified there is no way that I would have left. I would have seen us right through to the finals, ambition or not. “I would probably have been offered something after the finals. I was so gutted that we missed it by a whisker. Faddy (James McFadden) had a wee chance at 1-1 in the final qualifier against Italy, when the ball came across the box and he slid at it. Your life flashes in front of your eyes.” With no active interest in this summer’s World Cup finals and the Euro 2020 qualifiers not scheduled to begin until March next year, McLeish will have to get the best from a programme of six friendlies and two home-and-away Nations League meetings with Albania and Israel. His political skills will be tested by the demands of two challenge matches arranged for the close season, one against Peru in Lima on May 29 and the other against Mexico in the Azteca Stadium on June 2. Celtic provided the core of Scotland’s strength during Strachan’s unbeaten run of seven games last year, with Craig Gordon, Kieran Tierney, Stuart Armstrong, Scott Brown, James Forrest and Leigh Griffiths all named for the final World Cup qualifiers against Slovakia and Slovenia. Celtic, however, completed a clean sweep of the domestic honours last season and are on course to repeat the feat but must negotiate four round of Champions League qualifiers if they win the Scottish title again this time around. McLeish was unveiled on Friday at Hampden Park Credit: Getty Images The prospect of sending players to South America after another draining club season has not enchanted Brendan Rodgers, the Celtic manager. McLeish acknowledged the concerns, while comparing current circumstances with his own career as a central defender with Aberdeen. “Back in my day if we had been promised a trip to Peru and Mexico in the summer we’d have been ecstatic,” he said. “It would have been, ‘Hallelujah, brilliant’ but, yeah, I can understand the clubs’ stance with the way European football is now mapped out. “I do understand that they maybe feel it wasn’t appropriate timing, but it’s there, we are going to go and it may be a good opportunity for other players. We are borrowing their players to turn out for the national team. “We have to address that nearer the time. I have to have a rapport with the clubs. We will talk, we’ll communicate and see what kind of answers we get.” McLeish has already begun the task of assembling a backroom staff – “I’ve made some phone calls and I’m hopeful of announcing that maybe some time next week” – before he returned to his opening theme. “I feel I’m a better manager now. The common-sense factor grows and you see things from a different way. In terms of destiny, I just feel it’s the right time for me.”
As Celtic seek their first European home win outside qualifying matches under Brendan Rodgers, their manager warned that Zenit St Petersburg are a stronger team than Anderlecht, who were edged out by his men for a place in the Europa League. The tournament sees Zenit – managed by Roberto Mancini who was formerly in charge of Manchester City – come to the east end of Glasgow on Thursday. Rodgers has guided Celtic to successive Champions League group stage appearances and also into the knockout stage of this season’s Europa League, but they have been unable to post a home win in six attempts against Barcelona, Borussia Moenchengladbach, Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain, Bayern Munich and Anderlecht. Their best group stage performance was the 3-0 victory over Anderlecht in Brussels, but Rodgers’ players lost the subsequent encounter at Parkhead to a Jozo Simunovic own goal. Against Zenit, Rodgers would have preferred to play the first leg in Russia. “Everyone likes the second leg at home. You know what you are playing for then,” said Rodgers. “It’s not the worst to have the first leg at home. You can try to get some sort of advantage. If you can keep a clean sheet, it gives you a real motivation going away. Brendan Rodgers is excited by the challenge his Celtic team will face in the Europa Cup Credit: Getty Images “I have looked at Zenit, and they play slightly differently from Manchester City. At Manchester City, Roberto had very much a defensive block with quality players. “It was 4-2-3-1 or 3-5-2 at times. This team is very clearly 4-3-3. They press the game. It is certainly a change from how his Man City team played. “Branislav Ivanovic is there, who I worked with at Chelsea. He has gone back out there and is a real linchpin for the team. He has still got good legs and strength and power and experience. “He is playing as a centre-half. That was his actual position when they brought him in to Chelsea. He ended up playing a lot at right-back and doing really well there. It is a really difficult game for us. They are a very good side.” In other circumstances, Rodgers’ CV would have included a spell as Mancini’s No 2. “Roberto had his first season at Manchester City, and I was asked to come and speak to them about maybe going in there to assist and work,” he said. “I flew out to Italy to meet him at the end of the season. We had a chat out there, then I came back, and it was a case of the Swansea position coming up, and I think Roberto was probably wanting his own man in as well. It worked out that I went to Swansea and Roberto had David Platt, whom he knew from Sampdoria.” Celtic extended the defence of their treble of domestic honours with a home victory over Partick Thistle in the fifth round of the William Hill Scottish Cup yesterday. In contrast to their performance in the 1-0 defeat by Kilmarnock at Rugby Park the previous weekend, they got off to a racing start with a James Forrest double, the second of which saw the winger run from the halfway line for a right-foot finish beyond goalkeeper Tomas Cerny. Kyle Lafferty celebrated scoring a brace for Hearts 3-0 win over St Johnstone Credit: PA The Jags looked beaten but were revived when Simunovic played an attempted a pass back to Dorus de Vries straight into the path of Kris Doolan, who marked his 350th appearance for Thistle with a first-time left-foot chip over De Vries. When Forrest netted his hat-trick after the break, Celtic looked safe, but Connor Sammon revived Thistle’s hopes with a late close-range strike, and it took a tackle by Kieran Tierney and a clutch on the line by De Vries to prevent Ryan Edwards stealing a draw in injury time. Also into the quarter-finals are Hearts, whose 3-0 home win over St Johnstone included a Kyle Lafferty brace, and Kilmarnock, who ended Brora Rangers’ progress with a 4-0 win over at Rugby Park. The other Highland League team, Cove Rangers, were beaten 3-1 at home by Falkirk, while in the all-Premiership collision at Dens Park, Dundee lost 2-0 to Motherwell. The remaining tie of the day was at Cappielow, where Morton prevailed against their trans-Clyde rivals, Dumbarton, with goals from Frank Ross, Jack Iredale and Bob McHugh. Today’s games see Ayr United at home to Rangers and Aberdeen against Dundee United at Pittodrie, where the quarter-final draw will be made.
Brendan Rodgers reminds Celtic to beware the strength of Zenit St Petersberg
As Celtic seek their first European home win outside qualifying matches under Brendan Rodgers, their manager warned that Zenit St Petersburg are a stronger team than Anderlecht, who were edged out by his men for a place in the Europa League. The tournament sees Zenit – managed by Roberto Mancini who was formerly in charge of Manchester City – come to the east end of Glasgow on Thursday. Rodgers has guided Celtic to successive Champions League group stage appearances and also into the knockout stage of this season’s Europa League, but they have been unable to post a home win in six attempts against Barcelona, Borussia Moenchengladbach, Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain, Bayern Munich and Anderlecht. Their best group stage performance was the 3-0 victory over Anderlecht in Brussels, but Rodgers’ players lost the subsequent encounter at Parkhead to a Jozo Simunovic own goal. Against Zenit, Rodgers would have preferred to play the first leg in Russia. “Everyone likes the second leg at home. You know what you are playing for then,” said Rodgers. “It’s not the worst to have the first leg at home. You can try to get some sort of advantage. If you can keep a clean sheet, it gives you a real motivation going away. Brendan Rodgers is excited by the challenge his Celtic team will face in the Europa Cup Credit: Getty Images “I have looked at Zenit, and they play slightly differently from Manchester City. At Manchester City, Roberto had very much a defensive block with quality players. “It was 4-2-3-1 or 3-5-2 at times. This team is very clearly 4-3-3. They press the game. It is certainly a change from how his Man City team played. “Branislav Ivanovic is there, who I worked with at Chelsea. He has gone back out there and is a real linchpin for the team. He has still got good legs and strength and power and experience. “He is playing as a centre-half. That was his actual position when they brought him in to Chelsea. He ended up playing a lot at right-back and doing really well there. It is a really difficult game for us. They are a very good side.” In other circumstances, Rodgers’ CV would have included a spell as Mancini’s No 2. “Roberto had his first season at Manchester City, and I was asked to come and speak to them about maybe going in there to assist and work,” he said. “I flew out to Italy to meet him at the end of the season. We had a chat out there, then I came back, and it was a case of the Swansea position coming up, and I think Roberto was probably wanting his own man in as well. It worked out that I went to Swansea and Roberto had David Platt, whom he knew from Sampdoria.” Celtic extended the defence of their treble of domestic honours with a home victory over Partick Thistle in the fifth round of the William Hill Scottish Cup yesterday. In contrast to their performance in the 1-0 defeat by Kilmarnock at Rugby Park the previous weekend, they got off to a racing start with a James Forrest double, the second of which saw the winger run from the halfway line for a right-foot finish beyond goalkeeper Tomas Cerny. Kyle Lafferty celebrated scoring a brace for Hearts 3-0 win over St Johnstone Credit: PA The Jags looked beaten but were revived when Simunovic played an attempted a pass back to Dorus de Vries straight into the path of Kris Doolan, who marked his 350th appearance for Thistle with a first-time left-foot chip over De Vries. When Forrest netted his hat-trick after the break, Celtic looked safe, but Connor Sammon revived Thistle’s hopes with a late close-range strike, and it took a tackle by Kieran Tierney and a clutch on the line by De Vries to prevent Ryan Edwards stealing a draw in injury time. Also into the quarter-finals are Hearts, whose 3-0 home win over St Johnstone included a Kyle Lafferty brace, and Kilmarnock, who ended Brora Rangers’ progress with a 4-0 win over at Rugby Park. The other Highland League team, Cove Rangers, were beaten 3-1 at home by Falkirk, while in the all-Premiership collision at Dens Park, Dundee lost 2-0 to Motherwell. The remaining tie of the day was at Cappielow, where Morton prevailed against their trans-Clyde rivals, Dumbarton, with goals from Frank Ross, Jack Iredale and Bob McHugh. Today’s games see Ayr United at home to Rangers and Aberdeen against Dundee United at Pittodrie, where the quarter-final draw will be made.
As Celtic seek their first European home win outside qualifying matches under Brendan Rodgers, their manager warned that Zenit St Petersburg are a stronger team than Anderlecht, who were edged out by his men for a place in the Europa League. The tournament sees Zenit – managed by Roberto Mancini who was formerly in charge of Manchester City – come to the east end of Glasgow on Thursday. Rodgers has guided Celtic to successive Champions League group stage appearances and also into the knockout stage of this season’s Europa League, but they have been unable to post a home win in six attempts against Barcelona, Borussia Moenchengladbach, Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain, Bayern Munich and Anderlecht. Their best group stage performance was the 3-0 victory over Anderlecht in Brussels, but Rodgers’ players lost the subsequent encounter at Parkhead to a Jozo Simunovic own goal. Against Zenit, Rodgers would have preferred to play the first leg in Russia. “Everyone likes the second leg at home. You know what you are playing for then,” said Rodgers. “It’s not the worst to have the first leg at home. You can try to get some sort of advantage. If you can keep a clean sheet, it gives you a real motivation going away. Brendan Rodgers is excited by the challenge his Celtic team will face in the Europa Cup Credit: Getty Images “I have looked at Zenit, and they play slightly differently from Manchester City. At Manchester City, Roberto had very much a defensive block with quality players. “It was 4-2-3-1 or 3-5-2 at times. This team is very clearly 4-3-3. They press the game. It is certainly a change from how his Man City team played. “Branislav Ivanovic is there, who I worked with at Chelsea. He has gone back out there and is a real linchpin for the team. He has still got good legs and strength and power and experience. “He is playing as a centre-half. That was his actual position when they brought him in to Chelsea. He ended up playing a lot at right-back and doing really well there. It is a really difficult game for us. They are a very good side.” In other circumstances, Rodgers’ CV would have included a spell as Mancini’s No 2. “Roberto had his first season at Manchester City, and I was asked to come and speak to them about maybe going in there to assist and work,” he said. “I flew out to Italy to meet him at the end of the season. We had a chat out there, then I came back, and it was a case of the Swansea position coming up, and I think Roberto was probably wanting his own man in as well. It worked out that I went to Swansea and Roberto had David Platt, whom he knew from Sampdoria.” Celtic extended the defence of their treble of domestic honours with a home victory over Partick Thistle in the fifth round of the William Hill Scottish Cup yesterday. In contrast to their performance in the 1-0 defeat by Kilmarnock at Rugby Park the previous weekend, they got off to a racing start with a James Forrest double, the second of which saw the winger run from the halfway line for a right-foot finish beyond goalkeeper Tomas Cerny. Kyle Lafferty celebrated scoring a brace for Hearts 3-0 win over St Johnstone Credit: PA The Jags looked beaten but were revived when Simunovic played an attempted a pass back to Dorus de Vries straight into the path of Kris Doolan, who marked his 350th appearance for Thistle with a first-time left-foot chip over De Vries. When Forrest netted his hat-trick after the break, Celtic looked safe, but Connor Sammon revived Thistle’s hopes with a late close-range strike, and it took a tackle by Kieran Tierney and a clutch on the line by De Vries to prevent Ryan Edwards stealing a draw in injury time. Also into the quarter-finals are Hearts, whose 3-0 home win over St Johnstone included a Kyle Lafferty brace, and Kilmarnock, who ended Brora Rangers’ progress with a 4-0 win over at Rugby Park. The other Highland League team, Cove Rangers, were beaten 3-1 at home by Falkirk, while in the all-Premiership collision at Dens Park, Dundee lost 2-0 to Motherwell. The remaining tie of the day was at Cappielow, where Morton prevailed against their trans-Clyde rivals, Dumbarton, with goals from Frank Ross, Jack Iredale and Bob McHugh. Today’s games see Ayr United at home to Rangers and Aberdeen against Dundee United at Pittodrie, where the quarter-final draw will be made.
Brendan Rodgers reminds Celtic to beware the strength of Zenit St Petersberg
As Celtic seek their first European home win outside qualifying matches under Brendan Rodgers, their manager warned that Zenit St Petersburg are a stronger team than Anderlecht, who were edged out by his men for a place in the Europa League. The tournament sees Zenit – managed by Roberto Mancini who was formerly in charge of Manchester City – come to the east end of Glasgow on Thursday. Rodgers has guided Celtic to successive Champions League group stage appearances and also into the knockout stage of this season’s Europa League, but they have been unable to post a home win in six attempts against Barcelona, Borussia Moenchengladbach, Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain, Bayern Munich and Anderlecht. Their best group stage performance was the 3-0 victory over Anderlecht in Brussels, but Rodgers’ players lost the subsequent encounter at Parkhead to a Jozo Simunovic own goal. Against Zenit, Rodgers would have preferred to play the first leg in Russia. “Everyone likes the second leg at home. You know what you are playing for then,” said Rodgers. “It’s not the worst to have the first leg at home. You can try to get some sort of advantage. If you can keep a clean sheet, it gives you a real motivation going away. Brendan Rodgers is excited by the challenge his Celtic team will face in the Europa Cup Credit: Getty Images “I have looked at Zenit, and they play slightly differently from Manchester City. At Manchester City, Roberto had very much a defensive block with quality players. “It was 4-2-3-1 or 3-5-2 at times. This team is very clearly 4-3-3. They press the game. It is certainly a change from how his Man City team played. “Branislav Ivanovic is there, who I worked with at Chelsea. He has gone back out there and is a real linchpin for the team. He has still got good legs and strength and power and experience. “He is playing as a centre-half. That was his actual position when they brought him in to Chelsea. He ended up playing a lot at right-back and doing really well there. It is a really difficult game for us. They are a very good side.” In other circumstances, Rodgers’ CV would have included a spell as Mancini’s No 2. “Roberto had his first season at Manchester City, and I was asked to come and speak to them about maybe going in there to assist and work,” he said. “I flew out to Italy to meet him at the end of the season. We had a chat out there, then I came back, and it was a case of the Swansea position coming up, and I think Roberto was probably wanting his own man in as well. It worked out that I went to Swansea and Roberto had David Platt, whom he knew from Sampdoria.” Celtic extended the defence of their treble of domestic honours with a home victory over Partick Thistle in the fifth round of the William Hill Scottish Cup yesterday. In contrast to their performance in the 1-0 defeat by Kilmarnock at Rugby Park the previous weekend, they got off to a racing start with a James Forrest double, the second of which saw the winger run from the halfway line for a right-foot finish beyond goalkeeper Tomas Cerny. Kyle Lafferty celebrated scoring a brace for Hearts 3-0 win over St Johnstone Credit: PA The Jags looked beaten but were revived when Simunovic played an attempted a pass back to Dorus de Vries straight into the path of Kris Doolan, who marked his 350th appearance for Thistle with a first-time left-foot chip over De Vries. When Forrest netted his hat-trick after the break, Celtic looked safe, but Connor Sammon revived Thistle’s hopes with a late close-range strike, and it took a tackle by Kieran Tierney and a clutch on the line by De Vries to prevent Ryan Edwards stealing a draw in injury time. Also into the quarter-finals are Hearts, whose 3-0 home win over St Johnstone included a Kyle Lafferty brace, and Kilmarnock, who ended Brora Rangers’ progress with a 4-0 win over at Rugby Park. The other Highland League team, Cove Rangers, were beaten 3-1 at home by Falkirk, while in the all-Premiership collision at Dens Park, Dundee lost 2-0 to Motherwell. The remaining tie of the day was at Cappielow, where Morton prevailed against their trans-Clyde rivals, Dumbarton, with goals from Frank Ross, Jack Iredale and Bob McHugh. Today’s games see Ayr United at home to Rangers and Aberdeen against Dundee United at Pittodrie, where the quarter-final draw will be made.
As Celtic seek their first European home win outside qualifying matches under Brendan Rodgers, their manager warned that Zenit St Petersburg are a stronger team than Anderlecht, who were edged out by his men for a place in the Europa League. The tournament sees Zenit – managed by Roberto Mancini who was formerly in charge of Manchester City – come to the east end of Glasgow on Thursday. Rodgers has guided Celtic to successive Champions League group stage appearances and also into the knockout stage of this season’s Europa League, but they have been unable to post a home win in six attempts against Barcelona, Borussia Moenchengladbach, Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain, Bayern Munich and Anderlecht. Their best group stage performance was the 3-0 victory over Anderlecht in Brussels, but Rodgers’ players lost the subsequent encounter at Parkhead to a Jozo Simunovic own goal. Against Zenit, Rodgers would have preferred to play the first leg in Russia. “Everyone likes the second leg at home. You know what you are playing for then,” said Rodgers. “It’s not the worst to have the first leg at home. You can try to get some sort of advantage. If you can keep a clean sheet, it gives you a real motivation going away. Brendan Rodgers is excited by the challenge his Celtic team will face in the Europa Cup Credit: Getty Images “I have looked at Zenit, and they play slightly differently from Manchester City. At Manchester City, Roberto had very much a defensive block with quality players. “It was 4-2-3-1 or 3-5-2 at times. This team is very clearly 4-3-3. They press the game. It is certainly a change from how his Man City team played. “Branislav Ivanovic is there, who I worked with at Chelsea. He has gone back out there and is a real linchpin for the team. He has still got good legs and strength and power and experience. “He is playing as a centre-half. That was his actual position when they brought him in to Chelsea. He ended up playing a lot at right-back and doing really well there. It is a really difficult game for us. They are a very good side.” In other circumstances, Rodgers’ CV would have included a spell as Mancini’s No 2. “Roberto had his first season at Manchester City, and I was asked to come and speak to them about maybe going in there to assist and work,” he said. “I flew out to Italy to meet him at the end of the season. We had a chat out there, then I came back, and it was a case of the Swansea position coming up, and I think Roberto was probably wanting his own man in as well. It worked out that I went to Swansea and Roberto had David Platt, whom he knew from Sampdoria.” Celtic extended the defence of their treble of domestic honours with a home victory over Partick Thistle in the fifth round of the William Hill Scottish Cup yesterday. In contrast to their performance in the 1-0 defeat by Kilmarnock at Rugby Park the previous weekend, they got off to a racing start with a James Forrest double, the second of which saw the winger run from the halfway line for a right-foot finish beyond goalkeeper Tomas Cerny. Kyle Lafferty celebrated scoring a brace for Hearts 3-0 win over St Johnstone Credit: PA The Jags looked beaten but were revived when Simunovic played an attempted a pass back to Dorus de Vries straight into the path of Kris Doolan, who marked his 350th appearance for Thistle with a first-time left-foot chip over De Vries. When Forrest netted his hat-trick after the break, Celtic looked safe, but Connor Sammon revived Thistle’s hopes with a late close-range strike, and it took a tackle by Kieran Tierney and a clutch on the line by De Vries to prevent Ryan Edwards stealing a draw in injury time. Also into the quarter-finals are Hearts, whose 3-0 home win over St Johnstone included a Kyle Lafferty brace, and Kilmarnock, who ended Brora Rangers’ progress with a 4-0 win over at Rugby Park. The other Highland League team, Cove Rangers, were beaten 3-1 at home by Falkirk, while in the all-Premiership collision at Dens Park, Dundee lost 2-0 to Motherwell. The remaining tie of the day was at Cappielow, where Morton prevailed against their trans-Clyde rivals, Dumbarton, with goals from Frank Ross, Jack Iredale and Bob McHugh. Today’s games see Ayr United at home to Rangers and Aberdeen against Dundee United at Pittodrie, where the quarter-final draw will be made.
Brendan Rodgers reminds Celtic to beware the strength of Zenit St Petersberg
As Celtic seek their first European home win outside qualifying matches under Brendan Rodgers, their manager warned that Zenit St Petersburg are a stronger team than Anderlecht, who were edged out by his men for a place in the Europa League. The tournament sees Zenit – managed by Roberto Mancini who was formerly in charge of Manchester City – come to the east end of Glasgow on Thursday. Rodgers has guided Celtic to successive Champions League group stage appearances and also into the knockout stage of this season’s Europa League, but they have been unable to post a home win in six attempts against Barcelona, Borussia Moenchengladbach, Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain, Bayern Munich and Anderlecht. Their best group stage performance was the 3-0 victory over Anderlecht in Brussels, but Rodgers’ players lost the subsequent encounter at Parkhead to a Jozo Simunovic own goal. Against Zenit, Rodgers would have preferred to play the first leg in Russia. “Everyone likes the second leg at home. You know what you are playing for then,” said Rodgers. “It’s not the worst to have the first leg at home. You can try to get some sort of advantage. If you can keep a clean sheet, it gives you a real motivation going away. Brendan Rodgers is excited by the challenge his Celtic team will face in the Europa Cup Credit: Getty Images “I have looked at Zenit, and they play slightly differently from Manchester City. At Manchester City, Roberto had very much a defensive block with quality players. “It was 4-2-3-1 or 3-5-2 at times. This team is very clearly 4-3-3. They press the game. It is certainly a change from how his Man City team played. “Branislav Ivanovic is there, who I worked with at Chelsea. He has gone back out there and is a real linchpin for the team. He has still got good legs and strength and power and experience. “He is playing as a centre-half. That was his actual position when they brought him in to Chelsea. He ended up playing a lot at right-back and doing really well there. It is a really difficult game for us. They are a very good side.” In other circumstances, Rodgers’ CV would have included a spell as Mancini’s No 2. “Roberto had his first season at Manchester City, and I was asked to come and speak to them about maybe going in there to assist and work,” he said. “I flew out to Italy to meet him at the end of the season. We had a chat out there, then I came back, and it was a case of the Swansea position coming up, and I think Roberto was probably wanting his own man in as well. It worked out that I went to Swansea and Roberto had David Platt, whom he knew from Sampdoria.” Celtic extended the defence of their treble of domestic honours with a home victory over Partick Thistle in the fifth round of the William Hill Scottish Cup yesterday. In contrast to their performance in the 1-0 defeat by Kilmarnock at Rugby Park the previous weekend, they got off to a racing start with a James Forrest double, the second of which saw the winger run from the halfway line for a right-foot finish beyond goalkeeper Tomas Cerny. Kyle Lafferty celebrated scoring a brace for Hearts 3-0 win over St Johnstone Credit: PA The Jags looked beaten but were revived when Simunovic played an attempted a pass back to Dorus de Vries straight into the path of Kris Doolan, who marked his 350th appearance for Thistle with a first-time left-foot chip over De Vries. When Forrest netted his hat-trick after the break, Celtic looked safe, but Connor Sammon revived Thistle’s hopes with a late close-range strike, and it took a tackle by Kieran Tierney and a clutch on the line by De Vries to prevent Ryan Edwards stealing a draw in injury time. Also into the quarter-finals are Hearts, whose 3-0 home win over St Johnstone included a Kyle Lafferty brace, and Kilmarnock, who ended Brora Rangers’ progress with a 4-0 win over at Rugby Park. The other Highland League team, Cove Rangers, were beaten 3-1 at home by Falkirk, while in the all-Premiership collision at Dens Park, Dundee lost 2-0 to Motherwell. The remaining tie of the day was at Cappielow, where Morton prevailed against their trans-Clyde rivals, Dumbarton, with goals from Frank Ross, Jack Iredale and Bob McHugh. Today’s games see Ayr United at home to Rangers and Aberdeen against Dundee United at Pittodrie, where the quarter-final draw will be made.
FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - International Friendly - Scotland vs Netherlands - Pittodrie Stadium, Aberdeen, Britain - November 9, 2017 Chief Executive of the Scottish Football Association Stewart Regan in the stands before the match REUTERS/Russell Cheyne
International Friendly - Scotland vs Netherlands
FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - International Friendly - Scotland vs Netherlands - Pittodrie Stadium, Aberdeen, Britain - November 9, 2017 Chief Executive of the Scottish Football Association Stewart Regan in the stands before the match REUTERS/Russell Cheyne
FILE PHOTO - Britain Golf - Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open - Castle Stuart Golf Links, Inverness, Scotland - 9/7/16. England's Chris Paisley in action during the third round. Action Images via Reuters / Jason Cairnduff
FILE PHOTO - Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open
FILE PHOTO - Britain Golf - Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open - Castle Stuart Golf Links, Inverness, Scotland - 9/7/16. England's Chris Paisley in action during the third round. Action Images via Reuters / Jason Cairnduff
FILE PHOTO - Britain Golf - Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open - Castle Stuart Golf Links, Inverness, Scotland - 9/7/16. England's Chris Paisley in action during the third round. Action Images via Reuters / Jason Cairnduff
FILE PHOTO - Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open
FILE PHOTO - Britain Golf - Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open - Castle Stuart Golf Links, Inverness, Scotland - 9/7/16. England's Chris Paisley in action during the third round. Action Images via Reuters / Jason Cairnduff
FILE PHOTO - Britain Golf - Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open - Castle Stuart Golf Links, Inverness, Scotland - 9/7/16 England's Chris Paisley in action during the third round Action Images via Reuters / Jason Cairnduff Livepic
FILE PHOTO - Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open
FILE PHOTO - Britain Golf - Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open - Castle Stuart Golf Links, Inverness, Scotland - 9/7/16 England's Chris Paisley in action during the third round Action Images via Reuters / Jason Cairnduff Livepic
The closing of the transfer window inspires the habitual churning out of the worst transfers ever, like bedtime stories that lose none of their allure in the biannual retelling. “Tell us the one about Bosko Balaban, again, Dad. How much? Did Tommy Brolin really turn up at Elland Road with a Space Hopper up his gansey? Yes, I’m sure Bebe looked a world-beater on video.” But those old, familiar tales represent only one side of the ledger: purchases commonly ridiculed in hindsight. The other classification, routinely overlooked, is the premature and mistaken disposal. It’s a difficult category to define. For the sake of fairness one should strip out clubs who sold because they were financially strapped, players who went for fees too good to turn down and also those who acted the meddlesome priest, agitating for transfers and allowed to move on simply to be rid of them. The focus is on sales such as Nemanja Matic's not the ones like Diego Costa's. Here, then, are some of the managerial misjudgments, players discarded too soon for any number of reasons: poor form trumping class, undervaluation, prejudice, ageism or a simple miscalculation. Frank McLintock: Arsenal to QPR When Bertie Mee dropped Arsenal’s Double-winning captain Frank McLintock during the 1972-73 season, the 33-year-old Scot, whose skill and drive had helped transform the club and his own career in a glorious Indian summer, was devastated. Frank McLintock completes the Double in 1971 and celebrates with Charlie George who scored that unforgettable goal Credit: Allsport Hulton/Archive Mee’s decision to replace the classy, inspirational centre-back with the ponderous, ham-footed colossus, Jeff Blockley, beggared belief and has to be interpreted as Mee’s attempt to wrest control of the club back from the dressing room and its charismatic leader. McLintock remembers that he wept when he went to see Mee, the tears splashing off his Arsenal blazer after finding his manager obdurate to his claims for a recall. He felt he had no choice but to ask for a transfer - which Mee granted but turned down his request either to be allowed to leave on a free to negotiate a better deal with a new club or to grant him the testimonial he would have been due if he could have stomached six more months in the reserves. Mee told him that the 10 years’ qualification for a testimonial would not be altered to suit him and seeing he was six months short he would have to lump it. McLintock left for newly-promoted QPR for £25,000 at the end of the season, Arsenal’s failure to inform him of a late bid from Derby County’s Brian Clough, champions in 1972, the final insult. He gave four years of outstanding service to QPR, masterly on the field and in the dressing room during Rangers’ greatest ever season, 1975-76, when they lost out on the title by a single point after Liverpool turned a 0-1 deficit to Wolves with 14 minutes to go into a 3-1 victory in their final game, 10 days after QPR had completed their fixtures. Arsenal, meanwhile, replaced the hopeless Blockley with the rugged 32-year-old Terry Mancini from QPR in 1974, failing to understand that in his year playing alongside McLintock that it was his partner who had made him look half decent. Mee stood down in 1976 after successive 16th- and 17th-placed finishes, his determination to break up his Double-winning side having all but fatally weakened it. Pat Jennings: Tottenham to Arsenal Pat Jennings joined Arsenal from Spurs in 1977 Credit: PA Pan-handed colossus whose gloveless mitts, or “Lurgan shovels” as his former Northern Ireland team-mate and manager Billy Bingham called them, were put to devastating effect to steal the ball, one handed, off forwards’ foreheads a fraction of a second before impact. Miserly and resilient as he was during seven seasons as a first-team regular at Arsenal, he was finer still at Tottenham, an innovative and unorthodox keeper who was masterly at scrambling across his box, efficiently used any part of his body to block the ball and commanded the penalty area with a calm authority. He maintained his agility and elasticity well into his late 30s and managed for most of his career without gloves and, for the latter half of it, with what appeared to be a Bedlington Terrier on his head. Sold by Tottenham in August 1977 for £40,000 after they were relegated because the manager, Keith Burkinshaw, thought Barry Daines a better long-term bet, Jennings played a further 327 games for Arsenal, appeared in three successive FA Cup finals, winning one, and the Cup Winners’ Cup final defeat by Valencia. He was Northern Ireland’s first choice at two World Cups at the ages of 37 and 41 while Spurs took four years to replace him adequately in 1981 with Ray Clemence. At a stroke Tottenham sold their greatest ever goalkeeper to their biggest rivals for a song. He didn’t want to leave but his club essentially wrote him off at the age of 32, weakened their own side and strengthened Arsenal’s. The going rate for a goalkeeper of rare talent still in his prime? The £270,000 Forest paid Stoke for Peter Shilton a month later. Gordon Strachan: Manchester United to Leeds Gordon Strachan, right, left Manchester United, where he won the FA Cup, for Leeds United, where he won the title Credit: Brian Smith for The Telegraph In 1989 Gordon Strachan made the journey from Lancashire to Yorkshire that Bobby Collins had taken 17 years earlier when signing for Leeds from Everton and also delivered Leeds from Second Division purgatory. There are other glorious swansongs in the game’s rich past when a veteran’s impact in galvanising young teams was as important as anything he did on the field. In the 1980s Kevin Keegan did it at Newcastle, Johan Cruyff and Arnold Muhren at Ajax and Franz Beckenbauer at Hamburg, but Strachan was arguably the last. Now the biggest clubs tend to wring every drop from an elite player's body and soul while pay packets fulfil all their ambitions so it’s unlikely that a Championship club could attract a veteran international and task him with a mission to set the tenor of a rejuvenation project. Strachan was 32 when he left Old Trafford for Elland Road, over-familiar with Alex Ferguson after almost nine years together at Aberdeen and Manchester United. Ferguson, too, had had enough and felt a fresh start would benefit both parties. It certainly benefited Strachan who led Leeds to promotion in his first full season followed by a fourth-place top-flight finish and then, thrillingly, the title from Manchester United by four points. Even in his 39th year, when he left Leeds for Coventry, his drive was undiminished and his exacting standards ensured everyone was motivated and desperate to match them. The £300,000 he cost Leeds was the canniest investment Howard Wilkinson ever made. Manchester United were left without an orthodox right-sided midfielder for a couple of seasons until Ferguson signed Andrei Kanchelskis in 1991, the same year Strachan had been named, like Collins before him in 1965, Footballer of Year at the age of 34. Peter Beardsley: Liverpool to Everton Beardsley with John Barnes after winning his second title at Anfield in 1990 Credit: Dan Smith /Allsport No one has forged such a high number of prolific partnerships with out-and-out goalscorers than Peter Beardsley before or since. At his very best during his first spell at Newcastle with Kevin Keegan, at Liverpool he paired up with John Aldridge and then Ian Rush, with Tony Cottee at Everton and then with Andy Cole and Les Ferdinand in his second spell at St James’ Park. One can criticise Graham Taylor's time as England's manager for any number of reasons, but the most cardinal sin was his jettisoning of Beardsley, which diminished Gary Lineker and effectively turned him into little more than a goalhanger. That was an error of two-for-the-price-of-one proportions. If a player of Beardsley's ability was available now, one whose intelligence brought the best out of so many partners while scoring more than 200 goals himself, there would be little cavilling at a fee of more than £50m. In different times Graeme Souness sold the 30-year-old to Everton in 1991 for £1m, a not inconsiderable sum but peanuts compared with his true value, as Newcastle would show when paying more for him two years later. Peter Beardsley scored for both sides in the Merseyside derby Credit: Shaun Botterill/Allsport There were times during his four seasons at Anfield when Kenny Dalglish seemed equivocal about his talents - dropping him for the title decider with Arsenal in 1989, buying David Speedie to replace him in the winter of 1990-91 - and Souness seems to have picked up on that lack of faith while also wanting to fund a statement signing of his own during his first close season at Anfield. The fact he went for the bullocking Dean Saunders, more rumbustious, infinitely less refined, paid £2.5m but ditched him at a loss within 12 months tells us more about Souness than it does about Beardsley who went on to have six more years at the top, scored 89 more goals and made half a century more. Matthias Sammer: Inter to Borussia Dortmund Matthias Sammer, the heir to Franz Beckenbauer Credit: Action Images In 1996 Matthias Sammer became only the second defender in 40 years to win the Ballon d’Or, following in the Trefoil bootsteps of his compatriot and fellow sweeper, Franz Beckenbauer. He was player of the tournament during Germany’s victory at Euro 96 and, like his illustrious predecessor, a converted midfielder whose reading of the game, exemplary leadership and positional skills, class and composure on the ball gave him a kind of omnipresence, smoothly interceding to whip the ball away from danger when the opposition pierced the lines. A ball hog, his passing range was limited but defined by unerring precision, his long sweeping runs upfield from the back, timed meticulously, would accelerate with the tough grace of an armour-plated ministerial Daimler. Sammer moved to Inter for £5.1m in the summer of 1992 after winning the Bundesliga in his second season at Stuttgart where he was employed as a defensive midfielder rather than the libero he would become at Borussia Dortmund. It’s a matter of only a few yards’ difference but it made a world of difference, harnessing his defensive instincts while giving him the space to make the play with those magnificent sorties. Inter signed him in 1991 but let him stay on at Stuttgart because they already had their three overseas players - Sammer’s Germany team-mates Lothar Matthaus, Andreas Brehme and Jurgen Klinsmann - and when he did arrive were surprised to find he had not mastered a single word of Italian. Osvaldo Bagnoli played him as an advanced midfielder in a counter-attacking system designed to exploit the pace of Ruben Sosa. Sammer scored four goals in 11 Serie A appearances but found the tactics too rigid and refused to put down roots. Il Messagero reported that he was living out of suitcases in his lakeside villa with his TV propped up on a tea chest the only furniture apart from a bed. Inter, spoilt by Matthaus, Brehme and Klinsmann who had loved the club, the country and mastered the language, were as fed up with a player who had just about learnt to say ‘Ciao’ by December as he was with life and work in Italy. They cut their losses after five months and sold him for £4.8m to Dortmund. There, Ottmar Hitzfeld dropped him from in front of the back four to behind it and he won his second and third Bundesliga titles and the Champions League in 1997. A serious knee injury shortly after the final ended his career at the age of 30 having played only three more games. Claude Makélelé: Real Madrid to Chelsea Makelele tackles David Batty of Leeds United at the Bernabeu in 2001 Credit: REUTERS/Desmond Boylan The second coming of Florentino Pérez as president of Real Madrid has been defined and improved by learning from the errors he made during his first spell at the Bernabéu. Then, the preening pomposity of his galáctico project, bit him on the backside when he deemed a manager and a player who were integral to the success lacked the requisite glamour to play for his marketing machine. In the summer of 2003, after winning La Liga, Vicente Del Bosque was sacked and Claude Makélelé, the players’ player of the year, was knocked back when he went to negotiate a pay rise that reflected his contribution. He wasn’t asking for parity with Luis Figo, Ronaldo, Zinedine Zidane and David Beckham but nor did he expect Pérez to refuse flatly and then disparage him when he handed in a transfer request. “We will not miss Makélelé,” said Pérez. “His technique is average, he lacks the speed and skill to take the ball past opponents, and ninety percent of his distribution either goes backwards or sideways. He wasn't a header of the ball and he rarely passed the ball more than three metres. Younger players will arrive who will cause Makélelé to be forgotten.” He went to Chelsea for £16.8m, won two league titles and must have felt more than a frisson of schadenfreude over the next three years that Real Madrid won nothing, the only central midfielder bought to replace him was Thomas Gravesen, Pérez walked away and more than a decade on instead of being forgotten Makélelé is recognised as the pivotal player in a team that did not fulfil its potential. And his sale amounted to one of the greatest acts of self-hobbling in the game’s history. Gary Cahill: Aston Villa to Bolton Gary Cahill spent three full seasons at Bolton after Aston Villa sold him and six months after he left the Reebok he won the Champions League Credit: Action Images / Lee Smith Gary Cahill was always the odd man out at Aston Villa, enjoying his best season in 2006-07 at the club he joined as a trainee when filling in for the tremendous but injury-ravaged Martin Laursen. In the autumn of the following season he signed for Sheffield United on loan and impressed so much that Gary Megson agreed a deal with Villa to take the 22-year-old to Bolton Wanderers for £5m. One can understand the logic for Martin O’Neill selling him - Laursen was imperious at the back that season, Olof Mellberg was as reliable as ever and he had just signed Zat Knight but it wasn’t to last and the fragile Laursen broke down, this time for good, within the year. And yet Cahill displayed enormous promise and lacked only experience. In three full seasons at Bolton he became an England squad regular, displaying his robustness in the tackle, power in the air and pace to correct most mistakes even if he was sometimes slack in possession and caught dithering on the ball. In January 2012 Chelsea bought him for £7m, taking advantage of Bolton’s toils on and off the field and he won the FA Cup and Champions League in his first five months. Since then he has earned two titles, the first in a Jose Mourinho back-four, the second as Antonio Conte’s captain in a back three where the beauty of his manager’s system was that it gave the captain little to do but counted on the acuteness of his antennae and astuteness of positioning to prevent it falling apart. In the two years after letting Cahill go, Villa paid more for each of Carlos Cuélar, Curtis Davies, James Collins and Richard Dunne, none of whom were as durable of the future England captain they let go. Andrea Pirlo: Milan to Juventus Milan's Andrea Pirlo turns away from Arsenal's Aleksandr Hleb Credit: Stu Forster/Getty Images If Inter’s decision to let Andrea Pirlo leave for Milan in 2001 seems a poor one, we can partially exonerate them because they received more than £13m for him and they were reluctant to play him in his optimum position as a deep-lying playmaker where he had excelled on loan at Brescia. Inter used Gigi Di Biagio there, as did Italy, and decided to liquidate their asset, investing the proceeds in Mohamed Kallon and Emre. During a decade in the black and red, Pirlo became the most elegant midfielder in the game, redefining the concept of a holding midfielder as more an advanced sweeper than a wall and exploiting his immaculate control and mastery of the arcing, rapidly dipping long pass to manipulate and often bypass the opposition’s midfield and defence. He won two Champions Leagues and two Serie A titles, the last Scudetto in his final season when he played a mere 17 times because the manager, Max Allegri, preferred the more orthodox defensive style of Mark van Bommel. That summer the club decided to retain the 35-year-old Clarence Seedorf and the 33-year-old Rino Gattuso and let Pirlo, 32, move on to Juventus where he won four successive titles and grew the fuzz that made him the mango-IPA-drinkers’ as well as the purists’ favourite player. Pirlo played 119 Serie A matches for Juve, made it to another Champions League final and finally left for MLS in 2015 while Seedorf and Gattuso managed a further 24 league matches between them for Milan. Don’t stroke your chin too vigorously at that misjudgment, it will play havoc with your beard. Kevin De Bruyne: Chelsea to Wolfsburg; Romelu Lukaku: Chelsea to Everton; Mo Salah: Chelsea to Roma Kevin De Bruyne traps the ball during Chelsea's match against Hull City in 2013 Credit: EDDIE KEOGH/REUTERS Chelsea made a commendable profit on Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku and Mohamed Salah when they sold the first two in 2014 and the Egypt forward two years later after long loan spells with Fiorentina and Roma, raking in almost £30m for players who made 43 appearances between them. A nice little earner that reflects well on Chelsea’s scouting and development system. But one can’t help thinking - despite the protestations of Frank Lampard and John Terry who have praised the players for leaving but insist it does not reflect badly on the club that has, like the cliched shark, to keep moving forward or die - that a little more patience, a few more opportunities and a touch more inflexibility when they held the upper hand would have better served them. Yes, Jose Mourinho wanted money to invest in players of his own choosing and no one could predict that each would improve so swiftly that they have become three of the most vibrant and valuable talents in the game. That was down to them and their dedication. Salah scores Chelsea's sixth in the 6-0 thrashing of Arsenal in March 2014 Credit: GLYN KIRK/AFP But someone at Stamford Bridge must have noted how assiduous each of them was, divined their characters or been swayed by their diligence and ambition. Chelsea’s loss - compounded by the lack of buy-back clauses - has been three rivals’ gain and has to represent a monstrous, three-headed blunder.
Sold too soon: the other side of transfer market blunders
The closing of the transfer window inspires the habitual churning out of the worst transfers ever, like bedtime stories that lose none of their allure in the biannual retelling. “Tell us the one about Bosko Balaban, again, Dad. How much? Did Tommy Brolin really turn up at Elland Road with a Space Hopper up his gansey? Yes, I’m sure Bebe looked a world-beater on video.” But those old, familiar tales represent only one side of the ledger: purchases commonly ridiculed in hindsight. The other classification, routinely overlooked, is the premature and mistaken disposal. It’s a difficult category to define. For the sake of fairness one should strip out clubs who sold because they were financially strapped, players who went for fees too good to turn down and also those who acted the meddlesome priest, agitating for transfers and allowed to move on simply to be rid of them. The focus is on sales such as Nemanja Matic's not the ones like Diego Costa's. Here, then, are some of the managerial misjudgments, players discarded too soon for any number of reasons: poor form trumping class, undervaluation, prejudice, ageism or a simple miscalculation. Frank McLintock: Arsenal to QPR When Bertie Mee dropped Arsenal’s Double-winning captain Frank McLintock during the 1972-73 season, the 33-year-old Scot, whose skill and drive had helped transform the club and his own career in a glorious Indian summer, was devastated. Frank McLintock completes the Double in 1971 and celebrates with Charlie George who scored that unforgettable goal Credit: Allsport Hulton/Archive Mee’s decision to replace the classy, inspirational centre-back with the ponderous, ham-footed colossus, Jeff Blockley, beggared belief and has to be interpreted as Mee’s attempt to wrest control of the club back from the dressing room and its charismatic leader. McLintock remembers that he wept when he went to see Mee, the tears splashing off his Arsenal blazer after finding his manager obdurate to his claims for a recall. He felt he had no choice but to ask for a transfer - which Mee granted but turned down his request either to be allowed to leave on a free to negotiate a better deal with a new club or to grant him the testimonial he would have been due if he could have stomached six more months in the reserves. Mee told him that the 10 years’ qualification for a testimonial would not be altered to suit him and seeing he was six months short he would have to lump it. McLintock left for newly-promoted QPR for £25,000 at the end of the season, Arsenal’s failure to inform him of a late bid from Derby County’s Brian Clough, champions in 1972, the final insult. He gave four years of outstanding service to QPR, masterly on the field and in the dressing room during Rangers’ greatest ever season, 1975-76, when they lost out on the title by a single point after Liverpool turned a 0-1 deficit to Wolves with 14 minutes to go into a 3-1 victory in their final game, 10 days after QPR had completed their fixtures. Arsenal, meanwhile, replaced the hopeless Blockley with the rugged 32-year-old Terry Mancini from QPR in 1974, failing to understand that in his year playing alongside McLintock that it was his partner who had made him look half decent. Mee stood down in 1976 after successive 16th- and 17th-placed finishes, his determination to break up his Double-winning side having all but fatally weakened it. Pat Jennings: Tottenham to Arsenal Pat Jennings joined Arsenal from Spurs in 1977 Credit: PA Pan-handed colossus whose gloveless mitts, or “Lurgan shovels” as his former Northern Ireland team-mate and manager Billy Bingham called them, were put to devastating effect to steal the ball, one handed, off forwards’ foreheads a fraction of a second before impact. Miserly and resilient as he was during seven seasons as a first-team regular at Arsenal, he was finer still at Tottenham, an innovative and unorthodox keeper who was masterly at scrambling across his box, efficiently used any part of his body to block the ball and commanded the penalty area with a calm authority. He maintained his agility and elasticity well into his late 30s and managed for most of his career without gloves and, for the latter half of it, with what appeared to be a Bedlington Terrier on his head. Sold by Tottenham in August 1977 for £40,000 after they were relegated because the manager, Keith Burkinshaw, thought Barry Daines a better long-term bet, Jennings played a further 327 games for Arsenal, appeared in three successive FA Cup finals, winning one, and the Cup Winners’ Cup final defeat by Valencia. He was Northern Ireland’s first choice at two World Cups at the ages of 37 and 41 while Spurs took four years to replace him adequately in 1981 with Ray Clemence. At a stroke Tottenham sold their greatest ever goalkeeper to their biggest rivals for a song. He didn’t want to leave but his club essentially wrote him off at the age of 32, weakened their own side and strengthened Arsenal’s. The going rate for a goalkeeper of rare talent still in his prime? The £270,000 Forest paid Stoke for Peter Shilton a month later. Gordon Strachan: Manchester United to Leeds Gordon Strachan, right, left Manchester United, where he won the FA Cup, for Leeds United, where he won the title Credit: Brian Smith for The Telegraph In 1989 Gordon Strachan made the journey from Lancashire to Yorkshire that Bobby Collins had taken 17 years earlier when signing for Leeds from Everton and also delivered Leeds from Second Division purgatory. There are other glorious swansongs in the game’s rich past when a veteran’s impact in galvanising young teams was as important as anything he did on the field. In the 1980s Kevin Keegan did it at Newcastle, Johan Cruyff and Arnold Muhren at Ajax and Franz Beckenbauer at Hamburg, but Strachan was arguably the last. Now the biggest clubs tend to wring every drop from an elite player's body and soul while pay packets fulfil all their ambitions so it’s unlikely that a Championship club could attract a veteran international and task him with a mission to set the tenor of a rejuvenation project. Strachan was 32 when he left Old Trafford for Elland Road, over-familiar with Alex Ferguson after almost nine years together at Aberdeen and Manchester United. Ferguson, too, had had enough and felt a fresh start would benefit both parties. It certainly benefited Strachan who led Leeds to promotion in his first full season followed by a fourth-place top-flight finish and then, thrillingly, the title from Manchester United by four points. Even in his 39th year, when he left Leeds for Coventry, his drive was undiminished and his exacting standards ensured everyone was motivated and desperate to match them. The £300,000 he cost Leeds was the canniest investment Howard Wilkinson ever made. Manchester United were left without an orthodox right-sided midfielder for a couple of seasons until Ferguson signed Andrei Kanchelskis in 1991, the same year Strachan had been named, like Collins before him in 1965, Footballer of Year at the age of 34. Peter Beardsley: Liverpool to Everton Beardsley with John Barnes after winning his second title at Anfield in 1990 Credit: Dan Smith /Allsport No one has forged such a high number of prolific partnerships with out-and-out goalscorers than Peter Beardsley before or since. At his very best during his first spell at Newcastle with Kevin Keegan, at Liverpool he paired up with John Aldridge and then Ian Rush, with Tony Cottee at Everton and then with Andy Cole and Les Ferdinand in his second spell at St James’ Park. One can criticise Graham Taylor's time as England's manager for any number of reasons, but the most cardinal sin was his jettisoning of Beardsley, which diminished Gary Lineker and effectively turned him into little more than a goalhanger. That was an error of two-for-the-price-of-one proportions. If a player of Beardsley's ability was available now, one whose intelligence brought the best out of so many partners while scoring more than 200 goals himself, there would be little cavilling at a fee of more than £50m. In different times Graeme Souness sold the 30-year-old to Everton in 1991 for £1m, a not inconsiderable sum but peanuts compared with his true value, as Newcastle would show when paying more for him two years later. Peter Beardsley scored for both sides in the Merseyside derby Credit: Shaun Botterill/Allsport There were times during his four seasons at Anfield when Kenny Dalglish seemed equivocal about his talents - dropping him for the title decider with Arsenal in 1989, buying David Speedie to replace him in the winter of 1990-91 - and Souness seems to have picked up on that lack of faith while also wanting to fund a statement signing of his own during his first close season at Anfield. The fact he went for the bullocking Dean Saunders, more rumbustious, infinitely less refined, paid £2.5m but ditched him at a loss within 12 months tells us more about Souness than it does about Beardsley who went on to have six more years at the top, scored 89 more goals and made half a century more. Matthias Sammer: Inter to Borussia Dortmund Matthias Sammer, the heir to Franz Beckenbauer Credit: Action Images In 1996 Matthias Sammer became only the second defender in 40 years to win the Ballon d’Or, following in the Trefoil bootsteps of his compatriot and fellow sweeper, Franz Beckenbauer. He was player of the tournament during Germany’s victory at Euro 96 and, like his illustrious predecessor, a converted midfielder whose reading of the game, exemplary leadership and positional skills, class and composure on the ball gave him a kind of omnipresence, smoothly interceding to whip the ball away from danger when the opposition pierced the lines. A ball hog, his passing range was limited but defined by unerring precision, his long sweeping runs upfield from the back, timed meticulously, would accelerate with the tough grace of an armour-plated ministerial Daimler. Sammer moved to Inter for £5.1m in the summer of 1992 after winning the Bundesliga in his second season at Stuttgart where he was employed as a defensive midfielder rather than the libero he would become at Borussia Dortmund. It’s a matter of only a few yards’ difference but it made a world of difference, harnessing his defensive instincts while giving him the space to make the play with those magnificent sorties. Inter signed him in 1991 but let him stay on at Stuttgart because they already had their three overseas players - Sammer’s Germany team-mates Lothar Matthaus, Andreas Brehme and Jurgen Klinsmann - and when he did arrive were surprised to find he had not mastered a single word of Italian. Osvaldo Bagnoli played him as an advanced midfielder in a counter-attacking system designed to exploit the pace of Ruben Sosa. Sammer scored four goals in 11 Serie A appearances but found the tactics too rigid and refused to put down roots. Il Messagero reported that he was living out of suitcases in his lakeside villa with his TV propped up on a tea chest the only furniture apart from a bed. Inter, spoilt by Matthaus, Brehme and Klinsmann who had loved the club, the country and mastered the language, were as fed up with a player who had just about learnt to say ‘Ciao’ by December as he was with life and work in Italy. They cut their losses after five months and sold him for £4.8m to Dortmund. There, Ottmar Hitzfeld dropped him from in front of the back four to behind it and he won his second and third Bundesliga titles and the Champions League in 1997. A serious knee injury shortly after the final ended his career at the age of 30 having played only three more games. Claude Makélelé: Real Madrid to Chelsea Makelele tackles David Batty of Leeds United at the Bernabeu in 2001 Credit: REUTERS/Desmond Boylan The second coming of Florentino Pérez as president of Real Madrid has been defined and improved by learning from the errors he made during his first spell at the Bernabéu. Then, the preening pomposity of his galáctico project, bit him on the backside when he deemed a manager and a player who were integral to the success lacked the requisite glamour to play for his marketing machine. In the summer of 2003, after winning La Liga, Vicente Del Bosque was sacked and Claude Makélelé, the players’ player of the year, was knocked back when he went to negotiate a pay rise that reflected his contribution. He wasn’t asking for parity with Luis Figo, Ronaldo, Zinedine Zidane and David Beckham but nor did he expect Pérez to refuse flatly and then disparage him when he handed in a transfer request. “We will not miss Makélelé,” said Pérez. “His technique is average, he lacks the speed and skill to take the ball past opponents, and ninety percent of his distribution either goes backwards or sideways. He wasn't a header of the ball and he rarely passed the ball more than three metres. Younger players will arrive who will cause Makélelé to be forgotten.” He went to Chelsea for £16.8m, won two league titles and must have felt more than a frisson of schadenfreude over the next three years that Real Madrid won nothing, the only central midfielder bought to replace him was Thomas Gravesen, Pérez walked away and more than a decade on instead of being forgotten Makélelé is recognised as the pivotal player in a team that did not fulfil its potential. And his sale amounted to one of the greatest acts of self-hobbling in the game’s history. Gary Cahill: Aston Villa to Bolton Gary Cahill spent three full seasons at Bolton after Aston Villa sold him and six months after he left the Reebok he won the Champions League Credit: Action Images / Lee Smith Gary Cahill was always the odd man out at Aston Villa, enjoying his best season in 2006-07 at the club he joined as a trainee when filling in for the tremendous but injury-ravaged Martin Laursen. In the autumn of the following season he signed for Sheffield United on loan and impressed so much that Gary Megson agreed a deal with Villa to take the 22-year-old to Bolton Wanderers for £5m. One can understand the logic for Martin O’Neill selling him - Laursen was imperious at the back that season, Olof Mellberg was as reliable as ever and he had just signed Zat Knight but it wasn’t to last and the fragile Laursen broke down, this time for good, within the year. And yet Cahill displayed enormous promise and lacked only experience. In three full seasons at Bolton he became an England squad regular, displaying his robustness in the tackle, power in the air and pace to correct most mistakes even if he was sometimes slack in possession and caught dithering on the ball. In January 2012 Chelsea bought him for £7m, taking advantage of Bolton’s toils on and off the field and he won the FA Cup and Champions League in his first five months. Since then he has earned two titles, the first in a Jose Mourinho back-four, the second as Antonio Conte’s captain in a back three where the beauty of his manager’s system was that it gave the captain little to do but counted on the acuteness of his antennae and astuteness of positioning to prevent it falling apart. In the two years after letting Cahill go, Villa paid more for each of Carlos Cuélar, Curtis Davies, James Collins and Richard Dunne, none of whom were as durable of the future England captain they let go. Andrea Pirlo: Milan to Juventus Milan's Andrea Pirlo turns away from Arsenal's Aleksandr Hleb Credit: Stu Forster/Getty Images If Inter’s decision to let Andrea Pirlo leave for Milan in 2001 seems a poor one, we can partially exonerate them because they received more than £13m for him and they were reluctant to play him in his optimum position as a deep-lying playmaker where he had excelled on loan at Brescia. Inter used Gigi Di Biagio there, as did Italy, and decided to liquidate their asset, investing the proceeds in Mohamed Kallon and Emre. During a decade in the black and red, Pirlo became the most elegant midfielder in the game, redefining the concept of a holding midfielder as more an advanced sweeper than a wall and exploiting his immaculate control and mastery of the arcing, rapidly dipping long pass to manipulate and often bypass the opposition’s midfield and defence. He won two Champions Leagues and two Serie A titles, the last Scudetto in his final season when he played a mere 17 times because the manager, Max Allegri, preferred the more orthodox defensive style of Mark van Bommel. That summer the club decided to retain the 35-year-old Clarence Seedorf and the 33-year-old Rino Gattuso and let Pirlo, 32, move on to Juventus where he won four successive titles and grew the fuzz that made him the mango-IPA-drinkers’ as well as the purists’ favourite player. Pirlo played 119 Serie A matches for Juve, made it to another Champions League final and finally left for MLS in 2015 while Seedorf and Gattuso managed a further 24 league matches between them for Milan. Don’t stroke your chin too vigorously at that misjudgment, it will play havoc with your beard. Kevin De Bruyne: Chelsea to Wolfsburg; Romelu Lukaku: Chelsea to Everton; Mo Salah: Chelsea to Roma Kevin De Bruyne traps the ball during Chelsea's match against Hull City in 2013 Credit: EDDIE KEOGH/REUTERS Chelsea made a commendable profit on Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku and Mohamed Salah when they sold the first two in 2014 and the Egypt forward two years later after long loan spells with Fiorentina and Roma, raking in almost £30m for players who made 43 appearances between them. A nice little earner that reflects well on Chelsea’s scouting and development system. But one can’t help thinking - despite the protestations of Frank Lampard and John Terry who have praised the players for leaving but insist it does not reflect badly on the club that has, like the cliched shark, to keep moving forward or die - that a little more patience, a few more opportunities and a touch more inflexibility when they held the upper hand would have better served them. Yes, Jose Mourinho wanted money to invest in players of his own choosing and no one could predict that each would improve so swiftly that they have become three of the most vibrant and valuable talents in the game. That was down to them and their dedication. Salah scores Chelsea's sixth in the 6-0 thrashing of Arsenal in March 2014 Credit: GLYN KIRK/AFP But someone at Stamford Bridge must have noted how assiduous each of them was, divined their characters or been swayed by their diligence and ambition. Chelsea’s loss - compounded by the lack of buy-back clauses - has been three rivals’ gain and has to represent a monstrous, three-headed blunder.
The closing of the transfer window inspires the habitual churning out of the worst transfers ever, like bedtime stories that lose none of their allure in the biannual retelling. “Tell us the one about Bosko Balaban, again, Dad. How much? Did Tommy Brolin really turn up at Elland Road with a Space Hopper up his gansey? Yes, I’m sure Bebe looked a world-beater on video.” But those old, familiar tales represent only one side of the ledger: purchases commonly ridiculed in hindsight. The other classification, routinely overlooked, is the premature and mistaken disposal. It’s a difficult category to define. For the sake of fairness one should strip out clubs who sold because they were financially strapped, players who went for fees too good to turn down and also those who acted the meddlesome priest, agitating for transfers and allowed to move on simply to be rid of them. The focus is on sales such as Nemanja Matic's not the ones like Diego Costa's. Here, then, are some of the managerial misjudgments, players discarded too soon for any number of reasons: poor form trumping class, undervaluation, prejudice, ageism or a simple miscalculation. Frank McLintock: Arsenal to QPR When Bertie Mee dropped Arsenal’s Double-winning captain Frank McLintock during the 1972-73 season, the 33-year-old Scot, whose skill and drive had helped transform the club and his own career in a glorious Indian summer, was devastated. Frank McLintock completes the Double in 1971 and celebrates with Charlie George who scored that unforgettable goal Credit: Allsport Hulton/Archive Mee’s decision to replace the classy, inspirational centre-back with the ponderous, ham-footed colossus, Jeff Blockley, beggared belief and has to be interpreted as Mee’s attempt to wrest control of the club back from the dressing room and its charismatic leader. McLintock remembers that he wept when he went to see Mee, the tears splashing off his Arsenal blazer after finding his manager obdurate to his claims for a recall. He felt he had no choice but to ask for a transfer - which Mee granted but turned down his request either to be allowed to leave on a free to negotiate a better deal with a new club or to grant him the testimonial he would have been due if he could have stomached six more months in the reserves. Mee told him that the 10 years’ qualification for a testimonial would not be altered to suit him and seeing he was six months short he would have to lump it. McLintock left for newly-promoted QPR for £25,000 at the end of the season, Arsenal’s failure to inform him of a late bid from Derby County’s Brian Clough, champions in 1972, the final insult. He gave four years of outstanding service to QPR, masterly on the field and in the dressing room during Rangers’ greatest ever season, 1975-76, when they lost out on the title by a single point after Liverpool turned a 0-1 deficit to Wolves with 14 minutes to go into a 3-1 victory in their final game, 10 days after QPR had completed their fixtures. Arsenal, meanwhile, replaced the hopeless Blockley with the rugged 32-year-old Terry Mancini from QPR in 1974, failing to understand that in his year playing alongside McLintock that it was his partner who had made him look half decent. Mee stood down in 1976 after successive 16th- and 17th-placed finishes, his determination to break up his Double-winning side having all but fatally weakened it. Pat Jennings: Tottenham to Arsenal Pat Jennings joined Arsenal from Spurs in 1977 Credit: PA Pan-handed colossus whose gloveless mitts, or “Lurgan shovels” as his former Northern Ireland team-mate and manager Billy Bingham called them, were put to devastating effect to steal the ball, one handed, off forwards’ foreheads a fraction of a second before impact. Miserly and resilient as he was during seven seasons as a first-team regular at Arsenal, he was finer still at Tottenham, an innovative and unorthodox keeper who was masterly at scrambling across his box, efficiently used any part of his body to block the ball and commanded the penalty area with a calm authority. He maintained his agility and elasticity well into his late 30s and managed for most of his career without gloves and, for the latter half of it, with what appeared to be a Bedlington Terrier on his head. Sold by Tottenham in August 1977 for £40,000 after they were relegated because the manager, Keith Burkinshaw, thought Barry Daines a better long-term bet, Jennings played a further 327 games for Arsenal, appeared in three successive FA Cup finals, winning one, and the Cup Winners’ Cup final defeat by Valencia. He was Northern Ireland’s first choice at two World Cups at the ages of 37 and 41 while Spurs took four years to replace him adequately in 1981 with Ray Clemence. At a stroke Tottenham sold their greatest ever goalkeeper to their biggest rivals for a song. He didn’t want to leave but his club essentially wrote him off at the age of 32, weakened their own side and strengthened Arsenal’s. The going rate for a goalkeeper of rare talent still in his prime? The £270,000 Forest paid Stoke for Peter Shilton a month later. Gordon Strachan: Manchester United to Leeds Gordon Strachan, right, left Manchester United, where he won the FA Cup, for Leeds United, where he won the title Credit: Brian Smith for The Telegraph In 1989 Gordon Strachan made the journey from Lancashire to Yorkshire that Bobby Collins had taken 17 years earlier when signing for Leeds from Everton and also delivered Leeds from Second Division purgatory. There are other glorious swansongs in the game’s rich past when a veteran’s impact in galvanising young teams was as important as anything he did on the field. In the 1980s Kevin Keegan did it at Newcastle, Johan Cruyff and Arnold Muhren at Ajax and Franz Beckenbauer at Hamburg, but Strachan was arguably the last. Now the biggest clubs tend to wring every drop from an elite player's body and soul while pay packets fulfil all their ambitions so it’s unlikely that a Championship club could attract a veteran international and task him with a mission to set the tenor of a rejuvenation project. Strachan was 32 when he left Old Trafford for Elland Road, over-familiar with Alex Ferguson after almost nine years together at Aberdeen and Manchester United. Ferguson, too, had had enough and felt a fresh start would benefit both parties. It certainly benefited Strachan who led Leeds to promotion in his first full season followed by a fourth-place top-flight finish and then, thrillingly, the title from Manchester United by four points. Even in his 39th year, when he left Leeds for Coventry, his drive was undiminished and his exacting standards ensured everyone was motivated and desperate to match them. The £300,000 he cost Leeds was the canniest investment Howard Wilkinson ever made. Manchester United were left without an orthodox right-sided midfielder for a couple of seasons until Ferguson signed Andrei Kanchelskis in 1991, the same year Strachan had been named, like Collins before him in 1965, Footballer of Year at the age of 34. Peter Beardsley: Liverpool to Everton Beardsley with John Barnes after winning his second title at Anfield in 1990 Credit: Dan Smith /Allsport No one has forged such a high number of prolific partnerships with out-and-out goalscorers than Peter Beardsley before or since. At his very best during his first spell at Newcastle with Kevin Keegan, at Liverpool he paired up with John Aldridge and then Ian Rush, with Tony Cottee at Everton and then with Andy Cole and Les Ferdinand in his second spell at St James’ Park. One can criticise Graham Taylor's time as England's manager for any number of reasons, but the most cardinal sin was his jettisoning of Beardsley, which diminished Gary Lineker and effectively turned him into little more than a goalhanger. That was an error of two-for-the-price-of-one proportions. If a player of Beardsley's ability was available now, one whose intelligence brought the best out of so many partners while scoring more than 200 goals himself, there would be little cavilling at a fee of more than £50m. In different times Graeme Souness sold the 30-year-old to Everton in 1991 for £1m, a not inconsiderable sum but peanuts compared with his true value, as Newcastle would show when paying more for him two years later. Peter Beardsley scored for both sides in the Merseyside derby Credit: Shaun Botterill/Allsport There were times during his four seasons at Anfield when Kenny Dalglish seemed equivocal about his talents - dropping him for the title decider with Arsenal in 1989, buying David Speedie to replace him in the winter of 1990-91 - and Souness seems to have picked up on that lack of faith while also wanting to fund a statement signing of his own during his first close season at Anfield. The fact he went for the bullocking Dean Saunders, more rumbustious, infinitely less refined, paid £2.5m but ditched him at a loss within 12 months tells us more about Souness than it does about Beardsley who went on to have six more years at the top, scored 89 more goals and made half a century more. Matthias Sammer: Inter to Borussia Dortmund Matthias Sammer, the heir to Franz Beckenbauer Credit: Action Images In 1996 Matthias Sammer became only the second defender in 40 years to win the Ballon d’Or, following in the Trefoil bootsteps of his compatriot and fellow sweeper, Franz Beckenbauer. He was player of the tournament during Germany’s victory at Euro 96 and, like his illustrious predecessor, a converted midfielder whose reading of the game, exemplary leadership and positional skills, class and composure on the ball gave him a kind of omnipresence, smoothly interceding to whip the ball away from danger when the opposition pierced the lines. A ball hog, his passing range was limited but defined by unerring precision, his long sweeping runs upfield from the back, timed meticulously, would accelerate with the tough grace of an armour-plated ministerial Daimler. Sammer moved to Inter for £5.1m in the summer of 1992 after winning the Bundesliga in his second season at Stuttgart where he was employed as a defensive midfielder rather than the libero he would become at Borussia Dortmund. It’s a matter of only a few yards’ difference but it made a world of difference, harnessing his defensive instincts while giving him the space to make the play with those magnificent sorties. Inter signed him in 1991 but let him stay on at Stuttgart because they already had their three overseas players - Sammer’s Germany team-mates Lothar Matthaus, Andreas Brehme and Jurgen Klinsmann - and when he did arrive were surprised to find he had not mastered a single word of Italian. Osvaldo Bagnoli played him as an advanced midfielder in a counter-attacking system designed to exploit the pace of Ruben Sosa. Sammer scored four goals in 11 Serie A appearances but found the tactics too rigid and refused to put down roots. Il Messagero reported that he was living out of suitcases in his lakeside villa with his TV propped up on a tea chest the only furniture apart from a bed. Inter, spoilt by Matthaus, Brehme and Klinsmann who had loved the club, the country and mastered the language, were as fed up with a player who had just about learnt to say ‘Ciao’ by December as he was with life and work in Italy. They cut their losses after five months and sold him for £4.8m to Dortmund. There, Ottmar Hitzfeld dropped him from in front of the back four to behind it and he won his second and third Bundesliga titles and the Champions League in 1997. A serious knee injury shortly after the final ended his career at the age of 30 having played only three more games. Claude Makélelé: Real Madrid to Chelsea Makelele tackles David Batty of Leeds United at the Bernabeu in 2001 Credit: REUTERS/Desmond Boylan The second coming of Florentino Pérez as president of Real Madrid has been defined and improved by learning from the errors he made during his first spell at the Bernabéu. Then, the preening pomposity of his galáctico project, bit him on the backside when he deemed a manager and a player who were integral to the success lacked the requisite glamour to play for his marketing machine. In the summer of 2003, after winning La Liga, Vicente Del Bosque was sacked and Claude Makélelé, the players’ player of the year, was knocked back when he went to negotiate a pay rise that reflected his contribution. He wasn’t asking for parity with Luis Figo, Ronaldo, Zinedine Zidane and David Beckham but nor did he expect Pérez to refuse flatly and then disparage him when he handed in a transfer request. “We will not miss Makélelé,” said Pérez. “His technique is average, he lacks the speed and skill to take the ball past opponents, and ninety percent of his distribution either goes backwards or sideways. He wasn't a header of the ball and he rarely passed the ball more than three metres. Younger players will arrive who will cause Makélelé to be forgotten.” He went to Chelsea for £16.8m, won two league titles and must have felt more than a frisson of schadenfreude over the next three years that Real Madrid won nothing, the only central midfielder bought to replace him was Thomas Gravesen, Pérez walked away and more than a decade on instead of being forgotten Makélelé is recognised as the pivotal player in a team that did not fulfil its potential. And his sale amounted to one of the greatest acts of self-hobbling in the game’s history. Gary Cahill: Aston Villa to Bolton Gary Cahill spent three full seasons at Bolton after Aston Villa sold him and six months after he left the Reebok he won the Champions League Credit: Action Images / Lee Smith Gary Cahill was always the odd man out at Aston Villa, enjoying his best season in 2006-07 at the club he joined as a trainee when filling in for the tremendous but injury-ravaged Martin Laursen. In the autumn of the following season he signed for Sheffield United on loan and impressed so much that Gary Megson agreed a deal with Villa to take the 22-year-old to Bolton Wanderers for £5m. One can understand the logic for Martin O’Neill selling him - Laursen was imperious at the back that season, Olof Mellberg was as reliable as ever and he had just signed Zat Knight but it wasn’t to last and the fragile Laursen broke down, this time for good, within the year. And yet Cahill displayed enormous promise and lacked only experience. In three full seasons at Bolton he became an England squad regular, displaying his robustness in the tackle, power in the air and pace to correct most mistakes even if he was sometimes slack in possession and caught dithering on the ball. In January 2012 Chelsea bought him for £7m, taking advantage of Bolton’s toils on and off the field and he won the FA Cup and Champions League in his first five months. Since then he has earned two titles, the first in a Jose Mourinho back-four, the second as Antonio Conte’s captain in a back three where the beauty of his manager’s system was that it gave the captain little to do but counted on the acuteness of his antennae and astuteness of positioning to prevent it falling apart. In the two years after letting Cahill go, Villa paid more for each of Carlos Cuélar, Curtis Davies, James Collins and Richard Dunne, none of whom were as durable of the future England captain they let go. Andrea Pirlo: Milan to Juventus Milan's Andrea Pirlo turns away from Arsenal's Aleksandr Hleb Credit: Stu Forster/Getty Images If Inter’s decision to let Andrea Pirlo leave for Milan in 2001 seems a poor one, we can partially exonerate them because they received more than £13m for him and they were reluctant to play him in his optimum position as a deep-lying playmaker where he had excelled on loan at Brescia. Inter used Gigi Di Biagio there, as did Italy, and decided to liquidate their asset, investing the proceeds in Mohamed Kallon and Emre. During a decade in the black and red, Pirlo became the most elegant midfielder in the game, redefining the concept of a holding midfielder as more an advanced sweeper than a wall and exploiting his immaculate control and mastery of the arcing, rapidly dipping long pass to manipulate and often bypass the opposition’s midfield and defence. He won two Champions Leagues and two Serie A titles, the last Scudetto in his final season when he played a mere 17 times because the manager, Max Allegri, preferred the more orthodox defensive style of Mark van Bommel. That summer the club decided to retain the 35-year-old Clarence Seedorf and the 33-year-old Rino Gattuso and let Pirlo, 32, move on to Juventus where he won four successive titles and grew the fuzz that made him the mango-IPA-drinkers’ as well as the purists’ favourite player. Pirlo played 119 Serie A matches for Juve, made it to another Champions League final and finally left for MLS in 2015 while Seedorf and Gattuso managed a further 24 league matches between them for Milan. Don’t stroke your chin too vigorously at that misjudgment, it will play havoc with your beard. Kevin De Bruyne: Chelsea to Wolfsburg; Romelu Lukaku: Chelsea to Everton; Mo Salah: Chelsea to Roma Kevin De Bruyne traps the ball during Chelsea's match against Hull City in 2013 Credit: EDDIE KEOGH/REUTERS Chelsea made a commendable profit on Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku and Mohamed Salah when they sold the first two in 2014 and the Egypt forward two years later after long loan spells with Fiorentina and Roma, raking in almost £30m for players who made 43 appearances between them. A nice little earner that reflects well on Chelsea’s scouting and development system. But one can’t help thinking - despite the protestations of Frank Lampard and John Terry who have praised the players for leaving but insist it does not reflect badly on the club that has, like the cliched shark, to keep moving forward or die - that a little more patience, a few more opportunities and a touch more inflexibility when they held the upper hand would have better served them. Yes, Jose Mourinho wanted money to invest in players of his own choosing and no one could predict that each would improve so swiftly that they have become three of the most vibrant and valuable talents in the game. That was down to them and their dedication. Salah scores Chelsea's sixth in the 6-0 thrashing of Arsenal in March 2014 Credit: GLYN KIRK/AFP But someone at Stamford Bridge must have noted how assiduous each of them was, divined their characters or been swayed by their diligence and ambition. Chelsea’s loss - compounded by the lack of buy-back clauses - has been three rivals’ gain and has to represent a monstrous, three-headed blunder.
Sold too soon: the other side of transfer market blunders
The closing of the transfer window inspires the habitual churning out of the worst transfers ever, like bedtime stories that lose none of their allure in the biannual retelling. “Tell us the one about Bosko Balaban, again, Dad. How much? Did Tommy Brolin really turn up at Elland Road with a Space Hopper up his gansey? Yes, I’m sure Bebe looked a world-beater on video.” But those old, familiar tales represent only one side of the ledger: purchases commonly ridiculed in hindsight. The other classification, routinely overlooked, is the premature and mistaken disposal. It’s a difficult category to define. For the sake of fairness one should strip out clubs who sold because they were financially strapped, players who went for fees too good to turn down and also those who acted the meddlesome priest, agitating for transfers and allowed to move on simply to be rid of them. The focus is on sales such as Nemanja Matic's not the ones like Diego Costa's. Here, then, are some of the managerial misjudgments, players discarded too soon for any number of reasons: poor form trumping class, undervaluation, prejudice, ageism or a simple miscalculation. Frank McLintock: Arsenal to QPR When Bertie Mee dropped Arsenal’s Double-winning captain Frank McLintock during the 1972-73 season, the 33-year-old Scot, whose skill and drive had helped transform the club and his own career in a glorious Indian summer, was devastated. Frank McLintock completes the Double in 1971 and celebrates with Charlie George who scored that unforgettable goal Credit: Allsport Hulton/Archive Mee’s decision to replace the classy, inspirational centre-back with the ponderous, ham-footed colossus, Jeff Blockley, beggared belief and has to be interpreted as Mee’s attempt to wrest control of the club back from the dressing room and its charismatic leader. McLintock remembers that he wept when he went to see Mee, the tears splashing off his Arsenal blazer after finding his manager obdurate to his claims for a recall. He felt he had no choice but to ask for a transfer - which Mee granted but turned down his request either to be allowed to leave on a free to negotiate a better deal with a new club or to grant him the testimonial he would have been due if he could have stomached six more months in the reserves. Mee told him that the 10 years’ qualification for a testimonial would not be altered to suit him and seeing he was six months short he would have to lump it. McLintock left for newly-promoted QPR for £25,000 at the end of the season, Arsenal’s failure to inform him of a late bid from Derby County’s Brian Clough, champions in 1972, the final insult. He gave four years of outstanding service to QPR, masterly on the field and in the dressing room during Rangers’ greatest ever season, 1975-76, when they lost out on the title by a single point after Liverpool turned a 0-1 deficit to Wolves with 14 minutes to go into a 3-1 victory in their final game, 10 days after QPR had completed their fixtures. Arsenal, meanwhile, replaced the hopeless Blockley with the rugged 32-year-old Terry Mancini from QPR in 1974, failing to understand that in his year playing alongside McLintock that it was his partner who had made him look half decent. Mee stood down in 1976 after successive 16th- and 17th-placed finishes, his determination to break up his Double-winning side having all but fatally weakened it. Pat Jennings: Tottenham to Arsenal Pat Jennings joined Arsenal from Spurs in 1977 Credit: PA Pan-handed colossus whose gloveless mitts, or “Lurgan shovels” as his former Northern Ireland team-mate and manager Billy Bingham called them, were put to devastating effect to steal the ball, one handed, off forwards’ foreheads a fraction of a second before impact. Miserly and resilient as he was during seven seasons as a first-team regular at Arsenal, he was finer still at Tottenham, an innovative and unorthodox keeper who was masterly at scrambling across his box, efficiently used any part of his body to block the ball and commanded the penalty area with a calm authority. He maintained his agility and elasticity well into his late 30s and managed for most of his career without gloves and, for the latter half of it, with what appeared to be a Bedlington Terrier on his head. Sold by Tottenham in August 1977 for £40,000 after they were relegated because the manager, Keith Burkinshaw, thought Barry Daines a better long-term bet, Jennings played a further 327 games for Arsenal, appeared in three successive FA Cup finals, winning one, and the Cup Winners’ Cup final defeat by Valencia. He was Northern Ireland’s first choice at two World Cups at the ages of 37 and 41 while Spurs took four years to replace him adequately in 1981 with Ray Clemence. At a stroke Tottenham sold their greatest ever goalkeeper to their biggest rivals for a song. He didn’t want to leave but his club essentially wrote him off at the age of 32, weakened their own side and strengthened Arsenal’s. The going rate for a goalkeeper of rare talent still in his prime? The £270,000 Forest paid Stoke for Peter Shilton a month later. Gordon Strachan: Manchester United to Leeds Gordon Strachan, right, left Manchester United, where he won the FA Cup, for Leeds United, where he won the title Credit: Brian Smith for The Telegraph In 1989 Gordon Strachan made the journey from Lancashire to Yorkshire that Bobby Collins had taken 17 years earlier when signing for Leeds from Everton and also delivered Leeds from Second Division purgatory. There are other glorious swansongs in the game’s rich past when a veteran’s impact in galvanising young teams was as important as anything he did on the field. In the 1980s Kevin Keegan did it at Newcastle, Johan Cruyff and Arnold Muhren at Ajax and Franz Beckenbauer at Hamburg, but Strachan was arguably the last. Now the biggest clubs tend to wring every drop from an elite player's body and soul while pay packets fulfil all their ambitions so it’s unlikely that a Championship club could attract a veteran international and task him with a mission to set the tenor of a rejuvenation project. Strachan was 32 when he left Old Trafford for Elland Road, over-familiar with Alex Ferguson after almost nine years together at Aberdeen and Manchester United. Ferguson, too, had had enough and felt a fresh start would benefit both parties. It certainly benefited Strachan who led Leeds to promotion in his first full season followed by a fourth-place top-flight finish and then, thrillingly, the title from Manchester United by four points. Even in his 39th year, when he left Leeds for Coventry, his drive was undiminished and his exacting standards ensured everyone was motivated and desperate to match them. The £300,000 he cost Leeds was the canniest investment Howard Wilkinson ever made. Manchester United were left without an orthodox right-sided midfielder for a couple of seasons until Ferguson signed Andrei Kanchelskis in 1991, the same year Strachan had been named, like Collins before him in 1965, Footballer of Year at the age of 34. Peter Beardsley: Liverpool to Everton Beardsley with John Barnes after winning his second title at Anfield in 1990 Credit: Dan Smith /Allsport No one has forged such a high number of prolific partnerships with out-and-out goalscorers than Peter Beardsley before or since. At his very best during his first spell at Newcastle with Kevin Keegan, at Liverpool he paired up with John Aldridge and then Ian Rush, with Tony Cottee at Everton and then with Andy Cole and Les Ferdinand in his second spell at St James’ Park. One can criticise Graham Taylor's time as England's manager for any number of reasons, but the most cardinal sin was his jettisoning of Beardsley, which diminished Gary Lineker and effectively turned him into little more than a goalhanger. That was an error of two-for-the-price-of-one proportions. If a player of Beardsley's ability was available now, one whose intelligence brought the best out of so many partners while scoring more than 200 goals himself, there would be little cavilling at a fee of more than £50m. In different times Graeme Souness sold the 30-year-old to Everton in 1991 for £1m, a not inconsiderable sum but peanuts compared with his true value, as Newcastle would show when paying more for him two years later. Peter Beardsley scored for both sides in the Merseyside derby Credit: Shaun Botterill/Allsport There were times during his four seasons at Anfield when Kenny Dalglish seemed equivocal about his talents - dropping him for the title decider with Arsenal in 1989, buying David Speedie to replace him in the winter of 1990-91 - and Souness seems to have picked up on that lack of faith while also wanting to fund a statement signing of his own during his first close season at Anfield. The fact he went for the bullocking Dean Saunders, more rumbustious, infinitely less refined, paid £2.5m but ditched him at a loss within 12 months tells us more about Souness than it does about Beardsley who went on to have six more years at the top, scored 89 more goals and made half a century more. Matthias Sammer: Inter to Borussia Dortmund Matthias Sammer, the heir to Franz Beckenbauer Credit: Action Images In 1996 Matthias Sammer became only the second defender in 40 years to win the Ballon d’Or, following in the Trefoil bootsteps of his compatriot and fellow sweeper, Franz Beckenbauer. He was player of the tournament during Germany’s victory at Euro 96 and, like his illustrious predecessor, a converted midfielder whose reading of the game, exemplary leadership and positional skills, class and composure on the ball gave him a kind of omnipresence, smoothly interceding to whip the ball away from danger when the opposition pierced the lines. A ball hog, his passing range was limited but defined by unerring precision, his long sweeping runs upfield from the back, timed meticulously, would accelerate with the tough grace of an armour-plated ministerial Daimler. Sammer moved to Inter for £5.1m in the summer of 1992 after winning the Bundesliga in his second season at Stuttgart where he was employed as a defensive midfielder rather than the libero he would become at Borussia Dortmund. It’s a matter of only a few yards’ difference but it made a world of difference, harnessing his defensive instincts while giving him the space to make the play with those magnificent sorties. Inter signed him in 1991 but let him stay on at Stuttgart because they already had their three overseas players - Sammer’s Germany team-mates Lothar Matthaus, Andreas Brehme and Jurgen Klinsmann - and when he did arrive were surprised to find he had not mastered a single word of Italian. Osvaldo Bagnoli played him as an advanced midfielder in a counter-attacking system designed to exploit the pace of Ruben Sosa. Sammer scored four goals in 11 Serie A appearances but found the tactics too rigid and refused to put down roots. Il Messagero reported that he was living out of suitcases in his lakeside villa with his TV propped up on a tea chest the only furniture apart from a bed. Inter, spoilt by Matthaus, Brehme and Klinsmann who had loved the club, the country and mastered the language, were as fed up with a player who had just about learnt to say ‘Ciao’ by December as he was with life and work in Italy. They cut their losses after five months and sold him for £4.8m to Dortmund. There, Ottmar Hitzfeld dropped him from in front of the back four to behind it and he won his second and third Bundesliga titles and the Champions League in 1997. A serious knee injury shortly after the final ended his career at the age of 30 having played only three more games. Claude Makélelé: Real Madrid to Chelsea Makelele tackles David Batty of Leeds United at the Bernabeu in 2001 Credit: REUTERS/Desmond Boylan The second coming of Florentino Pérez as president of Real Madrid has been defined and improved by learning from the errors he made during his first spell at the Bernabéu. Then, the preening pomposity of his galáctico project, bit him on the backside when he deemed a manager and a player who were integral to the success lacked the requisite glamour to play for his marketing machine. In the summer of 2003, after winning La Liga, Vicente Del Bosque was sacked and Claude Makélelé, the players’ player of the year, was knocked back when he went to negotiate a pay rise that reflected his contribution. He wasn’t asking for parity with Luis Figo, Ronaldo, Zinedine Zidane and David Beckham but nor did he expect Pérez to refuse flatly and then disparage him when he handed in a transfer request. “We will not miss Makélelé,” said Pérez. “His technique is average, he lacks the speed and skill to take the ball past opponents, and ninety percent of his distribution either goes backwards or sideways. He wasn't a header of the ball and he rarely passed the ball more than three metres. Younger players will arrive who will cause Makélelé to be forgotten.” He went to Chelsea for £16.8m, won two league titles and must have felt more than a frisson of schadenfreude over the next three years that Real Madrid won nothing, the only central midfielder bought to replace him was Thomas Gravesen, Pérez walked away and more than a decade on instead of being forgotten Makélelé is recognised as the pivotal player in a team that did not fulfil its potential. And his sale amounted to one of the greatest acts of self-hobbling in the game’s history. Gary Cahill: Aston Villa to Bolton Gary Cahill spent three full seasons at Bolton after Aston Villa sold him and six months after he left the Reebok he won the Champions League Credit: Action Images / Lee Smith Gary Cahill was always the odd man out at Aston Villa, enjoying his best season in 2006-07 at the club he joined as a trainee when filling in for the tremendous but injury-ravaged Martin Laursen. In the autumn of the following season he signed for Sheffield United on loan and impressed so much that Gary Megson agreed a deal with Villa to take the 22-year-old to Bolton Wanderers for £5m. One can understand the logic for Martin O’Neill selling him - Laursen was imperious at the back that season, Olof Mellberg was as reliable as ever and he had just signed Zat Knight but it wasn’t to last and the fragile Laursen broke down, this time for good, within the year. And yet Cahill displayed enormous promise and lacked only experience. In three full seasons at Bolton he became an England squad regular, displaying his robustness in the tackle, power in the air and pace to correct most mistakes even if he was sometimes slack in possession and caught dithering on the ball. In January 2012 Chelsea bought him for £7m, taking advantage of Bolton’s toils on and off the field and he won the FA Cup and Champions League in his first five months. Since then he has earned two titles, the first in a Jose Mourinho back-four, the second as Antonio Conte’s captain in a back three where the beauty of his manager’s system was that it gave the captain little to do but counted on the acuteness of his antennae and astuteness of positioning to prevent it falling apart. In the two years after letting Cahill go, Villa paid more for each of Carlos Cuélar, Curtis Davies, James Collins and Richard Dunne, none of whom were as durable of the future England captain they let go. Andrea Pirlo: Milan to Juventus Milan's Andrea Pirlo turns away from Arsenal's Aleksandr Hleb Credit: Stu Forster/Getty Images If Inter’s decision to let Andrea Pirlo leave for Milan in 2001 seems a poor one, we can partially exonerate them because they received more than £13m for him and they were reluctant to play him in his optimum position as a deep-lying playmaker where he had excelled on loan at Brescia. Inter used Gigi Di Biagio there, as did Italy, and decided to liquidate their asset, investing the proceeds in Mohamed Kallon and Emre. During a decade in the black and red, Pirlo became the most elegant midfielder in the game, redefining the concept of a holding midfielder as more an advanced sweeper than a wall and exploiting his immaculate control and mastery of the arcing, rapidly dipping long pass to manipulate and often bypass the opposition’s midfield and defence. He won two Champions Leagues and two Serie A titles, the last Scudetto in his final season when he played a mere 17 times because the manager, Max Allegri, preferred the more orthodox defensive style of Mark van Bommel. That summer the club decided to retain the 35-year-old Clarence Seedorf and the 33-year-old Rino Gattuso and let Pirlo, 32, move on to Juventus where he won four successive titles and grew the fuzz that made him the mango-IPA-drinkers’ as well as the purists’ favourite player. Pirlo played 119 Serie A matches for Juve, made it to another Champions League final and finally left for MLS in 2015 while Seedorf and Gattuso managed a further 24 league matches between them for Milan. Don’t stroke your chin too vigorously at that misjudgment, it will play havoc with your beard. Kevin De Bruyne: Chelsea to Wolfsburg; Romelu Lukaku: Chelsea to Everton; Mo Salah: Chelsea to Roma Kevin De Bruyne traps the ball during Chelsea's match against Hull City in 2013 Credit: EDDIE KEOGH/REUTERS Chelsea made a commendable profit on Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku and Mohamed Salah when they sold the first two in 2014 and the Egypt forward two years later after long loan spells with Fiorentina and Roma, raking in almost £30m for players who made 43 appearances between them. A nice little earner that reflects well on Chelsea’s scouting and development system. But one can’t help thinking - despite the protestations of Frank Lampard and John Terry who have praised the players for leaving but insist it does not reflect badly on the club that has, like the cliched shark, to keep moving forward or die - that a little more patience, a few more opportunities and a touch more inflexibility when they held the upper hand would have better served them. Yes, Jose Mourinho wanted money to invest in players of his own choosing and no one could predict that each would improve so swiftly that they have become three of the most vibrant and valuable talents in the game. That was down to them and their dedication. Salah scores Chelsea's sixth in the 6-0 thrashing of Arsenal in March 2014 Credit: GLYN KIRK/AFP But someone at Stamford Bridge must have noted how assiduous each of them was, divined their characters or been swayed by their diligence and ambition. Chelsea’s loss - compounded by the lack of buy-back clauses - has been three rivals’ gain and has to represent a monstrous, three-headed blunder.
The closing of the transfer window inspires the habitual churning out of the worst transfers ever, like bedtime stories that lose none of their allure in the biannual retelling. “Tell us the one about Bosko Balaban, again, Dad. How much? Did Tommy Brolin really turn up at Elland Road with a Space Hopper up his gansey? Yes, I’m sure Bebe looked a world-beater on video.” But those old, familiar tales represent only one side of the ledger: purchases commonly ridiculed in hindsight. The other classification, routinely overlooked, is the premature and mistaken disposal. It’s a difficult category to define. For the sake of fairness one should strip out clubs who sold because they were financially strapped, players who went for fees too good to turn down and also those who acted the meddlesome priest, agitating for transfers and allowed to move on simply to be rid of them. The focus is on sales such as Nemanja Matic's not the ones like Diego Costa's. Here, then, are some of the managerial misjudgments, players discarded too soon for any number of reasons: poor form trumping class, undervaluation, prejudice, ageism or a simple miscalculation. Frank McLintock: Arsenal to QPR When Bertie Mee dropped Arsenal’s Double-winning captain Frank McLintock during the 1972-73 season, the 33-year-old Scot, whose skill and drive had helped transform the club and his own career in a glorious Indian summer, was devastated. Frank McLintock completes the Double in 1971 and celebrates with Charlie George who scored that unforgettable goal Credit: Allsport Hulton/Archive Mee’s decision to replace the classy, inspirational centre-back with the ponderous, ham-footed colossus, Jeff Blockley, beggared belief and has to be interpreted as Mee’s attempt to wrest control of the club back from the dressing room and its charismatic leader. McLintock remembers that he wept when he went to see Mee, the tears splashing off his Arsenal blazer after finding his manager obdurate to his claims for a recall. He felt he had no choice but to ask for a transfer - which Mee granted but turned down his request either to be allowed to leave on a free to negotiate a better deal with a new club or to grant him the testimonial he would have been due if he could have stomached six more months in the reserves. Mee told him that the 10 years’ qualification for a testimonial would not be altered to suit him and seeing he was six months short he would have to lump it. McLintock left for newly-promoted QPR for £25,000 at the end of the season, Arsenal’s failure to inform him of a late bid from Derby County’s Brian Clough, champions in 1972, the final insult. He gave four years of outstanding service to QPR, masterly on the field and in the dressing room during Rangers’ greatest ever season, 1975-76, when they lost out on the title by a single point after Liverpool turned a 0-1 deficit to Wolves with 14 minutes to go into a 3-1 victory in their final game, 10 days after QPR had completed their fixtures. Arsenal, meanwhile, replaced the hopeless Blockley with the rugged 32-year-old Terry Mancini from QPR in 1974, failing to understand that in his year playing alongside McLintock that it was his partner who had made him look half decent. Mee stood down in 1976 after successive 16th- and 17th-placed finishes, his determination to break up his Double-winning side having all but fatally weakened it. Pat Jennings: Tottenham to Arsenal Pat Jennings joined Arsenal from Spurs in 1977 Credit: PA Pan-handed colossus whose gloveless mitts, or “Lurgan shovels” as his former Northern Ireland team-mate and manager Billy Bingham called them, were put to devastating effect to steal the ball, one handed, off forwards’ foreheads a fraction of a second before impact. Miserly and resilient as he was during seven seasons as a first-team regular at Arsenal, he was finer still at Tottenham, an innovative and unorthodox keeper who was masterly at scrambling across his box, efficiently used any part of his body to block the ball and commanded the penalty area with a calm authority. He maintained his agility and elasticity well into his late 30s and managed for most of his career without gloves and, for the latter half of it, with what appeared to be a Bedlington Terrier on his head. Sold by Tottenham in August 1977 for £40,000 after they were relegated because the manager, Keith Burkinshaw, thought Barry Daines a better long-term bet, Jennings played a further 327 games for Arsenal, appeared in three successive FA Cup finals, winning one, and the Cup Winners’ Cup final defeat by Valencia. He was Northern Ireland’s first choice at two World Cups at the ages of 37 and 41 while Spurs took four years to replace him adequately in 1981 with Ray Clemence. At a stroke Tottenham sold their greatest ever goalkeeper to their biggest rivals for a song. He didn’t want to leave but his club essentially wrote him off at the age of 32, weakened their own side and strengthened Arsenal’s. The going rate for a goalkeeper of rare talent still in his prime? The £270,000 Forest paid Stoke for Peter Shilton a month later. Gordon Strachan: Manchester United to Leeds Gordon Strachan, right, left Manchester United, where he won the FA Cup, for Leeds United, where he won the title Credit: Brian Smith for The Telegraph In 1989 Gordon Strachan made the journey from Lancashire to Yorkshire that Bobby Collins had taken 17 years earlier when signing for Leeds from Everton and also delivered Leeds from Second Division purgatory. There are other glorious swansongs in the game’s rich past when a veteran’s impact in galvanising young teams was as important as anything he did on the field. In the 1980s Kevin Keegan did it at Newcastle, Johan Cruyff and Arnold Muhren at Ajax and Franz Beckenbauer at Hamburg, but Strachan was arguably the last. Now the biggest clubs tend to wring every drop from an elite player's body and soul while pay packets fulfil all their ambitions so it’s unlikely that a Championship club could attract a veteran international and task him with a mission to set the tenor of a rejuvenation project. Strachan was 32 when he left Old Trafford for Elland Road, over-familiar with Alex Ferguson after almost nine years together at Aberdeen and Manchester United. Ferguson, too, had had enough and felt a fresh start would benefit both parties. It certainly benefited Strachan who led Leeds to promotion in his first full season followed by a fourth-place top-flight finish and then, thrillingly, the title from Manchester United by four points. Even in his 39th year, when he left Leeds for Coventry, his drive was undiminished and his exacting standards ensured everyone was motivated and desperate to match them. The £300,000 he cost Leeds was the canniest investment Howard Wilkinson ever made. Manchester United were left without an orthodox right-sided midfielder for a couple of seasons until Ferguson signed Andrei Kanchelskis in 1991, the same year Strachan had been named, like Collins before him in 1965, Footballer of Year at the age of 34. Peter Beardsley: Liverpool to Everton Beardsley with John Barnes after winning his second title at Anfield in 1990 Credit: Dan Smith /Allsport No one has forged such a high number of prolific partnerships with out-and-out goalscorers than Peter Beardsley before or since. At his very best during his first spell at Newcastle with Kevin Keegan, at Liverpool he paired up with John Aldridge and then Ian Rush, with Tony Cottee at Everton and then with Andy Cole and Les Ferdinand in his second spell at St James’ Park. One can criticise Graham Taylor's time as England's manager for any number of reasons, but the most cardinal sin was his jettisoning of Beardsley, which diminished Gary Lineker and effectively turned him into little more than a goalhanger. That was an error of two-for-the-price-of-one proportions. If a player of Beardsley's ability was available now, one whose intelligence brought the best out of so many partners while scoring more than 200 goals himself, there would be little cavilling at a fee of more than £50m. In different times Graeme Souness sold the 30-year-old to Everton in 1991 for £1m, a not inconsiderable sum but peanuts compared with his true value, as Newcastle would show when paying more for him two years later. Peter Beardsley scored for both sides in the Merseyside derby Credit: Shaun Botterill/Allsport There were times during his four seasons at Anfield when Kenny Dalglish seemed equivocal about his talents - dropping him for the title decider with Arsenal in 1989, buying David Speedie to replace him in the winter of 1990-91 - and Souness seems to have picked up on that lack of faith while also wanting to fund a statement signing of his own during his first close season at Anfield. The fact he went for the bullocking Dean Saunders, more rumbustious, infinitely less refined, paid £2.5m but ditched him at a loss within 12 months tells us more about Souness than it does about Beardsley who went on to have six more years at the top, scored 89 more goals and made half a century more. Matthias Sammer: Inter to Borussia Dortmund Matthias Sammer, the heir to Franz Beckenbauer Credit: Action Images In 1996 Matthias Sammer became only the second defender in 40 years to win the Ballon d’Or, following in the Trefoil bootsteps of his compatriot and fellow sweeper, Franz Beckenbauer. He was player of the tournament during Germany’s victory at Euro 96 and, like his illustrious predecessor, a converted midfielder whose reading of the game, exemplary leadership and positional skills, class and composure on the ball gave him a kind of omnipresence, smoothly interceding to whip the ball away from danger when the opposition pierced the lines. A ball hog, his passing range was limited but defined by unerring precision, his long sweeping runs upfield from the back, timed meticulously, would accelerate with the tough grace of an armour-plated ministerial Daimler. Sammer moved to Inter for £5.1m in the summer of 1992 after winning the Bundesliga in his second season at Stuttgart where he was employed as a defensive midfielder rather than the libero he would become at Borussia Dortmund. It’s a matter of only a few yards’ difference but it made a world of difference, harnessing his defensive instincts while giving him the space to make the play with those magnificent sorties. Inter signed him in 1991 but let him stay on at Stuttgart because they already had their three overseas players - Sammer’s Germany team-mates Lothar Matthaus, Andreas Brehme and Jurgen Klinsmann - and when he did arrive were surprised to find he had not mastered a single word of Italian. Osvaldo Bagnoli played him as an advanced midfielder in a counter-attacking system designed to exploit the pace of Ruben Sosa. Sammer scored four goals in 11 Serie A appearances but found the tactics too rigid and refused to put down roots. Il Messagero reported that he was living out of suitcases in his lakeside villa with his TV propped up on a tea chest the only furniture apart from a bed. Inter, spoilt by Matthaus, Brehme and Klinsmann who had loved the club, the country and mastered the language, were as fed up with a player who had just about learnt to say ‘Ciao’ by December as he was with life and work in Italy. They cut their losses after five months and sold him for £4.8m to Dortmund. There, Ottmar Hitzfeld dropped him from in front of the back four to behind it and he won his second and third Bundesliga titles and the Champions League in 1997. A serious knee injury shortly after the final ended his career at the age of 30 having played only three more games. Claude Makélelé: Real Madrid to Chelsea Makelele tackles David Batty of Leeds United at the Bernabeu in 2001 Credit: REUTERS/Desmond Boylan The second coming of Florentino Pérez as president of Real Madrid has been defined and improved by learning from the errors he made during his first spell at the Bernabéu. Then, the preening pomposity of his galáctico project, bit him on the backside when he deemed a manager and a player who were integral to the success lacked the requisite glamour to play for his marketing machine. In the summer of 2003, after winning La Liga, Vicente Del Bosque was sacked and Claude Makélelé, the players’ player of the year, was knocked back when he went to negotiate a pay rise that reflected his contribution. He wasn’t asking for parity with Luis Figo, Ronaldo, Zinedine Zidane and David Beckham but nor did he expect Pérez to refuse flatly and then disparage him when he handed in a transfer request. “We will not miss Makélelé,” said Pérez. “His technique is average, he lacks the speed and skill to take the ball past opponents, and ninety percent of his distribution either goes backwards or sideways. He wasn't a header of the ball and he rarely passed the ball more than three metres. Younger players will arrive who will cause Makélelé to be forgotten.” He went to Chelsea for £16.8m, won two league titles and must have felt more than a frisson of schadenfreude over the next three years that Real Madrid won nothing, the only central midfielder bought to replace him was Thomas Gravesen, Pérez walked away and more than a decade on instead of being forgotten Makélelé is recognised as the pivotal player in a team that did not fulfil its potential. And his sale amounted to one of the greatest acts of self-hobbling in the game’s history. Gary Cahill: Aston Villa to Bolton Gary Cahill spent three full seasons at Bolton after Aston Villa sold him and six months after he left the Reebok he won the Champions League Credit: Action Images / Lee Smith Gary Cahill was always the odd man out at Aston Villa, enjoying his best season in 2006-07 at the club he joined as a trainee when filling in for the tremendous but injury-ravaged Martin Laursen. In the autumn of the following season he signed for Sheffield United on loan and impressed so much that Gary Megson agreed a deal with Villa to take the 22-year-old to Bolton Wanderers for £5m. One can understand the logic for Martin O’Neill selling him - Laursen was imperious at the back that season, Olof Mellberg was as reliable as ever and he had just signed Zat Knight but it wasn’t to last and the fragile Laursen broke down, this time for good, within the year. And yet Cahill displayed enormous promise and lacked only experience. In three full seasons at Bolton he became an England squad regular, displaying his robustness in the tackle, power in the air and pace to correct most mistakes even if he was sometimes slack in possession and caught dithering on the ball. In January 2012 Chelsea bought him for £7m, taking advantage of Bolton’s toils on and off the field and he won the FA Cup and Champions League in his first five months. Since then he has earned two titles, the first in a Jose Mourinho back-four, the second as Antonio Conte’s captain in a back three where the beauty of his manager’s system was that it gave the captain little to do but counted on the acuteness of his antennae and astuteness of positioning to prevent it falling apart. In the two years after letting Cahill go, Villa paid more for each of Carlos Cuélar, Curtis Davies, James Collins and Richard Dunne, none of whom were as durable of the future England captain they let go. Andrea Pirlo: Milan to Juventus Milan's Andrea Pirlo turns away from Arsenal's Aleksandr Hleb Credit: Stu Forster/Getty Images If Inter’s decision to let Andrea Pirlo leave for Milan in 2001 seems a poor one, we can partially exonerate them because they received more than £13m for him and they were reluctant to play him in his optimum position as a deep-lying playmaker where he had excelled on loan at Brescia. Inter used Gigi Di Biagio there, as did Italy, and decided to liquidate their asset, investing the proceeds in Mohamed Kallon and Emre. During a decade in the black and red, Pirlo became the most elegant midfielder in the game, redefining the concept of a holding midfielder as more an advanced sweeper than a wall and exploiting his immaculate control and mastery of the arcing, rapidly dipping long pass to manipulate and often bypass the opposition’s midfield and defence. He won two Champions Leagues and two Serie A titles, the last Scudetto in his final season when he played a mere 17 times because the manager, Max Allegri, preferred the more orthodox defensive style of Mark van Bommel. That summer the club decided to retain the 35-year-old Clarence Seedorf and the 33-year-old Rino Gattuso and let Pirlo, 32, move on to Juventus where he won four successive titles and grew the fuzz that made him the mango-IPA-drinkers’ as well as the purists’ favourite player. Pirlo played 119 Serie A matches for Juve, made it to another Champions League final and finally left for MLS in 2015 while Seedorf and Gattuso managed a further 24 league matches between them for Milan. Don’t stroke your chin too vigorously at that misjudgment, it will play havoc with your beard. Kevin De Bruyne: Chelsea to Wolfsburg; Romelu Lukaku: Chelsea to Everton; Mo Salah: Chelsea to Roma Kevin De Bruyne traps the ball during Chelsea's match against Hull City in 2013 Credit: EDDIE KEOGH/REUTERS Chelsea made a commendable profit on Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku and Mohamed Salah when they sold the first two in 2014 and the Egypt forward two years later after long loan spells with Fiorentina and Roma, raking in almost £30m for players who made 43 appearances between them. A nice little earner that reflects well on Chelsea’s scouting and development system. But one can’t help thinking - despite the protestations of Frank Lampard and John Terry who have praised the players for leaving but insist it does not reflect badly on the club that has, like the cliched shark, to keep moving forward or die - that a little more patience, a few more opportunities and a touch more inflexibility when they held the upper hand would have better served them. Yes, Jose Mourinho wanted money to invest in players of his own choosing and no one could predict that each would improve so swiftly that they have become three of the most vibrant and valuable talents in the game. That was down to them and their dedication. Salah scores Chelsea's sixth in the 6-0 thrashing of Arsenal in March 2014 Credit: GLYN KIRK/AFP But someone at Stamford Bridge must have noted how assiduous each of them was, divined their characters or been swayed by their diligence and ambition. Chelsea’s loss - compounded by the lack of buy-back clauses - has been three rivals’ gain and has to represent a monstrous, three-headed blunder.
Sold too soon: the other side of transfer market blunders
The closing of the transfer window inspires the habitual churning out of the worst transfers ever, like bedtime stories that lose none of their allure in the biannual retelling. “Tell us the one about Bosko Balaban, again, Dad. How much? Did Tommy Brolin really turn up at Elland Road with a Space Hopper up his gansey? Yes, I’m sure Bebe looked a world-beater on video.” But those old, familiar tales represent only one side of the ledger: purchases commonly ridiculed in hindsight. The other classification, routinely overlooked, is the premature and mistaken disposal. It’s a difficult category to define. For the sake of fairness one should strip out clubs who sold because they were financially strapped, players who went for fees too good to turn down and also those who acted the meddlesome priest, agitating for transfers and allowed to move on simply to be rid of them. The focus is on sales such as Nemanja Matic's not the ones like Diego Costa's. Here, then, are some of the managerial misjudgments, players discarded too soon for any number of reasons: poor form trumping class, undervaluation, prejudice, ageism or a simple miscalculation. Frank McLintock: Arsenal to QPR When Bertie Mee dropped Arsenal’s Double-winning captain Frank McLintock during the 1972-73 season, the 33-year-old Scot, whose skill and drive had helped transform the club and his own career in a glorious Indian summer, was devastated. Frank McLintock completes the Double in 1971 and celebrates with Charlie George who scored that unforgettable goal Credit: Allsport Hulton/Archive Mee’s decision to replace the classy, inspirational centre-back with the ponderous, ham-footed colossus, Jeff Blockley, beggared belief and has to be interpreted as Mee’s attempt to wrest control of the club back from the dressing room and its charismatic leader. McLintock remembers that he wept when he went to see Mee, the tears splashing off his Arsenal blazer after finding his manager obdurate to his claims for a recall. He felt he had no choice but to ask for a transfer - which Mee granted but turned down his request either to be allowed to leave on a free to negotiate a better deal with a new club or to grant him the testimonial he would have been due if he could have stomached six more months in the reserves. Mee told him that the 10 years’ qualification for a testimonial would not be altered to suit him and seeing he was six months short he would have to lump it. McLintock left for newly-promoted QPR for £25,000 at the end of the season, Arsenal’s failure to inform him of a late bid from Derby County’s Brian Clough, champions in 1972, the final insult. He gave four years of outstanding service to QPR, masterly on the field and in the dressing room during Rangers’ greatest ever season, 1975-76, when they lost out on the title by a single point after Liverpool turned a 0-1 deficit to Wolves with 14 minutes to go into a 3-1 victory in their final game, 10 days after QPR had completed their fixtures. Arsenal, meanwhile, replaced the hopeless Blockley with the rugged 32-year-old Terry Mancini from QPR in 1974, failing to understand that in his year playing alongside McLintock that it was his partner who had made him look half decent. Mee stood down in 1976 after successive 16th- and 17th-placed finishes, his determination to break up his Double-winning side having all but fatally weakened it. Pat Jennings: Tottenham to Arsenal Pat Jennings joined Arsenal from Spurs in 1977 Credit: PA Pan-handed colossus whose gloveless mitts, or “Lurgan shovels” as his former Northern Ireland team-mate and manager Billy Bingham called them, were put to devastating effect to steal the ball, one handed, off forwards’ foreheads a fraction of a second before impact. Miserly and resilient as he was during seven seasons as a first-team regular at Arsenal, he was finer still at Tottenham, an innovative and unorthodox keeper who was masterly at scrambling across his box, efficiently used any part of his body to block the ball and commanded the penalty area with a calm authority. He maintained his agility and elasticity well into his late 30s and managed for most of his career without gloves and, for the latter half of it, with what appeared to be a Bedlington Terrier on his head. Sold by Tottenham in August 1977 for £40,000 after they were relegated because the manager, Keith Burkinshaw, thought Barry Daines a better long-term bet, Jennings played a further 327 games for Arsenal, appeared in three successive FA Cup finals, winning one, and the Cup Winners’ Cup final defeat by Valencia. He was Northern Ireland’s first choice at two World Cups at the ages of 37 and 41 while Spurs took four years to replace him adequately in 1981 with Ray Clemence. At a stroke Tottenham sold their greatest ever goalkeeper to their biggest rivals for a song. He didn’t want to leave but his club essentially wrote him off at the age of 32, weakened their own side and strengthened Arsenal’s. The going rate for a goalkeeper of rare talent still in his prime? The £270,000 Forest paid Stoke for Peter Shilton a month later. Gordon Strachan: Manchester United to Leeds Gordon Strachan, right, left Manchester United, where he won the FA Cup, for Leeds United, where he won the title Credit: Brian Smith for The Telegraph In 1989 Gordon Strachan made the journey from Lancashire to Yorkshire that Bobby Collins had taken 17 years earlier when signing for Leeds from Everton and also delivered Leeds from Second Division purgatory. There are other glorious swansongs in the game’s rich past when a veteran’s impact in galvanising young teams was as important as anything he did on the field. In the 1980s Kevin Keegan did it at Newcastle, Johan Cruyff and Arnold Muhren at Ajax and Franz Beckenbauer at Hamburg, but Strachan was arguably the last. Now the biggest clubs tend to wring every drop from an elite player's body and soul while pay packets fulfil all their ambitions so it’s unlikely that a Championship club could attract a veteran international and task him with a mission to set the tenor of a rejuvenation project. Strachan was 32 when he left Old Trafford for Elland Road, over-familiar with Alex Ferguson after almost nine years together at Aberdeen and Manchester United. Ferguson, too, had had enough and felt a fresh start would benefit both parties. It certainly benefited Strachan who led Leeds to promotion in his first full season followed by a fourth-place top-flight finish and then, thrillingly, the title from Manchester United by four points. Even in his 39th year, when he left Leeds for Coventry, his drive was undiminished and his exacting standards ensured everyone was motivated and desperate to match them. The £300,000 he cost Leeds was the canniest investment Howard Wilkinson ever made. Manchester United were left without an orthodox right-sided midfielder for a couple of seasons until Ferguson signed Andrei Kanchelskis in 1991, the same year Strachan had been named, like Collins before him in 1965, Footballer of Year at the age of 34. Peter Beardsley: Liverpool to Everton Beardsley with John Barnes after winning his second title at Anfield in 1990 Credit: Dan Smith /Allsport No one has forged such a high number of prolific partnerships with out-and-out goalscorers than Peter Beardsley before or since. At his very best during his first spell at Newcastle with Kevin Keegan, at Liverpool he paired up with John Aldridge and then Ian Rush, with Tony Cottee at Everton and then with Andy Cole and Les Ferdinand in his second spell at St James’ Park. One can criticise Graham Taylor's time as England's manager for any number of reasons, but the most cardinal sin was his jettisoning of Beardsley, which diminished Gary Lineker and effectively turned him into little more than a goalhanger. That was an error of two-for-the-price-of-one proportions. If a player of Beardsley's ability was available now, one whose intelligence brought the best out of so many partners while scoring more than 200 goals himself, there would be little cavilling at a fee of more than £50m. In different times Graeme Souness sold the 30-year-old to Everton in 1991 for £1m, a not inconsiderable sum but peanuts compared with his true value, as Newcastle would show when paying more for him two years later. Peter Beardsley scored for both sides in the Merseyside derby Credit: Shaun Botterill/Allsport There were times during his four seasons at Anfield when Kenny Dalglish seemed equivocal about his talents - dropping him for the title decider with Arsenal in 1989, buying David Speedie to replace him in the winter of 1990-91 - and Souness seems to have picked up on that lack of faith while also wanting to fund a statement signing of his own during his first close season at Anfield. The fact he went for the bullocking Dean Saunders, more rumbustious, infinitely less refined, paid £2.5m but ditched him at a loss within 12 months tells us more about Souness than it does about Beardsley who went on to have six more years at the top, scored 89 more goals and made half a century more. Matthias Sammer: Inter to Borussia Dortmund Matthias Sammer, the heir to Franz Beckenbauer Credit: Action Images In 1996 Matthias Sammer became only the second defender in 40 years to win the Ballon d’Or, following in the Trefoil bootsteps of his compatriot and fellow sweeper, Franz Beckenbauer. He was player of the tournament during Germany’s victory at Euro 96 and, like his illustrious predecessor, a converted midfielder whose reading of the game, exemplary leadership and positional skills, class and composure on the ball gave him a kind of omnipresence, smoothly interceding to whip the ball away from danger when the opposition pierced the lines. A ball hog, his passing range was limited but defined by unerring precision, his long sweeping runs upfield from the back, timed meticulously, would accelerate with the tough grace of an armour-plated ministerial Daimler. Sammer moved to Inter for £5.1m in the summer of 1992 after winning the Bundesliga in his second season at Stuttgart where he was employed as a defensive midfielder rather than the libero he would become at Borussia Dortmund. It’s a matter of only a few yards’ difference but it made a world of difference, harnessing his defensive instincts while giving him the space to make the play with those magnificent sorties. Inter signed him in 1991 but let him stay on at Stuttgart because they already had their three overseas players - Sammer’s Germany team-mates Lothar Matthaus, Andreas Brehme and Jurgen Klinsmann - and when he did arrive were surprised to find he had not mastered a single word of Italian. Osvaldo Bagnoli played him as an advanced midfielder in a counter-attacking system designed to exploit the pace of Ruben Sosa. Sammer scored four goals in 11 Serie A appearances but found the tactics too rigid and refused to put down roots. Il Messagero reported that he was living out of suitcases in his lakeside villa with his TV propped up on a tea chest the only furniture apart from a bed. Inter, spoilt by Matthaus, Brehme and Klinsmann who had loved the club, the country and mastered the language, were as fed up with a player who had just about learnt to say ‘Ciao’ by December as he was with life and work in Italy. They cut their losses after five months and sold him for £4.8m to Dortmund. There, Ottmar Hitzfeld dropped him from in front of the back four to behind it and he won his second and third Bundesliga titles and the Champions League in 1997. A serious knee injury shortly after the final ended his career at the age of 30 having played only three more games. Claude Makélelé: Real Madrid to Chelsea Makelele tackles David Batty of Leeds United at the Bernabeu in 2001 Credit: REUTERS/Desmond Boylan The second coming of Florentino Pérez as president of Real Madrid has been defined and improved by learning from the errors he made during his first spell at the Bernabéu. Then, the preening pomposity of his galáctico project, bit him on the backside when he deemed a manager and a player who were integral to the success lacked the requisite glamour to play for his marketing machine. In the summer of 2003, after winning La Liga, Vicente Del Bosque was sacked and Claude Makélelé, the players’ player of the year, was knocked back when he went to negotiate a pay rise that reflected his contribution. He wasn’t asking for parity with Luis Figo, Ronaldo, Zinedine Zidane and David Beckham but nor did he expect Pérez to refuse flatly and then disparage him when he handed in a transfer request. “We will not miss Makélelé,” said Pérez. “His technique is average, he lacks the speed and skill to take the ball past opponents, and ninety percent of his distribution either goes backwards or sideways. He wasn't a header of the ball and he rarely passed the ball more than three metres. Younger players will arrive who will cause Makélelé to be forgotten.” He went to Chelsea for £16.8m, won two league titles and must have felt more than a frisson of schadenfreude over the next three years that Real Madrid won nothing, the only central midfielder bought to replace him was Thomas Gravesen, Pérez walked away and more than a decade on instead of being forgotten Makélelé is recognised as the pivotal player in a team that did not fulfil its potential. And his sale amounted to one of the greatest acts of self-hobbling in the game’s history. Gary Cahill: Aston Villa to Bolton Gary Cahill spent three full seasons at Bolton after Aston Villa sold him and six months after he left the Reebok he won the Champions League Credit: Action Images / Lee Smith Gary Cahill was always the odd man out at Aston Villa, enjoying his best season in 2006-07 at the club he joined as a trainee when filling in for the tremendous but injury-ravaged Martin Laursen. In the autumn of the following season he signed for Sheffield United on loan and impressed so much that Gary Megson agreed a deal with Villa to take the 22-year-old to Bolton Wanderers for £5m. One can understand the logic for Martin O’Neill selling him - Laursen was imperious at the back that season, Olof Mellberg was as reliable as ever and he had just signed Zat Knight but it wasn’t to last and the fragile Laursen broke down, this time for good, within the year. And yet Cahill displayed enormous promise and lacked only experience. In three full seasons at Bolton he became an England squad regular, displaying his robustness in the tackle, power in the air and pace to correct most mistakes even if he was sometimes slack in possession and caught dithering on the ball. In January 2012 Chelsea bought him for £7m, taking advantage of Bolton’s toils on and off the field and he won the FA Cup and Champions League in his first five months. Since then he has earned two titles, the first in a Jose Mourinho back-four, the second as Antonio Conte’s captain in a back three where the beauty of his manager’s system was that it gave the captain little to do but counted on the acuteness of his antennae and astuteness of positioning to prevent it falling apart. In the two years after letting Cahill go, Villa paid more for each of Carlos Cuélar, Curtis Davies, James Collins and Richard Dunne, none of whom were as durable of the future England captain they let go. Andrea Pirlo: Milan to Juventus Milan's Andrea Pirlo turns away from Arsenal's Aleksandr Hleb Credit: Stu Forster/Getty Images If Inter’s decision to let Andrea Pirlo leave for Milan in 2001 seems a poor one, we can partially exonerate them because they received more than £13m for him and they were reluctant to play him in his optimum position as a deep-lying playmaker where he had excelled on loan at Brescia. Inter used Gigi Di Biagio there, as did Italy, and decided to liquidate their asset, investing the proceeds in Mohamed Kallon and Emre. During a decade in the black and red, Pirlo became the most elegant midfielder in the game, redefining the concept of a holding midfielder as more an advanced sweeper than a wall and exploiting his immaculate control and mastery of the arcing, rapidly dipping long pass to manipulate and often bypass the opposition’s midfield and defence. He won two Champions Leagues and two Serie A titles, the last Scudetto in his final season when he played a mere 17 times because the manager, Max Allegri, preferred the more orthodox defensive style of Mark van Bommel. That summer the club decided to retain the 35-year-old Clarence Seedorf and the 33-year-old Rino Gattuso and let Pirlo, 32, move on to Juventus where he won four successive titles and grew the fuzz that made him the mango-IPA-drinkers’ as well as the purists’ favourite player. Pirlo played 119 Serie A matches for Juve, made it to another Champions League final and finally left for MLS in 2015 while Seedorf and Gattuso managed a further 24 league matches between them for Milan. Don’t stroke your chin too vigorously at that misjudgment, it will play havoc with your beard. Kevin De Bruyne: Chelsea to Wolfsburg; Romelu Lukaku: Chelsea to Everton; Mo Salah: Chelsea to Roma Kevin De Bruyne traps the ball during Chelsea's match against Hull City in 2013 Credit: EDDIE KEOGH/REUTERS Chelsea made a commendable profit on Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku and Mohamed Salah when they sold the first two in 2014 and the Egypt forward two years later after long loan spells with Fiorentina and Roma, raking in almost £30m for players who made 43 appearances between them. A nice little earner that reflects well on Chelsea’s scouting and development system. But one can’t help thinking - despite the protestations of Frank Lampard and John Terry who have praised the players for leaving but insist it does not reflect badly on the club that has, like the cliched shark, to keep moving forward or die - that a little more patience, a few more opportunities and a touch more inflexibility when they held the upper hand would have better served them. Yes, Jose Mourinho wanted money to invest in players of his own choosing and no one could predict that each would improve so swiftly that they have become three of the most vibrant and valuable talents in the game. That was down to them and their dedication. Salah scores Chelsea's sixth in the 6-0 thrashing of Arsenal in March 2014 Credit: GLYN KIRK/AFP But someone at Stamford Bridge must have noted how assiduous each of them was, divined their characters or been swayed by their diligence and ambition. Chelsea’s loss - compounded by the lack of buy-back clauses - has been three rivals’ gain and has to represent a monstrous, three-headed blunder.
The closing of the transfer window inspires the habitual churning out of the worst transfers ever, like bedtime stories that lose none of their allure in the biannual retelling. “Tell us the one about Bosko Balaban, again, Dad. How much? Did Tommy Brolin really turn up at Elland Road with a Space Hopper up his gansey? Yes, I’m sure Bebe looked a world-beater on video.” But those old, familiar tales represent only one side of the ledger: purchases commonly ridiculed in hindsight. The other classification, routinely overlooked, is the premature and mistaken disposal. It’s a difficult category to define. For the sake of fairness one should strip out clubs who sold because they were financially strapped, players who went for fees too good to turn down and also those who acted the meddlesome priest, agitating for transfers and allowed to move on simply to be rid of them. The focus is on sales such as Nemanja Matic's not the ones like Diego Costa's. Here, then, are some of the managerial misjudgments, players discarded too soon for any number of reasons: poor form trumping class, undervaluation, prejudice, ageism or a simple miscalculation. Frank McLintock: Arsenal to QPR When Bertie Mee dropped Arsenal’s Double-winning captain Frank McLintock during the 1972-73 season, the 33-year-old Scot, whose skill and drive had helped transform the club and his own career in a glorious Indian summer, was devastated. Frank McLintock completes the Double in 1971 and celebrates with Charlie George who scored that unforgettable goal Credit: Allsport Hulton/Archive Mee’s decision to replace the classy, inspirational centre-back with the ponderous, ham-footed colossus, Jeff Blockley, beggared belief and has to be interpreted as Mee’s attempt to wrest control of the club back from the dressing room and its charismatic leader. McLintock remembers that he wept when he went to see Mee, the tears splashing off his Arsenal blazer after finding his manager obdurate to his claims for a recall. He felt he had no choice but to ask for a transfer - which Mee granted but turned down his request either to be allowed to leave on a free to negotiate a better deal with a new club or to grant him the testimonial he would have been due if he could have stomached six more months in the reserves. Mee told him that the 10 years’ qualification for a testimonial would not be altered to suit him and seeing he was six months short he would have to lump it. McLintock left for newly-promoted QPR for £25,000 at the end of the season, Arsenal’s failure to inform him of a late bid from Derby County’s Brian Clough, champions in 1972, the final insult. He gave four years of outstanding service to QPR, masterly on the field and in the dressing room during Rangers’ greatest ever season, 1975-76, when they lost out on the title by a single point after Liverpool turned a 0-1 deficit to Wolves with 14 minutes to go into a 3-1 victory in their final game, 10 days after QPR had completed their fixtures. Arsenal, meanwhile, replaced the hopeless Blockley with the rugged 32-year-old Terry Mancini from QPR in 1974, failing to understand that in his year playing alongside McLintock that it was his partner who had made him look half decent. Mee stood down in 1976 after successive 16th- and 17th-placed finishes, his determination to break up his Double-winning side having all but fatally weakened it. Pat Jennings: Tottenham to Arsenal Pat Jennings joined Arsenal from Spurs in 1977 Credit: PA Pan-handed colossus whose gloveless mitts, or “Lurgan shovels” as his former Northern Ireland team-mate and manager Billy Bingham called them, were put to devastating effect to steal the ball, one handed, off forwards’ foreheads a fraction of a second before impact. Miserly and resilient as he was during seven seasons as a first-team regular at Arsenal, he was finer still at Tottenham, an innovative and unorthodox keeper who was masterly at scrambling across his box, efficiently used any part of his body to block the ball and commanded the penalty area with a calm authority. He maintained his agility and elasticity well into his late 30s and managed for most of his career without gloves and, for the latter half of it, with what appeared to be a Bedlington Terrier on his head. Sold by Tottenham in August 1977 for £40,000 after they were relegated because the manager, Keith Burkinshaw, thought Barry Daines a better long-term bet, Jennings played a further 327 games for Arsenal, appeared in three successive FA Cup finals, winning one, and the Cup Winners’ Cup final defeat by Valencia. He was Northern Ireland’s first choice at two World Cups at the ages of 37 and 41 while Spurs took four years to replace him adequately in 1981 with Ray Clemence. At a stroke Tottenham sold their greatest ever goalkeeper to their biggest rivals for a song. He didn’t want to leave but his club essentially wrote him off at the age of 32, weakened their own side and strengthened Arsenal’s. The going rate for a goalkeeper of rare talent still in his prime? The £270,000 Forest paid Stoke for Peter Shilton a month later. Gordon Strachan: Manchester United to Leeds Gordon Strachan, right, left Manchester United, where he won the FA Cup, for Leeds United, where he won the title Credit: Brian Smith for The Telegraph In 1989 Gordon Strachan made the journey from Lancashire to Yorkshire that Bobby Collins had taken 17 years earlier when signing for Leeds from Everton and also delivered Leeds from Second Division purgatory. There are other glorious swansongs in the game’s rich past when a veteran’s impact in galvanising young teams was as important as anything he did on the field. In the 1980s Kevin Keegan did it at Newcastle, Johan Cruyff and Arnold Muhren at Ajax and Franz Beckenbauer at Hamburg, but Strachan was arguably the last. Now the biggest clubs tend to wring every drop from an elite player's body and soul while pay packets fulfil all their ambitions so it’s unlikely that a Championship club could attract a veteran international and task him with a mission to set the tenor of a rejuvenation project. Strachan was 32 when he left Old Trafford for Elland Road, over-familiar with Alex Ferguson after almost nine years together at Aberdeen and Manchester United. Ferguson, too, had had enough and felt a fresh start would benefit both parties. It certainly benefited Strachan who led Leeds to promotion in his first full season followed by a fourth-place top-flight finish and then, thrillingly, the title from Manchester United by four points. Even in his 39th year, when he left Leeds for Coventry, his drive was undiminished and his exacting standards ensured everyone was motivated and desperate to match them. The £300,000 he cost Leeds was the canniest investment Howard Wilkinson ever made. Manchester United were left without an orthodox right-sided midfielder for a couple of seasons until Ferguson signed Andrei Kanchelskis in 1991, the same year Strachan had been named, like Collins before him in 1965, Footballer of Year at the age of 34. Peter Beardsley: Liverpool to Everton Beardsley with John Barnes after winning his second title at Anfield in 1990 Credit: Dan Smith /Allsport No one has forged such a high number of prolific partnerships with out-and-out goalscorers than Peter Beardsley before or since. At his very best during his first spell at Newcastle with Kevin Keegan, at Liverpool he paired up with John Aldridge and then Ian Rush, with Tony Cottee at Everton and then with Andy Cole and Les Ferdinand in his second spell at St James’ Park. One can criticise Graham Taylor's time as England's manager for any number of reasons, but the most cardinal sin was his jettisoning of Beardsley, which diminished Gary Lineker and effectively turned him into little more than a goalhanger. That was an error of two-for-the-price-of-one proportions. If a player of Beardsley's ability was available now, one whose intelligence brought the best out of so many partners while scoring more than 200 goals himself, there would be little cavilling at a fee of more than £50m. In different times Graeme Souness sold the 30-year-old to Everton in 1991 for £1m, a not inconsiderable sum but peanuts compared with his true value, as Newcastle would show when paying more for him two years later. Peter Beardsley scored for both sides in the Merseyside derby Credit: Shaun Botterill/Allsport There were times during his four seasons at Anfield when Kenny Dalglish seemed equivocal about his talents - dropping him for the title decider with Arsenal in 1989, buying David Speedie to replace him in the winter of 1990-91 - and Souness seems to have picked up on that lack of faith while also wanting to fund a statement signing of his own during his first close season at Anfield. The fact he went for the bullocking Dean Saunders, more rumbustious, infinitely less refined, paid £2.5m but ditched him at a loss within 12 months tells us more about Souness than it does about Beardsley who went on to have six more years at the top, scored 89 more goals and made half a century more. Matthias Sammer: Inter to Borussia Dortmund Matthias Sammer, the heir to Franz Beckenbauer Credit: Action Images In 1996 Matthias Sammer became only the second defender in 40 years to win the Ballon d’Or, following in the Trefoil bootsteps of his compatriot and fellow sweeper, Franz Beckenbauer. He was player of the tournament during Germany’s victory at Euro 96 and, like his illustrious predecessor, a converted midfielder whose reading of the game, exemplary leadership and positional skills, class and composure on the ball gave him a kind of omnipresence, smoothly interceding to whip the ball away from danger when the opposition pierced the lines. A ball hog, his passing range was limited but defined by unerring precision, his long sweeping runs upfield from the back, timed meticulously, would accelerate with the tough grace of an armour-plated ministerial Daimler. Sammer moved to Inter for £5.1m in the summer of 1992 after winning the Bundesliga in his second season at Stuttgart where he was employed as a defensive midfielder rather than the libero he would become at Borussia Dortmund. It’s a matter of only a few yards’ difference but it made a world of difference, harnessing his defensive instincts while giving him the space to make the play with those magnificent sorties. Inter signed him in 1991 but let him stay on at Stuttgart because they already had their three overseas players - Sammer’s Germany team-mates Lothar Matthaus, Andreas Brehme and Jurgen Klinsmann - and when he did arrive were surprised to find he had not mastered a single word of Italian. Osvaldo Bagnoli played him as an advanced midfielder in a counter-attacking system designed to exploit the pace of Ruben Sosa. Sammer scored four goals in 11 Serie A appearances but found the tactics too rigid and refused to put down roots. Il Messagero reported that he was living out of suitcases in his lakeside villa with his TV propped up on a tea chest the only furniture apart from a bed. Inter, spoilt by Matthaus, Brehme and Klinsmann who had loved the club, the country and mastered the language, were as fed up with a player who had just about learnt to say ‘Ciao’ by December as he was with life and work in Italy. They cut their losses after five months and sold him for £4.8m to Dortmund. There, Ottmar Hitzfeld dropped him from in front of the back four to behind it and he won his second and third Bundesliga titles and the Champions League in 1997. A serious knee injury shortly after the final ended his career at the age of 30 having played only three more games. Claude Makélelé: Real Madrid to Chelsea Makelele tackles David Batty of Leeds United at the Bernabeu in 2001 Credit: REUTERS/Desmond Boylan The second coming of Florentino Pérez as president of Real Madrid has been defined and improved by learning from the errors he made during his first spell at the Bernabéu. Then, the preening pomposity of his galáctico project, bit him on the backside when he deemed a manager and a player who were integral to the success lacked the requisite glamour to play for his marketing machine. In the summer of 2003, after winning La Liga, Vicente Del Bosque was sacked and Claude Makélelé, the players’ player of the year, was knocked back when he went to negotiate a pay rise that reflected his contribution. He wasn’t asking for parity with Luis Figo, Ronaldo, Zinedine Zidane and David Beckham but nor did he expect Pérez to refuse flatly and then disparage him when he handed in a transfer request. “We will not miss Makélelé,” said Pérez. “His technique is average, he lacks the speed and skill to take the ball past opponents, and ninety percent of his distribution either goes backwards or sideways. He wasn't a header of the ball and he rarely passed the ball more than three metres. Younger players will arrive who will cause Makélelé to be forgotten.” He went to Chelsea for £16.8m, won two league titles and must have felt more than a frisson of schadenfreude over the next three years that Real Madrid won nothing, the only central midfielder bought to replace him was Thomas Gravesen, Pérez walked away and more than a decade on instead of being forgotten Makélelé is recognised as the pivotal player in a team that did not fulfil its potential. And his sale amounted to one of the greatest acts of self-hobbling in the game’s history. Gary Cahill: Aston Villa to Bolton Gary Cahill spent three full seasons at Bolton after Aston Villa sold him and six months after he left the Reebok he won the Champions League Credit: Action Images / Lee Smith Gary Cahill was always the odd man out at Aston Villa, enjoying his best season in 2006-07 at the club he joined as a trainee when filling in for the tremendous but injury-ravaged Martin Laursen. In the autumn of the following season he signed for Sheffield United on loan and impressed so much that Gary Megson agreed a deal with Villa to take the 22-year-old to Bolton Wanderers for £5m. One can understand the logic for Martin O’Neill selling him - Laursen was imperious at the back that season, Olof Mellberg was as reliable as ever and he had just signed Zat Knight but it wasn’t to last and the fragile Laursen broke down, this time for good, within the year. And yet Cahill displayed enormous promise and lacked only experience. In three full seasons at Bolton he became an England squad regular, displaying his robustness in the tackle, power in the air and pace to correct most mistakes even if he was sometimes slack in possession and caught dithering on the ball. In January 2012 Chelsea bought him for £7m, taking advantage of Bolton’s toils on and off the field and he won the FA Cup and Champions League in his first five months. Since then he has earned two titles, the first in a Jose Mourinho back-four, the second as Antonio Conte’s captain in a back three where the beauty of his manager’s system was that it gave the captain little to do but counted on the acuteness of his antennae and astuteness of positioning to prevent it falling apart. In the two years after letting Cahill go, Villa paid more for each of Carlos Cuélar, Curtis Davies, James Collins and Richard Dunne, none of whom were as durable of the future England captain they let go. Andrea Pirlo: Milan to Juventus Milan's Andrea Pirlo turns away from Arsenal's Aleksandr Hleb Credit: Stu Forster/Getty Images If Inter’s decision to let Andrea Pirlo leave for Milan in 2001 seems a poor one, we can partially exonerate them because they received more than £13m for him and they were reluctant to play him in his optimum position as a deep-lying playmaker where he had excelled on loan at Brescia. Inter used Gigi Di Biagio there, as did Italy, and decided to liquidate their asset, investing the proceeds in Mohamed Kallon and Emre. During a decade in the black and red, Pirlo became the most elegant midfielder in the game, redefining the concept of a holding midfielder as more an advanced sweeper than a wall and exploiting his immaculate control and mastery of the arcing, rapidly dipping long pass to manipulate and often bypass the opposition’s midfield and defence. He won two Champions Leagues and two Serie A titles, the last Scudetto in his final season when he played a mere 17 times because the manager, Max Allegri, preferred the more orthodox defensive style of Mark van Bommel. That summer the club decided to retain the 35-year-old Clarence Seedorf and the 33-year-old Rino Gattuso and let Pirlo, 32, move on to Juventus where he won four successive titles and grew the fuzz that made him the mango-IPA-drinkers’ as well as the purists’ favourite player. Pirlo played 119 Serie A matches for Juve, made it to another Champions League final and finally left for MLS in 2015 while Seedorf and Gattuso managed a further 24 league matches between them for Milan. Don’t stroke your chin too vigorously at that misjudgment, it will play havoc with your beard. Kevin De Bruyne: Chelsea to Wolfsburg; Romelu Lukaku: Chelsea to Everton; Mo Salah: Chelsea to Roma Kevin De Bruyne traps the ball during Chelsea's match against Hull City in 2013 Credit: EDDIE KEOGH/REUTERS Chelsea made a commendable profit on Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku and Mohamed Salah when they sold the first two in 2014 and the Egypt forward two years later after long loan spells with Fiorentina and Roma, raking in almost £30m for players who made 43 appearances between them. A nice little earner that reflects well on Chelsea’s scouting and development system. But one can’t help thinking - despite the protestations of Frank Lampard and John Terry who have praised the players for leaving but insist it does not reflect badly on the club that has, like the cliched shark, to keep moving forward or die - that a little more patience, a few more opportunities and a touch more inflexibility when they held the upper hand would have better served them. Yes, Jose Mourinho wanted money to invest in players of his own choosing and no one could predict that each would improve so swiftly that they have become three of the most vibrant and valuable talents in the game. That was down to them and their dedication. Salah scores Chelsea's sixth in the 6-0 thrashing of Arsenal in March 2014 Credit: GLYN KIRK/AFP But someone at Stamford Bridge must have noted how assiduous each of them was, divined their characters or been swayed by their diligence and ambition. Chelsea’s loss - compounded by the lack of buy-back clauses - has been three rivals’ gain and has to represent a monstrous, three-headed blunder.
Sold too soon: the other side of transfer market blunders
The closing of the transfer window inspires the habitual churning out of the worst transfers ever, like bedtime stories that lose none of their allure in the biannual retelling. “Tell us the one about Bosko Balaban, again, Dad. How much? Did Tommy Brolin really turn up at Elland Road with a Space Hopper up his gansey? Yes, I’m sure Bebe looked a world-beater on video.” But those old, familiar tales represent only one side of the ledger: purchases commonly ridiculed in hindsight. The other classification, routinely overlooked, is the premature and mistaken disposal. It’s a difficult category to define. For the sake of fairness one should strip out clubs who sold because they were financially strapped, players who went for fees too good to turn down and also those who acted the meddlesome priest, agitating for transfers and allowed to move on simply to be rid of them. The focus is on sales such as Nemanja Matic's not the ones like Diego Costa's. Here, then, are some of the managerial misjudgments, players discarded too soon for any number of reasons: poor form trumping class, undervaluation, prejudice, ageism or a simple miscalculation. Frank McLintock: Arsenal to QPR When Bertie Mee dropped Arsenal’s Double-winning captain Frank McLintock during the 1972-73 season, the 33-year-old Scot, whose skill and drive had helped transform the club and his own career in a glorious Indian summer, was devastated. Frank McLintock completes the Double in 1971 and celebrates with Charlie George who scored that unforgettable goal Credit: Allsport Hulton/Archive Mee’s decision to replace the classy, inspirational centre-back with the ponderous, ham-footed colossus, Jeff Blockley, beggared belief and has to be interpreted as Mee’s attempt to wrest control of the club back from the dressing room and its charismatic leader. McLintock remembers that he wept when he went to see Mee, the tears splashing off his Arsenal blazer after finding his manager obdurate to his claims for a recall. He felt he had no choice but to ask for a transfer - which Mee granted but turned down his request either to be allowed to leave on a free to negotiate a better deal with a new club or to grant him the testimonial he would have been due if he could have stomached six more months in the reserves. Mee told him that the 10 years’ qualification for a testimonial would not be altered to suit him and seeing he was six months short he would have to lump it. McLintock left for newly-promoted QPR for £25,000 at the end of the season, Arsenal’s failure to inform him of a late bid from Derby County’s Brian Clough, champions in 1972, the final insult. He gave four years of outstanding service to QPR, masterly on the field and in the dressing room during Rangers’ greatest ever season, 1975-76, when they lost out on the title by a single point after Liverpool turned a 0-1 deficit to Wolves with 14 minutes to go into a 3-1 victory in their final game, 10 days after QPR had completed their fixtures. Arsenal, meanwhile, replaced the hopeless Blockley with the rugged 32-year-old Terry Mancini from QPR in 1974, failing to understand that in his year playing alongside McLintock that it was his partner who had made him look half decent. Mee stood down in 1976 after successive 16th- and 17th-placed finishes, his determination to break up his Double-winning side having all but fatally weakened it. Pat Jennings: Tottenham to Arsenal Pat Jennings joined Arsenal from Spurs in 1977 Credit: PA Pan-handed colossus whose gloveless mitts, or “Lurgan shovels” as his former Northern Ireland team-mate and manager Billy Bingham called them, were put to devastating effect to steal the ball, one handed, off forwards’ foreheads a fraction of a second before impact. Miserly and resilient as he was during seven seasons as a first-team regular at Arsenal, he was finer still at Tottenham, an innovative and unorthodox keeper who was masterly at scrambling across his box, efficiently used any part of his body to block the ball and commanded the penalty area with a calm authority. He maintained his agility and elasticity well into his late 30s and managed for most of his career without gloves and, for the latter half of it, with what appeared to be a Bedlington Terrier on his head. Sold by Tottenham in August 1977 for £40,000 after they were relegated because the manager, Keith Burkinshaw, thought Barry Daines a better long-term bet, Jennings played a further 327 games for Arsenal, appeared in three successive FA Cup finals, winning one, and the Cup Winners’ Cup final defeat by Valencia. He was Northern Ireland’s first choice at two World Cups at the ages of 37 and 41 while Spurs took four years to replace him adequately in 1981 with Ray Clemence. At a stroke Tottenham sold their greatest ever goalkeeper to their biggest rivals for a song. He didn’t want to leave but his club essentially wrote him off at the age of 32, weakened their own side and strengthened Arsenal’s. The going rate for a goalkeeper of rare talent still in his prime? The £270,000 Forest paid Stoke for Peter Shilton a month later. Gordon Strachan: Manchester United to Leeds Gordon Strachan, right, left Manchester United, where he won the FA Cup, for Leeds United, where he won the title Credit: Brian Smith for The Telegraph In 1989 Gordon Strachan made the journey from Lancashire to Yorkshire that Bobby Collins had taken 17 years earlier when signing for Leeds from Everton and also delivered Leeds from Second Division purgatory. There are other glorious swansongs in the game’s rich past when a veteran’s impact in galvanising young teams was as important as anything he did on the field. In the 1980s Kevin Keegan did it at Newcastle, Johan Cruyff and Arnold Muhren at Ajax and Franz Beckenbauer at Hamburg, but Strachan was arguably the last. Now the biggest clubs tend to wring every drop from an elite player's body and soul while pay packets fulfil all their ambitions so it’s unlikely that a Championship club could attract a veteran international and task him with a mission to set the tenor of a rejuvenation project. Strachan was 32 when he left Old Trafford for Elland Road, over-familiar with Alex Ferguson after almost nine years together at Aberdeen and Manchester United. Ferguson, too, had had enough and felt a fresh start would benefit both parties. It certainly benefited Strachan who led Leeds to promotion in his first full season followed by a fourth-place top-flight finish and then, thrillingly, the title from Manchester United by four points. Even in his 39th year, when he left Leeds for Coventry, his drive was undiminished and his exacting standards ensured everyone was motivated and desperate to match them. The £300,000 he cost Leeds was the canniest investment Howard Wilkinson ever made. Manchester United were left without an orthodox right-sided midfielder for a couple of seasons until Ferguson signed Andrei Kanchelskis in 1991, the same year Strachan had been named, like Collins before him in 1965, Footballer of Year at the age of 34. Peter Beardsley: Liverpool to Everton Beardsley with John Barnes after winning his second title at Anfield in 1990 Credit: Dan Smith /Allsport No one has forged such a high number of prolific partnerships with out-and-out goalscorers than Peter Beardsley before or since. At his very best during his first spell at Newcastle with Kevin Keegan, at Liverpool he paired up with John Aldridge and then Ian Rush, with Tony Cottee at Everton and then with Andy Cole and Les Ferdinand in his second spell at St James’ Park. One can criticise Graham Taylor's time as England's manager for any number of reasons, but the most cardinal sin was his jettisoning of Beardsley, which diminished Gary Lineker and effectively turned him into little more than a goalhanger. That was an error of two-for-the-price-of-one proportions. If a player of Beardsley's ability was available now, one whose intelligence brought the best out of so many partners while scoring more than 200 goals himself, there would be little cavilling at a fee of more than £50m. In different times Graeme Souness sold the 30-year-old to Everton in 1991 for £1m, a not inconsiderable sum but peanuts compared with his true value, as Newcastle would show when paying more for him two years later. Peter Beardsley scored for both sides in the Merseyside derby Credit: Shaun Botterill/Allsport There were times during his four seasons at Anfield when Kenny Dalglish seemed equivocal about his talents - dropping him for the title decider with Arsenal in 1989, buying David Speedie to replace him in the winter of 1990-91 - and Souness seems to have picked up on that lack of faith while also wanting to fund a statement signing of his own during his first close season at Anfield. The fact he went for the bullocking Dean Saunders, more rumbustious, infinitely less refined, paid £2.5m but ditched him at a loss within 12 months tells us more about Souness than it does about Beardsley who went on to have six more years at the top, scored 89 more goals and made half a century more. Matthias Sammer: Inter to Borussia Dortmund Matthias Sammer, the heir to Franz Beckenbauer Credit: Action Images In 1996 Matthias Sammer became only the second defender in 40 years to win the Ballon d’Or, following in the Trefoil bootsteps of his compatriot and fellow sweeper, Franz Beckenbauer. He was player of the tournament during Germany’s victory at Euro 96 and, like his illustrious predecessor, a converted midfielder whose reading of the game, exemplary leadership and positional skills, class and composure on the ball gave him a kind of omnipresence, smoothly interceding to whip the ball away from danger when the opposition pierced the lines. A ball hog, his passing range was limited but defined by unerring precision, his long sweeping runs upfield from the back, timed meticulously, would accelerate with the tough grace of an armour-plated ministerial Daimler. Sammer moved to Inter for £5.1m in the summer of 1992 after winning the Bundesliga in his second season at Stuttgart where he was employed as a defensive midfielder rather than the libero he would become at Borussia Dortmund. It’s a matter of only a few yards’ difference but it made a world of difference, harnessing his defensive instincts while giving him the space to make the play with those magnificent sorties. Inter signed him in 1991 but let him stay on at Stuttgart because they already had their three overseas players - Sammer’s Germany team-mates Lothar Matthaus, Andreas Brehme and Jurgen Klinsmann - and when he did arrive were surprised to find he had not mastered a single word of Italian. Osvaldo Bagnoli played him as an advanced midfielder in a counter-attacking system designed to exploit the pace of Ruben Sosa. Sammer scored four goals in 11 Serie A appearances but found the tactics too rigid and refused to put down roots. Il Messagero reported that he was living out of suitcases in his lakeside villa with his TV propped up on a tea chest the only furniture apart from a bed. Inter, spoilt by Matthaus, Brehme and Klinsmann who had loved the club, the country and mastered the language, were as fed up with a player who had just about learnt to say ‘Ciao’ by December as he was with life and work in Italy. They cut their losses after five months and sold him for £4.8m to Dortmund. There, Ottmar Hitzfeld dropped him from in front of the back four to behind it and he won his second and third Bundesliga titles and the Champions League in 1997. A serious knee injury shortly after the final ended his career at the age of 30 having played only three more games. Claude Makélelé: Real Madrid to Chelsea Makelele tackles David Batty of Leeds United at the Bernabeu in 2001 Credit: REUTERS/Desmond Boylan The second coming of Florentino Pérez as president of Real Madrid has been defined and improved by learning from the errors he made during his first spell at the Bernabéu. Then, the preening pomposity of his galáctico project, bit him on the backside when he deemed a manager and a player who were integral to the success lacked the requisite glamour to play for his marketing machine. In the summer of 2003, after winning La Liga, Vicente Del Bosque was sacked and Claude Makélelé, the players’ player of the year, was knocked back when he went to negotiate a pay rise that reflected his contribution. He wasn’t asking for parity with Luis Figo, Ronaldo, Zinedine Zidane and David Beckham but nor did he expect Pérez to refuse flatly and then disparage him when he handed in a transfer request. “We will not miss Makélelé,” said Pérez. “His technique is average, he lacks the speed and skill to take the ball past opponents, and ninety percent of his distribution either goes backwards or sideways. He wasn't a header of the ball and he rarely passed the ball more than three metres. Younger players will arrive who will cause Makélelé to be forgotten.” He went to Chelsea for £16.8m, won two league titles and must have felt more than a frisson of schadenfreude over the next three years that Real Madrid won nothing, the only central midfielder bought to replace him was Thomas Gravesen, Pérez walked away and more than a decade on instead of being forgotten Makélelé is recognised as the pivotal player in a team that did not fulfil its potential. And his sale amounted to one of the greatest acts of self-hobbling in the game’s history. Gary Cahill: Aston Villa to Bolton Gary Cahill spent three full seasons at Bolton after Aston Villa sold him and six months after he left the Reebok he won the Champions League Credit: Action Images / Lee Smith Gary Cahill was always the odd man out at Aston Villa, enjoying his best season in 2006-07 at the club he joined as a trainee when filling in for the tremendous but injury-ravaged Martin Laursen. In the autumn of the following season he signed for Sheffield United on loan and impressed so much that Gary Megson agreed a deal with Villa to take the 22-year-old to Bolton Wanderers for £5m. One can understand the logic for Martin O’Neill selling him - Laursen was imperious at the back that season, Olof Mellberg was as reliable as ever and he had just signed Zat Knight but it wasn’t to last and the fragile Laursen broke down, this time for good, within the year. And yet Cahill displayed enormous promise and lacked only experience. In three full seasons at Bolton he became an England squad regular, displaying his robustness in the tackle, power in the air and pace to correct most mistakes even if he was sometimes slack in possession and caught dithering on the ball. In January 2012 Chelsea bought him for £7m, taking advantage of Bolton’s toils on and off the field and he won the FA Cup and Champions League in his first five months. Since then he has earned two titles, the first in a Jose Mourinho back-four, the second as Antonio Conte’s captain in a back three where the beauty of his manager’s system was that it gave the captain little to do but counted on the acuteness of his antennae and astuteness of positioning to prevent it falling apart. In the two years after letting Cahill go, Villa paid more for each of Carlos Cuélar, Curtis Davies, James Collins and Richard Dunne, none of whom were as durable of the future England captain they let go. Andrea Pirlo: Milan to Juventus Milan's Andrea Pirlo turns away from Arsenal's Aleksandr Hleb Credit: Stu Forster/Getty Images If Inter’s decision to let Andrea Pirlo leave for Milan in 2001 seems a poor one, we can partially exonerate them because they received more than £13m for him and they were reluctant to play him in his optimum position as a deep-lying playmaker where he had excelled on loan at Brescia. Inter used Gigi Di Biagio there, as did Italy, and decided to liquidate their asset, investing the proceeds in Mohamed Kallon and Emre. During a decade in the black and red, Pirlo became the most elegant midfielder in the game, redefining the concept of a holding midfielder as more an advanced sweeper than a wall and exploiting his immaculate control and mastery of the arcing, rapidly dipping long pass to manipulate and often bypass the opposition’s midfield and defence. He won two Champions Leagues and two Serie A titles, the last Scudetto in his final season when he played a mere 17 times because the manager, Max Allegri, preferred the more orthodox defensive style of Mark van Bommel. That summer the club decided to retain the 35-year-old Clarence Seedorf and the 33-year-old Rino Gattuso and let Pirlo, 32, move on to Juventus where he won four successive titles and grew the fuzz that made him the mango-IPA-drinkers’ as well as the purists’ favourite player. Pirlo played 119 Serie A matches for Juve, made it to another Champions League final and finally left for MLS in 2015 while Seedorf and Gattuso managed a further 24 league matches between them for Milan. Don’t stroke your chin too vigorously at that misjudgment, it will play havoc with your beard. Kevin De Bruyne: Chelsea to Wolfsburg; Romelu Lukaku: Chelsea to Everton; Mo Salah: Chelsea to Roma Kevin De Bruyne traps the ball during Chelsea's match against Hull City in 2013 Credit: EDDIE KEOGH/REUTERS Chelsea made a commendable profit on Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku and Mohamed Salah when they sold the first two in 2014 and the Egypt forward two years later after long loan spells with Fiorentina and Roma, raking in almost £30m for players who made 43 appearances between them. A nice little earner that reflects well on Chelsea’s scouting and development system. But one can’t help thinking - despite the protestations of Frank Lampard and John Terry who have praised the players for leaving but insist it does not reflect badly on the club that has, like the cliched shark, to keep moving forward or die - that a little more patience, a few more opportunities and a touch more inflexibility when they held the upper hand would have better served them. Yes, Jose Mourinho wanted money to invest in players of his own choosing and no one could predict that each would improve so swiftly that they have become three of the most vibrant and valuable talents in the game. That was down to them and their dedication. Salah scores Chelsea's sixth in the 6-0 thrashing of Arsenal in March 2014 Credit: GLYN KIRK/AFP But someone at Stamford Bridge must have noted how assiduous each of them was, divined their characters or been swayed by their diligence and ambition. Chelsea’s loss - compounded by the lack of buy-back clauses - has been three rivals’ gain and has to represent a monstrous, three-headed blunder.
The closing of the transfer window inspires the habitual churning out of the worst transfers ever, like bedtime stories that lose none of their allure in the biannual retelling. “Tell us the one about Bosko Balaban, again, Dad. How much? Did Tommy Brolin really turn up at Elland Road with a Space Hopper up his gansey? Yes, I’m sure Bebe looked a world-beater on video.” But those old, familiar tales represent only one side of the ledger: purchases commonly ridiculed in hindsight. The other classification, routinely overlooked, is the premature and mistaken disposal. It’s a difficult category to define. For the sake of fairness one should strip out clubs who sold because they were financially strapped, players who went for fees too good to turn down and also those who acted the meddlesome priest, agitating for transfers and allowed to move on simply to be rid of them. The focus is on sales such as Nemanja Matic's not the ones like Diego Costa's. Here, then, are some of the managerial misjudgments, players discarded too soon for any number of reasons: poor form trumping class, undervaluation, prejudice, ageism or a simple miscalculation. Frank McLintock: Arsenal to QPR When Bertie Mee dropped Arsenal’s Double-winning captain Frank McLintock during the 1972-73 season, the 33-year-old Scot, whose skill and drive had helped transform the club and his own career in a glorious Indian summer, was devastated. Frank McLintock completes the Double in 1971 and celebrates with Charlie George who scored that unforgettable goal Credit: Allsport Hulton/Archive Mee’s decision to replace the classy, inspirational centre-back with the ponderous, ham-footed colossus, Jeff Blockley, beggared belief and has to be interpreted as Mee’s attempt to wrest control of the club back from the dressing room and its charismatic leader. McLintock remembers that he wept when he went to see Mee, the tears splashing off his Arsenal blazer after finding his manager obdurate to his claims for a recall. He felt he had no choice but to ask for a transfer - which Mee granted but turned down his request either to be allowed to leave on a free to negotiate a better deal with a new club or to grant him the testimonial he would have been due if he could have stomached six more months in the reserves. Mee told him that the 10 years’ qualification for a testimonial would not be altered to suit him and seeing he was six months short he would have to lump it. McLintock left for newly-promoted QPR for £25,000 at the end of the season, Arsenal’s failure to inform him of a late bid from Derby County’s Brian Clough, champions in 1972, the final insult. He gave four years of outstanding service to QPR, masterly on the field and in the dressing room during Rangers’ greatest ever season, 1975-76, when they lost out on the title by a single point after Liverpool turned a 0-1 deficit to Wolves with 14 minutes to go into a 3-1 victory in their final game, 10 days after QPR had completed their fixtures. Arsenal, meanwhile, replaced the hopeless Blockley with the rugged 32-year-old Terry Mancini from QPR in 1974, failing to understand that in his year playing alongside McLintock that it was his partner who had made him look half decent. Mee stood down in 1976 after successive 16th- and 17th-placed finishes, his determination to break up his Double-winning side having all but fatally weakened it. Pat Jennings: Tottenham to Arsenal Pat Jennings joined Arsenal from Spurs in 1977 Credit: PA Pan-handed colossus whose gloveless mitts, or “Lurgan shovels” as his former Northern Ireland team-mate and manager Billy Bingham called them, were put to devastating effect to steal the ball, one handed, off forwards’ foreheads a fraction of a second before impact. Miserly and resilient as he was during seven seasons as a first-team regular at Arsenal, he was finer still at Tottenham, an innovative and unorthodox keeper who was masterly at scrambling across his box, efficiently used any part of his body to block the ball and commanded the penalty area with a calm authority. He maintained his agility and elasticity well into his late 30s and managed for most of his career without gloves and, for the latter half of it, with what appeared to be a Bedlington Terrier on his head. Sold by Tottenham in August 1977 for £40,000 after they were relegated because the manager, Keith Burkinshaw, thought Barry Daines a better long-term bet, Jennings played a further 327 games for Arsenal, appeared in three successive FA Cup finals, winning one, and the Cup Winners’ Cup final defeat by Valencia. He was Northern Ireland’s first choice at two World Cups at the ages of 37 and 41 while Spurs took four years to replace him adequately in 1981 with Ray Clemence. At a stroke Tottenham sold their greatest ever goalkeeper to their biggest rivals for a song. He didn’t want to leave but his club essentially wrote him off at the age of 32, weakened their own side and strengthened Arsenal’s. The going rate for a goalkeeper of rare talent still in his prime? The £270,000 Forest paid Stoke for Peter Shilton a month later. Gordon Strachan: Manchester United to Leeds Gordon Strachan, right, left Manchester United, where he won the FA Cup, for Leeds United, where he won the title Credit: Brian Smith for The Telegraph In 1989 Gordon Strachan made the journey from Lancashire to Yorkshire that Bobby Collins had taken 17 years earlier when signing for Leeds from Everton and also delivered Leeds from Second Division purgatory. There are other glorious swansongs in the game’s rich past when a veteran’s impact in galvanising young teams was as important as anything he did on the field. In the 1980s Kevin Keegan did it at Newcastle, Johan Cruyff and Arnold Muhren at Ajax and Franz Beckenbauer at Hamburg, but Strachan was arguably the last. Now the biggest clubs tend to wring every drop from an elite player's body and soul while pay packets fulfil all their ambitions so it’s unlikely that a Championship club could attract a veteran international and task him with a mission to set the tenor of a rejuvenation project. Strachan was 32 when he left Old Trafford for Elland Road, over-familiar with Alex Ferguson after almost nine years together at Aberdeen and Manchester United. Ferguson, too, had had enough and felt a fresh start would benefit both parties. It certainly benefited Strachan who led Leeds to promotion in his first full season followed by a fourth-place top-flight finish and then, thrillingly, the title from Manchester United by four points. Even in his 39th year, when he left Leeds for Coventry, his drive was undiminished and his exacting standards ensured everyone was motivated and desperate to match them. The £300,000 he cost Leeds was the canniest investment Howard Wilkinson ever made. Manchester United were left without an orthodox right-sided midfielder for a couple of seasons until Ferguson signed Andrei Kanchelskis in 1991, the same year Strachan had been named, like Collins before him in 1965, Footballer of Year at the age of 34. Peter Beardsley: Liverpool to Everton Beardsley with John Barnes after winning his second title at Anfield in 1990 Credit: Dan Smith /Allsport No one has forged such a high number of prolific partnerships with out-and-out goalscorers than Peter Beardsley before or since. At his very best during his first spell at Newcastle with Kevin Keegan, at Liverpool he paired up with John Aldridge and then Ian Rush, with Tony Cottee at Everton and then with Andy Cole and Les Ferdinand in his second spell at St James’ Park. One can criticise Graham Taylor's time as England's manager for any number of reasons, but the most cardinal sin was his jettisoning of Beardsley, which diminished Gary Lineker and effectively turned him into little more than a goalhanger. That was an error of two-for-the-price-of-one proportions. If a player of Beardsley's ability was available now, one whose intelligence brought the best out of so many partners while scoring more than 200 goals himself, there would be little cavilling at a fee of more than £50m. In different times Graeme Souness sold the 30-year-old to Everton in 1991 for £1m, a not inconsiderable sum but peanuts compared with his true value, as Newcastle would show when paying more for him two years later. Peter Beardsley scored for both sides in the Merseyside derby Credit: Shaun Botterill/Allsport There were times during his four seasons at Anfield when Kenny Dalglish seemed equivocal about his talents - dropping him for the title decider with Arsenal in 1989, buying David Speedie to replace him in the winter of 1990-91 - and Souness seems to have picked up on that lack of faith while also wanting to fund a statement signing of his own during his first close season at Anfield. The fact he went for the bullocking Dean Saunders, more rumbustious, infinitely less refined, paid £2.5m but ditched him at a loss within 12 months tells us more about Souness than it does about Beardsley who went on to have six more years at the top, scored 89 more goals and made half a century more. Matthias Sammer: Inter to Borussia Dortmund Matthias Sammer, the heir to Franz Beckenbauer Credit: Action Images In 1996 Matthias Sammer became only the second defender in 40 years to win the Ballon d’Or, following in the Trefoil bootsteps of his compatriot and fellow sweeper, Franz Beckenbauer. He was player of the tournament during Germany’s victory at Euro 96 and, like his illustrious predecessor, a converted midfielder whose reading of the game, exemplary leadership and positional skills, class and composure on the ball gave him a kind of omnipresence, smoothly interceding to whip the ball away from danger when the opposition pierced the lines. A ball hog, his passing range was limited but defined by unerring precision, his long sweeping runs upfield from the back, timed meticulously, would accelerate with the tough grace of an armour-plated ministerial Daimler. Sammer moved to Inter for £5.1m in the summer of 1992 after winning the Bundesliga in his second season at Stuttgart where he was employed as a defensive midfielder rather than the libero he would become at Borussia Dortmund. It’s a matter of only a few yards’ difference but it made a world of difference, harnessing his defensive instincts while giving him the space to make the play with those magnificent sorties. Inter signed him in 1991 but let him stay on at Stuttgart because they already had their three overseas players - Sammer’s Germany team-mates Lothar Matthaus, Andreas Brehme and Jurgen Klinsmann - and when he did arrive were surprised to find he had not mastered a single word of Italian. Osvaldo Bagnoli played him as an advanced midfielder in a counter-attacking system designed to exploit the pace of Ruben Sosa. Sammer scored four goals in 11 Serie A appearances but found the tactics too rigid and refused to put down roots. Il Messagero reported that he was living out of suitcases in his lakeside villa with his TV propped up on a tea chest the only furniture apart from a bed. Inter, spoilt by Matthaus, Brehme and Klinsmann who had loved the club, the country and mastered the language, were as fed up with a player who had just about learnt to say ‘Ciao’ by December as he was with life and work in Italy. They cut their losses after five months and sold him for £4.8m to Dortmund. There, Ottmar Hitzfeld dropped him from in front of the back four to behind it and he won his second and third Bundesliga titles and the Champions League in 1997. A serious knee injury shortly after the final ended his career at the age of 30 having played only three more games. Claude Makélelé: Real Madrid to Chelsea Makelele tackles David Batty of Leeds United at the Bernabeu in 2001 Credit: REUTERS/Desmond Boylan The second coming of Florentino Pérez as president of Real Madrid has been defined and improved by learning from the errors he made during his first spell at the Bernabéu. Then, the preening pomposity of his galáctico project, bit him on the backside when he deemed a manager and a player who were integral to the success lacked the requisite glamour to play for his marketing machine. In the summer of 2003, after winning La Liga, Vicente Del Bosque was sacked and Claude Makélelé, the players’ player of the year, was knocked back when he went to negotiate a pay rise that reflected his contribution. He wasn’t asking for parity with Luis Figo, Ronaldo, Zinedine Zidane and David Beckham but nor did he expect Pérez to refuse flatly and then disparage him when he handed in a transfer request. “We will not miss Makélelé,” said Pérez. “His technique is average, he lacks the speed and skill to take the ball past opponents, and ninety percent of his distribution either goes backwards or sideways. He wasn't a header of the ball and he rarely passed the ball more than three metres. Younger players will arrive who will cause Makélelé to be forgotten.” He went to Chelsea for £16.8m, won two league titles and must have felt more than a frisson of schadenfreude over the next three years that Real Madrid won nothing, the only central midfielder bought to replace him was Thomas Gravesen, Pérez walked away and more than a decade on instead of being forgotten Makélelé is recognised as the pivotal player in a team that did not fulfil its potential. And his sale amounted to one of the greatest acts of self-hobbling in the game’s history. Gary Cahill: Aston Villa to Bolton Gary Cahill spent three full seasons at Bolton after Aston Villa sold him and six months after he left the Reebok he won the Champions League Credit: Action Images / Lee Smith Gary Cahill was always the odd man out at Aston Villa, enjoying his best season in 2006-07 at the club he joined as a trainee when filling in for the tremendous but injury-ravaged Martin Laursen. In the autumn of the following season he signed for Sheffield United on loan and impressed so much that Gary Megson agreed a deal with Villa to take the 22-year-old to Bolton Wanderers for £5m. One can understand the logic for Martin O’Neill selling him - Laursen was imperious at the back that season, Olof Mellberg was as reliable as ever and he had just signed Zat Knight but it wasn’t to last and the fragile Laursen broke down, this time for good, within the year. And yet Cahill displayed enormous promise and lacked only experience. In three full seasons at Bolton he became an England squad regular, displaying his robustness in the tackle, power in the air and pace to correct most mistakes even if he was sometimes slack in possession and caught dithering on the ball. In January 2012 Chelsea bought him for £7m, taking advantage of Bolton’s toils on and off the field and he won the FA Cup and Champions League in his first five months. Since then he has earned two titles, the first in a Jose Mourinho back-four, the second as Antonio Conte’s captain in a back three where the beauty of his manager’s system was that it gave the captain little to do but counted on the acuteness of his antennae and astuteness of positioning to prevent it falling apart. In the two years after letting Cahill go, Villa paid more for each of Carlos Cuélar, Curtis Davies, James Collins and Richard Dunne, none of whom were as durable of the future England captain they let go. Andrea Pirlo: Milan to Juventus Milan's Andrea Pirlo turns away from Arsenal's Aleksandr Hleb Credit: Stu Forster/Getty Images If Inter’s decision to let Andrea Pirlo leave for Milan in 2001 seems a poor one, we can partially exonerate them because they received more than £13m for him and they were reluctant to play him in his optimum position as a deep-lying playmaker where he had excelled on loan at Brescia. Inter used Gigi Di Biagio there, as did Italy, and decided to liquidate their asset, investing the proceeds in Mohamed Kallon and Emre. During a decade in the black and red, Pirlo became the most elegant midfielder in the game, redefining the concept of a holding midfielder as more an advanced sweeper than a wall and exploiting his immaculate control and mastery of the arcing, rapidly dipping long pass to manipulate and often bypass the opposition’s midfield and defence. He won two Champions Leagues and two Serie A titles, the last Scudetto in his final season when he played a mere 17 times because the manager, Max Allegri, preferred the more orthodox defensive style of Mark van Bommel. That summer the club decided to retain the 35-year-old Clarence Seedorf and the 33-year-old Rino Gattuso and let Pirlo, 32, move on to Juventus where he won four successive titles and grew the fuzz that made him the mango-IPA-drinkers’ as well as the purists’ favourite player. Pirlo played 119 Serie A matches for Juve, made it to another Champions League final and finally left for MLS in 2015 while Seedorf and Gattuso managed a further 24 league matches between them for Milan. Don’t stroke your chin too vigorously at that misjudgment, it will play havoc with your beard. Kevin De Bruyne: Chelsea to Wolfsburg; Romelu Lukaku: Chelsea to Everton; Mo Salah: Chelsea to Roma Kevin De Bruyne traps the ball during Chelsea's match against Hull City in 2013 Credit: EDDIE KEOGH/REUTERS Chelsea made a commendable profit on Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku and Mohamed Salah when they sold the first two in 2014 and the Egypt forward two years later after long loan spells with Fiorentina and Roma, raking in almost £30m for players who made 43 appearances between them. A nice little earner that reflects well on Chelsea’s scouting and development system. But one can’t help thinking - despite the protestations of Frank Lampard and John Terry who have praised the players for leaving but insist it does not reflect badly on the club that has, like the cliched shark, to keep moving forward or die - that a little more patience, a few more opportunities and a touch more inflexibility when they held the upper hand would have better served them. Yes, Jose Mourinho wanted money to invest in players of his own choosing and no one could predict that each would improve so swiftly that they have become three of the most vibrant and valuable talents in the game. That was down to them and their dedication. Salah scores Chelsea's sixth in the 6-0 thrashing of Arsenal in March 2014 Credit: GLYN KIRK/AFP But someone at Stamford Bridge must have noted how assiduous each of them was, divined their characters or been swayed by their diligence and ambition. Chelsea’s loss - compounded by the lack of buy-back clauses - has been three rivals’ gain and has to represent a monstrous, three-headed blunder.
Sold too soon: the other side of transfer market blunders
The closing of the transfer window inspires the habitual churning out of the worst transfers ever, like bedtime stories that lose none of their allure in the biannual retelling. “Tell us the one about Bosko Balaban, again, Dad. How much? Did Tommy Brolin really turn up at Elland Road with a Space Hopper up his gansey? Yes, I’m sure Bebe looked a world-beater on video.” But those old, familiar tales represent only one side of the ledger: purchases commonly ridiculed in hindsight. The other classification, routinely overlooked, is the premature and mistaken disposal. It’s a difficult category to define. For the sake of fairness one should strip out clubs who sold because they were financially strapped, players who went for fees too good to turn down and also those who acted the meddlesome priest, agitating for transfers and allowed to move on simply to be rid of them. The focus is on sales such as Nemanja Matic's not the ones like Diego Costa's. Here, then, are some of the managerial misjudgments, players discarded too soon for any number of reasons: poor form trumping class, undervaluation, prejudice, ageism or a simple miscalculation. Frank McLintock: Arsenal to QPR When Bertie Mee dropped Arsenal’s Double-winning captain Frank McLintock during the 1972-73 season, the 33-year-old Scot, whose skill and drive had helped transform the club and his own career in a glorious Indian summer, was devastated. Frank McLintock completes the Double in 1971 and celebrates with Charlie George who scored that unforgettable goal Credit: Allsport Hulton/Archive Mee’s decision to replace the classy, inspirational centre-back with the ponderous, ham-footed colossus, Jeff Blockley, beggared belief and has to be interpreted as Mee’s attempt to wrest control of the club back from the dressing room and its charismatic leader. McLintock remembers that he wept when he went to see Mee, the tears splashing off his Arsenal blazer after finding his manager obdurate to his claims for a recall. He felt he had no choice but to ask for a transfer - which Mee granted but turned down his request either to be allowed to leave on a free to negotiate a better deal with a new club or to grant him the testimonial he would have been due if he could have stomached six more months in the reserves. Mee told him that the 10 years’ qualification for a testimonial would not be altered to suit him and seeing he was six months short he would have to lump it. McLintock left for newly-promoted QPR for £25,000 at the end of the season, Arsenal’s failure to inform him of a late bid from Derby County’s Brian Clough, champions in 1972, the final insult. He gave four years of outstanding service to QPR, masterly on the field and in the dressing room during Rangers’ greatest ever season, 1975-76, when they lost out on the title by a single point after Liverpool turned a 0-1 deficit to Wolves with 14 minutes to go into a 3-1 victory in their final game, 10 days after QPR had completed their fixtures. Arsenal, meanwhile, replaced the hopeless Blockley with the rugged 32-year-old Terry Mancini from QPR in 1974, failing to understand that in his year playing alongside McLintock that it was his partner who had made him look half decent. Mee stood down in 1976 after successive 16th- and 17th-placed finishes, his determination to break up his Double-winning side having all but fatally weakened it. Pat Jennings: Tottenham to Arsenal Pat Jennings joined Arsenal from Spurs in 1977 Credit: PA Pan-handed colossus whose gloveless mitts, or “Lurgan shovels” as his former Northern Ireland team-mate and manager Billy Bingham called them, were put to devastating effect to steal the ball, one handed, off forwards’ foreheads a fraction of a second before impact. Miserly and resilient as he was during seven seasons as a first-team regular at Arsenal, he was finer still at Tottenham, an innovative and unorthodox keeper who was masterly at scrambling across his box, efficiently used any part of his body to block the ball and commanded the penalty area with a calm authority. He maintained his agility and elasticity well into his late 30s and managed for most of his career without gloves and, for the latter half of it, with what appeared to be a Bedlington Terrier on his head. Sold by Tottenham in August 1977 for £40,000 after they were relegated because the manager, Keith Burkinshaw, thought Barry Daines a better long-term bet, Jennings played a further 327 games for Arsenal, appeared in three successive FA Cup finals, winning one, and the Cup Winners’ Cup final defeat by Valencia. He was Northern Ireland’s first choice at two World Cups at the ages of 37 and 41 while Spurs took four years to replace him adequately in 1981 with Ray Clemence. At a stroke Tottenham sold their greatest ever goalkeeper to their biggest rivals for a song. He didn’t want to leave but his club essentially wrote him off at the age of 32, weakened their own side and strengthened Arsenal’s. The going rate for a goalkeeper of rare talent still in his prime? The £270,000 Forest paid Stoke for Peter Shilton a month later. Gordon Strachan: Manchester United to Leeds Gordon Strachan, right, left Manchester United, where he won the FA Cup, for Leeds United, where he won the title Credit: Brian Smith for The Telegraph In 1989 Gordon Strachan made the journey from Lancashire to Yorkshire that Bobby Collins had taken 17 years earlier when signing for Leeds from Everton and also delivered Leeds from Second Division purgatory. There are other glorious swansongs in the game’s rich past when a veteran’s impact in galvanising young teams was as important as anything he did on the field. In the 1980s Kevin Keegan did it at Newcastle, Johan Cruyff and Arnold Muhren at Ajax and Franz Beckenbauer at Hamburg, but Strachan was arguably the last. Now the biggest clubs tend to wring every drop from an elite player's body and soul while pay packets fulfil all their ambitions so it’s unlikely that a Championship club could attract a veteran international and task him with a mission to set the tenor of a rejuvenation project. Strachan was 32 when he left Old Trafford for Elland Road, over-familiar with Alex Ferguson after almost nine years together at Aberdeen and Manchester United. Ferguson, too, had had enough and felt a fresh start would benefit both parties. It certainly benefited Strachan who led Leeds to promotion in his first full season followed by a fourth-place top-flight finish and then, thrillingly, the title from Manchester United by four points. Even in his 39th year, when he left Leeds for Coventry, his drive was undiminished and his exacting standards ensured everyone was motivated and desperate to match them. The £300,000 he cost Leeds was the canniest investment Howard Wilkinson ever made. Manchester United were left without an orthodox right-sided midfielder for a couple of seasons until Ferguson signed Andrei Kanchelskis in 1991, the same year Strachan had been named, like Collins before him in 1965, Footballer of Year at the age of 34. Peter Beardsley: Liverpool to Everton Beardsley with John Barnes after winning his second title at Anfield in 1990 Credit: Dan Smith /Allsport No one has forged such a high number of prolific partnerships with out-and-out goalscorers than Peter Beardsley before or since. At his very best during his first spell at Newcastle with Kevin Keegan, at Liverpool he paired up with John Aldridge and then Ian Rush, with Tony Cottee at Everton and then with Andy Cole and Les Ferdinand in his second spell at St James’ Park. One can criticise Graham Taylor's time as England's manager for any number of reasons, but the most cardinal sin was his jettisoning of Beardsley, which diminished Gary Lineker and effectively turned him into little more than a goalhanger. That was an error of two-for-the-price-of-one proportions. If a player of Beardsley's ability was available now, one whose intelligence brought the best out of so many partners while scoring more than 200 goals himself, there would be little cavilling at a fee of more than £50m. In different times Graeme Souness sold the 30-year-old to Everton in 1991 for £1m, a not inconsiderable sum but peanuts compared with his true value, as Newcastle would show when paying more for him two years later. Peter Beardsley scored for both sides in the Merseyside derby Credit: Shaun Botterill/Allsport There were times during his four seasons at Anfield when Kenny Dalglish seemed equivocal about his talents - dropping him for the title decider with Arsenal in 1989, buying David Speedie to replace him in the winter of 1990-91 - and Souness seems to have picked up on that lack of faith while also wanting to fund a statement signing of his own during his first close season at Anfield. The fact he went for the bullocking Dean Saunders, more rumbustious, infinitely less refined, paid £2.5m but ditched him at a loss within 12 months tells us more about Souness than it does about Beardsley who went on to have six more years at the top, scored 89 more goals and made half a century more. Matthias Sammer: Inter to Borussia Dortmund Matthias Sammer, the heir to Franz Beckenbauer Credit: Action Images In 1996 Matthias Sammer became only the second defender in 40 years to win the Ballon d’Or, following in the Trefoil bootsteps of his compatriot and fellow sweeper, Franz Beckenbauer. He was player of the tournament during Germany’s victory at Euro 96 and, like his illustrious predecessor, a converted midfielder whose reading of the game, exemplary leadership and positional skills, class and composure on the ball gave him a kind of omnipresence, smoothly interceding to whip the ball away from danger when the opposition pierced the lines. A ball hog, his passing range was limited but defined by unerring precision, his long sweeping runs upfield from the back, timed meticulously, would accelerate with the tough grace of an armour-plated ministerial Daimler. Sammer moved to Inter for £5.1m in the summer of 1992 after winning the Bundesliga in his second season at Stuttgart where he was employed as a defensive midfielder rather than the libero he would become at Borussia Dortmund. It’s a matter of only a few yards’ difference but it made a world of difference, harnessing his defensive instincts while giving him the space to make the play with those magnificent sorties. Inter signed him in 1991 but let him stay on at Stuttgart because they already had their three overseas players - Sammer’s Germany team-mates Lothar Matthaus, Andreas Brehme and Jurgen Klinsmann - and when he did arrive were surprised to find he had not mastered a single word of Italian. Osvaldo Bagnoli played him as an advanced midfielder in a counter-attacking system designed to exploit the pace of Ruben Sosa. Sammer scored four goals in 11 Serie A appearances but found the tactics too rigid and refused to put down roots. Il Messagero reported that he was living out of suitcases in his lakeside villa with his TV propped up on a tea chest the only furniture apart from a bed. Inter, spoilt by Matthaus, Brehme and Klinsmann who had loved the club, the country and mastered the language, were as fed up with a player who had just about learnt to say ‘Ciao’ by December as he was with life and work in Italy. They cut their losses after five months and sold him for £4.8m to Dortmund. There, Ottmar Hitzfeld dropped him from in front of the back four to behind it and he won his second and third Bundesliga titles and the Champions League in 1997. A serious knee injury shortly after the final ended his career at the age of 30 having played only three more games. Claude Makélelé: Real Madrid to Chelsea Makelele tackles David Batty of Leeds United at the Bernabeu in 2001 Credit: REUTERS/Desmond Boylan The second coming of Florentino Pérez as president of Real Madrid has been defined and improved by learning from the errors he made during his first spell at the Bernabéu. Then, the preening pomposity of his galáctico project, bit him on the backside when he deemed a manager and a player who were integral to the success lacked the requisite glamour to play for his marketing machine. In the summer of 2003, after winning La Liga, Vicente Del Bosque was sacked and Claude Makélelé, the players’ player of the year, was knocked back when he went to negotiate a pay rise that reflected his contribution. He wasn’t asking for parity with Luis Figo, Ronaldo, Zinedine Zidane and David Beckham but nor did he expect Pérez to refuse flatly and then disparage him when he handed in a transfer request. “We will not miss Makélelé,” said Pérez. “His technique is average, he lacks the speed and skill to take the ball past opponents, and ninety percent of his distribution either goes backwards or sideways. He wasn't a header of the ball and he rarely passed the ball more than three metres. Younger players will arrive who will cause Makélelé to be forgotten.” He went to Chelsea for £16.8m, won two league titles and must have felt more than a frisson of schadenfreude over the next three years that Real Madrid won nothing, the only central midfielder bought to replace him was Thomas Gravesen, Pérez walked away and more than a decade on instead of being forgotten Makélelé is recognised as the pivotal player in a team that did not fulfil its potential. And his sale amounted to one of the greatest acts of self-hobbling in the game’s history. Gary Cahill: Aston Villa to Bolton Gary Cahill spent three full seasons at Bolton after Aston Villa sold him and six months after he left the Reebok he won the Champions League Credit: Action Images / Lee Smith Gary Cahill was always the odd man out at Aston Villa, enjoying his best season in 2006-07 at the club he joined as a trainee when filling in for the tremendous but injury-ravaged Martin Laursen. In the autumn of the following season he signed for Sheffield United on loan and impressed so much that Gary Megson agreed a deal with Villa to take the 22-year-old to Bolton Wanderers for £5m. One can understand the logic for Martin O’Neill selling him - Laursen was imperious at the back that season, Olof Mellberg was as reliable as ever and he had just signed Zat Knight but it wasn’t to last and the fragile Laursen broke down, this time for good, within the year. And yet Cahill displayed enormous promise and lacked only experience. In three full seasons at Bolton he became an England squad regular, displaying his robustness in the tackle, power in the air and pace to correct most mistakes even if he was sometimes slack in possession and caught dithering on the ball. In January 2012 Chelsea bought him for £7m, taking advantage of Bolton’s toils on and off the field and he won the FA Cup and Champions League in his first five months. Since then he has earned two titles, the first in a Jose Mourinho back-four, the second as Antonio Conte’s captain in a back three where the beauty of his manager’s system was that it gave the captain little to do but counted on the acuteness of his antennae and astuteness of positioning to prevent it falling apart. In the two years after letting Cahill go, Villa paid more for each of Carlos Cuélar, Curtis Davies, James Collins and Richard Dunne, none of whom were as durable of the future England captain they let go. Andrea Pirlo: Milan to Juventus Milan's Andrea Pirlo turns away from Arsenal's Aleksandr Hleb Credit: Stu Forster/Getty Images If Inter’s decision to let Andrea Pirlo leave for Milan in 2001 seems a poor one, we can partially exonerate them because they received more than £13m for him and they were reluctant to play him in his optimum position as a deep-lying playmaker where he had excelled on loan at Brescia. Inter used Gigi Di Biagio there, as did Italy, and decided to liquidate their asset, investing the proceeds in Mohamed Kallon and Emre. During a decade in the black and red, Pirlo became the most elegant midfielder in the game, redefining the concept of a holding midfielder as more an advanced sweeper than a wall and exploiting his immaculate control and mastery of the arcing, rapidly dipping long pass to manipulate and often bypass the opposition’s midfield and defence. He won two Champions Leagues and two Serie A titles, the last Scudetto in his final season when he played a mere 17 times because the manager, Max Allegri, preferred the more orthodox defensive style of Mark van Bommel. That summer the club decided to retain the 35-year-old Clarence Seedorf and the 33-year-old Rino Gattuso and let Pirlo, 32, move on to Juventus where he won four successive titles and grew the fuzz that made him the mango-IPA-drinkers’ as well as the purists’ favourite player. Pirlo played 119 Serie A matches for Juve, made it to another Champions League final and finally left for MLS in 2015 while Seedorf and Gattuso managed a further 24 league matches between them for Milan. Don’t stroke your chin too vigorously at that misjudgment, it will play havoc with your beard. Kevin De Bruyne: Chelsea to Wolfsburg; Romelu Lukaku: Chelsea to Everton; Mo Salah: Chelsea to Roma Kevin De Bruyne traps the ball during Chelsea's match against Hull City in 2013 Credit: EDDIE KEOGH/REUTERS Chelsea made a commendable profit on Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku and Mohamed Salah when they sold the first two in 2014 and the Egypt forward two years later after long loan spells with Fiorentina and Roma, raking in almost £30m for players who made 43 appearances between them. A nice little earner that reflects well on Chelsea’s scouting and development system. But one can’t help thinking - despite the protestations of Frank Lampard and John Terry who have praised the players for leaving but insist it does not reflect badly on the club that has, like the cliched shark, to keep moving forward or die - that a little more patience, a few more opportunities and a touch more inflexibility when they held the upper hand would have better served them. Yes, Jose Mourinho wanted money to invest in players of his own choosing and no one could predict that each would improve so swiftly that they have become three of the most vibrant and valuable talents in the game. That was down to them and their dedication. Salah scores Chelsea's sixth in the 6-0 thrashing of Arsenal in March 2014 Credit: GLYN KIRK/AFP But someone at Stamford Bridge must have noted how assiduous each of them was, divined their characters or been swayed by their diligence and ambition. Chelsea’s loss - compounded by the lack of buy-back clauses - has been three rivals’ gain and has to represent a monstrous, three-headed blunder.
The closing of the transfer window inspires the habitual churning out of the worst transfers ever, like bedtime stories that lose none of their allure in the biannual retelling. “Tell us the one about Bosko Balaban, again, Dad. How much? Did Tommy Brolin really turn up at Elland Road with a Space Hopper up his gansey? Yes, I’m sure Bebe looked a world-beater on video.” But those old, familiar tales represent only one side of the ledger: purchases commonly ridiculed in hindsight. The other classification, routinely overlooked, is the premature and mistaken disposal. It’s a difficult category to define. For the sake of fairness one should strip out clubs who sold because they were financially strapped, players who went for fees too good to turn down and also those who acted the meddlesome priest, agitating for transfers and allowed to move on simply to be rid of them. The focus is on sales such as Nemanja Matic's not the ones like Diego Costa's. Here, then, are some of the managerial misjudgments, players discarded too soon for any number of reasons: poor form trumping class, undervaluation, prejudice, ageism or a simple miscalculation. Frank McLintock: Arsenal to QPR When Bertie Mee dropped Arsenal’s Double-winning captain Frank McLintock during the 1972-73 season, the 33-year-old Scot, whose skill and drive had helped transform the club and his own career in a glorious Indian summer, was devastated. Frank McLintock completes the Double in 1971 and celebrates with Charlie George who scored that unforgettable goal Credit: Allsport Hulton/Archive Mee’s decision to replace the classy, inspirational centre-back with the ponderous, ham-footed colossus, Jeff Blockley, beggared belief and has to be interpreted as Mee’s attempt to wrest control of the club back from the dressing room and its charismatic leader. McLintock remembers that he wept when he went to see Mee, the tears splashing off his Arsenal blazer after finding his manager obdurate to his claims for a recall. He felt he had no choice but to ask for a transfer - which Mee granted but turned down his request either to be allowed to leave on a free to negotiate a better deal with a new club or to grant him the testimonial he would have been due if he could have stomached six more months in the reserves. Mee told him that the 10 years’ qualification for a testimonial would not be altered to suit him and seeing he was six months short he would have to lump it. McLintock left for newly-promoted QPR for £25,000 at the end of the season, Arsenal’s failure to inform him of a late bid from Derby County’s Brian Clough, champions in 1972, the final insult. He gave four years of outstanding service to QPR, masterly on the field and in the dressing room during Rangers’ greatest ever season, 1975-76, when they lost out on the title by a single point after Liverpool turned a 0-1 deficit to Wolves with 14 minutes to go into a 3-1 victory in their final game, 10 days after QPR had completed their fixtures. Arsenal, meanwhile, replaced the hopeless Blockley with the rugged 32-year-old Terry Mancini from QPR in 1974, failing to understand that in his year playing alongside McLintock that it was his partner who had made him look half decent. Mee stood down in 1976 after successive 16th- and 17th-placed finishes, his determination to break up his Double-winning side having all but fatally weakened it. Pat Jennings: Tottenham to Arsenal Pat Jennings joined Arsenal from Spurs in 1977 Credit: PA Pan-handed colossus whose gloveless mitts, or “Lurgan shovels” as his former Northern Ireland team-mate and manager Billy Bingham called them, were put to devastating effect to steal the ball, one handed, off forwards’ foreheads a fraction of a second before impact. Miserly and resilient as he was during seven seasons as a first-team regular at Arsenal, he was finer still at Tottenham, an innovative and unorthodox keeper who was masterly at scrambling across his box, efficiently used any part of his body to block the ball and commanded the penalty area with a calm authority. He maintained his agility and elasticity well into his late 30s and managed for most of his career without gloves and, for the latter half of it, with what appeared to be a Bedlington Terrier on his head. Sold by Tottenham in August 1977 for £40,000 after they were relegated because the manager, Keith Burkinshaw, thought Barry Daines a better long-term bet, Jennings played a further 327 games for Arsenal, appeared in three successive FA Cup finals, winning one, and the Cup Winners’ Cup final defeat by Valencia. He was Northern Ireland’s first choice at two World Cups at the ages of 37 and 41 while Spurs took four years to replace him adequately in 1981 with Ray Clemence. At a stroke Tottenham sold their greatest ever goalkeeper to their biggest rivals for a song. He didn’t want to leave but his club essentially wrote him off at the age of 32, weakened their own side and strengthened Arsenal’s. The going rate for a goalkeeper of rare talent still in his prime? The £270,000 Forest paid Stoke for Peter Shilton a month later. Gordon Strachan: Manchester United to Leeds Gordon Strachan, right, left Manchester United, where he won the FA Cup, for Leeds United, where he won the title Credit: Brian Smith for The Telegraph In 1989 Gordon Strachan made the journey from Lancashire to Yorkshire that Bobby Collins had taken 17 years earlier when signing for Leeds from Everton and also delivered Leeds from Second Division purgatory. There are other glorious swansongs in the game’s rich past when a veteran’s impact in galvanising young teams was as important as anything he did on the field. In the 1980s Kevin Keegan did it at Newcastle, Johan Cruyff and Arnold Muhren at Ajax and Franz Beckenbauer at Hamburg, but Strachan was arguably the last. Now the biggest clubs tend to wring every drop from an elite player's body and soul while pay packets fulfil all their ambitions so it’s unlikely that a Championship club could attract a veteran international and task him with a mission to set the tenor of a rejuvenation project. Strachan was 32 when he left Old Trafford for Elland Road, over-familiar with Alex Ferguson after almost nine years together at Aberdeen and Manchester United. Ferguson, too, had had enough and felt a fresh start would benefit both parties. It certainly benefited Strachan who led Leeds to promotion in his first full season followed by a fourth-place top-flight finish and then, thrillingly, the title from Manchester United by four points. Even in his 39th year, when he left Leeds for Coventry, his drive was undiminished and his exacting standards ensured everyone was motivated and desperate to match them. The £300,000 he cost Leeds was the canniest investment Howard Wilkinson ever made. Manchester United were left without an orthodox right-sided midfielder for a couple of seasons until Ferguson signed Andrei Kanchelskis in 1991, the same year Strachan had been named, like Collins before him in 1965, Footballer of Year at the age of 34. Peter Beardsley: Liverpool to Everton Beardsley with John Barnes after winning his second title at Anfield in 1990 Credit: Dan Smith /Allsport No one has forged such a high number of prolific partnerships with out-and-out goalscorers than Peter Beardsley before or since. At his very best during his first spell at Newcastle with Kevin Keegan, at Liverpool he paired up with John Aldridge and then Ian Rush, with Tony Cottee at Everton and then with Andy Cole and Les Ferdinand in his second spell at St James’ Park. One can criticise Graham Taylor's time as England's manager for any number of reasons, but the most cardinal sin was his jettisoning of Beardsley, which diminished Gary Lineker and effectively turned him into little more than a goalhanger. That was an error of two-for-the-price-of-one proportions. If a player of Beardsley's ability was available now, one whose intelligence brought the best out of so many partners while scoring more than 200 goals himself, there would be little cavilling at a fee of more than £50m. In different times Graeme Souness sold the 30-year-old to Everton in 1991 for £1m, a not inconsiderable sum but peanuts compared with his true value, as Newcastle would show when paying more for him two years later. Peter Beardsley scored for both sides in the Merseyside derby Credit: Shaun Botterill/Allsport There were times during his four seasons at Anfield when Kenny Dalglish seemed equivocal about his talents - dropping him for the title decider with Arsenal in 1989, buying David Speedie to replace him in the winter of 1990-91 - and Souness seems to have picked up on that lack of faith while also wanting to fund a statement signing of his own during his first close season at Anfield. The fact he went for the bullocking Dean Saunders, more rumbustious, infinitely less refined, paid £2.5m but ditched him at a loss within 12 months tells us more about Souness than it does about Beardsley who went on to have six more years at the top, scored 89 more goals and made half a century more. Matthias Sammer: Inter to Borussia Dortmund Matthias Sammer, the heir to Franz Beckenbauer Credit: Action Images In 1996 Matthias Sammer became only the second defender in 40 years to win the Ballon d’Or, following in the Trefoil bootsteps of his compatriot and fellow sweeper, Franz Beckenbauer. He was player of the tournament during Germany’s victory at Euro 96 and, like his illustrious predecessor, a converted midfielder whose reading of the game, exemplary leadership and positional skills, class and composure on the ball gave him a kind of omnipresence, smoothly interceding to whip the ball away from danger when the opposition pierced the lines. A ball hog, his passing range was limited but defined by unerring precision, his long sweeping runs upfield from the back, timed meticulously, would accelerate with the tough grace of an armour-plated ministerial Daimler. Sammer moved to Inter for £5.1m in the summer of 1992 after winning the Bundesliga in his second season at Stuttgart where he was employed as a defensive midfielder rather than the libero he would become at Borussia Dortmund. It’s a matter of only a few yards’ difference but it made a world of difference, harnessing his defensive instincts while giving him the space to make the play with those magnificent sorties. Inter signed him in 1991 but let him stay on at Stuttgart because they already had their three overseas players - Sammer’s Germany team-mates Lothar Matthaus, Andreas Brehme and Jurgen Klinsmann - and when he did arrive were surprised to find he had not mastered a single word of Italian. Osvaldo Bagnoli played him as an advanced midfielder in a counter-attacking system designed to exploit the pace of Ruben Sosa. Sammer scored four goals in 11 Serie A appearances but found the tactics too rigid and refused to put down roots. Il Messagero reported that he was living out of suitcases in his lakeside villa with his TV propped up on a tea chest the only furniture apart from a bed. Inter, spoilt by Matthaus, Brehme and Klinsmann who had loved the club, the country and mastered the language, were as fed up with a player who had just about learnt to say ‘Ciao’ by December as he was with life and work in Italy. They cut their losses after five months and sold him for £4.8m to Dortmund. There, Ottmar Hitzfeld dropped him from in front of the back four to behind it and he won his second and third Bundesliga titles and the Champions League in 1997. A serious knee injury shortly after the final ended his career at the age of 30 having played only three more games. Claude Makélelé: Real Madrid to Chelsea Makelele tackles David Batty of Leeds United at the Bernabeu in 2001 Credit: REUTERS/Desmond Boylan The second coming of Florentino Pérez as president of Real Madrid has been defined and improved by learning from the errors he made during his first spell at the Bernabéu. Then, the preening pomposity of his galáctico project, bit him on the backside when he deemed a manager and a player who were integral to the success lacked the requisite glamour to play for his marketing machine. In the summer of 2003, after winning La Liga, Vicente Del Bosque was sacked and Claude Makélelé, the players’ player of the year, was knocked back when he went to negotiate a pay rise that reflected his contribution. He wasn’t asking for parity with Luis Figo, Ronaldo, Zinedine Zidane and David Beckham but nor did he expect Pérez to refuse flatly and then disparage him when he handed in a transfer request. “We will not miss Makélelé,” said Pérez. “His technique is average, he lacks the speed and skill to take the ball past opponents, and ninety percent of his distribution either goes backwards or sideways. He wasn't a header of the ball and he rarely passed the ball more than three metres. Younger players will arrive who will cause Makélelé to be forgotten.” He went to Chelsea for £16.8m, won two league titles and must have felt more than a frisson of schadenfreude over the next three years that Real Madrid won nothing, the only central midfielder bought to replace him was Thomas Gravesen, Pérez walked away and more than a decade on instead of being forgotten Makélelé is recognised as the pivotal player in a team that did not fulfil its potential. And his sale amounted to one of the greatest acts of self-hobbling in the game’s history. Gary Cahill: Aston Villa to Bolton Gary Cahill spent three full seasons at Bolton after Aston Villa sold him and six months after he left the Reebok he won the Champions League Credit: Action Images / Lee Smith Gary Cahill was always the odd man out at Aston Villa, enjoying his best season in 2006-07 at the club he joined as a trainee when filling in for the tremendous but injury-ravaged Martin Laursen. In the autumn of the following season he signed for Sheffield United on loan and impressed so much that Gary Megson agreed a deal with Villa to take the 22-year-old to Bolton Wanderers for £5m. One can understand the logic for Martin O’Neill selling him - Laursen was imperious at the back that season, Olof Mellberg was as reliable as ever and he had just signed Zat Knight but it wasn’t to last and the fragile Laursen broke down, this time for good, within the year. And yet Cahill displayed enormous promise and lacked only experience. In three full seasons at Bolton he became an England squad regular, displaying his robustness in the tackle, power in the air and pace to correct most mistakes even if he was sometimes slack in possession and caught dithering on the ball. In January 2012 Chelsea bought him for £7m, taking advantage of Bolton’s toils on and off the field and he won the FA Cup and Champions League in his first five months. Since then he has earned two titles, the first in a Jose Mourinho back-four, the second as Antonio Conte’s captain in a back three where the beauty of his manager’s system was that it gave the captain little to do but counted on the acuteness of his antennae and astuteness of positioning to prevent it falling apart. In the two years after letting Cahill go, Villa paid more for each of Carlos Cuélar, Curtis Davies, James Collins and Richard Dunne, none of whom were as durable of the future England captain they let go. Andrea Pirlo: Milan to Juventus Milan's Andrea Pirlo turns away from Arsenal's Aleksandr Hleb Credit: Stu Forster/Getty Images If Inter’s decision to let Andrea Pirlo leave for Milan in 2001 seems a poor one, we can partially exonerate them because they received more than £13m for him and they were reluctant to play him in his optimum position as a deep-lying playmaker where he had excelled on loan at Brescia. Inter used Gigi Di Biagio there, as did Italy, and decided to liquidate their asset, investing the proceeds in Mohamed Kallon and Emre. During a decade in the black and red, Pirlo became the most elegant midfielder in the game, redefining the concept of a holding midfielder as more an advanced sweeper than a wall and exploiting his immaculate control and mastery of the arcing, rapidly dipping long pass to manipulate and often bypass the opposition’s midfield and defence. He won two Champions Leagues and two Serie A titles, the last Scudetto in his final season when he played a mere 17 times because the manager, Max Allegri, preferred the more orthodox defensive style of Mark van Bommel. That summer the club decided to retain the 35-year-old Clarence Seedorf and the 33-year-old Rino Gattuso and let Pirlo, 32, move on to Juventus where he won four successive titles and grew the fuzz that made him the mango-IPA-drinkers’ as well as the purists’ favourite player. Pirlo played 119 Serie A matches for Juve, made it to another Champions League final and finally left for MLS in 2015 while Seedorf and Gattuso managed a further 24 league matches between them for Milan. Don’t stroke your chin too vigorously at that misjudgment, it will play havoc with your beard. Kevin De Bruyne: Chelsea to Wolfsburg; Romelu Lukaku: Chelsea to Everton; Mo Salah: Chelsea to Roma Kevin De Bruyne traps the ball during Chelsea's match against Hull City in 2013 Credit: EDDIE KEOGH/REUTERS Chelsea made a commendable profit on Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku and Mohamed Salah when they sold the first two in 2014 and the Egypt forward two years later after long loan spells with Fiorentina and Roma, raking in almost £30m for players who made 43 appearances between them. A nice little earner that reflects well on Chelsea’s scouting and development system. But one can’t help thinking - despite the protestations of Frank Lampard and John Terry who have praised the players for leaving but insist it does not reflect badly on the club that has, like the cliched shark, to keep moving forward or die - that a little more patience, a few more opportunities and a touch more inflexibility when they held the upper hand would have better served them. Yes, Jose Mourinho wanted money to invest in players of his own choosing and no one could predict that each would improve so swiftly that they have become three of the most vibrant and valuable talents in the game. That was down to them and their dedication. Salah scores Chelsea's sixth in the 6-0 thrashing of Arsenal in March 2014 Credit: GLYN KIRK/AFP But someone at Stamford Bridge must have noted how assiduous each of them was, divined their characters or been swayed by their diligence and ambition. Chelsea’s loss - compounded by the lack of buy-back clauses - has been three rivals’ gain and has to represent a monstrous, three-headed blunder.
Sold too soon: the other side of transfer market blunders
The closing of the transfer window inspires the habitual churning out of the worst transfers ever, like bedtime stories that lose none of their allure in the biannual retelling. “Tell us the one about Bosko Balaban, again, Dad. How much? Did Tommy Brolin really turn up at Elland Road with a Space Hopper up his gansey? Yes, I’m sure Bebe looked a world-beater on video.” But those old, familiar tales represent only one side of the ledger: purchases commonly ridiculed in hindsight. The other classification, routinely overlooked, is the premature and mistaken disposal. It’s a difficult category to define. For the sake of fairness one should strip out clubs who sold because they were financially strapped, players who went for fees too good to turn down and also those who acted the meddlesome priest, agitating for transfers and allowed to move on simply to be rid of them. The focus is on sales such as Nemanja Matic's not the ones like Diego Costa's. Here, then, are some of the managerial misjudgments, players discarded too soon for any number of reasons: poor form trumping class, undervaluation, prejudice, ageism or a simple miscalculation. Frank McLintock: Arsenal to QPR When Bertie Mee dropped Arsenal’s Double-winning captain Frank McLintock during the 1972-73 season, the 33-year-old Scot, whose skill and drive had helped transform the club and his own career in a glorious Indian summer, was devastated. Frank McLintock completes the Double in 1971 and celebrates with Charlie George who scored that unforgettable goal Credit: Allsport Hulton/Archive Mee’s decision to replace the classy, inspirational centre-back with the ponderous, ham-footed colossus, Jeff Blockley, beggared belief and has to be interpreted as Mee’s attempt to wrest control of the club back from the dressing room and its charismatic leader. McLintock remembers that he wept when he went to see Mee, the tears splashing off his Arsenal blazer after finding his manager obdurate to his claims for a recall. He felt he had no choice but to ask for a transfer - which Mee granted but turned down his request either to be allowed to leave on a free to negotiate a better deal with a new club or to grant him the testimonial he would have been due if he could have stomached six more months in the reserves. Mee told him that the 10 years’ qualification for a testimonial would not be altered to suit him and seeing he was six months short he would have to lump it. McLintock left for newly-promoted QPR for £25,000 at the end of the season, Arsenal’s failure to inform him of a late bid from Derby County’s Brian Clough, champions in 1972, the final insult. He gave four years of outstanding service to QPR, masterly on the field and in the dressing room during Rangers’ greatest ever season, 1975-76, when they lost out on the title by a single point after Liverpool turned a 0-1 deficit to Wolves with 14 minutes to go into a 3-1 victory in their final game, 10 days after QPR had completed their fixtures. Arsenal, meanwhile, replaced the hopeless Blockley with the rugged 32-year-old Terry Mancini from QPR in 1974, failing to understand that in his year playing alongside McLintock that it was his partner who had made him look half decent. Mee stood down in 1976 after successive 16th- and 17th-placed finishes, his determination to break up his Double-winning side having all but fatally weakened it. Pat Jennings: Tottenham to Arsenal Pat Jennings joined Arsenal from Spurs in 1977 Credit: PA Pan-handed colossus whose gloveless mitts, or “Lurgan shovels” as his former Northern Ireland team-mate and manager Billy Bingham called them, were put to devastating effect to steal the ball, one handed, off forwards’ foreheads a fraction of a second before impact. Miserly and resilient as he was during seven seasons as a first-team regular at Arsenal, he was finer still at Tottenham, an innovative and unorthodox keeper who was masterly at scrambling across his box, efficiently used any part of his body to block the ball and commanded the penalty area with a calm authority. He maintained his agility and elasticity well into his late 30s and managed for most of his career without gloves and, for the latter half of it, with what appeared to be a Bedlington Terrier on his head. Sold by Tottenham in August 1977 for £40,000 after they were relegated because the manager, Keith Burkinshaw, thought Barry Daines a better long-term bet, Jennings played a further 327 games for Arsenal, appeared in three successive FA Cup finals, winning one, and the Cup Winners’ Cup final defeat by Valencia. He was Northern Ireland’s first choice at two World Cups at the ages of 37 and 41 while Spurs took four years to replace him adequately in 1981 with Ray Clemence. At a stroke Tottenham sold their greatest ever goalkeeper to their biggest rivals for a song. He didn’t want to leave but his club essentially wrote him off at the age of 32, weakened their own side and strengthened Arsenal’s. The going rate for a goalkeeper of rare talent still in his prime? The £270,000 Forest paid Stoke for Peter Shilton a month later. Gordon Strachan: Manchester United to Leeds Gordon Strachan, right, left Manchester United, where he won the FA Cup, for Leeds United, where he won the title Credit: Brian Smith for The Telegraph In 1989 Gordon Strachan made the journey from Lancashire to Yorkshire that Bobby Collins had taken 17 years earlier when signing for Leeds from Everton and also delivered Leeds from Second Division purgatory. There are other glorious swansongs in the game’s rich past when a veteran’s impact in galvanising young teams was as important as anything he did on the field. In the 1980s Kevin Keegan did it at Newcastle, Johan Cruyff and Arnold Muhren at Ajax and Franz Beckenbauer at Hamburg, but Strachan was arguably the last. Now the biggest clubs tend to wring every drop from an elite player's body and soul while pay packets fulfil all their ambitions so it’s unlikely that a Championship club could attract a veteran international and task him with a mission to set the tenor of a rejuvenation project. Strachan was 32 when he left Old Trafford for Elland Road, over-familiar with Alex Ferguson after almost nine years together at Aberdeen and Manchester United. Ferguson, too, had had enough and felt a fresh start would benefit both parties. It certainly benefited Strachan who led Leeds to promotion in his first full season followed by a fourth-place top-flight finish and then, thrillingly, the title from Manchester United by four points. Even in his 39th year, when he left Leeds for Coventry, his drive was undiminished and his exacting standards ensured everyone was motivated and desperate to match them. The £300,000 he cost Leeds was the canniest investment Howard Wilkinson ever made. Manchester United were left without an orthodox right-sided midfielder for a couple of seasons until Ferguson signed Andrei Kanchelskis in 1991, the same year Strachan had been named, like Collins before him in 1965, Footballer of Year at the age of 34. Peter Beardsley: Liverpool to Everton Beardsley with John Barnes after winning his second title at Anfield in 1990 Credit: Dan Smith /Allsport No one has forged such a high number of prolific partnerships with out-and-out goalscorers than Peter Beardsley before or since. At his very best during his first spell at Newcastle with Kevin Keegan, at Liverpool he paired up with John Aldridge and then Ian Rush, with Tony Cottee at Everton and then with Andy Cole and Les Ferdinand in his second spell at St James’ Park. One can criticise Graham Taylor's time as England's manager for any number of reasons, but the most cardinal sin was his jettisoning of Beardsley, which diminished Gary Lineker and effectively turned him into little more than a goalhanger. That was an error of two-for-the-price-of-one proportions. If a player of Beardsley's ability was available now, one whose intelligence brought the best out of so many partners while scoring more than 200 goals himself, there would be little cavilling at a fee of more than £50m. In different times Graeme Souness sold the 30-year-old to Everton in 1991 for £1m, a not inconsiderable sum but peanuts compared with his true value, as Newcastle would show when paying more for him two years later. Peter Beardsley scored for both sides in the Merseyside derby Credit: Shaun Botterill/Allsport There were times during his four seasons at Anfield when Kenny Dalglish seemed equivocal about his talents - dropping him for the title decider with Arsenal in 1989, buying David Speedie to replace him in the winter of 1990-91 - and Souness seems to have picked up on that lack of faith while also wanting to fund a statement signing of his own during his first close season at Anfield. The fact he went for the bullocking Dean Saunders, more rumbustious, infinitely less refined, paid £2.5m but ditched him at a loss within 12 months tells us more about Souness than it does about Beardsley who went on to have six more years at the top, scored 89 more goals and made half a century more. Matthias Sammer: Inter to Borussia Dortmund Matthias Sammer, the heir to Franz Beckenbauer Credit: Action Images In 1996 Matthias Sammer became only the second defender in 40 years to win the Ballon d’Or, following in the Trefoil bootsteps of his compatriot and fellow sweeper, Franz Beckenbauer. He was player of the tournament during Germany’s victory at Euro 96 and, like his illustrious predecessor, a converted midfielder whose reading of the game, exemplary leadership and positional skills, class and composure on the ball gave him a kind of omnipresence, smoothly interceding to whip the ball away from danger when the opposition pierced the lines. A ball hog, his passing range was limited but defined by unerring precision, his long sweeping runs upfield from the back, timed meticulously, would accelerate with the tough grace of an armour-plated ministerial Daimler. Sammer moved to Inter for £5.1m in the summer of 1992 after winning the Bundesliga in his second season at Stuttgart where he was employed as a defensive midfielder rather than the libero he would become at Borussia Dortmund. It’s a matter of only a few yards’ difference but it made a world of difference, harnessing his defensive instincts while giving him the space to make the play with those magnificent sorties. Inter signed him in 1991 but let him stay on at Stuttgart because they already had their three overseas players - Sammer’s Germany team-mates Lothar Matthaus, Andreas Brehme and Jurgen Klinsmann - and when he did arrive were surprised to find he had not mastered a single word of Italian. Osvaldo Bagnoli played him as an advanced midfielder in a counter-attacking system designed to exploit the pace of Ruben Sosa. Sammer scored four goals in 11 Serie A appearances but found the tactics too rigid and refused to put down roots. Il Messagero reported that he was living out of suitcases in his lakeside villa with his TV propped up on a tea chest the only furniture apart from a bed. Inter, spoilt by Matthaus, Brehme and Klinsmann who had loved the club, the country and mastered the language, were as fed up with a player who had just about learnt to say ‘Ciao’ by December as he was with life and work in Italy. They cut their losses after five months and sold him for £4.8m to Dortmund. There, Ottmar Hitzfeld dropped him from in front of the back four to behind it and he won his second and third Bundesliga titles and the Champions League in 1997. A serious knee injury shortly after the final ended his career at the age of 30 having played only three more games. Claude Makélelé: Real Madrid to Chelsea Makelele tackles David Batty of Leeds United at the Bernabeu in 2001 Credit: REUTERS/Desmond Boylan The second coming of Florentino Pérez as president of Real Madrid has been defined and improved by learning from the errors he made during his first spell at the Bernabéu. Then, the preening pomposity of his galáctico project, bit him on the backside when he deemed a manager and a player who were integral to the success lacked the requisite glamour to play for his marketing machine. In the summer of 2003, after winning La Liga, Vicente Del Bosque was sacked and Claude Makélelé, the players’ player of the year, was knocked back when he went to negotiate a pay rise that reflected his contribution. He wasn’t asking for parity with Luis Figo, Ronaldo, Zinedine Zidane and David Beckham but nor did he expect Pérez to refuse flatly and then disparage him when he handed in a transfer request. “We will not miss Makélelé,” said Pérez. “His technique is average, he lacks the speed and skill to take the ball past opponents, and ninety percent of his distribution either goes backwards or sideways. He wasn't a header of the ball and he rarely passed the ball more than three metres. Younger players will arrive who will cause Makélelé to be forgotten.” He went to Chelsea for £16.8m, won two league titles and must have felt more than a frisson of schadenfreude over the next three years that Real Madrid won nothing, the only central midfielder bought to replace him was Thomas Gravesen, Pérez walked away and more than a decade on instead of being forgotten Makélelé is recognised as the pivotal player in a team that did not fulfil its potential. And his sale amounted to one of the greatest acts of self-hobbling in the game’s history. Gary Cahill: Aston Villa to Bolton Gary Cahill spent three full seasons at Bolton after Aston Villa sold him and six months after he left the Reebok he won the Champions League Credit: Action Images / Lee Smith Gary Cahill was always the odd man out at Aston Villa, enjoying his best season in 2006-07 at the club he joined as a trainee when filling in for the tremendous but injury-ravaged Martin Laursen. In the autumn of the following season he signed for Sheffield United on loan and impressed so much that Gary Megson agreed a deal with Villa to take the 22-year-old to Bolton Wanderers for £5m. One can understand the logic for Martin O’Neill selling him - Laursen was imperious at the back that season, Olof Mellberg was as reliable as ever and he had just signed Zat Knight but it wasn’t to last and the fragile Laursen broke down, this time for good, within the year. And yet Cahill displayed enormous promise and lacked only experience. In three full seasons at Bolton he became an England squad regular, displaying his robustness in the tackle, power in the air and pace to correct most mistakes even if he was sometimes slack in possession and caught dithering on the ball. In January 2012 Chelsea bought him for £7m, taking advantage of Bolton’s toils on and off the field and he won the FA Cup and Champions League in his first five months. Since then he has earned two titles, the first in a Jose Mourinho back-four, the second as Antonio Conte’s captain in a back three where the beauty of his manager’s system was that it gave the captain little to do but counted on the acuteness of his antennae and astuteness of positioning to prevent it falling apart. In the two years after letting Cahill go, Villa paid more for each of Carlos Cuélar, Curtis Davies, James Collins and Richard Dunne, none of whom were as durable of the future England captain they let go. Andrea Pirlo: Milan to Juventus Milan's Andrea Pirlo turns away from Arsenal's Aleksandr Hleb Credit: Stu Forster/Getty Images If Inter’s decision to let Andrea Pirlo leave for Milan in 2001 seems a poor one, we can partially exonerate them because they received more than £13m for him and they were reluctant to play him in his optimum position as a deep-lying playmaker where he had excelled on loan at Brescia. Inter used Gigi Di Biagio there, as did Italy, and decided to liquidate their asset, investing the proceeds in Mohamed Kallon and Emre. During a decade in the black and red, Pirlo became the most elegant midfielder in the game, redefining the concept of a holding midfielder as more an advanced sweeper than a wall and exploiting his immaculate control and mastery of the arcing, rapidly dipping long pass to manipulate and often bypass the opposition’s midfield and defence. He won two Champions Leagues and two Serie A titles, the last Scudetto in his final season when he played a mere 17 times because the manager, Max Allegri, preferred the more orthodox defensive style of Mark van Bommel. That summer the club decided to retain the 35-year-old Clarence Seedorf and the 33-year-old Rino Gattuso and let Pirlo, 32, move on to Juventus where he won four successive titles and grew the fuzz that made him the mango-IPA-drinkers’ as well as the purists’ favourite player. Pirlo played 119 Serie A matches for Juve, made it to another Champions League final and finally left for MLS in 2015 while Seedorf and Gattuso managed a further 24 league matches between them for Milan. Don’t stroke your chin too vigorously at that misjudgment, it will play havoc with your beard. Kevin De Bruyne: Chelsea to Wolfsburg; Romelu Lukaku: Chelsea to Everton; Mo Salah: Chelsea to Roma Kevin De Bruyne traps the ball during Chelsea's match against Hull City in 2013 Credit: EDDIE KEOGH/REUTERS Chelsea made a commendable profit on Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku and Mohamed Salah when they sold the first two in 2014 and the Egypt forward two years later after long loan spells with Fiorentina and Roma, raking in almost £30m for players who made 43 appearances between them. A nice little earner that reflects well on Chelsea’s scouting and development system. But one can’t help thinking - despite the protestations of Frank Lampard and John Terry who have praised the players for leaving but insist it does not reflect badly on the club that has, like the cliched shark, to keep moving forward or die - that a little more patience, a few more opportunities and a touch more inflexibility when they held the upper hand would have better served them. Yes, Jose Mourinho wanted money to invest in players of his own choosing and no one could predict that each would improve so swiftly that they have become three of the most vibrant and valuable talents in the game. That was down to them and their dedication. Salah scores Chelsea's sixth in the 6-0 thrashing of Arsenal in March 2014 Credit: GLYN KIRK/AFP But someone at Stamford Bridge must have noted how assiduous each of them was, divined their characters or been swayed by their diligence and ambition. Chelsea’s loss - compounded by the lack of buy-back clauses - has been three rivals’ gain and has to represent a monstrous, three-headed blunder.
The closing of the transfer window inspires the habitual churning out of the worst transfers ever, like bedtime stories that lose none of their allure in the biannual retelling. “Tell us the one about Bosko Balaban, again, Dad. How much? Did Tommy Brolin really turn up at Elland Road with a Space Hopper up his gansey? Yes, I’m sure Bebe looked a world-beater on video.” But those old, familiar tales represent only one side of the ledger: purchases commonly ridiculed in hindsight. The other classification, routinely overlooked, is the premature and mistaken disposal. It’s a difficult category to define. For the sake of fairness one should strip out clubs who sold because they were financially strapped, players who went for fees too good to turn down and also those who acted the meddlesome priest, agitating for transfers and allowed to move on simply to be rid of them. The focus is on sales such as Nemanja Matic's not the ones like Diego Costa's. Here, then, are some of the managerial misjudgments, players discarded too soon for any number of reasons: poor form trumping class, undervaluation, prejudice, ageism or a simple miscalculation. Frank McLintock: Arsenal to QPR When Bertie Mee dropped Arsenal’s Double-winning captain Frank McLintock during the 1972-73 season, the 33-year-old Scot, whose skill and drive had helped transform the club and his own career in a glorious Indian summer, was devastated. Frank McLintock completes the Double in 1971 and celebrates with Charlie George who scored that unforgettable goal Credit: Allsport Hulton/Archive Mee’s decision to replace the classy, inspirational centre-back with the ponderous, ham-footed colossus, Jeff Blockley, beggared belief and has to be interpreted as Mee’s attempt to wrest control of the club back from the dressing room and its charismatic leader. McLintock remembers that he wept when he went to see Mee, the tears splashing off his Arsenal blazer after finding his manager obdurate to his claims for a recall. He felt he had no choice but to ask for a transfer - which Mee granted but turned down his request either to be allowed to leave on a free to negotiate a better deal with a new club or to grant him the testimonial he would have been due if he could have stomached six more months in the reserves. Mee told him that the 10 years’ qualification for a testimonial would not be altered to suit him and seeing he was six months short he would have to lump it. McLintock left for newly-promoted QPR for £25,000 at the end of the season, Arsenal’s failure to inform him of a late bid from Derby County’s Brian Clough, champions in 1972, the final insult. He gave four years of outstanding service to QPR, masterly on the field and in the dressing room during Rangers’ greatest ever season, 1975-76, when they lost out on the title by a single point after Liverpool turned a 0-1 deficit to Wolves with 14 minutes to go into a 3-1 victory in their final game, 10 days after QPR had completed their fixtures. Arsenal, meanwhile, replaced the hopeless Blockley with the rugged 32-year-old Terry Mancini from QPR in 1974, failing to understand that in his year playing alongside McLintock that it was his partner who had made him look half decent. Mee stood down in 1976 after successive 16th- and 17th-placed finishes, his determination to break up his Double-winning side having all but fatally weakened it. Pat Jennings: Tottenham to Arsenal Pat Jennings joined Arsenal from Spurs in 1977 Credit: PA Pan-handed colossus whose gloveless mitts, or “Lurgan shovels” as his former Northern Ireland team-mate and manager Billy Bingham called them, were put to devastating effect to steal the ball, one handed, off forwards’ foreheads a fraction of a second before impact. Miserly and resilient as he was during seven seasons as a first-team regular at Arsenal, he was finer still at Tottenham, an innovative and unorthodox keeper who was masterly at scrambling across his box, efficiently used any part of his body to block the ball and commanded the penalty area with a calm authority. He maintained his agility and elasticity well into his late 30s and managed for most of his career without gloves and, for the latter half of it, with what appeared to be a Bedlington Terrier on his head. Sold by Tottenham in August 1977 for £40,000 after they were relegated because the manager, Keith Burkinshaw, thought Barry Daines a better long-term bet, Jennings played a further 327 games for Arsenal, appeared in three successive FA Cup finals, winning one, and the Cup Winners’ Cup final defeat by Valencia. He was Northern Ireland’s first choice at two World Cups at the ages of 37 and 41 while Spurs took four years to replace him adequately in 1981 with Ray Clemence. At a stroke Tottenham sold their greatest ever goalkeeper to their biggest rivals for a song. He didn’t want to leave but his club essentially wrote him off at the age of 32, weakened their own side and strengthened Arsenal’s. The going rate for a goalkeeper of rare talent still in his prime? The £270,000 Forest paid Stoke for Peter Shilton a month later. Gordon Strachan: Manchester United to Leeds Gordon Strachan, right, left Manchester United, where he won the FA Cup, for Leeds United, where he won the title Credit: Brian Smith for The Telegraph In 1989 Gordon Strachan made the journey from Lancashire to Yorkshire that Bobby Collins had taken 17 years earlier when signing for Leeds from Everton and also delivered Leeds from Second Division purgatory. There are other glorious swansongs in the game’s rich past when a veteran’s impact in galvanising young teams was as important as anything he did on the field. In the 1980s Kevin Keegan did it at Newcastle, Johan Cruyff and Arnold Muhren at Ajax and Franz Beckenbauer at Hamburg, but Strachan was arguably the last. Now the biggest clubs tend to wring every drop from an elite player's body and soul while pay packets fulfil all their ambitions so it’s unlikely that a Championship club could attract a veteran international and task him with a mission to set the tenor of a rejuvenation project. Strachan was 32 when he left Old Trafford for Elland Road, over-familiar with Alex Ferguson after almost nine years together at Aberdeen and Manchester United. Ferguson, too, had had enough and felt a fresh start would benefit both parties. It certainly benefited Strachan who led Leeds to promotion in his first full season followed by a fourth-place top-flight finish and then, thrillingly, the title from Manchester United by four points. Even in his 39th year, when he left Leeds for Coventry, his drive was undiminished and his exacting standards ensured everyone was motivated and desperate to match them. The £300,000 he cost Leeds was the canniest investment Howard Wilkinson ever made. Manchester United were left without an orthodox right-sided midfielder for a couple of seasons until Ferguson signed Andrei Kanchelskis in 1991, the same year Strachan had been named, like Collins before him in 1965, Footballer of Year at the age of 34. Peter Beardsley: Liverpool to Everton Beardsley with John Barnes after winning his second title at Anfield in 1990 Credit: Dan Smith /Allsport No one has forged such a high number of prolific partnerships with out-and-out goalscorers than Peter Beardsley before or since. At his very best during his first spell at Newcastle with Kevin Keegan, at Liverpool he paired up with John Aldridge and then Ian Rush, with Tony Cottee at Everton and then with Andy Cole and Les Ferdinand in his second spell at St James’ Park. One can criticise Graham Taylor's time as England's manager for any number of reasons, but the most cardinal sin was his jettisoning of Beardsley, which diminished Gary Lineker and effectively turned him into little more than a goalhanger. That was an error of two-for-the-price-of-one proportions. If a player of Beardsley's ability was available now, one whose intelligence brought the best out of so many partners while scoring more than 200 goals himself, there would be little cavilling at a fee of more than £50m. In different times Graeme Souness sold the 30-year-old to Everton in 1991 for £1m, a not inconsiderable sum but peanuts compared with his true value, as Newcastle would show when paying more for him two years later. Peter Beardsley scored for both sides in the Merseyside derby Credit: Shaun Botterill/Allsport There were times during his four seasons at Anfield when Kenny Dalglish seemed equivocal about his talents - dropping him for the title decider with Arsenal in 1989, buying David Speedie to replace him in the winter of 1990-91 - and Souness seems to have picked up on that lack of faith while also wanting to fund a statement signing of his own during his first close season at Anfield. The fact he went for the bullocking Dean Saunders, more rumbustious, infinitely less refined, paid £2.5m but ditched him at a loss within 12 months tells us more about Souness than it does about Beardsley who went on to have six more years at the top, scored 89 more goals and made half a century more. Matthias Sammer: Inter to Borussia Dortmund Matthias Sammer, the heir to Franz Beckenbauer Credit: Action Images In 1996 Matthias Sammer became only the second defender in 40 years to win the Ballon d’Or, following in the Trefoil bootsteps of his compatriot and fellow sweeper, Franz Beckenbauer. He was player of the tournament during Germany’s victory at Euro 96 and, like his illustrious predecessor, a converted midfielder whose reading of the game, exemplary leadership and positional skills, class and composure on the ball gave him a kind of omnipresence, smoothly interceding to whip the ball away from danger when the opposition pierced the lines. A ball hog, his passing range was limited but defined by unerring precision, his long sweeping runs upfield from the back, timed meticulously, would accelerate with the tough grace of an armour-plated ministerial Daimler. Sammer moved to Inter for £5.1m in the summer of 1992 after winning the Bundesliga in his second season at Stuttgart where he was employed as a defensive midfielder rather than the libero he would become at Borussia Dortmund. It’s a matter of only a few yards’ difference but it made a world of difference, harnessing his defensive instincts while giving him the space to make the play with those magnificent sorties. Inter signed him in 1991 but let him stay on at Stuttgart because they already had their three overseas players - Sammer’s Germany team-mates Lothar Matthaus, Andreas Brehme and Jurgen Klinsmann - and when he did arrive were surprised to find he had not mastered a single word of Italian. Osvaldo Bagnoli played him as an advanced midfielder in a counter-attacking system designed to exploit the pace of Ruben Sosa. Sammer scored four goals in 11 Serie A appearances but found the tactics too rigid and refused to put down roots. Il Messagero reported that he was living out of suitcases in his lakeside villa with his TV propped up on a tea chest the only furniture apart from a bed. Inter, spoilt by Matthaus, Brehme and Klinsmann who had loved the club, the country and mastered the language, were as fed up with a player who had just about learnt to say ‘Ciao’ by December as he was with life and work in Italy. They cut their losses after five months and sold him for £4.8m to Dortmund. There, Ottmar Hitzfeld dropped him from in front of the back four to behind it and he won his second and third Bundesliga titles and the Champions League in 1997. A serious knee injury shortly after the final ended his career at the age of 30 having played only three more games. Claude Makélelé: Real Madrid to Chelsea Makelele tackles David Batty of Leeds United at the Bernabeu in 2001 Credit: REUTERS/Desmond Boylan The second coming of Florentino Pérez as president of Real Madrid has been defined and improved by learning from the errors he made during his first spell at the Bernabéu. Then, the preening pomposity of his galáctico project, bit him on the backside when he deemed a manager and a player who were integral to the success lacked the requisite glamour to play for his marketing machine. In the summer of 2003, after winning La Liga, Vicente Del Bosque was sacked and Claude Makélelé, the players’ player of the year, was knocked back when he went to negotiate a pay rise that reflected his contribution. He wasn’t asking for parity with Luis Figo, Ronaldo, Zinedine Zidane and David Beckham but nor did he expect Pérez to refuse flatly and then disparage him when he handed in a transfer request. “We will not miss Makélelé,” said Pérez. “His technique is average, he lacks the speed and skill to take the ball past opponents, and ninety percent of his distribution either goes backwards or sideways. He wasn't a header of the ball and he rarely passed the ball more than three metres. Younger players will arrive who will cause Makélelé to be forgotten.” He went to Chelsea for £16.8m, won two league titles and must have felt more than a frisson of schadenfreude over the next three years that Real Madrid won nothing, the only central midfielder bought to replace him was Thomas Gravesen, Pérez walked away and more than a decade on instead of being forgotten Makélelé is recognised as the pivotal player in a team that did not fulfil its potential. And his sale amounted to one of the greatest acts of self-hobbling in the game’s history. Gary Cahill: Aston Villa to Bolton Gary Cahill spent three full seasons at Bolton after Aston Villa sold him and six months after he left the Reebok he won the Champions League Credit: Action Images / Lee Smith Gary Cahill was always the odd man out at Aston Villa, enjoying his best season in 2006-07 at the club he joined as a trainee when filling in for the tremendous but injury-ravaged Martin Laursen. In the autumn of the following season he signed for Sheffield United on loan and impressed so much that Gary Megson agreed a deal with Villa to take the 22-year-old to Bolton Wanderers for £5m. One can understand the logic for Martin O’Neill selling him - Laursen was imperious at the back that season, Olof Mellberg was as reliable as ever and he had just signed Zat Knight but it wasn’t to last and the fragile Laursen broke down, this time for good, within the year. And yet Cahill displayed enormous promise and lacked only experience. In three full seasons at Bolton he became an England squad regular, displaying his robustness in the tackle, power in the air and pace to correct most mistakes even if he was sometimes slack in possession and caught dithering on the ball. In January 2012 Chelsea bought him for £7m, taking advantage of Bolton’s toils on and off the field and he won the FA Cup and Champions League in his first five months. Since then he has earned two titles, the first in a Jose Mourinho back-four, the second as Antonio Conte’s captain in a back three where the beauty of his manager’s system was that it gave the captain little to do but counted on the acuteness of his antennae and astuteness of positioning to prevent it falling apart. In the two years after letting Cahill go, Villa paid more for each of Carlos Cuélar, Curtis Davies, James Collins and Richard Dunne, none of whom were as durable of the future England captain they let go. Andrea Pirlo: Milan to Juventus Milan's Andrea Pirlo turns away from Arsenal's Aleksandr Hleb Credit: Stu Forster/Getty Images If Inter’s decision to let Andrea Pirlo leave for Milan in 2001 seems a poor one, we can partially exonerate them because they received more than £13m for him and they were reluctant to play him in his optimum position as a deep-lying playmaker where he had excelled on loan at Brescia. Inter used Gigi Di Biagio there, as did Italy, and decided to liquidate their asset, investing the proceeds in Mohamed Kallon and Emre. During a decade in the black and red, Pirlo became the most elegant midfielder in the game, redefining the concept of a holding midfielder as more an advanced sweeper than a wall and exploiting his immaculate control and mastery of the arcing, rapidly dipping long pass to manipulate and often bypass the opposition’s midfield and defence. He won two Champions Leagues and two Serie A titles, the last Scudetto in his final season when he played a mere 17 times because the manager, Max Allegri, preferred the more orthodox defensive style of Mark van Bommel. That summer the club decided to retain the 35-year-old Clarence Seedorf and the 33-year-old Rino Gattuso and let Pirlo, 32, move on to Juventus where he won four successive titles and grew the fuzz that made him the mango-IPA-drinkers’ as well as the purists’ favourite player. Pirlo played 119 Serie A matches for Juve, made it to another Champions League final and finally left for MLS in 2015 while Seedorf and Gattuso managed a further 24 league matches between them for Milan. Don’t stroke your chin too vigorously at that misjudgment, it will play havoc with your beard. Kevin De Bruyne: Chelsea to Wolfsburg; Romelu Lukaku: Chelsea to Everton; Mo Salah: Chelsea to Roma Kevin De Bruyne traps the ball during Chelsea's match against Hull City in 2013 Credit: EDDIE KEOGH/REUTERS Chelsea made a commendable profit on Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku and Mohamed Salah when they sold the first two in 2014 and the Egypt forward two years later after long loan spells with Fiorentina and Roma, raking in almost £30m for players who made 43 appearances between them. A nice little earner that reflects well on Chelsea’s scouting and development system. But one can’t help thinking - despite the protestations of Frank Lampard and John Terry who have praised the players for leaving but insist it does not reflect badly on the club that has, like the cliched shark, to keep moving forward or die - that a little more patience, a few more opportunities and a touch more inflexibility when they held the upper hand would have better served them. Yes, Jose Mourinho wanted money to invest in players of his own choosing and no one could predict that each would improve so swiftly that they have become three of the most vibrant and valuable talents in the game. That was down to them and their dedication. Salah scores Chelsea's sixth in the 6-0 thrashing of Arsenal in March 2014 Credit: GLYN KIRK/AFP But someone at Stamford Bridge must have noted how assiduous each of them was, divined their characters or been swayed by their diligence and ambition. Chelsea’s loss - compounded by the lack of buy-back clauses - has been three rivals’ gain and has to represent a monstrous, three-headed blunder.
Sold too soon: the other side of transfer market blunders
The closing of the transfer window inspires the habitual churning out of the worst transfers ever, like bedtime stories that lose none of their allure in the biannual retelling. “Tell us the one about Bosko Balaban, again, Dad. How much? Did Tommy Brolin really turn up at Elland Road with a Space Hopper up his gansey? Yes, I’m sure Bebe looked a world-beater on video.” But those old, familiar tales represent only one side of the ledger: purchases commonly ridiculed in hindsight. The other classification, routinely overlooked, is the premature and mistaken disposal. It’s a difficult category to define. For the sake of fairness one should strip out clubs who sold because they were financially strapped, players who went for fees too good to turn down and also those who acted the meddlesome priest, agitating for transfers and allowed to move on simply to be rid of them. The focus is on sales such as Nemanja Matic's not the ones like Diego Costa's. Here, then, are some of the managerial misjudgments, players discarded too soon for any number of reasons: poor form trumping class, undervaluation, prejudice, ageism or a simple miscalculation. Frank McLintock: Arsenal to QPR When Bertie Mee dropped Arsenal’s Double-winning captain Frank McLintock during the 1972-73 season, the 33-year-old Scot, whose skill and drive had helped transform the club and his own career in a glorious Indian summer, was devastated. Frank McLintock completes the Double in 1971 and celebrates with Charlie George who scored that unforgettable goal Credit: Allsport Hulton/Archive Mee’s decision to replace the classy, inspirational centre-back with the ponderous, ham-footed colossus, Jeff Blockley, beggared belief and has to be interpreted as Mee’s attempt to wrest control of the club back from the dressing room and its charismatic leader. McLintock remembers that he wept when he went to see Mee, the tears splashing off his Arsenal blazer after finding his manager obdurate to his claims for a recall. He felt he had no choice but to ask for a transfer - which Mee granted but turned down his request either to be allowed to leave on a free to negotiate a better deal with a new club or to grant him the testimonial he would have been due if he could have stomached six more months in the reserves. Mee told him that the 10 years’ qualification for a testimonial would not be altered to suit him and seeing he was six months short he would have to lump it. McLintock left for newly-promoted QPR for £25,000 at the end of the season, Arsenal’s failure to inform him of a late bid from Derby County’s Brian Clough, champions in 1972, the final insult. He gave four years of outstanding service to QPR, masterly on the field and in the dressing room during Rangers’ greatest ever season, 1975-76, when they lost out on the title by a single point after Liverpool turned a 0-1 deficit to Wolves with 14 minutes to go into a 3-1 victory in their final game, 10 days after QPR had completed their fixtures. Arsenal, meanwhile, replaced the hopeless Blockley with the rugged 32-year-old Terry Mancini from QPR in 1974, failing to understand that in his year playing alongside McLintock that it was his partner who had made him look half decent. Mee stood down in 1976 after successive 16th- and 17th-placed finishes, his determination to break up his Double-winning side having all but fatally weakened it. Pat Jennings: Tottenham to Arsenal Pat Jennings joined Arsenal from Spurs in 1977 Credit: PA Pan-handed colossus whose gloveless mitts, or “Lurgan shovels” as his former Northern Ireland team-mate and manager Billy Bingham called them, were put to devastating effect to steal the ball, one handed, off forwards’ foreheads a fraction of a second before impact. Miserly and resilient as he was during seven seasons as a first-team regular at Arsenal, he was finer still at Tottenham, an innovative and unorthodox keeper who was masterly at scrambling across his box, efficiently used any part of his body to block the ball and commanded the penalty area with a calm authority. He maintained his agility and elasticity well into his late 30s and managed for most of his career without gloves and, for the latter half of it, with what appeared to be a Bedlington Terrier on his head. Sold by Tottenham in August 1977 for £40,000 after they were relegated because the manager, Keith Burkinshaw, thought Barry Daines a better long-term bet, Jennings played a further 327 games for Arsenal, appeared in three successive FA Cup finals, winning one, and the Cup Winners’ Cup final defeat by Valencia. He was Northern Ireland’s first choice at two World Cups at the ages of 37 and 41 while Spurs took four years to replace him adequately in 1981 with Ray Clemence. At a stroke Tottenham sold their greatest ever goalkeeper to their biggest rivals for a song. He didn’t want to leave but his club essentially wrote him off at the age of 32, weakened their own side and strengthened Arsenal’s. The going rate for a goalkeeper of rare talent still in his prime? The £270,000 Forest paid Stoke for Peter Shilton a month later. Gordon Strachan: Manchester United to Leeds Gordon Strachan, right, left Manchester United, where he won the FA Cup, for Leeds United, where he won the title Credit: Brian Smith for The Telegraph In 1989 Gordon Strachan made the journey from Lancashire to Yorkshire that Bobby Collins had taken 17 years earlier when signing for Leeds from Everton and also delivered Leeds from Second Division purgatory. There are other glorious swansongs in the game’s rich past when a veteran’s impact in galvanising young teams was as important as anything he did on the field. In the 1980s Kevin Keegan did it at Newcastle, Johan Cruyff and Arnold Muhren at Ajax and Franz Beckenbauer at Hamburg, but Strachan was arguably the last. Now the biggest clubs tend to wring every drop from an elite player's body and soul while pay packets fulfil all their ambitions so it’s unlikely that a Championship club could attract a veteran international and task him with a mission to set the tenor of a rejuvenation project. Strachan was 32 when he left Old Trafford for Elland Road, over-familiar with Alex Ferguson after almost nine years together at Aberdeen and Manchester United. Ferguson, too, had had enough and felt a fresh start would benefit both parties. It certainly benefited Strachan who led Leeds to promotion in his first full season followed by a fourth-place top-flight finish and then, thrillingly, the title from Manchester United by four points. Even in his 39th year, when he left Leeds for Coventry, his drive was undiminished and his exacting standards ensured everyone was motivated and desperate to match them. The £300,000 he cost Leeds was the canniest investment Howard Wilkinson ever made. Manchester United were left without an orthodox right-sided midfielder for a couple of seasons until Ferguson signed Andrei Kanchelskis in 1991, the same year Strachan had been named, like Collins before him in 1965, Footballer of Year at the age of 34. Peter Beardsley: Liverpool to Everton Beardsley with John Barnes after winning his second title at Anfield in 1990 Credit: Dan Smith /Allsport No one has forged such a high number of prolific partnerships with out-and-out goalscorers than Peter Beardsley before or since. At his very best during his first spell at Newcastle with Kevin Keegan, at Liverpool he paired up with John Aldridge and then Ian Rush, with Tony Cottee at Everton and then with Andy Cole and Les Ferdinand in his second spell at St James’ Park. One can criticise Graham Taylor's time as England's manager for any number of reasons, but the most cardinal sin was his jettisoning of Beardsley, which diminished Gary Lineker and effectively turned him into little more than a goalhanger. That was an error of two-for-the-price-of-one proportions. If a player of Beardsley's ability was available now, one whose intelligence brought the best out of so many partners while scoring more than 200 goals himself, there would be little cavilling at a fee of more than £50m. In different times Graeme Souness sold the 30-year-old to Everton in 1991 for £1m, a not inconsiderable sum but peanuts compared with his true value, as Newcastle would show when paying more for him two years later. Peter Beardsley scored for both sides in the Merseyside derby Credit: Shaun Botterill/Allsport There were times during his four seasons at Anfield when Kenny Dalglish seemed equivocal about his talents - dropping him for the title decider with Arsenal in 1989, buying David Speedie to replace him in the winter of 1990-91 - and Souness seems to have picked up on that lack of faith while also wanting to fund a statement signing of his own during his first close season at Anfield. The fact he went for the bullocking Dean Saunders, more rumbustious, infinitely less refined, paid £2.5m but ditched him at a loss within 12 months tells us more about Souness than it does about Beardsley who went on to have six more years at the top, scored 89 more goals and made half a century more. Matthias Sammer: Inter to Borussia Dortmund Matthias Sammer, the heir to Franz Beckenbauer Credit: Action Images In 1996 Matthias Sammer became only the second defender in 40 years to win the Ballon d’Or, following in the Trefoil bootsteps of his compatriot and fellow sweeper, Franz Beckenbauer. He was player of the tournament during Germany’s victory at Euro 96 and, like his illustrious predecessor, a converted midfielder whose reading of the game, exemplary leadership and positional skills, class and composure on the ball gave him a kind of omnipresence, smoothly interceding to whip the ball away from danger when the opposition pierced the lines. A ball hog, his passing range was limited but defined by unerring precision, his long sweeping runs upfield from the back, timed meticulously, would accelerate with the tough grace of an armour-plated ministerial Daimler. Sammer moved to Inter for £5.1m in the summer of 1992 after winning the Bundesliga in his second season at Stuttgart where he was employed as a defensive midfielder rather than the libero he would become at Borussia Dortmund. It’s a matter of only a few yards’ difference but it made a world of difference, harnessing his defensive instincts while giving him the space to make the play with those magnificent sorties. Inter signed him in 1991 but let him stay on at Stuttgart because they already had their three overseas players - Sammer’s Germany team-mates Lothar Matthaus, Andreas Brehme and Jurgen Klinsmann - and when he did arrive were surprised to find he had not mastered a single word of Italian. Osvaldo Bagnoli played him as an advanced midfielder in a counter-attacking system designed to exploit the pace of Ruben Sosa. Sammer scored four goals in 11 Serie A appearances but found the tactics too rigid and refused to put down roots. Il Messagero reported that he was living out of suitcases in his lakeside villa with his TV propped up on a tea chest the only furniture apart from a bed. Inter, spoilt by Matthaus, Brehme and Klinsmann who had loved the club, the country and mastered the language, were as fed up with a player who had just about learnt to say ‘Ciao’ by December as he was with life and work in Italy. They cut their losses after five months and sold him for £4.8m to Dortmund. There, Ottmar Hitzfeld dropped him from in front of the back four to behind it and he won his second and third Bundesliga titles and the Champions League in 1997. A serious knee injury shortly after the final ended his career at the age of 30 having played only three more games. Claude Makélelé: Real Madrid to Chelsea Makelele tackles David Batty of Leeds United at the Bernabeu in 2001 Credit: REUTERS/Desmond Boylan The second coming of Florentino Pérez as president of Real Madrid has been defined and improved by learning from the errors he made during his first spell at the Bernabéu. Then, the preening pomposity of his galáctico project, bit him on the backside when he deemed a manager and a player who were integral to the success lacked the requisite glamour to play for his marketing machine. In the summer of 2003, after winning La Liga, Vicente Del Bosque was sacked and Claude Makélelé, the players’ player of the year, was knocked back when he went to negotiate a pay rise that reflected his contribution. He wasn’t asking for parity with Luis Figo, Ronaldo, Zinedine Zidane and David Beckham but nor did he expect Pérez to refuse flatly and then disparage him when he handed in a transfer request. “We will not miss Makélelé,” said Pérez. “His technique is average, he lacks the speed and skill to take the ball past opponents, and ninety percent of his distribution either goes backwards or sideways. He wasn't a header of the ball and he rarely passed the ball more than three metres. Younger players will arrive who will cause Makélelé to be forgotten.” He went to Chelsea for £16.8m, won two league titles and must have felt more than a frisson of schadenfreude over the next three years that Real Madrid won nothing, the only central midfielder bought to replace him was Thomas Gravesen, Pérez walked away and more than a decade on instead of being forgotten Makélelé is recognised as the pivotal player in a team that did not fulfil its potential. And his sale amounted to one of the greatest acts of self-hobbling in the game’s history. Gary Cahill: Aston Villa to Bolton Gary Cahill spent three full seasons at Bolton after Aston Villa sold him and six months after he left the Reebok he won the Champions League Credit: Action Images / Lee Smith Gary Cahill was always the odd man out at Aston Villa, enjoying his best season in 2006-07 at the club he joined as a trainee when filling in for the tremendous but injury-ravaged Martin Laursen. In the autumn of the following season he signed for Sheffield United on loan and impressed so much that Gary Megson agreed a deal with Villa to take the 22-year-old to Bolton Wanderers for £5m. One can understand the logic for Martin O’Neill selling him - Laursen was imperious at the back that season, Olof Mellberg was as reliable as ever and he had just signed Zat Knight but it wasn’t to last and the fragile Laursen broke down, this time for good, within the year. And yet Cahill displayed enormous promise and lacked only experience. In three full seasons at Bolton he became an England squad regular, displaying his robustness in the tackle, power in the air and pace to correct most mistakes even if he was sometimes slack in possession and caught dithering on the ball. In January 2012 Chelsea bought him for £7m, taking advantage of Bolton’s toils on and off the field and he won the FA Cup and Champions League in his first five months. Since then he has earned two titles, the first in a Jose Mourinho back-four, the second as Antonio Conte’s captain in a back three where the beauty of his manager’s system was that it gave the captain little to do but counted on the acuteness of his antennae and astuteness of positioning to prevent it falling apart. In the two years after letting Cahill go, Villa paid more for each of Carlos Cuélar, Curtis Davies, James Collins and Richard Dunne, none of whom were as durable of the future England captain they let go. Andrea Pirlo: Milan to Juventus Milan's Andrea Pirlo turns away from Arsenal's Aleksandr Hleb Credit: Stu Forster/Getty Images If Inter’s decision to let Andrea Pirlo leave for Milan in 2001 seems a poor one, we can partially exonerate them because they received more than £13m for him and they were reluctant to play him in his optimum position as a deep-lying playmaker where he had excelled on loan at Brescia. Inter used Gigi Di Biagio there, as did Italy, and decided to liquidate their asset, investing the proceeds in Mohamed Kallon and Emre. During a decade in the black and red, Pirlo became the most elegant midfielder in the game, redefining the concept of a holding midfielder as more an advanced sweeper than a wall and exploiting his immaculate control and mastery of the arcing, rapidly dipping long pass to manipulate and often bypass the opposition’s midfield and defence. He won two Champions Leagues and two Serie A titles, the last Scudetto in his final season when he played a mere 17 times because the manager, Max Allegri, preferred the more orthodox defensive style of Mark van Bommel. That summer the club decided to retain the 35-year-old Clarence Seedorf and the 33-year-old Rino Gattuso and let Pirlo, 32, move on to Juventus where he won four successive titles and grew the fuzz that made him the mango-IPA-drinkers’ as well as the purists’ favourite player. Pirlo played 119 Serie A matches for Juve, made it to another Champions League final and finally left for MLS in 2015 while Seedorf and Gattuso managed a further 24 league matches between them for Milan. Don’t stroke your chin too vigorously at that misjudgment, it will play havoc with your beard. Kevin De Bruyne: Chelsea to Wolfsburg; Romelu Lukaku: Chelsea to Everton; Mo Salah: Chelsea to Roma Kevin De Bruyne traps the ball during Chelsea's match against Hull City in 2013 Credit: EDDIE KEOGH/REUTERS Chelsea made a commendable profit on Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku and Mohamed Salah when they sold the first two in 2014 and the Egypt forward two years later after long loan spells with Fiorentina and Roma, raking in almost £30m for players who made 43 appearances between them. A nice little earner that reflects well on Chelsea’s scouting and development system. But one can’t help thinking - despite the protestations of Frank Lampard and John Terry who have praised the players for leaving but insist it does not reflect badly on the club that has, like the cliched shark, to keep moving forward or die - that a little more patience, a few more opportunities and a touch more inflexibility when they held the upper hand would have better served them. Yes, Jose Mourinho wanted money to invest in players of his own choosing and no one could predict that each would improve so swiftly that they have become three of the most vibrant and valuable talents in the game. That was down to them and their dedication. Salah scores Chelsea's sixth in the 6-0 thrashing of Arsenal in March 2014 Credit: GLYN KIRK/AFP But someone at Stamford Bridge must have noted how assiduous each of them was, divined their characters or been swayed by their diligence and ambition. Chelsea’s loss - compounded by the lack of buy-back clauses - has been three rivals’ gain and has to represent a monstrous, three-headed blunder.
The closing of the transfer window inspires the habitual churning out of the worst transfers ever, like bedtime stories that lose none of their allure in the biannual retelling. “Tell us the one about Bosko Balaban, again, Dad. How much? Did Tommy Brolin really turn up at Elland Road with a Space Hopper up his gansey? Yes, I’m sure Bebe looked a world-beater on video.” But those old, familiar tales represent only one side of the ledger: purchases commonly ridiculed in hindsight. The other classification, routinely overlooked, is the premature and mistaken disposal. It’s a difficult category to define. For the sake of fairness one should strip out clubs who sold because they were financially strapped, players who went for fees too good to turn down and also those who acted the meddlesome priest, agitating for transfers and allowed to move on simply to be rid of them. The focus is on sales such as Nemanja Matic's not the ones like Diego Costa's. Here, then, are some of the managerial misjudgments, players discarded too soon for any number of reasons: poor form trumping class, undervaluation, prejudice, ageism or a simple miscalculation. Frank McLintock: Arsenal to QPR When Bertie Mee dropped Arsenal’s Double-winning captain Frank McLintock during the 1972-73 season, the 33-year-old Scot, whose skill and drive had helped transform the club and his own career in a glorious Indian summer, was devastated. Frank McLintock completes the Double in 1971 and celebrates with Charlie George who scored that unforgettable goal Credit: Allsport Hulton/Archive Mee’s decision to replace the classy, inspirational centre-back with the ponderous, ham-footed colossus, Jeff Blockley, beggared belief and has to be interpreted as Mee’s attempt to wrest control of the club back from the dressing room and its charismatic leader. McLintock remembers that he wept when he went to see Mee, the tears splashing off his Arsenal blazer after finding his manager obdurate to his claims for a recall. He felt he had no choice but to ask for a transfer - which Mee granted but turned down his request either to be allowed to leave on a free to negotiate a better deal with a new club or to grant him the testimonial he would have been due if he could have stomached six more months in the reserves. Mee told him that the 10 years’ qualification for a testimonial would not be altered to suit him and seeing he was six months short he would have to lump it. McLintock left for newly-promoted QPR for £25,000 at the end of the season, Arsenal’s failure to inform him of a late bid from Derby County’s Brian Clough, champions in 1972, the final insult. He gave four years of outstanding service to QPR, masterly on the field and in the dressing room during Rangers’ greatest ever season, 1975-76, when they lost out on the title by a single point after Liverpool turned a 0-1 deficit to Wolves with 14 minutes to go into a 3-1 victory in their final game, 10 days after QPR had completed their fixtures. Arsenal, meanwhile, replaced the hopeless Blockley with the rugged 32-year-old Terry Mancini from QPR in 1974, failing to understand that in his year playing alongside McLintock that it was his partner who had made him look half decent. Mee stood down in 1976 after successive 16th- and 17th-placed finishes, his determination to break up his Double-winning side having all but fatally weakened it. Pat Jennings: Tottenham to Arsenal Pat Jennings joined Arsenal from Spurs in 1977 Credit: PA Pan-handed colossus whose gloveless mitts, or “Lurgan shovels” as his former Northern Ireland team-mate and manager Billy Bingham called them, were put to devastating effect to steal the ball, one handed, off forwards’ foreheads a fraction of a second before impact. Miserly and resilient as he was during seven seasons as a first-team regular at Arsenal, he was finer still at Tottenham, an innovative and unorthodox keeper who was masterly at scrambling across his box, efficiently used any part of his body to block the ball and commanded the penalty area with a calm authority. He maintained his agility and elasticity well into his late 30s and managed for most of his career without gloves and, for the latter half of it, with what appeared to be a Bedlington Terrier on his head. Sold by Tottenham in August 1977 for £40,000 after they were relegated because the manager, Keith Burkinshaw, thought Barry Daines a better long-term bet, Jennings played a further 327 games for Arsenal, appeared in three successive FA Cup finals, winning one, and the Cup Winners’ Cup final defeat by Valencia. He was Northern Ireland’s first choice at two World Cups at the ages of 37 and 41 while Spurs took four years to replace him adequately in 1981 with Ray Clemence. At a stroke Tottenham sold their greatest ever goalkeeper to their biggest rivals for a song. He didn’t want to leave but his club essentially wrote him off at the age of 32, weakened their own side and strengthened Arsenal’s. The going rate for a goalkeeper of rare talent still in his prime? The £270,000 Forest paid Stoke for Peter Shilton a month later. Gordon Strachan: Manchester United to Leeds Gordon Strachan, right, left Manchester United, where he won the FA Cup, for Leeds United, where he won the title Credit: Brian Smith for The Telegraph In 1989 Gordon Strachan made the journey from Lancashire to Yorkshire that Bobby Collins had taken 17 years earlier when signing for Leeds from Everton and also delivered Leeds from Second Division purgatory. There are other glorious swansongs in the game’s rich past when a veteran’s impact in galvanising young teams was as important as anything he did on the field. In the 1980s Kevin Keegan did it at Newcastle, Johan Cruyff and Arnold Muhren at Ajax and Franz Beckenbauer at Hamburg, but Strachan was arguably the last. Now the biggest clubs tend to wring every drop from an elite player's body and soul while pay packets fulfil all their ambitions so it’s unlikely that a Championship club could attract a veteran international and task him with a mission to set the tenor of a rejuvenation project. Strachan was 32 when he left Old Trafford for Elland Road, over-familiar with Alex Ferguson after almost nine years together at Aberdeen and Manchester United. Ferguson, too, had had enough and felt a fresh start would benefit both parties. It certainly benefited Strachan who led Leeds to promotion in his first full season followed by a fourth-place top-flight finish and then, thrillingly, the title from Manchester United by four points. Even in his 39th year, when he left Leeds for Coventry, his drive was undiminished and his exacting standards ensured everyone was motivated and desperate to match them. The £300,000 he cost Leeds was the canniest investment Howard Wilkinson ever made. Manchester United were left without an orthodox right-sided midfielder for a couple of seasons until Ferguson signed Andrei Kanchelskis in 1991, the same year Strachan had been named, like Collins before him in 1965, Footballer of Year at the age of 34. Peter Beardsley: Liverpool to Everton Beardsley with John Barnes after winning his second title at Anfield in 1990 Credit: Dan Smith /Allsport No one has forged such a high number of prolific partnerships with out-and-out goalscorers than Peter Beardsley before or since. At his very best during his first spell at Newcastle with Kevin Keegan, at Liverpool he paired up with John Aldridge and then Ian Rush, with Tony Cottee at Everton and then with Andy Cole and Les Ferdinand in his second spell at St James’ Park. One can criticise Graham Taylor's time as England's manager for any number of reasons, but the most cardinal sin was his jettisoning of Beardsley, which diminished Gary Lineker and effectively turned him into little more than a goalhanger. That was an error of two-for-the-price-of-one proportions. If a player of Beardsley's ability was available now, one whose intelligence brought the best out of so many partners while scoring more than 200 goals himself, there would be little cavilling at a fee of more than £50m. In different times Graeme Souness sold the 30-year-old to Everton in 1991 for £1m, a not inconsiderable sum but peanuts compared with his true value, as Newcastle would show when paying more for him two years later. Peter Beardsley scored for both sides in the Merseyside derby Credit: Shaun Botterill/Allsport There were times during his four seasons at Anfield when Kenny Dalglish seemed equivocal about his talents - dropping him for the title decider with Arsenal in 1989, buying David Speedie to replace him in the winter of 1990-91 - and Souness seems to have picked up on that lack of faith while also wanting to fund a statement signing of his own during his first close season at Anfield. The fact he went for the bullocking Dean Saunders, more rumbustious, infinitely less refined, paid £2.5m but ditched him at a loss within 12 months tells us more about Souness than it does about Beardsley who went on to have six more years at the top, scored 89 more goals and made half a century more. Matthias Sammer: Inter to Borussia Dortmund Matthias Sammer, the heir to Franz Beckenbauer Credit: Action Images In 1996 Matthias Sammer became only the second defender in 40 years to win the Ballon d’Or, following in the Trefoil bootsteps of his compatriot and fellow sweeper, Franz Beckenbauer. He was player of the tournament during Germany’s victory at Euro 96 and, like his illustrious predecessor, a converted midfielder whose reading of the game, exemplary leadership and positional skills, class and composure on the ball gave him a kind of omnipresence, smoothly interceding to whip the ball away from danger when the opposition pierced the lines. A ball hog, his passing range was limited but defined by unerring precision, his long sweeping runs upfield from the back, timed meticulously, would accelerate with the tough grace of an armour-plated ministerial Daimler. Sammer moved to Inter for £5.1m in the summer of 1992 after winning the Bundesliga in his second season at Stuttgart where he was employed as a defensive midfielder rather than the libero he would become at Borussia Dortmund. It’s a matter of only a few yards’ difference but it made a world of difference, harnessing his defensive instincts while giving him the space to make the play with those magnificent sorties. Inter signed him in 1991 but let him stay on at Stuttgart because they already had their three overseas players - Sammer’s Germany team-mates Lothar Matthaus, Andreas Brehme and Jurgen Klinsmann - and when he did arrive were surprised to find he had not mastered a single word of Italian. Osvaldo Bagnoli played him as an advanced midfielder in a counter-attacking system designed to exploit the pace of Ruben Sosa. Sammer scored four goals in 11 Serie A appearances but found the tactics too rigid and refused to put down roots. Il Messagero reported that he was living out of suitcases in his lakeside villa with his TV propped up on a tea chest the only furniture apart from a bed. Inter, spoilt by Matthaus, Brehme and Klinsmann who had loved the club, the country and mastered the language, were as fed up with a player who had just about learnt to say ‘Ciao’ by December as he was with life and work in Italy. They cut their losses after five months and sold him for £4.8m to Dortmund. There, Ottmar Hitzfeld dropped him from in front of the back four to behind it and he won his second and third Bundesliga titles and the Champions League in 1997. A serious knee injury shortly after the final ended his career at the age of 30 having played only three more games. Claude Makélelé: Real Madrid to Chelsea Makelele tackles David Batty of Leeds United at the Bernabeu in 2001 Credit: REUTERS/Desmond Boylan The second coming of Florentino Pérez as president of Real Madrid has been defined and improved by learning from the errors he made during his first spell at the Bernabéu. Then, the preening pomposity of his galáctico project, bit him on the backside when he deemed a manager and a player who were integral to the success lacked the requisite glamour to play for his marketing machine. In the summer of 2003, after winning La Liga, Vicente Del Bosque was sacked and Claude Makélelé, the players’ player of the year, was knocked back when he went to negotiate a pay rise that reflected his contribution. He wasn’t asking for parity with Luis Figo, Ronaldo, Zinedine Zidane and David Beckham but nor did he expect Pérez to refuse flatly and then disparage him when he handed in a transfer request. “We will not miss Makélelé,” said Pérez. “His technique is average, he lacks the speed and skill to take the ball past opponents, and ninety percent of his distribution either goes backwards or sideways. He wasn't a header of the ball and he rarely passed the ball more than three metres. Younger players will arrive who will cause Makélelé to be forgotten.” He went to Chelsea for £16.8m, won two league titles and must have felt more than a frisson of schadenfreude over the next three years that Real Madrid won nothing, the only central midfielder bought to replace him was Thomas Gravesen, Pérez walked away and more than a decade on instead of being forgotten Makélelé is recognised as the pivotal player in a team that did not fulfil its potential. And his sale amounted to one of the greatest acts of self-hobbling in the game’s history. Gary Cahill: Aston Villa to Bolton Gary Cahill spent three full seasons at Bolton after Aston Villa sold him and six months after he left the Reebok he won the Champions League Credit: Action Images / Lee Smith Gary Cahill was always the odd man out at Aston Villa, enjoying his best season in 2006-07 at the club he joined as a trainee when filling in for the tremendous but injury-ravaged Martin Laursen. In the autumn of the following season he signed for Sheffield United on loan and impressed so much that Gary Megson agreed a deal with Villa to take the 22-year-old to Bolton Wanderers for £5m. One can understand the logic for Martin O’Neill selling him - Laursen was imperious at the back that season, Olof Mellberg was as reliable as ever and he had just signed Zat Knight but it wasn’t to last and the fragile Laursen broke down, this time for good, within the year. And yet Cahill displayed enormous promise and lacked only experience. In three full seasons at Bolton he became an England squad regular, displaying his robustness in the tackle, power in the air and pace to correct most mistakes even if he was sometimes slack in possession and caught dithering on the ball. In January 2012 Chelsea bought him for £7m, taking advantage of Bolton’s toils on and off the field and he won the FA Cup and Champions League in his first five months. Since then he has earned two titles, the first in a Jose Mourinho back-four, the second as Antonio Conte’s captain in a back three where the beauty of his manager’s system was that it gave the captain little to do but counted on the acuteness of his antennae and astuteness of positioning to prevent it falling apart. In the two years after letting Cahill go, Villa paid more for each of Carlos Cuélar, Curtis Davies, James Collins and Richard Dunne, none of whom were as durable of the future England captain they let go. Andrea Pirlo: Milan to Juventus Milan's Andrea Pirlo turns away from Arsenal's Aleksandr Hleb Credit: Stu Forster/Getty Images If Inter’s decision to let Andrea Pirlo leave for Milan in 2001 seems a poor one, we can partially exonerate them because they received more than £13m for him and they were reluctant to play him in his optimum position as a deep-lying playmaker where he had excelled on loan at Brescia. Inter used Gigi Di Biagio there, as did Italy, and decided to liquidate their asset, investing the proceeds in Mohamed Kallon and Emre. During a decade in the black and red, Pirlo became the most elegant midfielder in the game, redefining the concept of a holding midfielder as more an advanced sweeper than a wall and exploiting his immaculate control and mastery of the arcing, rapidly dipping long pass to manipulate and often bypass the opposition’s midfield and defence. He won two Champions Leagues and two Serie A titles, the last Scudetto in his final season when he played a mere 17 times because the manager, Max Allegri, preferred the more orthodox defensive style of Mark van Bommel. That summer the club decided to retain the 35-year-old Clarence Seedorf and the 33-year-old Rino Gattuso and let Pirlo, 32, move on to Juventus where he won four successive titles and grew the fuzz that made him the mango-IPA-drinkers’ as well as the purists’ favourite player. Pirlo played 119 Serie A matches for Juve, made it to another Champions League final and finally left for MLS in 2015 while Seedorf and Gattuso managed a further 24 league matches between them for Milan. Don’t stroke your chin too vigorously at that misjudgment, it will play havoc with your beard. Kevin De Bruyne: Chelsea to Wolfsburg; Romelu Lukaku: Chelsea to Everton; Mo Salah: Chelsea to Roma Kevin De Bruyne traps the ball during Chelsea's match against Hull City in 2013 Credit: EDDIE KEOGH/REUTERS Chelsea made a commendable profit on Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku and Mohamed Salah when they sold the first two in 2014 and the Egypt forward two years later after long loan spells with Fiorentina and Roma, raking in almost £30m for players who made 43 appearances between them. A nice little earner that reflects well on Chelsea’s scouting and development system. But one can’t help thinking - despite the protestations of Frank Lampard and John Terry who have praised the players for leaving but insist it does not reflect badly on the club that has, like the cliched shark, to keep moving forward or die - that a little more patience, a few more opportunities and a touch more inflexibility when they held the upper hand would have better served them. Yes, Jose Mourinho wanted money to invest in players of his own choosing and no one could predict that each would improve so swiftly that they have become three of the most vibrant and valuable talents in the game. That was down to them and their dedication. Salah scores Chelsea's sixth in the 6-0 thrashing of Arsenal in March 2014 Credit: GLYN KIRK/AFP But someone at Stamford Bridge must have noted how assiduous each of them was, divined their characters or been swayed by their diligence and ambition. Chelsea’s loss - compounded by the lack of buy-back clauses - has been three rivals’ gain and has to represent a monstrous, three-headed blunder.
Sold too soon: the other side of transfer market blunders
The closing of the transfer window inspires the habitual churning out of the worst transfers ever, like bedtime stories that lose none of their allure in the biannual retelling. “Tell us the one about Bosko Balaban, again, Dad. How much? Did Tommy Brolin really turn up at Elland Road with a Space Hopper up his gansey? Yes, I’m sure Bebe looked a world-beater on video.” But those old, familiar tales represent only one side of the ledger: purchases commonly ridiculed in hindsight. The other classification, routinely overlooked, is the premature and mistaken disposal. It’s a difficult category to define. For the sake of fairness one should strip out clubs who sold because they were financially strapped, players who went for fees too good to turn down and also those who acted the meddlesome priest, agitating for transfers and allowed to move on simply to be rid of them. The focus is on sales such as Nemanja Matic's not the ones like Diego Costa's. Here, then, are some of the managerial misjudgments, players discarded too soon for any number of reasons: poor form trumping class, undervaluation, prejudice, ageism or a simple miscalculation. Frank McLintock: Arsenal to QPR When Bertie Mee dropped Arsenal’s Double-winning captain Frank McLintock during the 1972-73 season, the 33-year-old Scot, whose skill and drive had helped transform the club and his own career in a glorious Indian summer, was devastated. Frank McLintock completes the Double in 1971 and celebrates with Charlie George who scored that unforgettable goal Credit: Allsport Hulton/Archive Mee’s decision to replace the classy, inspirational centre-back with the ponderous, ham-footed colossus, Jeff Blockley, beggared belief and has to be interpreted as Mee’s attempt to wrest control of the club back from the dressing room and its charismatic leader. McLintock remembers that he wept when he went to see Mee, the tears splashing off his Arsenal blazer after finding his manager obdurate to his claims for a recall. He felt he had no choice but to ask for a transfer - which Mee granted but turned down his request either to be allowed to leave on a free to negotiate a better deal with a new club or to grant him the testimonial he would have been due if he could have stomached six more months in the reserves. Mee told him that the 10 years’ qualification for a testimonial would not be altered to suit him and seeing he was six months short he would have to lump it. McLintock left for newly-promoted QPR for £25,000 at the end of the season, Arsenal’s failure to inform him of a late bid from Derby County’s Brian Clough, champions in 1972, the final insult. He gave four years of outstanding service to QPR, masterly on the field and in the dressing room during Rangers’ greatest ever season, 1975-76, when they lost out on the title by a single point after Liverpool turned a 0-1 deficit to Wolves with 14 minutes to go into a 3-1 victory in their final game, 10 days after QPR had completed their fixtures. Arsenal, meanwhile, replaced the hopeless Blockley with the rugged 32-year-old Terry Mancini from QPR in 1974, failing to understand that in his year playing alongside McLintock that it was his partner who had made him look half decent. Mee stood down in 1976 after successive 16th- and 17th-placed finishes, his determination to break up his Double-winning side having all but fatally weakened it. Pat Jennings: Tottenham to Arsenal Pat Jennings joined Arsenal from Spurs in 1977 Credit: PA Pan-handed colossus whose gloveless mitts, or “Lurgan shovels” as his former Northern Ireland team-mate and manager Billy Bingham called them, were put to devastating effect to steal the ball, one handed, off forwards’ foreheads a fraction of a second before impact. Miserly and resilient as he was during seven seasons as a first-team regular at Arsenal, he was finer still at Tottenham, an innovative and unorthodox keeper who was masterly at scrambling across his box, efficiently used any part of his body to block the ball and commanded the penalty area with a calm authority. He maintained his agility and elasticity well into his late 30s and managed for most of his career without gloves and, for the latter half of it, with what appeared to be a Bedlington Terrier on his head. Sold by Tottenham in August 1977 for £40,000 after they were relegated because the manager, Keith Burkinshaw, thought Barry Daines a better long-term bet, Jennings played a further 327 games for Arsenal, appeared in three successive FA Cup finals, winning one, and the Cup Winners’ Cup final defeat by Valencia. He was Northern Ireland’s first choice at two World Cups at the ages of 37 and 41 while Spurs took four years to replace him adequately in 1981 with Ray Clemence. At a stroke Tottenham sold their greatest ever goalkeeper to their biggest rivals for a song. He didn’t want to leave but his club essentially wrote him off at the age of 32, weakened their own side and strengthened Arsenal’s. The going rate for a goalkeeper of rare talent still in his prime? The £270,000 Forest paid Stoke for Peter Shilton a month later. Gordon Strachan: Manchester United to Leeds Gordon Strachan, right, left Manchester United, where he won the FA Cup, for Leeds United, where he won the title Credit: Brian Smith for The Telegraph In 1989 Gordon Strachan made the journey from Lancashire to Yorkshire that Bobby Collins had taken 17 years earlier when signing for Leeds from Everton and also delivered Leeds from Second Division purgatory. There are other glorious swansongs in the game’s rich past when a veteran’s impact in galvanising young teams was as important as anything he did on the field. In the 1980s Kevin Keegan did it at Newcastle, Johan Cruyff and Arnold Muhren at Ajax and Franz Beckenbauer at Hamburg, but Strachan was arguably the last. Now the biggest clubs tend to wring every drop from an elite player's body and soul while pay packets fulfil all their ambitions so it’s unlikely that a Championship club could attract a veteran international and task him with a mission to set the tenor of a rejuvenation project. Strachan was 32 when he left Old Trafford for Elland Road, over-familiar with Alex Ferguson after almost nine years together at Aberdeen and Manchester United. Ferguson, too, had had enough and felt a fresh start would benefit both parties. It certainly benefited Strachan who led Leeds to promotion in his first full season followed by a fourth-place top-flight finish and then, thrillingly, the title from Manchester United by four points. Even in his 39th year, when he left Leeds for Coventry, his drive was undiminished and his exacting standards ensured everyone was motivated and desperate to match them. The £300,000 he cost Leeds was the canniest investment Howard Wilkinson ever made. Manchester United were left without an orthodox right-sided midfielder for a couple of seasons until Ferguson signed Andrei Kanchelskis in 1991, the same year Strachan had been named, like Collins before him in 1965, Footballer of Year at the age of 34. Peter Beardsley: Liverpool to Everton Beardsley with John Barnes after winning his second title at Anfield in 1990 Credit: Dan Smith /Allsport No one has forged such a high number of prolific partnerships with out-and-out goalscorers than Peter Beardsley before or since. At his very best during his first spell at Newcastle with Kevin Keegan, at Liverpool he paired up with John Aldridge and then Ian Rush, with Tony Cottee at Everton and then with Andy Cole and Les Ferdinand in his second spell at St James’ Park. One can criticise Graham Taylor's time as England's manager for any number of reasons, but the most cardinal sin was his jettisoning of Beardsley, which diminished Gary Lineker and effectively turned him into little more than a goalhanger. That was an error of two-for-the-price-of-one proportions. If a player of Beardsley's ability was available now, one whose intelligence brought the best out of so many partners while scoring more than 200 goals himself, there would be little cavilling at a fee of more than £50m. In different times Graeme Souness sold the 30-year-old to Everton in 1991 for £1m, a not inconsiderable sum but peanuts compared with his true value, as Newcastle would show when paying more for him two years later. Peter Beardsley scored for both sides in the Merseyside derby Credit: Shaun Botterill/Allsport There were times during his four seasons at Anfield when Kenny Dalglish seemed equivocal about his talents - dropping him for the title decider with Arsenal in 1989, buying David Speedie to replace him in the winter of 1990-91 - and Souness seems to have picked up on that lack of faith while also wanting to fund a statement signing of his own during his first close season at Anfield. The fact he went for the bullocking Dean Saunders, more rumbustious, infinitely less refined, paid £2.5m but ditched him at a loss within 12 months tells us more about Souness than it does about Beardsley who went on to have six more years at the top, scored 89 more goals and made half a century more. Matthias Sammer: Inter to Borussia Dortmund Matthias Sammer, the heir to Franz Beckenbauer Credit: Action Images In 1996 Matthias Sammer became only the second defender in 40 years to win the Ballon d’Or, following in the Trefoil bootsteps of his compatriot and fellow sweeper, Franz Beckenbauer. He was player of the tournament during Germany’s victory at Euro 96 and, like his illustrious predecessor, a converted midfielder whose reading of the game, exemplary leadership and positional skills, class and composure on the ball gave him a kind of omnipresence, smoothly interceding to whip the ball away from danger when the opposition pierced the lines. A ball hog, his passing range was limited but defined by unerring precision, his long sweeping runs upfield from the back, timed meticulously, would accelerate with the tough grace of an armour-plated ministerial Daimler. Sammer moved to Inter for £5.1m in the summer of 1992 after winning the Bundesliga in his second season at Stuttgart where he was employed as a defensive midfielder rather than the libero he would become at Borussia Dortmund. It’s a matter of only a few yards’ difference but it made a world of difference, harnessing his defensive instincts while giving him the space to make the play with those magnificent sorties. Inter signed him in 1991 but let him stay on at Stuttgart because they already had their three overseas players - Sammer’s Germany team-mates Lothar Matthaus, Andreas Brehme and Jurgen Klinsmann - and when he did arrive were surprised to find he had not mastered a single word of Italian. Osvaldo Bagnoli played him as an advanced midfielder in a counter-attacking system designed to exploit the pace of Ruben Sosa. Sammer scored four goals in 11 Serie A appearances but found the tactics too rigid and refused to put down roots. Il Messagero reported that he was living out of suitcases in his lakeside villa with his TV propped up on a tea chest the only furniture apart from a bed. Inter, spoilt by Matthaus, Brehme and Klinsmann who had loved the club, the country and mastered the language, were as fed up with a player who had just about learnt to say ‘Ciao’ by December as he was with life and work in Italy. They cut their losses after five months and sold him for £4.8m to Dortmund. There, Ottmar Hitzfeld dropped him from in front of the back four to behind it and he won his second and third Bundesliga titles and the Champions League in 1997. A serious knee injury shortly after the final ended his career at the age of 30 having played only three more games. Claude Makélelé: Real Madrid to Chelsea Makelele tackles David Batty of Leeds United at the Bernabeu in 2001 Credit: REUTERS/Desmond Boylan The second coming of Florentino Pérez as president of Real Madrid has been defined and improved by learning from the errors he made during his first spell at the Bernabéu. Then, the preening pomposity of his galáctico project, bit him on the backside when he deemed a manager and a player who were integral to the success lacked the requisite glamour to play for his marketing machine. In the summer of 2003, after winning La Liga, Vicente Del Bosque was sacked and Claude Makélelé, the players’ player of the year, was knocked back when he went to negotiate a pay rise that reflected his contribution. He wasn’t asking for parity with Luis Figo, Ronaldo, Zinedine Zidane and David Beckham but nor did he expect Pérez to refuse flatly and then disparage him when he handed in a transfer request. “We will not miss Makélelé,” said Pérez. “His technique is average, he lacks the speed and skill to take the ball past opponents, and ninety percent of his distribution either goes backwards or sideways. He wasn't a header of the ball and he rarely passed the ball more than three metres. Younger players will arrive who will cause Makélelé to be forgotten.” He went to Chelsea for £16.8m, won two league titles and must have felt more than a frisson of schadenfreude over the next three years that Real Madrid won nothing, the only central midfielder bought to replace him was Thomas Gravesen, Pérez walked away and more than a decade on instead of being forgotten Makélelé is recognised as the pivotal player in a team that did not fulfil its potential. And his sale amounted to one of the greatest acts of self-hobbling in the game’s history. Gary Cahill: Aston Villa to Bolton Gary Cahill spent three full seasons at Bolton after Aston Villa sold him and six months after he left the Reebok he won the Champions League Credit: Action Images / Lee Smith Gary Cahill was always the odd man out at Aston Villa, enjoying his best season in 2006-07 at the club he joined as a trainee when filling in for the tremendous but injury-ravaged Martin Laursen. In the autumn of the following season he signed for Sheffield United on loan and impressed so much that Gary Megson agreed a deal with Villa to take the 22-year-old to Bolton Wanderers for £5m. One can understand the logic for Martin O’Neill selling him - Laursen was imperious at the back that season, Olof Mellberg was as reliable as ever and he had just signed Zat Knight but it wasn’t to last and the fragile Laursen broke down, this time for good, within the year. And yet Cahill displayed enormous promise and lacked only experience. In three full seasons at Bolton he became an England squad regular, displaying his robustness in the tackle, power in the air and pace to correct most mistakes even if he was sometimes slack in possession and caught dithering on the ball. In January 2012 Chelsea bought him for £7m, taking advantage of Bolton’s toils on and off the field and he won the FA Cup and Champions League in his first five months. Since then he has earned two titles, the first in a Jose Mourinho back-four, the second as Antonio Conte’s captain in a back three where the beauty of his manager’s system was that it gave the captain little to do but counted on the acuteness of his antennae and astuteness of positioning to prevent it falling apart. In the two years after letting Cahill go, Villa paid more for each of Carlos Cuélar, Curtis Davies, James Collins and Richard Dunne, none of whom were as durable of the future England captain they let go. Andrea Pirlo: Milan to Juventus Milan's Andrea Pirlo turns away from Arsenal's Aleksandr Hleb Credit: Stu Forster/Getty Images If Inter’s decision to let Andrea Pirlo leave for Milan in 2001 seems a poor one, we can partially exonerate them because they received more than £13m for him and they were reluctant to play him in his optimum position as a deep-lying playmaker where he had excelled on loan at Brescia. Inter used Gigi Di Biagio there, as did Italy, and decided to liquidate their asset, investing the proceeds in Mohamed Kallon and Emre. During a decade in the black and red, Pirlo became the most elegant midfielder in the game, redefining the concept of a holding midfielder as more an advanced sweeper than a wall and exploiting his immaculate control and mastery of the arcing, rapidly dipping long pass to manipulate and often bypass the opposition’s midfield and defence. He won two Champions Leagues and two Serie A titles, the last Scudetto in his final season when he played a mere 17 times because the manager, Max Allegri, preferred the more orthodox defensive style of Mark van Bommel. That summer the club decided to retain the 35-year-old Clarence Seedorf and the 33-year-old Rino Gattuso and let Pirlo, 32, move on to Juventus where he won four successive titles and grew the fuzz that made him the mango-IPA-drinkers’ as well as the purists’ favourite player. Pirlo played 119 Serie A matches for Juve, made it to another Champions League final and finally left for MLS in 2015 while Seedorf and Gattuso managed a further 24 league matches between them for Milan. Don’t stroke your chin too vigorously at that misjudgment, it will play havoc with your beard. Kevin De Bruyne: Chelsea to Wolfsburg; Romelu Lukaku: Chelsea to Everton; Mo Salah: Chelsea to Roma Kevin De Bruyne traps the ball during Chelsea's match against Hull City in 2013 Credit: EDDIE KEOGH/REUTERS Chelsea made a commendable profit on Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku and Mohamed Salah when they sold the first two in 2014 and the Egypt forward two years later after long loan spells with Fiorentina and Roma, raking in almost £30m for players who made 43 appearances between them. A nice little earner that reflects well on Chelsea’s scouting and development system. But one can’t help thinking - despite the protestations of Frank Lampard and John Terry who have praised the players for leaving but insist it does not reflect badly on the club that has, like the cliched shark, to keep moving forward or die - that a little more patience, a few more opportunities and a touch more inflexibility when they held the upper hand would have better served them. Yes, Jose Mourinho wanted money to invest in players of his own choosing and no one could predict that each would improve so swiftly that they have become three of the most vibrant and valuable talents in the game. That was down to them and their dedication. Salah scores Chelsea's sixth in the 6-0 thrashing of Arsenal in March 2014 Credit: GLYN KIRK/AFP But someone at Stamford Bridge must have noted how assiduous each of them was, divined their characters or been swayed by their diligence and ambition. Chelsea’s loss - compounded by the lack of buy-back clauses - has been three rivals’ gain and has to represent a monstrous, three-headed blunder.
The closing of the transfer window inspires the habitual churning out of the worst transfers ever, like bedtime stories that lose none of their allure in the biannual retelling. “Tell us the one about Bosko Balaban, again, Dad. How much? Did Tommy Brolin really turn up at Elland Road with a Space Hopper up his gansey? Yes, I’m sure Bebe looked a world-beater on video.” But those old, familiar tales represent only one side of the ledger: purchases commonly ridiculed in hindsight. The other classification, routinely overlooked, is the premature and mistaken disposal. It’s a difficult category to define. For the sake of fairness one should strip out clubs who sold because they were financially strapped, players who went for fees too good to turn down and also those who acted the meddlesome priest, agitating for transfers and allowed to move on simply to be rid of them. The focus is on sales such as Nemanja Matic's not the ones like Diego Costa's. Here, then, are some of the managerial misjudgments, players discarded too soon for any number of reasons: poor form trumping class, undervaluation, prejudice, ageism or a simple miscalculation. Frank McLintock: Arsenal to QPR When Bertie Mee dropped Arsenal’s Double-winning captain Frank McLintock during the 1972-73 season, the 33-year-old Scot, whose skill and drive had helped transform the club and his own career in a glorious Indian summer, was devastated. Frank McLintock completes the Double in 1971 and celebrates with Charlie George who scored that unforgettable goal Credit: Allsport Hulton/Archive Mee’s decision to replace the classy, inspirational centre-back with the ponderous, ham-footed colossus, Jeff Blockley, beggared belief and has to be interpreted as Mee’s attempt to wrest control of the club back from the dressing room and its charismatic leader. McLintock remembers that he wept when he went to see Mee, the tears splashing off his Arsenal blazer after finding his manager obdurate to his claims for a recall. He felt he had no choice but to ask for a transfer - which Mee granted but turned down his request either to be allowed to leave on a free to negotiate a better deal with a new club or to grant him the testimonial he would have been due if he could have stomached six more months in the reserves. Mee told him that the 10 years’ qualification for a testimonial would not be altered to suit him and seeing he was six months short he would have to lump it. McLintock left for newly-promoted QPR for £25,000 at the end of the season, Arsenal’s failure to inform him of a late bid from Derby County’s Brian Clough, champions in 1972, the final insult. He gave four years of outstanding service to QPR, masterly on the field and in the dressing room during Rangers’ greatest ever season, 1975-76, when they lost out on the title by a single point after Liverpool turned a 0-1 deficit to Wolves with 14 minutes to go into a 3-1 victory in their final game, 10 days after QPR had completed their fixtures. Arsenal, meanwhile, replaced the hopeless Blockley with the rugged 32-year-old Terry Mancini from QPR in 1974, failing to understand that in his year playing alongside McLintock that it was his partner who had made him look half decent. Mee stood down in 1976 after successive 16th- and 17th-placed finishes, his determination to break up his Double-winning side having all but fatally weakened it. Pat Jennings: Tottenham to Arsenal Pat Jennings joined Arsenal from Spurs in 1977 Credit: PA Pan-handed colossus whose gloveless mitts, or “Lurgan shovels” as his former Northern Ireland team-mate and manager Billy Bingham called them, were put to devastating effect to steal the ball, one handed, off forwards’ foreheads a fraction of a second before impact. Miserly and resilient as he was during seven seasons as a first-team regular at Arsenal, he was finer still at Tottenham, an innovative and unorthodox keeper who was masterly at scrambling across his box, efficiently used any part of his body to block the ball and commanded the penalty area with a calm authority. He maintained his agility and elasticity well into his late 30s and managed for most of his career without gloves and, for the latter half of it, with what appeared to be a Bedlington Terrier on his head. Sold by Tottenham in August 1977 for £40,000 after they were relegated because the manager, Keith Burkinshaw, thought Barry Daines a better long-term bet, Jennings played a further 327 games for Arsenal, appeared in three successive FA Cup finals, winning one, and the Cup Winners’ Cup final defeat by Valencia. He was Northern Ireland’s first choice at two World Cups at the ages of 37 and 41 while Spurs took four years to replace him adequately in 1981 with Ray Clemence. At a stroke Tottenham sold their greatest ever goalkeeper to their biggest rivals for a song. He didn’t want to leave but his club essentially wrote him off at the age of 32, weakened their own side and strengthened Arsenal’s. The going rate for a goalkeeper of rare talent still in his prime? The £270,000 Forest paid Stoke for Peter Shilton a month later. Gordon Strachan: Manchester United to Leeds Gordon Strachan, right, left Manchester United, where he won the FA Cup, for Leeds United, where he won the title Credit: Brian Smith for The Telegraph In 1989 Gordon Strachan made the journey from Lancashire to Yorkshire that Bobby Collins had taken 17 years earlier when signing for Leeds from Everton and also delivered Leeds from Second Division purgatory. There are other glorious swansongs in the game’s rich past when a veteran’s impact in galvanising young teams was as important as anything he did on the field. In the 1980s Kevin Keegan did it at Newcastle, Johan Cruyff and Arnold Muhren at Ajax and Franz Beckenbauer at Hamburg, but Strachan was arguably the last. Now the biggest clubs tend to wring every drop from an elite player's body and soul while pay packets fulfil all their ambitions so it’s unlikely that a Championship club could attract a veteran international and task him with a mission to set the tenor of a rejuvenation project. Strachan was 32 when he left Old Trafford for Elland Road, over-familiar with Alex Ferguson after almost nine years together at Aberdeen and Manchester United. Ferguson, too, had had enough and felt a fresh start would benefit both parties. It certainly benefited Strachan who led Leeds to promotion in his first full season followed by a fourth-place top-flight finish and then, thrillingly, the title from Manchester United by four points. Even in his 39th year, when he left Leeds for Coventry, his drive was undiminished and his exacting standards ensured everyone was motivated and desperate to match them. The £300,000 he cost Leeds was the canniest investment Howard Wilkinson ever made. Manchester United were left without an orthodox right-sided midfielder for a couple of seasons until Ferguson signed Andrei Kanchelskis in 1991, the same year Strachan had been named, like Collins before him in 1965, Footballer of Year at the age of 34. Peter Beardsley: Liverpool to Everton Beardsley with John Barnes after winning his second title at Anfield in 1990 Credit: Dan Smith /Allsport No one has forged such a high number of prolific partnerships with out-and-out goalscorers than Peter Beardsley before or since. At his very best during his first spell at Newcastle with Kevin Keegan, at Liverpool he paired up with John Aldridge and then Ian Rush, with Tony Cottee at Everton and then with Andy Cole and Les Ferdinand in his second spell at St James’ Park. One can criticise Graham Taylor's time as England's manager for any number of reasons, but the most cardinal sin was his jettisoning of Beardsley, which diminished Gary Lineker and effectively turned him into little more than a goalhanger. That was an error of two-for-the-price-of-one proportions. If a player of Beardsley's ability was available now, one whose intelligence brought the best out of so many partners while scoring more than 200 goals himself, there would be little cavilling at a fee of more than £50m. In different times Graeme Souness sold the 30-year-old to Everton in 1991 for £1m, a not inconsiderable sum but peanuts compared with his true value, as Newcastle would show when paying more for him two years later. Peter Beardsley scored for both sides in the Merseyside derby Credit: Shaun Botterill/Allsport There were times during his four seasons at Anfield when Kenny Dalglish seemed equivocal about his talents - dropping him for the title decider with Arsenal in 1989, buying David Speedie to replace him in the winter of 1990-91 - and Souness seems to have picked up on that lack of faith while also wanting to fund a statement signing of his own during his first close season at Anfield. The fact he went for the bullocking Dean Saunders, more rumbustious, infinitely less refined, paid £2.5m but ditched him at a loss within 12 months tells us more about Souness than it does about Beardsley who went on to have six more years at the top, scored 89 more goals and made half a century more. Matthias Sammer: Inter to Borussia Dortmund Matthias Sammer, the heir to Franz Beckenbauer Credit: Action Images In 1996 Matthias Sammer became only the second defender in 40 years to win the Ballon d’Or, following in the Trefoil bootsteps of his compatriot and fellow sweeper, Franz Beckenbauer. He was player of the tournament during Germany’s victory at Euro 96 and, like his illustrious predecessor, a converted midfielder whose reading of the game, exemplary leadership and positional skills, class and composure on the ball gave him a kind of omnipresence, smoothly interceding to whip the ball away from danger when the opposition pierced the lines. A ball hog, his passing range was limited but defined by unerring precision, his long sweeping runs upfield from the back, timed meticulously, would accelerate with the tough grace of an armour-plated ministerial Daimler. Sammer moved to Inter for £5.1m in the summer of 1992 after winning the Bundesliga in his second season at Stuttgart where he was employed as a defensive midfielder rather than the libero he would become at Borussia Dortmund. It’s a matter of only a few yards’ difference but it made a world of difference, harnessing his defensive instincts while giving him the space to make the play with those magnificent sorties. Inter signed him in 1991 but let him stay on at Stuttgart because they already had their three overseas players - Sammer’s Germany team-mates Lothar Matthaus, Andreas Brehme and Jurgen Klinsmann - and when he did arrive were surprised to find he had not mastered a single word of Italian. Osvaldo Bagnoli played him as an advanced midfielder in a counter-attacking system designed to exploit the pace of Ruben Sosa. Sammer scored four goals in 11 Serie A appearances but found the tactics too rigid and refused to put down roots. Il Messagero reported that he was living out of suitcases in his lakeside villa with his TV propped up on a tea chest the only furniture apart from a bed. Inter, spoilt by Matthaus, Brehme and Klinsmann who had loved the club, the country and mastered the language, were as fed up with a player who had just about learnt to say ‘Ciao’ by December as he was with life and work in Italy. They cut their losses after five months and sold him for £4.8m to Dortmund. There, Ottmar Hitzfeld dropped him from in front of the back four to behind it and he won his second and third Bundesliga titles and the Champions League in 1997. A serious knee injury shortly after the final ended his career at the age of 30 having played only three more games. Claude Makélelé: Real Madrid to Chelsea Makelele tackles David Batty of Leeds United at the Bernabeu in 2001 Credit: REUTERS/Desmond Boylan The second coming of Florentino Pérez as president of Real Madrid has been defined and improved by learning from the errors he made during his first spell at the Bernabéu. Then, the preening pomposity of his galáctico project, bit him on the backside when he deemed a manager and a player who were integral to the success lacked the requisite glamour to play for his marketing machine. In the summer of 2003, after winning La Liga, Vicente Del Bosque was sacked and Claude Makélelé, the players’ player of the year, was knocked back when he went to negotiate a pay rise that reflected his contribution. He wasn’t asking for parity with Luis Figo, Ronaldo, Zinedine Zidane and David Beckham but nor did he expect Pérez to refuse flatly and then disparage him when he handed in a transfer request. “We will not miss Makélelé,” said Pérez. “His technique is average, he lacks the speed and skill to take the ball past opponents, and ninety percent of his distribution either goes backwards or sideways. He wasn't a header of the ball and he rarely passed the ball more than three metres. Younger players will arrive who will cause Makélelé to be forgotten.” He went to Chelsea for £16.8m, won two league titles and must have felt more than a frisson of schadenfreude over the next three years that Real Madrid won nothing, the only central midfielder bought to replace him was Thomas Gravesen, Pérez walked away and more than a decade on instead of being forgotten Makélelé is recognised as the pivotal player in a team that did not fulfil its potential. And his sale amounted to one of the greatest acts of self-hobbling in the game’s history. Gary Cahill: Aston Villa to Bolton Gary Cahill spent three full seasons at Bolton after Aston Villa sold him and six months after he left the Reebok he won the Champions League Credit: Action Images / Lee Smith Gary Cahill was always the odd man out at Aston Villa, enjoying his best season in 2006-07 at the club he joined as a trainee when filling in for the tremendous but injury-ravaged Martin Laursen. In the autumn of the following season he signed for Sheffield United on loan and impressed so much that Gary Megson agreed a deal with Villa to take the 22-year-old to Bolton Wanderers for £5m. One can understand the logic for Martin O’Neill selling him - Laursen was imperious at the back that season, Olof Mellberg was as reliable as ever and he had just signed Zat Knight but it wasn’t to last and the fragile Laursen broke down, this time for good, within the year. And yet Cahill displayed enormous promise and lacked only experience. In three full seasons at Bolton he became an England squad regular, displaying his robustness in the tackle, power in the air and pace to correct most mistakes even if he was sometimes slack in possession and caught dithering on the ball. In January 2012 Chelsea bought him for £7m, taking advantage of Bolton’s toils on and off the field and he won the FA Cup and Champions League in his first five months. Since then he has earned two titles, the first in a Jose Mourinho back-four, the second as Antonio Conte’s captain in a back three where the beauty of his manager’s system was that it gave the captain little to do but counted on the acuteness of his antennae and astuteness of positioning to prevent it falling apart. In the two years after letting Cahill go, Villa paid more for each of Carlos Cuélar, Curtis Davies, James Collins and Richard Dunne, none of whom were as durable of the future England captain they let go. Andrea Pirlo: Milan to Juventus Milan's Andrea Pirlo turns away from Arsenal's Aleksandr Hleb Credit: Stu Forster/Getty Images If Inter’s decision to let Andrea Pirlo leave for Milan in 2001 seems a poor one, we can partially exonerate them because they received more than £13m for him and they were reluctant to play him in his optimum position as a deep-lying playmaker where he had excelled on loan at Brescia. Inter used Gigi Di Biagio there, as did Italy, and decided to liquidate their asset, investing the proceeds in Mohamed Kallon and Emre. During a decade in the black and red, Pirlo became the most elegant midfielder in the game, redefining the concept of a holding midfielder as more an advanced sweeper than a wall and exploiting his immaculate control and mastery of the arcing, rapidly dipping long pass to manipulate and often bypass the opposition’s midfield and defence. He won two Champions Leagues and two Serie A titles, the last Scudetto in his final season when he played a mere 17 times because the manager, Max Allegri, preferred the more orthodox defensive style of Mark van Bommel. That summer the club decided to retain the 35-year-old Clarence Seedorf and the 33-year-old Rino Gattuso and let Pirlo, 32, move on to Juventus where he won four successive titles and grew the fuzz that made him the mango-IPA-drinkers’ as well as the purists’ favourite player. Pirlo played 119 Serie A matches for Juve, made it to another Champions League final and finally left for MLS in 2015 while Seedorf and Gattuso managed a further 24 league matches between them for Milan. Don’t stroke your chin too vigorously at that misjudgment, it will play havoc with your beard. Kevin De Bruyne: Chelsea to Wolfsburg; Romelu Lukaku: Chelsea to Everton; Mo Salah: Chelsea to Roma Kevin De Bruyne traps the ball during Chelsea's match against Hull City in 2013 Credit: EDDIE KEOGH/REUTERS Chelsea made a commendable profit on Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku and Mohamed Salah when they sold the first two in 2014 and the Egypt forward two years later after long loan spells with Fiorentina and Roma, raking in almost £30m for players who made 43 appearances between them. A nice little earner that reflects well on Chelsea’s scouting and development system. But one can’t help thinking - despite the protestations of Frank Lampard and John Terry who have praised the players for leaving but insist it does not reflect badly on the club that has, like the cliched shark, to keep moving forward or die - that a little more patience, a few more opportunities and a touch more inflexibility when they held the upper hand would have better served them. Yes, Jose Mourinho wanted money to invest in players of his own choosing and no one could predict that each would improve so swiftly that they have become three of the most vibrant and valuable talents in the game. That was down to them and their dedication. Salah scores Chelsea's sixth in the 6-0 thrashing of Arsenal in March 2014 Credit: GLYN KIRK/AFP But someone at Stamford Bridge must have noted how assiduous each of them was, divined their characters or been swayed by their diligence and ambition. Chelsea’s loss - compounded by the lack of buy-back clauses - has been three rivals’ gain and has to represent a monstrous, three-headed blunder.
Sold too soon: the other side of transfer market blunders
The closing of the transfer window inspires the habitual churning out of the worst transfers ever, like bedtime stories that lose none of their allure in the biannual retelling. “Tell us the one about Bosko Balaban, again, Dad. How much? Did Tommy Brolin really turn up at Elland Road with a Space Hopper up his gansey? Yes, I’m sure Bebe looked a world-beater on video.” But those old, familiar tales represent only one side of the ledger: purchases commonly ridiculed in hindsight. The other classification, routinely overlooked, is the premature and mistaken disposal. It’s a difficult category to define. For the sake of fairness one should strip out clubs who sold because they were financially strapped, players who went for fees too good to turn down and also those who acted the meddlesome priest, agitating for transfers and allowed to move on simply to be rid of them. The focus is on sales such as Nemanja Matic's not the ones like Diego Costa's. Here, then, are some of the managerial misjudgments, players discarded too soon for any number of reasons: poor form trumping class, undervaluation, prejudice, ageism or a simple miscalculation. Frank McLintock: Arsenal to QPR When Bertie Mee dropped Arsenal’s Double-winning captain Frank McLintock during the 1972-73 season, the 33-year-old Scot, whose skill and drive had helped transform the club and his own career in a glorious Indian summer, was devastated. Frank McLintock completes the Double in 1971 and celebrates with Charlie George who scored that unforgettable goal Credit: Allsport Hulton/Archive Mee’s decision to replace the classy, inspirational centre-back with the ponderous, ham-footed colossus, Jeff Blockley, beggared belief and has to be interpreted as Mee’s attempt to wrest control of the club back from the dressing room and its charismatic leader. McLintock remembers that he wept when he went to see Mee, the tears splashing off his Arsenal blazer after finding his manager obdurate to his claims for a recall. He felt he had no choice but to ask for a transfer - which Mee granted but turned down his request either to be allowed to leave on a free to negotiate a better deal with a new club or to grant him the testimonial he would have been due if he could have stomached six more months in the reserves. Mee told him that the 10 years’ qualification for a testimonial would not be altered to suit him and seeing he was six months short he would have to lump it. McLintock left for newly-promoted QPR for £25,000 at the end of the season, Arsenal’s failure to inform him of a late bid from Derby County’s Brian Clough, champions in 1972, the final insult. He gave four years of outstanding service to QPR, masterly on the field and in the dressing room during Rangers’ greatest ever season, 1975-76, when they lost out on the title by a single point after Liverpool turned a 0-1 deficit to Wolves with 14 minutes to go into a 3-1 victory in their final game, 10 days after QPR had completed their fixtures. Arsenal, meanwhile, replaced the hopeless Blockley with the rugged 32-year-old Terry Mancini from QPR in 1974, failing to understand that in his year playing alongside McLintock that it was his partner who had made him look half decent. Mee stood down in 1976 after successive 16th- and 17th-placed finishes, his determination to break up his Double-winning side having all but fatally weakened it. Pat Jennings: Tottenham to Arsenal Pat Jennings joined Arsenal from Spurs in 1977 Credit: PA Pan-handed colossus whose gloveless mitts, or “Lurgan shovels” as his former Northern Ireland team-mate and manager Billy Bingham called them, were put to devastating effect to steal the ball, one handed, off forwards’ foreheads a fraction of a second before impact. Miserly and resilient as he was during seven seasons as a first-team regular at Arsenal, he was finer still at Tottenham, an innovative and unorthodox keeper who was masterly at scrambling across his box, efficiently used any part of his body to block the ball and commanded the penalty area with a calm authority. He maintained his agility and elasticity well into his late 30s and managed for most of his career without gloves and, for the latter half of it, with what appeared to be a Bedlington Terrier on his head. Sold by Tottenham in August 1977 for £40,000 after they were relegated because the manager, Keith Burkinshaw, thought Barry Daines a better long-term bet, Jennings played a further 327 games for Arsenal, appeared in three successive FA Cup finals, winning one, and the Cup Winners’ Cup final defeat by Valencia. He was Northern Ireland’s first choice at two World Cups at the ages of 37 and 41 while Spurs took four years to replace him adequately in 1981 with Ray Clemence. At a stroke Tottenham sold their greatest ever goalkeeper to their biggest rivals for a song. He didn’t want to leave but his club essentially wrote him off at the age of 32, weakened their own side and strengthened Arsenal’s. The going rate for a goalkeeper of rare talent still in his prime? The £270,000 Forest paid Stoke for Peter Shilton a month later. Gordon Strachan: Manchester United to Leeds Gordon Strachan, right, left Manchester United, where he won the FA Cup, for Leeds United, where he won the title Credit: Brian Smith for The Telegraph In 1989 Gordon Strachan made the journey from Lancashire to Yorkshire that Bobby Collins had taken 17 years earlier when signing for Leeds from Everton and also delivered Leeds from Second Division purgatory. There are other glorious swansongs in the game’s rich past when a veteran’s impact in galvanising young teams was as important as anything he did on the field. In the 1980s Kevin Keegan did it at Newcastle, Johan Cruyff and Arnold Muhren at Ajax and Franz Beckenbauer at Hamburg, but Strachan was arguably the last. Now the biggest clubs tend to wring every drop from an elite player's body and soul while pay packets fulfil all their ambitions so it’s unlikely that a Championship club could attract a veteran international and task him with a mission to set the tenor of a rejuvenation project. Strachan was 32 when he left Old Trafford for Elland Road, over-familiar with Alex Ferguson after almost nine years together at Aberdeen and Manchester United. Ferguson, too, had had enough and felt a fresh start would benefit both parties. It certainly benefited Strachan who led Leeds to promotion in his first full season followed by a fourth-place top-flight finish and then, thrillingly, the title from Manchester United by four points. Even in his 39th year, when he left Leeds for Coventry, his drive was undiminished and his exacting standards ensured everyone was motivated and desperate to match them. The £300,000 he cost Leeds was the canniest investment Howard Wilkinson ever made. Manchester United were left without an orthodox right-sided midfielder for a couple of seasons until Ferguson signed Andrei Kanchelskis in 1991, the same year Strachan had been named, like Collins before him in 1965, Footballer of Year at the age of 34. Peter Beardsley: Liverpool to Everton Beardsley with John Barnes after winning his second title at Anfield in 1990 Credit: Dan Smith /Allsport No one has forged such a high number of prolific partnerships with out-and-out goalscorers than Peter Beardsley before or since. At his very best during his first spell at Newcastle with Kevin Keegan, at Liverpool he paired up with John Aldridge and then Ian Rush, with Tony Cottee at Everton and then with Andy Cole and Les Ferdinand in his second spell at St James’ Park. One can criticise Graham Taylor's time as England's manager for any number of reasons, but the most cardinal sin was his jettisoning of Beardsley, which diminished Gary Lineker and effectively turned him into little more than a goalhanger. That was an error of two-for-the-price-of-one proportions. If a player of Beardsley's ability was available now, one whose intelligence brought the best out of so many partners while scoring more than 200 goals himself, there would be little cavilling at a fee of more than £50m. In different times Graeme Souness sold the 30-year-old to Everton in 1991 for £1m, a not inconsiderable sum but peanuts compared with his true value, as Newcastle would show when paying more for him two years later. Peter Beardsley scored for both sides in the Merseyside derby Credit: Shaun Botterill/Allsport There were times during his four seasons at Anfield when Kenny Dalglish seemed equivocal about his talents - dropping him for the title decider with Arsenal in 1989, buying David Speedie to replace him in the winter of 1990-91 - and Souness seems to have picked up on that lack of faith while also wanting to fund a statement signing of his own during his first close season at Anfield. The fact he went for the bullocking Dean Saunders, more rumbustious, infinitely less refined, paid £2.5m but ditched him at a loss within 12 months tells us more about Souness than it does about Beardsley who went on to have six more years at the top, scored 89 more goals and made half a century more. Matthias Sammer: Inter to Borussia Dortmund Matthias Sammer, the heir to Franz Beckenbauer Credit: Action Images In 1996 Matthias Sammer became only the second defender in 40 years to win the Ballon d’Or, following in the Trefoil bootsteps of his compatriot and fellow sweeper, Franz Beckenbauer. He was player of the tournament during Germany’s victory at Euro 96 and, like his illustrious predecessor, a converted midfielder whose reading of the game, exemplary leadership and positional skills, class and composure on the ball gave him a kind of omnipresence, smoothly interceding to whip the ball away from danger when the opposition pierced the lines. A ball hog, his passing range was limited but defined by unerring precision, his long sweeping runs upfield from the back, timed meticulously, would accelerate with the tough grace of an armour-plated ministerial Daimler. Sammer moved to Inter for £5.1m in the summer of 1992 after winning the Bundesliga in his second season at Stuttgart where he was employed as a defensive midfielder rather than the libero he would become at Borussia Dortmund. It’s a matter of only a few yards’ difference but it made a world of difference, harnessing his defensive instincts while giving him the space to make the play with those magnificent sorties. Inter signed him in 1991 but let him stay on at Stuttgart because they already had their three overseas players - Sammer’s Germany team-mates Lothar Matthaus, Andreas Brehme and Jurgen Klinsmann - and when he did arrive were surprised to find he had not mastered a single word of Italian. Osvaldo Bagnoli played him as an advanced midfielder in a counter-attacking system designed to exploit the pace of Ruben Sosa. Sammer scored four goals in 11 Serie A appearances but found the tactics too rigid and refused to put down roots. Il Messagero reported that he was living out of suitcases in his lakeside villa with his TV propped up on a tea chest the only furniture apart from a bed. Inter, spoilt by Matthaus, Brehme and Klinsmann who had loved the club, the country and mastered the language, were as fed up with a player who had just about learnt to say ‘Ciao’ by December as he was with life and work in Italy. They cut their losses after five months and sold him for £4.8m to Dortmund. There, Ottmar Hitzfeld dropped him from in front of the back four to behind it and he won his second and third Bundesliga titles and the Champions League in 1997. A serious knee injury shortly after the final ended his career at the age of 30 having played only three more games. Claude Makélelé: Real Madrid to Chelsea Makelele tackles David Batty of Leeds United at the Bernabeu in 2001 Credit: REUTERS/Desmond Boylan The second coming of Florentino Pérez as president of Real Madrid has been defined and improved by learning from the errors he made during his first spell at the Bernabéu. Then, the preening pomposity of his galáctico project, bit him on the backside when he deemed a manager and a player who were integral to the success lacked the requisite glamour to play for his marketing machine. In the summer of 2003, after winning La Liga, Vicente Del Bosque was sacked and Claude Makélelé, the players’ player of the year, was knocked back when he went to negotiate a pay rise that reflected his contribution. He wasn’t asking for parity with Luis Figo, Ronaldo, Zinedine Zidane and David Beckham but nor did he expect Pérez to refuse flatly and then disparage him when he handed in a transfer request. “We will not miss Makélelé,” said Pérez. “His technique is average, he lacks the speed and skill to take the ball past opponents, and ninety percent of his distribution either goes backwards or sideways. He wasn't a header of the ball and he rarely passed the ball more than three metres. Younger players will arrive who will cause Makélelé to be forgotten.” He went to Chelsea for £16.8m, won two league titles and must have felt more than a frisson of schadenfreude over the next three years that Real Madrid won nothing, the only central midfielder bought to replace him was Thomas Gravesen, Pérez walked away and more than a decade on instead of being forgotten Makélelé is recognised as the pivotal player in a team that did not fulfil its potential. And his sale amounted to one of the greatest acts of self-hobbling in the game’s history. Gary Cahill: Aston Villa to Bolton Gary Cahill spent three full seasons at Bolton after Aston Villa sold him and six months after he left the Reebok he won the Champions League Credit: Action Images / Lee Smith Gary Cahill was always the odd man out at Aston Villa, enjoying his best season in 2006-07 at the club he joined as a trainee when filling in for the tremendous but injury-ravaged Martin Laursen. In the autumn of the following season he signed for Sheffield United on loan and impressed so much that Gary Megson agreed a deal with Villa to take the 22-year-old to Bolton Wanderers for £5m. One can understand the logic for Martin O’Neill selling him - Laursen was imperious at the back that season, Olof Mellberg was as reliable as ever and he had just signed Zat Knight but it wasn’t to last and the fragile Laursen broke down, this time for good, within the year. And yet Cahill displayed enormous promise and lacked only experience. In three full seasons at Bolton he became an England squad regular, displaying his robustness in the tackle, power in the air and pace to correct most mistakes even if he was sometimes slack in possession and caught dithering on the ball. In January 2012 Chelsea bought him for £7m, taking advantage of Bolton’s toils on and off the field and he won the FA Cup and Champions League in his first five months. Since then he has earned two titles, the first in a Jose Mourinho back-four, the second as Antonio Conte’s captain in a back three where the beauty of his manager’s system was that it gave the captain little to do but counted on the acuteness of his antennae and astuteness of positioning to prevent it falling apart. In the two years after letting Cahill go, Villa paid more for each of Carlos Cuélar, Curtis Davies, James Collins and Richard Dunne, none of whom were as durable of the future England captain they let go. Andrea Pirlo: Milan to Juventus Milan's Andrea Pirlo turns away from Arsenal's Aleksandr Hleb Credit: Stu Forster/Getty Images If Inter’s decision to let Andrea Pirlo leave for Milan in 2001 seems a poor one, we can partially exonerate them because they received more than £13m for him and they were reluctant to play him in his optimum position as a deep-lying playmaker where he had excelled on loan at Brescia. Inter used Gigi Di Biagio there, as did Italy, and decided to liquidate their asset, investing the proceeds in Mohamed Kallon and Emre. During a decade in the black and red, Pirlo became the most elegant midfielder in the game, redefining the concept of a holding midfielder as more an advanced sweeper than a wall and exploiting his immaculate control and mastery of the arcing, rapidly dipping long pass to manipulate and often bypass the opposition’s midfield and defence. He won two Champions Leagues and two Serie A titles, the last Scudetto in his final season when he played a mere 17 times because the manager, Max Allegri, preferred the more orthodox defensive style of Mark van Bommel. That summer the club decided to retain the 35-year-old Clarence Seedorf and the 33-year-old Rino Gattuso and let Pirlo, 32, move on to Juventus where he won four successive titles and grew the fuzz that made him the mango-IPA-drinkers’ as well as the purists’ favourite player. Pirlo played 119 Serie A matches for Juve, made it to another Champions League final and finally left for MLS in 2015 while Seedorf and Gattuso managed a further 24 league matches between them for Milan. Don’t stroke your chin too vigorously at that misjudgment, it will play havoc with your beard. Kevin De Bruyne: Chelsea to Wolfsburg; Romelu Lukaku: Chelsea to Everton; Mo Salah: Chelsea to Roma Kevin De Bruyne traps the ball during Chelsea's match against Hull City in 2013 Credit: EDDIE KEOGH/REUTERS Chelsea made a commendable profit on Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku and Mohamed Salah when they sold the first two in 2014 and the Egypt forward two years later after long loan spells with Fiorentina and Roma, raking in almost £30m for players who made 43 appearances between them. A nice little earner that reflects well on Chelsea’s scouting and development system. But one can’t help thinking - despite the protestations of Frank Lampard and John Terry who have praised the players for leaving but insist it does not reflect badly on the club that has, like the cliched shark, to keep moving forward or die - that a little more patience, a few more opportunities and a touch more inflexibility when they held the upper hand would have better served them. Yes, Jose Mourinho wanted money to invest in players of his own choosing and no one could predict that each would improve so swiftly that they have become three of the most vibrant and valuable talents in the game. That was down to them and their dedication. Salah scores Chelsea's sixth in the 6-0 thrashing of Arsenal in March 2014 Credit: GLYN KIRK/AFP But someone at Stamford Bridge must have noted how assiduous each of them was, divined their characters or been swayed by their diligence and ambition. Chelsea’s loss - compounded by the lack of buy-back clauses - has been three rivals’ gain and has to represent a monstrous, three-headed blunder.
The closing of the transfer window inspires the habitual churning out of the worst transfers ever, like bedtime stories that lose none of their allure in the biannual retelling. “Tell us the one about Bosko Balaban, again, Dad. How much? Did Tommy Brolin really turn up at Elland Road with a Space Hopper up his gansey? Yes, I’m sure Bebe looked a world-beater on video.” But those old, familiar tales represent only one side of the ledger: purchases commonly ridiculed in hindsight. The other classification, routinely overlooked, is the premature and mistaken disposal. It’s a difficult category to define. For the sake of fairness one should strip out clubs who sold because they were financially strapped, players who went for fees too good to turn down and also those who acted the meddlesome priest, agitating for transfers and allowed to move on simply to be rid of them. The focus is on sales such as Nemanja Matic's not the ones like Diego Costa's. Here, then, are some of the managerial misjudgments, players discarded too soon for any number of reasons: poor form trumping class, undervaluation, prejudice, ageism or a simple miscalculation. Frank McLintock: Arsenal to QPR When Bertie Mee dropped Arsenal’s Double-winning captain Frank McLintock during the 1972-73 season, the 33-year-old Scot, whose skill and drive had helped transform the club and his own career in a glorious Indian summer, was devastated. Frank McLintock completes the Double in 1971 and celebrates with Charlie George who scored that unforgettable goal Credit: Allsport Hulton/Archive Mee’s decision to replace the classy, inspirational centre-back with the ponderous, ham-footed colossus, Jeff Blockley, beggared belief and has to be interpreted as Mee’s attempt to wrest control of the club back from the dressing room and its charismatic leader. McLintock remembers that he wept when he went to see Mee, the tears splashing off his Arsenal blazer after finding his manager obdurate to his claims for a recall. He felt he had no choice but to ask for a transfer - which Mee granted but turned down his request either to be allowed to leave on a free to negotiate a better deal with a new club or to grant him the testimonial he would have been due if he could have stomached six more months in the reserves. Mee told him that the 10 years’ qualification for a testimonial would not be altered to suit him and seeing he was six months short he would have to lump it. McLintock left for newly-promoted QPR for £25,000 at the end of the season, Arsenal’s failure to inform him of a late bid from Derby County’s Brian Clough, champions in 1972, the final insult. He gave four years of outstanding service to QPR, masterly on the field and in the dressing room during Rangers’ greatest ever season, 1975-76, when they lost out on the title by a single point after Liverpool turned a 0-1 deficit to Wolves with 14 minutes to go into a 3-1 victory in their final game, 10 days after QPR had completed their fixtures. Arsenal, meanwhile, replaced the hopeless Blockley with the rugged 32-year-old Terry Mancini from QPR in 1974, failing to understand that in his year playing alongside McLintock that it was his partner who had made him look half decent. Mee stood down in 1976 after successive 16th- and 17th-placed finishes, his determination to break up his Double-winning side having all but fatally weakened it. Pat Jennings: Tottenham to Arsenal Pat Jennings joined Arsenal from Spurs in 1977 Credit: PA Pan-handed colossus whose gloveless mitts, or “Lurgan shovels” as his former Northern Ireland team-mate and manager Billy Bingham called them, were put to devastating effect to steal the ball, one handed, off forwards’ foreheads a fraction of a second before impact. Miserly and resilient as he was during seven seasons as a first-team regular at Arsenal, he was finer still at Tottenham, an innovative and unorthodox keeper who was masterly at scrambling across his box, efficiently used any part of his body to block the ball and commanded the penalty area with a calm authority. He maintained his agility and elasticity well into his late 30s and managed for most of his career without gloves and, for the latter half of it, with what appeared to be a Bedlington Terrier on his head. Sold by Tottenham in August 1977 for £40,000 after they were relegated because the manager, Keith Burkinshaw, thought Barry Daines a better long-term bet, Jennings played a further 327 games for Arsenal, appeared in three successive FA Cup finals, winning one, and the Cup Winners’ Cup final defeat by Valencia. He was Northern Ireland’s first choice at two World Cups at the ages of 37 and 41 while Spurs took four years to replace him adequately in 1981 with Ray Clemence. At a stroke Tottenham sold their greatest ever goalkeeper to their biggest rivals for a song. He didn’t want to leave but his club essentially wrote him off at the age of 32, weakened their own side and strengthened Arsenal’s. The going rate for a goalkeeper of rare talent still in his prime? The £270,000 Forest paid Stoke for Peter Shilton a month later. Gordon Strachan: Manchester United to Leeds Gordon Strachan, right, left Manchester United, where he won the FA Cup, for Leeds United, where he won the title Credit: Brian Smith for The Telegraph In 1989 Gordon Strachan made the journey from Lancashire to Yorkshire that Bobby Collins had taken 17 years earlier when signing for Leeds from Everton and also delivered Leeds from Second Division purgatory. There are other glorious swansongs in the game’s rich past when a veteran’s impact in galvanising young teams was as important as anything he did on the field. In the 1980s Kevin Keegan did it at Newcastle, Johan Cruyff and Arnold Muhren at Ajax and Franz Beckenbauer at Hamburg, but Strachan was arguably the last. Now the biggest clubs tend to wring every drop from an elite player's body and soul while pay packets fulfil all their ambitions so it’s unlikely that a Championship club could attract a veteran international and task him with a mission to set the tenor of a rejuvenation project. Strachan was 32 when he left Old Trafford for Elland Road, over-familiar with Alex Ferguson after almost nine years together at Aberdeen and Manchester United. Ferguson, too, had had enough and felt a fresh start would benefit both parties. It certainly benefited Strachan who led Leeds to promotion in his first full season followed by a fourth-place top-flight finish and then, thrillingly, the title from Manchester United by four points. Even in his 39th year, when he left Leeds for Coventry, his drive was undiminished and his exacting standards ensured everyone was motivated and desperate to match them. The £300,000 he cost Leeds was the canniest investment Howard Wilkinson ever made. Manchester United were left without an orthodox right-sided midfielder for a couple of seasons until Ferguson signed Andrei Kanchelskis in 1991, the same year Strachan had been named, like Collins before him in 1965, Footballer of Year at the age of 34. Peter Beardsley: Liverpool to Everton Beardsley with John Barnes after winning his second title at Anfield in 1990 Credit: Dan Smith /Allsport No one has forged such a high number of prolific partnerships with out-and-out goalscorers than Peter Beardsley before or since. At his very best during his first spell at Newcastle with Kevin Keegan, at Liverpool he paired up with John Aldridge and then Ian Rush, with Tony Cottee at Everton and then with Andy Cole and Les Ferdinand in his second spell at St James’ Park. One can criticise Graham Taylor's time as England's manager for any number of reasons, but the most cardinal sin was his jettisoning of Beardsley, which diminished Gary Lineker and effectively turned him into little more than a goalhanger. That was an error of two-for-the-price-of-one proportions. If a player of Beardsley's ability was available now, one whose intelligence brought the best out of so many partners while scoring more than 200 goals himself, there would be little cavilling at a fee of more than £50m. In different times Graeme Souness sold the 30-year-old to Everton in 1991 for £1m, a not inconsiderable sum but peanuts compared with his true value, as Newcastle would show when paying more for him two years later. Peter Beardsley scored for both sides in the Merseyside derby Credit: Shaun Botterill/Allsport There were times during his four seasons at Anfield when Kenny Dalglish seemed equivocal about his talents - dropping him for the title decider with Arsenal in 1989, buying David Speedie to replace him in the winter of 1990-91 - and Souness seems to have picked up on that lack of faith while also wanting to fund a statement signing of his own during his first close season at Anfield. The fact he went for the bullocking Dean Saunders, more rumbustious, infinitely less refined, paid £2.5m but ditched him at a loss within 12 months tells us more about Souness than it does about Beardsley who went on to have six more years at the top, scored 89 more goals and made half a century more. Matthias Sammer: Inter to Borussia Dortmund Matthias Sammer, the heir to Franz Beckenbauer Credit: Action Images In 1996 Matthias Sammer became only the second defender in 40 years to win the Ballon d’Or, following in the Trefoil bootsteps of his compatriot and fellow sweeper, Franz Beckenbauer. He was player of the tournament during Germany’s victory at Euro 96 and, like his illustrious predecessor, a converted midfielder whose reading of the game, exemplary leadership and positional skills, class and composure on the ball gave him a kind of omnipresence, smoothly interceding to whip the ball away from danger when the opposition pierced the lines. A ball hog, his passing range was limited but defined by unerring precision, his long sweeping runs upfield from the back, timed meticulously, would accelerate with the tough grace of an armour-plated ministerial Daimler. Sammer moved to Inter for £5.1m in the summer of 1992 after winning the Bundesliga in his second season at Stuttgart where he was employed as a defensive midfielder rather than the libero he would become at Borussia Dortmund. It’s a matter of only a few yards’ difference but it made a world of difference, harnessing his defensive instincts while giving him the space to make the play with those magnificent sorties. Inter signed him in 1991 but let him stay on at Stuttgart because they already had their three overseas players - Sammer’s Germany team-mates Lothar Matthaus, Andreas Brehme and Jurgen Klinsmann - and when he did arrive were surprised to find he had not mastered a single word of Italian. Osvaldo Bagnoli played him as an advanced midfielder in a counter-attacking system designed to exploit the pace of Ruben Sosa. Sammer scored four goals in 11 Serie A appearances but found the tactics too rigid and refused to put down roots. Il Messagero reported that he was living out of suitcases in his lakeside villa with his TV propped up on a tea chest the only furniture apart from a bed. Inter, spoilt by Matthaus, Brehme and Klinsmann who had loved the club, the country and mastered the language, were as fed up with a player who had just about learnt to say ‘Ciao’ by December as he was with life and work in Italy. They cut their losses after five months and sold him for £4.8m to Dortmund. There, Ottmar Hitzfeld dropped him from in front of the back four to behind it and he won his second and third Bundesliga titles and the Champions League in 1997. A serious knee injury shortly after the final ended his career at the age of 30 having played only three more games. Claude Makélelé: Real Madrid to Chelsea Makelele tackles David Batty of Leeds United at the Bernabeu in 2001 Credit: REUTERS/Desmond Boylan The second coming of Florentino Pérez as president of Real Madrid has been defined and improved by learning from the errors he made during his first spell at the Bernabéu. Then, the preening pomposity of his galáctico project, bit him on the backside when he deemed a manager and a player who were integral to the success lacked the requisite glamour to play for his marketing machine. In the summer of 2003, after winning La Liga, Vicente Del Bosque was sacked and Claude Makélelé, the players’ player of the year, was knocked back when he went to negotiate a pay rise that reflected his contribution. He wasn’t asking for parity with Luis Figo, Ronaldo, Zinedine Zidane and David Beckham but nor did he expect Pérez to refuse flatly and then disparage him when he handed in a transfer request. “We will not miss Makélelé,” said Pérez. “His technique is average, he lacks the speed and skill to take the ball past opponents, and ninety percent of his distribution either goes backwards or sideways. He wasn't a header of the ball and he rarely passed the ball more than three metres. Younger players will arrive who will cause Makélelé to be forgotten.” He went to Chelsea for £16.8m, won two league titles and must have felt more than a frisson of schadenfreude over the next three years that Real Madrid won nothing, the only central midfielder bought to replace him was Thomas Gravesen, Pérez walked away and more than a decade on instead of being forgotten Makélelé is recognised as the pivotal player in a team that did not fulfil its potential. And his sale amounted to one of the greatest acts of self-hobbling in the game’s history. Gary Cahill: Aston Villa to Bolton Gary Cahill spent three full seasons at Bolton after Aston Villa sold him and six months after he left the Reebok he won the Champions League Credit: Action Images / Lee Smith Gary Cahill was always the odd man out at Aston Villa, enjoying his best season in 2006-07 at the club he joined as a trainee when filling in for the tremendous but injury-ravaged Martin Laursen. In the autumn of the following season he signed for Sheffield United on loan and impressed so much that Gary Megson agreed a deal with Villa to take the 22-year-old to Bolton Wanderers for £5m. One can understand the logic for Martin O’Neill selling him - Laursen was imperious at the back that season, Olof Mellberg was as reliable as ever and he had just signed Zat Knight but it wasn’t to last and the fragile Laursen broke down, this time for good, within the year. And yet Cahill displayed enormous promise and lacked only experience. In three full seasons at Bolton he became an England squad regular, displaying his robustness in the tackle, power in the air and pace to correct most mistakes even if he was sometimes slack in possession and caught dithering on the ball. In January 2012 Chelsea bought him for £7m, taking advantage of Bolton’s toils on and off the field and he won the FA Cup and Champions League in his first five months. Since then he has earned two titles, the first in a Jose Mourinho back-four, the second as Antonio Conte’s captain in a back three where the beauty of his manager’s system was that it gave the captain little to do but counted on the acuteness of his antennae and astuteness of positioning to prevent it falling apart. In the two years after letting Cahill go, Villa paid more for each of Carlos Cuélar, Curtis Davies, James Collins and Richard Dunne, none of whom were as durable of the future England captain they let go. Andrea Pirlo: Milan to Juventus Milan's Andrea Pirlo turns away from Arsenal's Aleksandr Hleb Credit: Stu Forster/Getty Images If Inter’s decision to let Andrea Pirlo leave for Milan in 2001 seems a poor one, we can partially exonerate them because they received more than £13m for him and they were reluctant to play him in his optimum position as a deep-lying playmaker where he had excelled on loan at Brescia. Inter used Gigi Di Biagio there, as did Italy, and decided to liquidate their asset, investing the proceeds in Mohamed Kallon and Emre. During a decade in the black and red, Pirlo became the most elegant midfielder in the game, redefining the concept of a holding midfielder as more an advanced sweeper than a wall and exploiting his immaculate control and mastery of the arcing, rapidly dipping long pass to manipulate and often bypass the opposition’s midfield and defence. He won two Champions Leagues and two Serie A titles, the last Scudetto in his final season when he played a mere 17 times because the manager, Max Allegri, preferred the more orthodox defensive style of Mark van Bommel. That summer the club decided to retain the 35-year-old Clarence Seedorf and the 33-year-old Rino Gattuso and let Pirlo, 32, move on to Juventus where he won four successive titles and grew the fuzz that made him the mango-IPA-drinkers’ as well as the purists’ favourite player. Pirlo played 119 Serie A matches for Juve, made it to another Champions League final and finally left for MLS in 2015 while Seedorf and Gattuso managed a further 24 league matches between them for Milan. Don’t stroke your chin too vigorously at that misjudgment, it will play havoc with your beard. Kevin De Bruyne: Chelsea to Wolfsburg; Romelu Lukaku: Chelsea to Everton; Mo Salah: Chelsea to Roma Kevin De Bruyne traps the ball during Chelsea's match against Hull City in 2013 Credit: EDDIE KEOGH/REUTERS Chelsea made a commendable profit on Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku and Mohamed Salah when they sold the first two in 2014 and the Egypt forward two years later after long loan spells with Fiorentina and Roma, raking in almost £30m for players who made 43 appearances between them. A nice little earner that reflects well on Chelsea’s scouting and development system. But one can’t help thinking - despite the protestations of Frank Lampard and John Terry who have praised the players for leaving but insist it does not reflect badly on the club that has, like the cliched shark, to keep moving forward or die - that a little more patience, a few more opportunities and a touch more inflexibility when they held the upper hand would have better served them. Yes, Jose Mourinho wanted money to invest in players of his own choosing and no one could predict that each would improve so swiftly that they have become three of the most vibrant and valuable talents in the game. That was down to them and their dedication. Salah scores Chelsea's sixth in the 6-0 thrashing of Arsenal in March 2014 Credit: GLYN KIRK/AFP But someone at Stamford Bridge must have noted how assiduous each of them was, divined their characters or been swayed by their diligence and ambition. Chelsea’s loss - compounded by the lack of buy-back clauses - has been three rivals’ gain and has to represent a monstrous, three-headed blunder.
Sold too soon: the other side of transfer market blunders
The closing of the transfer window inspires the habitual churning out of the worst transfers ever, like bedtime stories that lose none of their allure in the biannual retelling. “Tell us the one about Bosko Balaban, again, Dad. How much? Did Tommy Brolin really turn up at Elland Road with a Space Hopper up his gansey? Yes, I’m sure Bebe looked a world-beater on video.” But those old, familiar tales represent only one side of the ledger: purchases commonly ridiculed in hindsight. The other classification, routinely overlooked, is the premature and mistaken disposal. It’s a difficult category to define. For the sake of fairness one should strip out clubs who sold because they were financially strapped, players who went for fees too good to turn down and also those who acted the meddlesome priest, agitating for transfers and allowed to move on simply to be rid of them. The focus is on sales such as Nemanja Matic's not the ones like Diego Costa's. Here, then, are some of the managerial misjudgments, players discarded too soon for any number of reasons: poor form trumping class, undervaluation, prejudice, ageism or a simple miscalculation. Frank McLintock: Arsenal to QPR When Bertie Mee dropped Arsenal’s Double-winning captain Frank McLintock during the 1972-73 season, the 33-year-old Scot, whose skill and drive had helped transform the club and his own career in a glorious Indian summer, was devastated. Frank McLintock completes the Double in 1971 and celebrates with Charlie George who scored that unforgettable goal Credit: Allsport Hulton/Archive Mee’s decision to replace the classy, inspirational centre-back with the ponderous, ham-footed colossus, Jeff Blockley, beggared belief and has to be interpreted as Mee’s attempt to wrest control of the club back from the dressing room and its charismatic leader. McLintock remembers that he wept when he went to see Mee, the tears splashing off his Arsenal blazer after finding his manager obdurate to his claims for a recall. He felt he had no choice but to ask for a transfer - which Mee granted but turned down his request either to be allowed to leave on a free to negotiate a better deal with a new club or to grant him the testimonial he would have been due if he could have stomached six more months in the reserves. Mee told him that the 10 years’ qualification for a testimonial would not be altered to suit him and seeing he was six months short he would have to lump it. McLintock left for newly-promoted QPR for £25,000 at the end of the season, Arsenal’s failure to inform him of a late bid from Derby County’s Brian Clough, champions in 1972, the final insult. He gave four years of outstanding service to QPR, masterly on the field and in the dressing room during Rangers’ greatest ever season, 1975-76, when they lost out on the title by a single point after Liverpool turned a 0-1 deficit to Wolves with 14 minutes to go into a 3-1 victory in their final game, 10 days after QPR had completed their fixtures. Arsenal, meanwhile, replaced the hopeless Blockley with the rugged 32-year-old Terry Mancini from QPR in 1974, failing to understand that in his year playing alongside McLintock that it was his partner who had made him look half decent. Mee stood down in 1976 after successive 16th- and 17th-placed finishes, his determination to break up his Double-winning side having all but fatally weakened it. Pat Jennings: Tottenham to Arsenal Pat Jennings joined Arsenal from Spurs in 1977 Credit: PA Pan-handed colossus whose gloveless mitts, or “Lurgan shovels” as his former Northern Ireland team-mate and manager Billy Bingham called them, were put to devastating effect to steal the ball, one handed, off forwards’ foreheads a fraction of a second before impact. Miserly and resilient as he was during seven seasons as a first-team regular at Arsenal, he was finer still at Tottenham, an innovative and unorthodox keeper who was masterly at scrambling across his box, efficiently used any part of his body to block the ball and commanded the penalty area with a calm authority. He maintained his agility and elasticity well into his late 30s and managed for most of his career without gloves and, for the latter half of it, with what appeared to be a Bedlington Terrier on his head. Sold by Tottenham in August 1977 for £40,000 after they were relegated because the manager, Keith Burkinshaw, thought Barry Daines a better long-term bet, Jennings played a further 327 games for Arsenal, appeared in three successive FA Cup finals, winning one, and the Cup Winners’ Cup final defeat by Valencia. He was Northern Ireland’s first choice at two World Cups at the ages of 37 and 41 while Spurs took four years to replace him adequately in 1981 with Ray Clemence. At a stroke Tottenham sold their greatest ever goalkeeper to their biggest rivals for a song. He didn’t want to leave but his club essentially wrote him off at the age of 32, weakened their own side and strengthened Arsenal’s. The going rate for a goalkeeper of rare talent still in his prime? The £270,000 Forest paid Stoke for Peter Shilton a month later. Gordon Strachan: Manchester United to Leeds Gordon Strachan, right, left Manchester United, where he won the FA Cup, for Leeds United, where he won the title Credit: Brian Smith for The Telegraph In 1989 Gordon Strachan made the journey from Lancashire to Yorkshire that Bobby Collins had taken 17 years earlier when signing for Leeds from Everton and also delivered Leeds from Second Division purgatory. There are other glorious swansongs in the game’s rich past when a veteran’s impact in galvanising young teams was as important as anything he did on the field. In the 1980s Kevin Keegan did it at Newcastle, Johan Cruyff and Arnold Muhren at Ajax and Franz Beckenbauer at Hamburg, but Strachan was arguably the last. Now the biggest clubs tend to wring every drop from an elite player's body and soul while pay packets fulfil all their ambitions so it’s unlikely that a Championship club could attract a veteran international and task him with a mission to set the tenor of a rejuvenation project. Strachan was 32 when he left Old Trafford for Elland Road, over-familiar with Alex Ferguson after almost nine years together at Aberdeen and Manchester United. Ferguson, too, had had enough and felt a fresh start would benefit both parties. It certainly benefited Strachan who led Leeds to promotion in his first full season followed by a fourth-place top-flight finish and then, thrillingly, the title from Manchester United by four points. Even in his 39th year, when he left Leeds for Coventry, his drive was undiminished and his exacting standards ensured everyone was motivated and desperate to match them. The £300,000 he cost Leeds was the canniest investment Howard Wilkinson ever made. Manchester United were left without an orthodox right-sided midfielder for a couple of seasons until Ferguson signed Andrei Kanchelskis in 1991, the same year Strachan had been named, like Collins before him in 1965, Footballer of Year at the age of 34. Peter Beardsley: Liverpool to Everton Beardsley with John Barnes after winning his second title at Anfield in 1990 Credit: Dan Smith /Allsport No one has forged such a high number of prolific partnerships with out-and-out goalscorers than Peter Beardsley before or since. At his very best during his first spell at Newcastle with Kevin Keegan, at Liverpool he paired up with John Aldridge and then Ian Rush, with Tony Cottee at Everton and then with Andy Cole and Les Ferdinand in his second spell at St James’ Park. One can criticise Graham Taylor's time as England's manager for any number of reasons, but the most cardinal sin was his jettisoning of Beardsley, which diminished Gary Lineker and effectively turned him into little more than a goalhanger. That was an error of two-for-the-price-of-one proportions. If a player of Beardsley's ability was available now, one whose intelligence brought the best out of so many partners while scoring more than 200 goals himself, there would be little cavilling at a fee of more than £50m. In different times Graeme Souness sold the 30-year-old to Everton in 1991 for £1m, a not inconsiderable sum but peanuts compared with his true value, as Newcastle would show when paying more for him two years later. Peter Beardsley scored for both sides in the Merseyside derby Credit: Shaun Botterill/Allsport There were times during his four seasons at Anfield when Kenny Dalglish seemed equivocal about his talents - dropping him for the title decider with Arsenal in 1989, buying David Speedie to replace him in the winter of 1990-91 - and Souness seems to have picked up on that lack of faith while also wanting to fund a statement signing of his own during his first close season at Anfield. The fact he went for the bullocking Dean Saunders, more rumbustious, infinitely less refined, paid £2.5m but ditched him at a loss within 12 months tells us more about Souness than it does about Beardsley who went on to have six more years at the top, scored 89 more goals and made half a century more. Matthias Sammer: Inter to Borussia Dortmund Matthias Sammer, the heir to Franz Beckenbauer Credit: Action Images In 1996 Matthias Sammer became only the second defender in 40 years to win the Ballon d’Or, following in the Trefoil bootsteps of his compatriot and fellow sweeper, Franz Beckenbauer. He was player of the tournament during Germany’s victory at Euro 96 and, like his illustrious predecessor, a converted midfielder whose reading of the game, exemplary leadership and positional skills, class and composure on the ball gave him a kind of omnipresence, smoothly interceding to whip the ball away from danger when the opposition pierced the lines. A ball hog, his passing range was limited but defined by unerring precision, his long sweeping runs upfield from the back, timed meticulously, would accelerate with the tough grace of an armour-plated ministerial Daimler. Sammer moved to Inter for £5.1m in the summer of 1992 after winning the Bundesliga in his second season at Stuttgart where he was employed as a defensive midfielder rather than the libero he would become at Borussia Dortmund. It’s a matter of only a few yards’ difference but it made a world of difference, harnessing his defensive instincts while giving him the space to make the play with those magnificent sorties. Inter signed him in 1991 but let him stay on at Stuttgart because they already had their three overseas players - Sammer’s Germany team-mates Lothar Matthaus, Andreas Brehme and Jurgen Klinsmann - and when he did arrive were surprised to find he had not mastered a single word of Italian. Osvaldo Bagnoli played him as an advanced midfielder in a counter-attacking system designed to exploit the pace of Ruben Sosa. Sammer scored four goals in 11 Serie A appearances but found the tactics too rigid and refused to put down roots. Il Messagero reported that he was living out of suitcases in his lakeside villa with his TV propped up on a tea chest the only furniture apart from a bed. Inter, spoilt by Matthaus, Brehme and Klinsmann who had loved the club, the country and mastered the language, were as fed up with a player who had just about learnt to say ‘Ciao’ by December as he was with life and work in Italy. They cut their losses after five months and sold him for £4.8m to Dortmund. There, Ottmar Hitzfeld dropped him from in front of the back four to behind it and he won his second and third Bundesliga titles and the Champions League in 1997. A serious knee injury shortly after the final ended his career at the age of 30 having played only three more games. Claude Makélelé: Real Madrid to Chelsea Makelele tackles David Batty of Leeds United at the Bernabeu in 2001 Credit: REUTERS/Desmond Boylan The second coming of Florentino Pérez as president of Real Madrid has been defined and improved by learning from the errors he made during his first spell at the Bernabéu. Then, the preening pomposity of his galáctico project, bit him on the backside when he deemed a manager and a player who were integral to the success lacked the requisite glamour to play for his marketing machine. In the summer of 2003, after winning La Liga, Vicente Del Bosque was sacked and Claude Makélelé, the players’ player of the year, was knocked back when he went to negotiate a pay rise that reflected his contribution. He wasn’t asking for parity with Luis Figo, Ronaldo, Zinedine Zidane and David Beckham but nor did he expect Pérez to refuse flatly and then disparage him when he handed in a transfer request. “We will not miss Makélelé,” said Pérez. “His technique is average, he lacks the speed and skill to take the ball past opponents, and ninety percent of his distribution either goes backwards or sideways. He wasn't a header of the ball and he rarely passed the ball more than three metres. Younger players will arrive who will cause Makélelé to be forgotten.” He went to Chelsea for £16.8m, won two league titles and must have felt more than a frisson of schadenfreude over the next three years that Real Madrid won nothing, the only central midfielder bought to replace him was Thomas Gravesen, Pérez walked away and more than a decade on instead of being forgotten Makélelé is recognised as the pivotal player in a team that did not fulfil its potential. And his sale amounted to one of the greatest acts of self-hobbling in the game’s history. Gary Cahill: Aston Villa to Bolton Gary Cahill spent three full seasons at Bolton after Aston Villa sold him and six months after he left the Reebok he won the Champions League Credit: Action Images / Lee Smith Gary Cahill was always the odd man out at Aston Villa, enjoying his best season in 2006-07 at the club he joined as a trainee when filling in for the tremendous but injury-ravaged Martin Laursen. In the autumn of the following season he signed for Sheffield United on loan and impressed so much that Gary Megson agreed a deal with Villa to take the 22-year-old to Bolton Wanderers for £5m. One can understand the logic for Martin O’Neill selling him - Laursen was imperious at the back that season, Olof Mellberg was as reliable as ever and he had just signed Zat Knight but it wasn’t to last and the fragile Laursen broke down, this time for good, within the year. And yet Cahill displayed enormous promise and lacked only experience. In three full seasons at Bolton he became an England squad regular, displaying his robustness in the tackle, power in the air and pace to correct most mistakes even if he was sometimes slack in possession and caught dithering on the ball. In January 2012 Chelsea bought him for £7m, taking advantage of Bolton’s toils on and off the field and he won the FA Cup and Champions League in his first five months. Since then he has earned two titles, the first in a Jose Mourinho back-four, the second as Antonio Conte’s captain in a back three where the beauty of his manager’s system was that it gave the captain little to do but counted on the acuteness of his antennae and astuteness of positioning to prevent it falling apart. In the two years after letting Cahill go, Villa paid more for each of Carlos Cuélar, Curtis Davies, James Collins and Richard Dunne, none of whom were as durable of the future England captain they let go. Andrea Pirlo: Milan to Juventus Milan's Andrea Pirlo turns away from Arsenal's Aleksandr Hleb Credit: Stu Forster/Getty Images If Inter’s decision to let Andrea Pirlo leave for Milan in 2001 seems a poor one, we can partially exonerate them because they received more than £13m for him and they were reluctant to play him in his optimum position as a deep-lying playmaker where he had excelled on loan at Brescia. Inter used Gigi Di Biagio there, as did Italy, and decided to liquidate their asset, investing the proceeds in Mohamed Kallon and Emre. During a decade in the black and red, Pirlo became the most elegant midfielder in the game, redefining the concept of a holding midfielder as more an advanced sweeper than a wall and exploiting his immaculate control and mastery of the arcing, rapidly dipping long pass to manipulate and often bypass the opposition’s midfield and defence. He won two Champions Leagues and two Serie A titles, the last Scudetto in his final season when he played a mere 17 times because the manager, Max Allegri, preferred the more orthodox defensive style of Mark van Bommel. That summer the club decided to retain the 35-year-old Clarence Seedorf and the 33-year-old Rino Gattuso and let Pirlo, 32, move on to Juventus where he won four successive titles and grew the fuzz that made him the mango-IPA-drinkers’ as well as the purists’ favourite player. Pirlo played 119 Serie A matches for Juve, made it to another Champions League final and finally left for MLS in 2015 while Seedorf and Gattuso managed a further 24 league matches between them for Milan. Don’t stroke your chin too vigorously at that misjudgment, it will play havoc with your beard. Kevin De Bruyne: Chelsea to Wolfsburg; Romelu Lukaku: Chelsea to Everton; Mo Salah: Chelsea to Roma Kevin De Bruyne traps the ball during Chelsea's match against Hull City in 2013 Credit: EDDIE KEOGH/REUTERS Chelsea made a commendable profit on Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku and Mohamed Salah when they sold the first two in 2014 and the Egypt forward two years later after long loan spells with Fiorentina and Roma, raking in almost £30m for players who made 43 appearances between them. A nice little earner that reflects well on Chelsea’s scouting and development system. But one can’t help thinking - despite the protestations of Frank Lampard and John Terry who have praised the players for leaving but insist it does not reflect badly on the club that has, like the cliched shark, to keep moving forward or die - that a little more patience, a few more opportunities and a touch more inflexibility when they held the upper hand would have better served them. Yes, Jose Mourinho wanted money to invest in players of his own choosing and no one could predict that each would improve so swiftly that they have become three of the most vibrant and valuable talents in the game. That was down to them and their dedication. Salah scores Chelsea's sixth in the 6-0 thrashing of Arsenal in March 2014 Credit: GLYN KIRK/AFP But someone at Stamford Bridge must have noted how assiduous each of them was, divined their characters or been swayed by their diligence and ambition. Chelsea’s loss - compounded by the lack of buy-back clauses - has been three rivals’ gain and has to represent a monstrous, three-headed blunder.
The closing of the transfer window inspires the habitual churning out of the worst transfers ever, like bedtime stories that lose none of their allure in the biannual retelling. “Tell us the one about Bosko Balaban, again, Dad. How much? Did Tommy Brolin really turn up at Elland Road with a Space Hopper up his gansey? Yes, I’m sure Bebe looked a world-beater on video.” But those old, familiar tales represent only one side of the ledger: purchases commonly ridiculed in hindsight. The other classification, routinely overlooked, is the premature and mistaken disposal. It’s a difficult category to define. For the sake of fairness one should strip out clubs who sold because they were financially strapped, players who went for fees too good to turn down and also those who acted the meddlesome priest, agitating for transfers and allowed to move on simply to be rid of them. The focus is on sales such as Nemanja Matic's not the ones like Diego Costa's. Here, then, are some of the managerial misjudgments, players discarded too soon for any number of reasons: poor form trumping class, undervaluation, prejudice, ageism or a simple miscalculation. Frank McLintock: Arsenal to QPR When Bertie Mee dropped Arsenal’s Double-winning captain Frank McLintock during the 1972-73 season, the 33-year-old Scot, whose skill and drive had helped transform the club and his own career in a glorious Indian summer, was devastated. Frank McLintock completes the Double in 1971 and celebrates with Charlie George who scored that unforgettable goal Credit: Allsport Hulton/Archive Mee’s decision to replace the classy, inspirational centre-back with the ponderous, ham-footed colossus, Jeff Blockley, beggared belief and has to be interpreted as Mee’s attempt to wrest control of the club back from the dressing room and its charismatic leader. McLintock remembers that he wept when he went to see Mee, the tears splashing off his Arsenal blazer after finding his manager obdurate to his claims for a recall. He felt he had no choice but to ask for a transfer - which Mee granted but turned down his request either to be allowed to leave on a free to negotiate a better deal with a new club or to grant him the testimonial he would have been due if he could have stomached six more months in the reserves. Mee told him that the 10 years’ qualification for a testimonial would not be altered to suit him and seeing he was six months short he would have to lump it. McLintock left for newly-promoted QPR for £25,000 at the end of the season, Arsenal’s failure to inform him of a late bid from Derby County’s Brian Clough, champions in 1972, the final insult. He gave four years of outstanding service to QPR, masterly on the field and in the dressing room during Rangers’ greatest ever season, 1975-76, when they lost out on the title by a single point after Liverpool turned a 0-1 deficit to Wolves with 14 minutes to go into a 3-1 victory in their final game, 10 days after QPR had completed their fixtures. Arsenal, meanwhile, replaced the hopeless Blockley with the rugged 32-year-old Terry Mancini from QPR in 1974, failing to understand that in his year playing alongside McLintock that it was his partner who had made him look half decent. Mee stood down in 1976 after successive 16th- and 17th-placed finishes, his determination to break up his Double-winning side having all but fatally weakened it. Pat Jennings: Tottenham to Arsenal Pat Jennings joined Arsenal from Spurs in 1977 Credit: PA Pan-handed colossus whose gloveless mitts, or “Lurgan shovels” as his former Northern Ireland team-mate and manager Billy Bingham called them, were put to devastating effect to steal the ball, one handed, off forwards’ foreheads a fraction of a second before impact. Miserly and resilient as he was during seven seasons as a first-team regular at Arsenal, he was finer still at Tottenham, an innovative and unorthodox keeper who was masterly at scrambling across his box, efficiently used any part of his body to block the ball and commanded the penalty area with a calm authority. He maintained his agility and elasticity well into his late 30s and managed for most of his career without gloves and, for the latter half of it, with what appeared to be a Bedlington Terrier on his head. Sold by Tottenham in August 1977 for £40,000 after they were relegated because the manager, Keith Burkinshaw, thought Barry Daines a better long-term bet, Jennings played a further 327 games for Arsenal, appeared in three successive FA Cup finals, winning one, and the Cup Winners’ Cup final defeat by Valencia. He was Northern Ireland’s first choice at two World Cups at the ages of 37 and 41 while Spurs took four years to replace him adequately in 1981 with Ray Clemence. At a stroke Tottenham sold their greatest ever goalkeeper to their biggest rivals for a song. He didn’t want to leave but his club essentially wrote him off at the age of 32, weakened their own side and strengthened Arsenal’s. The going rate for a goalkeeper of rare talent still in his prime? The £270,000 Forest paid Stoke for Peter Shilton a month later. Gordon Strachan: Manchester United to Leeds Gordon Strachan, right, left Manchester United, where he won the FA Cup, for Leeds United, where he won the title Credit: Brian Smith for The Telegraph In 1989 Gordon Strachan made the journey from Lancashire to Yorkshire that Bobby Collins had taken 17 years earlier when signing for Leeds from Everton and also delivered Leeds from Second Division purgatory. There are other glorious swansongs in the game’s rich past when a veteran’s impact in galvanising young teams was as important as anything he did on the field. In the 1980s Kevin Keegan did it at Newcastle, Johan Cruyff and Arnold Muhren at Ajax and Franz Beckenbauer at Hamburg, but Strachan was arguably the last. Now the biggest clubs tend to wring every drop from an elite player's body and soul while pay packets fulfil all their ambitions so it’s unlikely that a Championship club could attract a veteran international and task him with a mission to set the tenor of a rejuvenation project. Strachan was 32 when he left Old Trafford for Elland Road, over-familiar with Alex Ferguson after almost nine years together at Aberdeen and Manchester United. Ferguson, too, had had enough and felt a fresh start would benefit both parties. It certainly benefited Strachan who led Leeds to promotion in his first full season followed by a fourth-place top-flight finish and then, thrillingly, the title from Manchester United by four points. Even in his 39th year, when he left Leeds for Coventry, his drive was undiminished and his exacting standards ensured everyone was motivated and desperate to match them. The £300,000 he cost Leeds was the canniest investment Howard Wilkinson ever made. Manchester United were left without an orthodox right-sided midfielder for a couple of seasons until Ferguson signed Andrei Kanchelskis in 1991, the same year Strachan had been named, like Collins before him in 1965, Footballer of Year at the age of 34. Peter Beardsley: Liverpool to Everton Beardsley with John Barnes after winning his second title at Anfield in 1990 Credit: Dan Smith /Allsport No one has forged such a high number of prolific partnerships with out-and-out goalscorers than Peter Beardsley before or since. At his very best during his first spell at Newcastle with Kevin Keegan, at Liverpool he paired up with John Aldridge and then Ian Rush, with Tony Cottee at Everton and then with Andy Cole and Les Ferdinand in his second spell at St James’ Park. One can criticise Graham Taylor's time as England's manager for any number of reasons, but the most cardinal sin was his jettisoning of Beardsley, which diminished Gary Lineker and effectively turned him into little more than a goalhanger. That was an error of two-for-the-price-of-one proportions. If a player of Beardsley's ability was available now, one whose intelligence brought the best out of so many partners while scoring more than 200 goals himself, there would be little cavilling at a fee of more than £50m. In different times Graeme Souness sold the 30-year-old to Everton in 1991 for £1m, a not inconsiderable sum but peanuts compared with his true value, as Newcastle would show when paying more for him two years later. Peter Beardsley scored for both sides in the Merseyside derby Credit: Shaun Botterill/Allsport There were times during his four seasons at Anfield when Kenny Dalglish seemed equivocal about his talents - dropping him for the title decider with Arsenal in 1989, buying David Speedie to replace him in the winter of 1990-91 - and Souness seems to have picked up on that lack of faith while also wanting to fund a statement signing of his own during his first close season at Anfield. The fact he went for the bullocking Dean Saunders, more rumbustious, infinitely less refined, paid £2.5m but ditched him at a loss within 12 months tells us more about Souness than it does about Beardsley who went on to have six more years at the top, scored 89 more goals and made half a century more. Matthias Sammer: Inter to Borussia Dortmund Matthias Sammer, the heir to Franz Beckenbauer Credit: Action Images In 1996 Matthias Sammer became only the second defender in 40 years to win the Ballon d’Or, following in the Trefoil bootsteps of his compatriot and fellow sweeper, Franz Beckenbauer. He was player of the tournament during Germany’s victory at Euro 96 and, like his illustrious predecessor, a converted midfielder whose reading of the game, exemplary leadership and positional skills, class and composure on the ball gave him a kind of omnipresence, smoothly interceding to whip the ball away from danger when the opposition pierced the lines. A ball hog, his passing range was limited but defined by unerring precision, his long sweeping runs upfield from the back, timed meticulously, would accelerate with the tough grace of an armour-plated ministerial Daimler. Sammer moved to Inter for £5.1m in the summer of 1992 after winning the Bundesliga in his second season at Stuttgart where he was employed as a defensive midfielder rather than the libero he would become at Borussia Dortmund. It’s a matter of only a few yards’ difference but it made a world of difference, harnessing his defensive instincts while giving him the space to make the play with those magnificent sorties. Inter signed him in 1991 but let him stay on at Stuttgart because they already had their three overseas players - Sammer’s Germany team-mates Lothar Matthaus, Andreas Brehme and Jurgen Klinsmann - and when he did arrive were surprised to find he had not mastered a single word of Italian. Osvaldo Bagnoli played him as an advanced midfielder in a counter-attacking system designed to exploit the pace of Ruben Sosa. Sammer scored four goals in 11 Serie A appearances but found the tactics too rigid and refused to put down roots. Il Messagero reported that he was living out of suitcases in his lakeside villa with his TV propped up on a tea chest the only furniture apart from a bed. Inter, spoilt by Matthaus, Brehme and Klinsmann who had loved the club, the country and mastered the language, were as fed up with a player who had just about learnt to say ‘Ciao’ by December as he was with life and work in Italy. They cut their losses after five months and sold him for £4.8m to Dortmund. There, Ottmar Hitzfeld dropped him from in front of the back four to behind it and he won his second and third Bundesliga titles and the Champions League in 1997. A serious knee injury shortly after the final ended his career at the age of 30 having played only three more games. Claude Makélelé: Real Madrid to Chelsea Makelele tackles David Batty of Leeds United at the Bernabeu in 2001 Credit: REUTERS/Desmond Boylan The second coming of Florentino Pérez as president of Real Madrid has been defined and improved by learning from the errors he made during his first spell at the Bernabéu. Then, the preening pomposity of his galáctico project, bit him on the backside when he deemed a manager and a player who were integral to the success lacked the requisite glamour to play for his marketing machine. In the summer of 2003, after winning La Liga, Vicente Del Bosque was sacked and Claude Makélelé, the players’ player of the year, was knocked back when he went to negotiate a pay rise that reflected his contribution. He wasn’t asking for parity with Luis Figo, Ronaldo, Zinedine Zidane and David Beckham but nor did he expect Pérez to refuse flatly and then disparage him when he handed in a transfer request. “We will not miss Makélelé,” said Pérez. “His technique is average, he lacks the speed and skill to take the ball past opponents, and ninety percent of his distribution either goes backwards or sideways. He wasn't a header of the ball and he rarely passed the ball more than three metres. Younger players will arrive who will cause Makélelé to be forgotten.” He went to Chelsea for £16.8m, won two league titles and must have felt more than a frisson of schadenfreude over the next three years that Real Madrid won nothing, the only central midfielder bought to replace him was Thomas Gravesen, Pérez walked away and more than a decade on instead of being forgotten Makélelé is recognised as the pivotal player in a team that did not fulfil its potential. And his sale amounted to one of the greatest acts of self-hobbling in the game’s history. Gary Cahill: Aston Villa to Bolton Gary Cahill spent three full seasons at Bolton after Aston Villa sold him and six months after he left the Reebok he won the Champions League Credit: Action Images / Lee Smith Gary Cahill was always the odd man out at Aston Villa, enjoying his best season in 2006-07 at the club he joined as a trainee when filling in for the tremendous but injury-ravaged Martin Laursen. In the autumn of the following season he signed for Sheffield United on loan and impressed so much that Gary Megson agreed a deal with Villa to take the 22-year-old to Bolton Wanderers for £5m. One can understand the logic for Martin O’Neill selling him - Laursen was imperious at the back that season, Olof Mellberg was as reliable as ever and he had just signed Zat Knight but it wasn’t to last and the fragile Laursen broke down, this time for good, within the year. And yet Cahill displayed enormous promise and lacked only experience. In three full seasons at Bolton he became an England squad regular, displaying his robustness in the tackle, power in the air and pace to correct most mistakes even if he was sometimes slack in possession and caught dithering on the ball. In January 2012 Chelsea bought him for £7m, taking advantage of Bolton’s toils on and off the field and he won the FA Cup and Champions League in his first five months. Since then he has earned two titles, the first in a Jose Mourinho back-four, the second as Antonio Conte’s captain in a back three where the beauty of his manager’s system was that it gave the captain little to do but counted on the acuteness of his antennae and astuteness of positioning to prevent it falling apart. In the two years after letting Cahill go, Villa paid more for each of Carlos Cuélar, Curtis Davies, James Collins and Richard Dunne, none of whom were as durable of the future England captain they let go. Andrea Pirlo: Milan to Juventus Milan's Andrea Pirlo turns away from Arsenal's Aleksandr Hleb Credit: Stu Forster/Getty Images If Inter’s decision to let Andrea Pirlo leave for Milan in 2001 seems a poor one, we can partially exonerate them because they received more than £13m for him and they were reluctant to play him in his optimum position as a deep-lying playmaker where he had excelled on loan at Brescia. Inter used Gigi Di Biagio there, as did Italy, and decided to liquidate their asset, investing the proceeds in Mohamed Kallon and Emre. During a decade in the black and red, Pirlo became the most elegant midfielder in the game, redefining the concept of a holding midfielder as more an advanced sweeper than a wall and exploiting his immaculate control and mastery of the arcing, rapidly dipping long pass to manipulate and often bypass the opposition’s midfield and defence. He won two Champions Leagues and two Serie A titles, the last Scudetto in his final season when he played a mere 17 times because the manager, Max Allegri, preferred the more orthodox defensive style of Mark van Bommel. That summer the club decided to retain the 35-year-old Clarence Seedorf and the 33-year-old Rino Gattuso and let Pirlo, 32, move on to Juventus where he won four successive titles and grew the fuzz that made him the mango-IPA-drinkers’ as well as the purists’ favourite player. Pirlo played 119 Serie A matches for Juve, made it to another Champions League final and finally left for MLS in 2015 while Seedorf and Gattuso managed a further 24 league matches between them for Milan. Don’t stroke your chin too vigorously at that misjudgment, it will play havoc with your beard. Kevin De Bruyne: Chelsea to Wolfsburg; Romelu Lukaku: Chelsea to Everton; Mo Salah: Chelsea to Roma Kevin De Bruyne traps the ball during Chelsea's match against Hull City in 2013 Credit: EDDIE KEOGH/REUTERS Chelsea made a commendable profit on Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku and Mohamed Salah when they sold the first two in 2014 and the Egypt forward two years later after long loan spells with Fiorentina and Roma, raking in almost £30m for players who made 43 appearances between them. A nice little earner that reflects well on Chelsea’s scouting and development system. But one can’t help thinking - despite the protestations of Frank Lampard and John Terry who have praised the players for leaving but insist it does not reflect badly on the club that has, like the cliched shark, to keep moving forward or die - that a little more patience, a few more opportunities and a touch more inflexibility when they held the upper hand would have better served them. Yes, Jose Mourinho wanted money to invest in players of his own choosing and no one could predict that each would improve so swiftly that they have become three of the most vibrant and valuable talents in the game. That was down to them and their dedication. Salah scores Chelsea's sixth in the 6-0 thrashing of Arsenal in March 2014 Credit: GLYN KIRK/AFP But someone at Stamford Bridge must have noted how assiduous each of them was, divined their characters or been swayed by their diligence and ambition. Chelsea’s loss - compounded by the lack of buy-back clauses - has been three rivals’ gain and has to represent a monstrous, three-headed blunder.
Sold too soon: the other side of transfer market blunders
The closing of the transfer window inspires the habitual churning out of the worst transfers ever, like bedtime stories that lose none of their allure in the biannual retelling. “Tell us the one about Bosko Balaban, again, Dad. How much? Did Tommy Brolin really turn up at Elland Road with a Space Hopper up his gansey? Yes, I’m sure Bebe looked a world-beater on video.” But those old, familiar tales represent only one side of the ledger: purchases commonly ridiculed in hindsight. The other classification, routinely overlooked, is the premature and mistaken disposal. It’s a difficult category to define. For the sake of fairness one should strip out clubs who sold because they were financially strapped, players who went for fees too good to turn down and also those who acted the meddlesome priest, agitating for transfers and allowed to move on simply to be rid of them. The focus is on sales such as Nemanja Matic's not the ones like Diego Costa's. Here, then, are some of the managerial misjudgments, players discarded too soon for any number of reasons: poor form trumping class, undervaluation, prejudice, ageism or a simple miscalculation. Frank McLintock: Arsenal to QPR When Bertie Mee dropped Arsenal’s Double-winning captain Frank McLintock during the 1972-73 season, the 33-year-old Scot, whose skill and drive had helped transform the club and his own career in a glorious Indian summer, was devastated. Frank McLintock completes the Double in 1971 and celebrates with Charlie George who scored that unforgettable goal Credit: Allsport Hulton/Archive Mee’s decision to replace the classy, inspirational centre-back with the ponderous, ham-footed colossus, Jeff Blockley, beggared belief and has to be interpreted as Mee’s attempt to wrest control of the club back from the dressing room and its charismatic leader. McLintock remembers that he wept when he went to see Mee, the tears splashing off his Arsenal blazer after finding his manager obdurate to his claims for a recall. He felt he had no choice but to ask for a transfer - which Mee granted but turned down his request either to be allowed to leave on a free to negotiate a better deal with a new club or to grant him the testimonial he would have been due if he could have stomached six more months in the reserves. Mee told him that the 10 years’ qualification for a testimonial would not be altered to suit him and seeing he was six months short he would have to lump it. McLintock left for newly-promoted QPR for £25,000 at the end of the season, Arsenal’s failure to inform him of a late bid from Derby County’s Brian Clough, champions in 1972, the final insult. He gave four years of outstanding service to QPR, masterly on the field and in the dressing room during Rangers’ greatest ever season, 1975-76, when they lost out on the title by a single point after Liverpool turned a 0-1 deficit to Wolves with 14 minutes to go into a 3-1 victory in their final game, 10 days after QPR had completed their fixtures. Arsenal, meanwhile, replaced the hopeless Blockley with the rugged 32-year-old Terry Mancini from QPR in 1974, failing to understand that in his year playing alongside McLintock that it was his partner who had made him look half decent. Mee stood down in 1976 after successive 16th- and 17th-placed finishes, his determination to break up his Double-winning side having all but fatally weakened it. Pat Jennings: Tottenham to Arsenal Pat Jennings joined Arsenal from Spurs in 1977 Credit: PA Pan-handed colossus whose gloveless mitts, or “Lurgan shovels” as his former Northern Ireland team-mate and manager Billy Bingham called them, were put to devastating effect to steal the ball, one handed, off forwards’ foreheads a fraction of a second before impact. Miserly and resilient as he was during seven seasons as a first-team regular at Arsenal, he was finer still at Tottenham, an innovative and unorthodox keeper who was masterly at scrambling across his box, efficiently used any part of his body to block the ball and commanded the penalty area with a calm authority. He maintained his agility and elasticity well into his late 30s and managed for most of his career without gloves and, for the latter half of it, with what appeared to be a Bedlington Terrier on his head. Sold by Tottenham in August 1977 for £40,000 after they were relegated because the manager, Keith Burkinshaw, thought Barry Daines a better long-term bet, Jennings played a further 327 games for Arsenal, appeared in three successive FA Cup finals, winning one, and the Cup Winners’ Cup final defeat by Valencia. He was Northern Ireland’s first choice at two World Cups at the ages of 37 and 41 while Spurs took four years to replace him adequately in 1981 with Ray Clemence. At a stroke Tottenham sold their greatest ever goalkeeper to their biggest rivals for a song. He didn’t want to leave but his club essentially wrote him off at the age of 32, weakened their own side and strengthened Arsenal’s. The going rate for a goalkeeper of rare talent still in his prime? The £270,000 Forest paid Stoke for Peter Shilton a month later. Gordon Strachan: Manchester United to Leeds Gordon Strachan, right, left Manchester United, where he won the FA Cup, for Leeds United, where he won the title Credit: Brian Smith for The Telegraph In 1989 Gordon Strachan made the journey from Lancashire to Yorkshire that Bobby Collins had taken 17 years earlier when signing for Leeds from Everton and also delivered Leeds from Second Division purgatory. There are other glorious swansongs in the game’s rich past when a veteran’s impact in galvanising young teams was as important as anything he did on the field. In the 1980s Kevin Keegan did it at Newcastle, Johan Cruyff and Arnold Muhren at Ajax and Franz Beckenbauer at Hamburg, but Strachan was arguably the last. Now the biggest clubs tend to wring every drop from an elite player's body and soul while pay packets fulfil all their ambitions so it’s unlikely that a Championship club could attract a veteran international and task him with a mission to set the tenor of a rejuvenation project. Strachan was 32 when he left Old Trafford for Elland Road, over-familiar with Alex Ferguson after almost nine years together at Aberdeen and Manchester United. Ferguson, too, had had enough and felt a fresh start would benefit both parties. It certainly benefited Strachan who led Leeds to promotion in his first full season followed by a fourth-place top-flight finish and then, thrillingly, the title from Manchester United by four points. Even in his 39th year, when he left Leeds for Coventry, his drive was undiminished and his exacting standards ensured everyone was motivated and desperate to match them. The £300,000 he cost Leeds was the canniest investment Howard Wilkinson ever made. Manchester United were left without an orthodox right-sided midfielder for a couple of seasons until Ferguson signed Andrei Kanchelskis in 1991, the same year Strachan had been named, like Collins before him in 1965, Footballer of Year at the age of 34. Peter Beardsley: Liverpool to Everton Beardsley with John Barnes after winning his second title at Anfield in 1990 Credit: Dan Smith /Allsport No one has forged such a high number of prolific partnerships with out-and-out goalscorers than Peter Beardsley before or since. At his very best during his first spell at Newcastle with Kevin Keegan, at Liverpool he paired up with John Aldridge and then Ian Rush, with Tony Cottee at Everton and then with Andy Cole and Les Ferdinand in his second spell at St James’ Park. One can criticise Graham Taylor's time as England's manager for any number of reasons, but the most cardinal sin was his jettisoning of Beardsley, which diminished Gary Lineker and effectively turned him into little more than a goalhanger. That was an error of two-for-the-price-of-one proportions. If a player of Beardsley's ability was available now, one whose intelligence brought the best out of so many partners while scoring more than 200 goals himself, there would be little cavilling at a fee of more than £50m. In different times Graeme Souness sold the 30-year-old to Everton in 1991 for £1m, a not inconsiderable sum but peanuts compared with his true value, as Newcastle would show when paying more for him two years later. Peter Beardsley scored for both sides in the Merseyside derby Credit: Shaun Botterill/Allsport There were times during his four seasons at Anfield when Kenny Dalglish seemed equivocal about his talents - dropping him for the title decider with Arsenal in 1989, buying David Speedie to replace him in the winter of 1990-91 - and Souness seems to have picked up on that lack of faith while also wanting to fund a statement signing of his own during his first close season at Anfield. The fact he went for the bullocking Dean Saunders, more rumbustious, infinitely less refined, paid £2.5m but ditched him at a loss within 12 months tells us more about Souness than it does about Beardsley who went on to have six more years at the top, scored 89 more goals and made half a century more. Matthias Sammer: Inter to Borussia Dortmund Matthias Sammer, the heir to Franz Beckenbauer Credit: Action Images In 1996 Matthias Sammer became only the second defender in 40 years to win the Ballon d’Or, following in the Trefoil bootsteps of his compatriot and fellow sweeper, Franz Beckenbauer. He was player of the tournament during Germany’s victory at Euro 96 and, like his illustrious predecessor, a converted midfielder whose reading of the game, exemplary leadership and positional skills, class and composure on the ball gave him a kind of omnipresence, smoothly interceding to whip the ball away from danger when the opposition pierced the lines. A ball hog, his passing range was limited but defined by unerring precision, his long sweeping runs upfield from the back, timed meticulously, would accelerate with the tough grace of an armour-plated ministerial Daimler. Sammer moved to Inter for £5.1m in the summer of 1992 after winning the Bundesliga in his second season at Stuttgart where he was employed as a defensive midfielder rather than the libero he would become at Borussia Dortmund. It’s a matter of only a few yards’ difference but it made a world of difference, harnessing his defensive instincts while giving him the space to make the play with those magnificent sorties. Inter signed him in 1991 but let him stay on at Stuttgart because they already had their three overseas players - Sammer’s Germany team-mates Lothar Matthaus, Andreas Brehme and Jurgen Klinsmann - and when he did arrive were surprised to find he had not mastered a single word of Italian. Osvaldo Bagnoli played him as an advanced midfielder in a counter-attacking system designed to exploit the pace of Ruben Sosa. Sammer scored four goals in 11 Serie A appearances but found the tactics too rigid and refused to put down roots. Il Messagero reported that he was living out of suitcases in his lakeside villa with his TV propped up on a tea chest the only furniture apart from a bed. Inter, spoilt by Matthaus, Brehme and Klinsmann who had loved the club, the country and mastered the language, were as fed up with a player who had just about learnt to say ‘Ciao’ by December as he was with life and work in Italy. They cut their losses after five months and sold him for £4.8m to Dortmund. There, Ottmar Hitzfeld dropped him from in front of the back four to behind it and he won his second and third Bundesliga titles and the Champions League in 1997. A serious knee injury shortly after the final ended his career at the age of 30 having played only three more games. Claude Makélelé: Real Madrid to Chelsea Makelele tackles David Batty of Leeds United at the Bernabeu in 2001 Credit: REUTERS/Desmond Boylan The second coming of Florentino Pérez as president of Real Madrid has been defined and improved by learning from the errors he made during his first spell at the Bernabéu. Then, the preening pomposity of his galáctico project, bit him on the backside when he deemed a manager and a player who were integral to the success lacked the requisite glamour to play for his marketing machine. In the summer of 2003, after winning La Liga, Vicente Del Bosque was sacked and Claude Makélelé, the players’ player of the year, was knocked back when he went to negotiate a pay rise that reflected his contribution. He wasn’t asking for parity with Luis Figo, Ronaldo, Zinedine Zidane and David Beckham but nor did he expect Pérez to refuse flatly and then disparage him when he handed in a transfer request. “We will not miss Makélelé,” said Pérez. “His technique is average, he lacks the speed and skill to take the ball past opponents, and ninety percent of his distribution either goes backwards or sideways. He wasn't a header of the ball and he rarely passed the ball more than three metres. Younger players will arrive who will cause Makélelé to be forgotten.” He went to Chelsea for £16.8m, won two league titles and must have felt more than a frisson of schadenfreude over the next three years that Real Madrid won nothing, the only central midfielder bought to replace him was Thomas Gravesen, Pérez walked away and more than a decade on instead of being forgotten Makélelé is recognised as the pivotal player in a team that did not fulfil its potential. And his sale amounted to one of the greatest acts of self-hobbling in the game’s history. Gary Cahill: Aston Villa to Bolton Gary Cahill spent three full seasons at Bolton after Aston Villa sold him and six months after he left the Reebok he won the Champions League Credit: Action Images / Lee Smith Gary Cahill was always the odd man out at Aston Villa, enjoying his best season in 2006-07 at the club he joined as a trainee when filling in for the tremendous but injury-ravaged Martin Laursen. In the autumn of the following season he signed for Sheffield United on loan and impressed so much that Gary Megson agreed a deal with Villa to take the 22-year-old to Bolton Wanderers for £5m. One can understand the logic for Martin O’Neill selling him - Laursen was imperious at the back that season, Olof Mellberg was as reliable as ever and he had just signed Zat Knight but it wasn’t to last and the fragile Laursen broke down, this time for good, within the year. And yet Cahill displayed enormous promise and lacked only experience. In three full seasons at Bolton he became an England squad regular, displaying his robustness in the tackle, power in the air and pace to correct most mistakes even if he was sometimes slack in possession and caught dithering on the ball. In January 2012 Chelsea bought him for £7m, taking advantage of Bolton’s toils on and off the field and he won the FA Cup and Champions League in his first five months. Since then he has earned two titles, the first in a Jose Mourinho back-four, the second as Antonio Conte’s captain in a back three where the beauty of his manager’s system was that it gave the captain little to do but counted on the acuteness of his antennae and astuteness of positioning to prevent it falling apart. In the two years after letting Cahill go, Villa paid more for each of Carlos Cuélar, Curtis Davies, James Collins and Richard Dunne, none of whom were as durable of the future England captain they let go. Andrea Pirlo: Milan to Juventus Milan's Andrea Pirlo turns away from Arsenal's Aleksandr Hleb Credit: Stu Forster/Getty Images If Inter’s decision to let Andrea Pirlo leave for Milan in 2001 seems a poor one, we can partially exonerate them because they received more than £13m for him and they were reluctant to play him in his optimum position as a deep-lying playmaker where he had excelled on loan at Brescia. Inter used Gigi Di Biagio there, as did Italy, and decided to liquidate their asset, investing the proceeds in Mohamed Kallon and Emre. During a decade in the black and red, Pirlo became the most elegant midfielder in the game, redefining the concept of a holding midfielder as more an advanced sweeper than a wall and exploiting his immaculate control and mastery of the arcing, rapidly dipping long pass to manipulate and often bypass the opposition’s midfield and defence. He won two Champions Leagues and two Serie A titles, the last Scudetto in his final season when he played a mere 17 times because the manager, Max Allegri, preferred the more orthodox defensive style of Mark van Bommel. That summer the club decided to retain the 35-year-old Clarence Seedorf and the 33-year-old Rino Gattuso and let Pirlo, 32, move on to Juventus where he won four successive titles and grew the fuzz that made him the mango-IPA-drinkers’ as well as the purists’ favourite player. Pirlo played 119 Serie A matches for Juve, made it to another Champions League final and finally left for MLS in 2015 while Seedorf and Gattuso managed a further 24 league matches between them for Milan. Don’t stroke your chin too vigorously at that misjudgment, it will play havoc with your beard. Kevin De Bruyne: Chelsea to Wolfsburg; Romelu Lukaku: Chelsea to Everton; Mo Salah: Chelsea to Roma Kevin De Bruyne traps the ball during Chelsea's match against Hull City in 2013 Credit: EDDIE KEOGH/REUTERS Chelsea made a commendable profit on Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku and Mohamed Salah when they sold the first two in 2014 and the Egypt forward two years later after long loan spells with Fiorentina and Roma, raking in almost £30m for players who made 43 appearances between them. A nice little earner that reflects well on Chelsea’s scouting and development system. But one can’t help thinking - despite the protestations of Frank Lampard and John Terry who have praised the players for leaving but insist it does not reflect badly on the club that has, like the cliched shark, to keep moving forward or die - that a little more patience, a few more opportunities and a touch more inflexibility when they held the upper hand would have better served them. Yes, Jose Mourinho wanted money to invest in players of his own choosing and no one could predict that each would improve so swiftly that they have become three of the most vibrant and valuable talents in the game. That was down to them and their dedication. Salah scores Chelsea's sixth in the 6-0 thrashing of Arsenal in March 2014 Credit: GLYN KIRK/AFP But someone at Stamford Bridge must have noted how assiduous each of them was, divined their characters or been swayed by their diligence and ambition. Chelsea’s loss - compounded by the lack of buy-back clauses - has been three rivals’ gain and has to represent a monstrous, three-headed blunder.
The closing of the transfer window inspires the habitual churning out of the worst transfers ever, like bedtime stories that lose none of their allure in the biannual retelling. “Tell us the one about Bosko Balaban, again, Dad. How much? Did Tommy Brolin really turn up at Elland Road with a Space Hopper up his gansey? Yes, I’m sure Bebe looked a world-beater on video.” But those old, familiar tales represent only one side of the ledger: purchases commonly ridiculed in hindsight. The other classification, routinely overlooked, is the premature and mistaken disposal. It’s a difficult category to define. For the sake of fairness one should strip out clubs who sold because they were financially strapped, players who went for fees too good to turn down and also those who acted the meddlesome priest, agitating for transfers and allowed to move on simply to be rid of them. The focus is on sales such as Nemanja Matic's not the ones like Diego Costa's. Here, then, are some of the managerial misjudgments, players discarded too soon for any number of reasons: poor form trumping class, undervaluation, prejudice, ageism or a simple miscalculation. Frank McLintock: Arsenal to QPR When Bertie Mee dropped Arsenal’s Double-winning captain Frank McLintock during the 1972-73 season, the 33-year-old Scot, whose skill and drive had helped transform the club and his own career in a glorious Indian summer, was devastated. Frank McLintock completes the Double in 1971 and celebrates with Charlie George who scored that unforgettable goal Credit: Allsport Hulton/Archive Mee’s decision to replace the classy, inspirational centre-back with the ponderous, ham-footed colossus, Jeff Blockley, beggared belief and has to be interpreted as Mee’s attempt to wrest control of the club back from the dressing room and its charismatic leader. McLintock remembers that he wept when he went to see Mee, the tears splashing off his Arsenal blazer after finding his manager obdurate to his claims for a recall. He felt he had no choice but to ask for a transfer - which Mee granted but turned down his request either to be allowed to leave on a free to negotiate a better deal with a new club or to grant him the testimonial he would have been due if he could have stomached six more months in the reserves. Mee told him that the 10 years’ qualification for a testimonial would not be altered to suit him and seeing he was six months short he would have to lump it. McLintock left for newly-promoted QPR for £25,000 at the end of the season, Arsenal’s failure to inform him of a late bid from Derby County’s Brian Clough, champions in 1972, the final insult. He gave four years of outstanding service to QPR, masterly on the field and in the dressing room during Rangers’ greatest ever season, 1975-76, when they lost out on the title by a single point after Liverpool turned a 0-1 deficit to Wolves with 14 minutes to go into a 3-1 victory in their final game, 10 days after QPR had completed their fixtures. Arsenal, meanwhile, replaced the hopeless Blockley with the rugged 32-year-old Terry Mancini from QPR in 1974, failing to understand that in his year playing alongside McLintock that it was his partner who had made him look half decent. Mee stood down in 1976 after successive 16th- and 17th-placed finishes, his determination to break up his Double-winning side having all but fatally weakened it. Pat Jennings: Tottenham to Arsenal Pat Jennings joined Arsenal from Spurs in 1977 Credit: PA Pan-handed colossus whose gloveless mitts, or “Lurgan shovels” as his former Northern Ireland team-mate and manager Billy Bingham called them, were put to devastating effect to steal the ball, one handed, off forwards’ foreheads a fraction of a second before impact. Miserly and resilient as he was during seven seasons as a first-team regular at Arsenal, he was finer still at Tottenham, an innovative and unorthodox keeper who was masterly at scrambling across his box, efficiently used any part of his body to block the ball and commanded the penalty area with a calm authority. He maintained his agility and elasticity well into his late 30s and managed for most of his career without gloves and, for the latter half of it, with what appeared to be a Bedlington Terrier on his head. Sold by Tottenham in August 1977 for £40,000 after they were relegated because the manager, Keith Burkinshaw, thought Barry Daines a better long-term bet, Jennings played a further 327 games for Arsenal, appeared in three successive FA Cup finals, winning one, and the Cup Winners’ Cup final defeat by Valencia. He was Northern Ireland’s first choice at two World Cups at the ages of 37 and 41 while Spurs took four years to replace him adequately in 1981 with Ray Clemence. At a stroke Tottenham sold their greatest ever goalkeeper to their biggest rivals for a song. He didn’t want to leave but his club essentially wrote him off at the age of 32, weakened their own side and strengthened Arsenal’s. The going rate for a goalkeeper of rare talent still in his prime? The £270,000 Forest paid Stoke for Peter Shilton a month later. Gordon Strachan: Manchester United to Leeds Gordon Strachan, right, left Manchester United, where he won the FA Cup, for Leeds United, where he won the title Credit: Brian Smith for The Telegraph In 1989 Gordon Strachan made the journey from Lancashire to Yorkshire that Bobby Collins had taken 17 years earlier when signing for Leeds from Everton and also delivered Leeds from Second Division purgatory. There are other glorious swansongs in the game’s rich past when a veteran’s impact in galvanising young teams was as important as anything he did on the field. In the 1980s Kevin Keegan did it at Newcastle, Johan Cruyff and Arnold Muhren at Ajax and Franz Beckenbauer at Hamburg, but Strachan was arguably the last. Now the biggest clubs tend to wring every drop from an elite player's body and soul while pay packets fulfil all their ambitions so it’s unlikely that a Championship club could attract a veteran international and task him with a mission to set the tenor of a rejuvenation project. Strachan was 32 when he left Old Trafford for Elland Road, over-familiar with Alex Ferguson after almost nine years together at Aberdeen and Manchester United. Ferguson, too, had had enough and felt a fresh start would benefit both parties. It certainly benefited Strachan who led Leeds to promotion in his first full season followed by a fourth-place top-flight finish and then, thrillingly, the title from Manchester United by four points. Even in his 39th year, when he left Leeds for Coventry, his drive was undiminished and his exacting standards ensured everyone was motivated and desperate to match them. The £300,000 he cost Leeds was the canniest investment Howard Wilkinson ever made. Manchester United were left without an orthodox right-sided midfielder for a couple of seasons until Ferguson signed Andrei Kanchelskis in 1991, the same year Strachan had been named, like Collins before him in 1965, Footballer of Year at the age of 34. Peter Beardsley: Liverpool to Everton Beardsley with John Barnes after winning his second title at Anfield in 1990 Credit: Dan Smith /Allsport No one has forged such a high number of prolific partnerships with out-and-out goalscorers than Peter Beardsley before or since. At his very best during his first spell at Newcastle with Kevin Keegan, at Liverpool he paired up with John Aldridge and then Ian Rush, with Tony Cottee at Everton and then with Andy Cole and Les Ferdinand in his second spell at St James’ Park. One can criticise Graham Taylor's time as England's manager for any number of reasons, but the most cardinal sin was his jettisoning of Beardsley, which diminished Gary Lineker and effectively turned him into little more than a goalhanger. That was an error of two-for-the-price-of-one proportions. If a player of Beardsley's ability was available now, one whose intelligence brought the best out of so many partners while scoring more than 200 goals himself, there would be little cavilling at a fee of more than £50m. In different times Graeme Souness sold the 30-year-old to Everton in 1991 for £1m, a not inconsiderable sum but peanuts compared with his true value, as Newcastle would show when paying more for him two years later. Peter Beardsley scored for both sides in the Merseyside derby Credit: Shaun Botterill/Allsport There were times during his four seasons at Anfield when Kenny Dalglish seemed equivocal about his talents - dropping him for the title decider with Arsenal in 1989, buying David Speedie to replace him in the winter of 1990-91 - and Souness seems to have picked up on that lack of faith while also wanting to fund a statement signing of his own during his first close season at Anfield. The fact he went for the bullocking Dean Saunders, more rumbustious, infinitely less refined, paid £2.5m but ditched him at a loss within 12 months tells us more about Souness than it does about Beardsley who went on to have six more years at the top, scored 89 more goals and made half a century more. Matthias Sammer: Inter to Borussia Dortmund Matthias Sammer, the heir to Franz Beckenbauer Credit: Action Images In 1996 Matthias Sammer became only the second defender in 40 years to win the Ballon d’Or, following in the Trefoil bootsteps of his compatriot and fellow sweeper, Franz Beckenbauer. He was player of the tournament during Germany’s victory at Euro 96 and, like his illustrious predecessor, a converted midfielder whose reading of the game, exemplary leadership and positional skills, class and composure on the ball gave him a kind of omnipresence, smoothly interceding to whip the ball away from danger when the opposition pierced the lines. A ball hog, his passing range was limited but defined by unerring precision, his long sweeping runs upfield from the back, timed meticulously, would accelerate with the tough grace of an armour-plated ministerial Daimler. Sammer moved to Inter for £5.1m in the summer of 1992 after winning the Bundesliga in his second season at Stuttgart where he was employed as a defensive midfielder rather than the libero he would become at Borussia Dortmund. It’s a matter of only a few yards’ difference but it made a world of difference, harnessing his defensive instincts while giving him the space to make the play with those magnificent sorties. Inter signed him in 1991 but let him stay on at Stuttgart because they already had their three overseas players - Sammer’s Germany team-mates Lothar Matthaus, Andreas Brehme and Jurgen Klinsmann - and when he did arrive were surprised to find he had not mastered a single word of Italian. Osvaldo Bagnoli played him as an advanced midfielder in a counter-attacking system designed to exploit the pace of Ruben Sosa. Sammer scored four goals in 11 Serie A appearances but found the tactics too rigid and refused to put down roots. Il Messagero reported that he was living out of suitcases in his lakeside villa with his TV propped up on a tea chest the only furniture apart from a bed. Inter, spoilt by Matthaus, Brehme and Klinsmann who had loved the club, the country and mastered the language, were as fed up with a player who had just about learnt to say ‘Ciao’ by December as he was with life and work in Italy. They cut their losses after five months and sold him for £4.8m to Dortmund. There, Ottmar Hitzfeld dropped him from in front of the back four to behind it and he won his second and third Bundesliga titles and the Champions League in 1997. A serious knee injury shortly after the final ended his career at the age of 30 having played only three more games. Claude Makélelé: Real Madrid to Chelsea Makelele tackles David Batty of Leeds United at the Bernabeu in 2001 Credit: REUTERS/Desmond Boylan The second coming of Florentino Pérez as president of Real Madrid has been defined and improved by learning from the errors he made during his first spell at the Bernabéu. Then, the preening pomposity of his galáctico project, bit him on the backside when he deemed a manager and a player who were integral to the success lacked the requisite glamour to play for his marketing machine. In the summer of 2003, after winning La Liga, Vicente Del Bosque was sacked and Claude Makélelé, the players’ player of the year, was knocked back when he went to negotiate a pay rise that reflected his contribution. He wasn’t asking for parity with Luis Figo, Ronaldo, Zinedine Zidane and David Beckham but nor did he expect Pérez to refuse flatly and then disparage him when he handed in a transfer request. “We will not miss Makélelé,” said Pérez. “His technique is average, he lacks the speed and skill to take the ball past opponents, and ninety percent of his distribution either goes backwards or sideways. He wasn't a header of the ball and he rarely passed the ball more than three metres. Younger players will arrive who will cause Makélelé to be forgotten.” He went to Chelsea for £16.8m, won two league titles and must have felt more than a frisson of schadenfreude over the next three years that Real Madrid won nothing, the only central midfielder bought to replace him was Thomas Gravesen, Pérez walked away and more than a decade on instead of being forgotten Makélelé is recognised as the pivotal player in a team that did not fulfil its potential. And his sale amounted to one of the greatest acts of self-hobbling in the game’s history. Gary Cahill: Aston Villa to Bolton Gary Cahill spent three full seasons at Bolton after Aston Villa sold him and six months after he left the Reebok he won the Champions League Credit: Action Images / Lee Smith Gary Cahill was always the odd man out at Aston Villa, enjoying his best season in 2006-07 at the club he joined as a trainee when filling in for the tremendous but injury-ravaged Martin Laursen. In the autumn of the following season he signed for Sheffield United on loan and impressed so much that Gary Megson agreed a deal with Villa to take the 22-year-old to Bolton Wanderers for £5m. One can understand the logic for Martin O’Neill selling him - Laursen was imperious at the back that season, Olof Mellberg was as reliable as ever and he had just signed Zat Knight but it wasn’t to last and the fragile Laursen broke down, this time for good, within the year. And yet Cahill displayed enormous promise and lacked only experience. In three full seasons at Bolton he became an England squad regular, displaying his robustness in the tackle, power in the air and pace to correct most mistakes even if he was sometimes slack in possession and caught dithering on the ball. In January 2012 Chelsea bought him for £7m, taking advantage of Bolton’s toils on and off the field and he won the FA Cup and Champions League in his first five months. Since then he has earned two titles, the first in a Jose Mourinho back-four, the second as Antonio Conte’s captain in a back three where the beauty of his manager’s system was that it gave the captain little to do but counted on the acuteness of his antennae and astuteness of positioning to prevent it falling apart. In the two years after letting Cahill go, Villa paid more for each of Carlos Cuélar, Curtis Davies, James Collins and Richard Dunne, none of whom were as durable of the future England captain they let go. Andrea Pirlo: Milan to Juventus Milan's Andrea Pirlo turns away from Arsenal's Aleksandr Hleb Credit: Stu Forster/Getty Images If Inter’s decision to let Andrea Pirlo leave for Milan in 2001 seems a poor one, we can partially exonerate them because they received more than £13m for him and they were reluctant to play him in his optimum position as a deep-lying playmaker where he had excelled on loan at Brescia. Inter used Gigi Di Biagio there, as did Italy, and decided to liquidate their asset, investing the proceeds in Mohamed Kallon and Emre. During a decade in the black and red, Pirlo became the most elegant midfielder in the game, redefining the concept of a holding midfielder as more an advanced sweeper than a wall and exploiting his immaculate control and mastery of the arcing, rapidly dipping long pass to manipulate and often bypass the opposition’s midfield and defence. He won two Champions Leagues and two Serie A titles, the last Scudetto in his final season when he played a mere 17 times because the manager, Max Allegri, preferred the more orthodox defensive style of Mark van Bommel. That summer the club decided to retain the 35-year-old Clarence Seedorf and the 33-year-old Rino Gattuso and let Pirlo, 32, move on to Juventus where he won four successive titles and grew the fuzz that made him the mango-IPA-drinkers’ as well as the purists’ favourite player. Pirlo played 119 Serie A matches for Juve, made it to another Champions League final and finally left for MLS in 2015 while Seedorf and Gattuso managed a further 24 league matches between them for Milan. Don’t stroke your chin too vigorously at that misjudgment, it will play havoc with your beard. Kevin De Bruyne: Chelsea to Wolfsburg; Romelu Lukaku: Chelsea to Everton; Mo Salah: Chelsea to Roma Kevin De Bruyne traps the ball during Chelsea's match against Hull City in 2013 Credit: EDDIE KEOGH/REUTERS Chelsea made a commendable profit on Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku and Mohamed Salah when they sold the first two in 2014 and the Egypt forward two years later after long loan spells with Fiorentina and Roma, raking in almost £30m for players who made 43 appearances between them. A nice little earner that reflects well on Chelsea’s scouting and development system. But one can’t help thinking - despite the protestations of Frank Lampard and John Terry who have praised the players for leaving but insist it does not reflect badly on the club that has, like the cliched shark, to keep moving forward or die - that a little more patience, a few more opportunities and a touch more inflexibility when they held the upper hand would have better served them. Yes, Jose Mourinho wanted money to invest in players of his own choosing and no one could predict that each would improve so swiftly that they have become three of the most vibrant and valuable talents in the game. That was down to them and their dedication. Salah scores Chelsea's sixth in the 6-0 thrashing of Arsenal in March 2014 Credit: GLYN KIRK/AFP But someone at Stamford Bridge must have noted how assiduous each of them was, divined their characters or been swayed by their diligence and ambition. Chelsea’s loss - compounded by the lack of buy-back clauses - has been three rivals’ gain and has to represent a monstrous, three-headed blunder.
Sold too soon: the other side of transfer market blunders
The closing of the transfer window inspires the habitual churning out of the worst transfers ever, like bedtime stories that lose none of their allure in the biannual retelling. “Tell us the one about Bosko Balaban, again, Dad. How much? Did Tommy Brolin really turn up at Elland Road with a Space Hopper up his gansey? Yes, I’m sure Bebe looked a world-beater on video.” But those old, familiar tales represent only one side of the ledger: purchases commonly ridiculed in hindsight. The other classification, routinely overlooked, is the premature and mistaken disposal. It’s a difficult category to define. For the sake of fairness one should strip out clubs who sold because they were financially strapped, players who went for fees too good to turn down and also those who acted the meddlesome priest, agitating for transfers and allowed to move on simply to be rid of them. The focus is on sales such as Nemanja Matic's not the ones like Diego Costa's. Here, then, are some of the managerial misjudgments, players discarded too soon for any number of reasons: poor form trumping class, undervaluation, prejudice, ageism or a simple miscalculation. Frank McLintock: Arsenal to QPR When Bertie Mee dropped Arsenal’s Double-winning captain Frank McLintock during the 1972-73 season, the 33-year-old Scot, whose skill and drive had helped transform the club and his own career in a glorious Indian summer, was devastated. Frank McLintock completes the Double in 1971 and celebrates with Charlie George who scored that unforgettable goal Credit: Allsport Hulton/Archive Mee’s decision to replace the classy, inspirational centre-back with the ponderous, ham-footed colossus, Jeff Blockley, beggared belief and has to be interpreted as Mee’s attempt to wrest control of the club back from the dressing room and its charismatic leader. McLintock remembers that he wept when he went to see Mee, the tears splashing off his Arsenal blazer after finding his manager obdurate to his claims for a recall. He felt he had no choice but to ask for a transfer - which Mee granted but turned down his request either to be allowed to leave on a free to negotiate a better deal with a new club or to grant him the testimonial he would have been due if he could have stomached six more months in the reserves. Mee told him that the 10 years’ qualification for a testimonial would not be altered to suit him and seeing he was six months short he would have to lump it. McLintock left for newly-promoted QPR for £25,000 at the end of the season, Arsenal’s failure to inform him of a late bid from Derby County’s Brian Clough, champions in 1972, the final insult. He gave four years of outstanding service to QPR, masterly on the field and in the dressing room during Rangers’ greatest ever season, 1975-76, when they lost out on the title by a single point after Liverpool turned a 0-1 deficit to Wolves with 14 minutes to go into a 3-1 victory in their final game, 10 days after QPR had completed their fixtures. Arsenal, meanwhile, replaced the hopeless Blockley with the rugged 32-year-old Terry Mancini from QPR in 1974, failing to understand that in his year playing alongside McLintock that it was his partner who had made him look half decent. Mee stood down in 1976 after successive 16th- and 17th-placed finishes, his determination to break up his Double-winning side having all but fatally weakened it. Pat Jennings: Tottenham to Arsenal Pat Jennings joined Arsenal from Spurs in 1977 Credit: PA Pan-handed colossus whose gloveless mitts, or “Lurgan shovels” as his former Northern Ireland team-mate and manager Billy Bingham called them, were put to devastating effect to steal the ball, one handed, off forwards’ foreheads a fraction of a second before impact. Miserly and resilient as he was during seven seasons as a first-team regular at Arsenal, he was finer still at Tottenham, an innovative and unorthodox keeper who was masterly at scrambling across his box, efficiently used any part of his body to block the ball and commanded the penalty area with a calm authority. He maintained his agility and elasticity well into his late 30s and managed for most of his career without gloves and, for the latter half of it, with what appeared to be a Bedlington Terrier on his head. Sold by Tottenham in August 1977 for £40,000 after they were relegated because the manager, Keith Burkinshaw, thought Barry Daines a better long-term bet, Jennings played a further 327 games for Arsenal, appeared in three successive FA Cup finals, winning one, and the Cup Winners’ Cup final defeat by Valencia. He was Northern Ireland’s first choice at two World Cups at the ages of 37 and 41 while Spurs took four years to replace him adequately in 1981 with Ray Clemence. At a stroke Tottenham sold their greatest ever goalkeeper to their biggest rivals for a song. He didn’t want to leave but his club essentially wrote him off at the age of 32, weakened their own side and strengthened Arsenal’s. The going rate for a goalkeeper of rare talent still in his prime? The £270,000 Forest paid Stoke for Peter Shilton a month later. Gordon Strachan: Manchester United to Leeds Gordon Strachan, right, left Manchester United, where he won the FA Cup, for Leeds United, where he won the title Credit: Brian Smith for The Telegraph In 1989 Gordon Strachan made the journey from Lancashire to Yorkshire that Bobby Collins had taken 17 years earlier when signing for Leeds from Everton and also delivered Leeds from Second Division purgatory. There are other glorious swansongs in the game’s rich past when a veteran’s impact in galvanising young teams was as important as anything he did on the field. In the 1980s Kevin Keegan did it at Newcastle, Johan Cruyff and Arnold Muhren at Ajax and Franz Beckenbauer at Hamburg, but Strachan was arguably the last. Now the biggest clubs tend to wring every drop from an elite player's body and soul while pay packets fulfil all their ambitions so it’s unlikely that a Championship club could attract a veteran international and task him with a mission to set the tenor of a rejuvenation project. Strachan was 32 when he left Old Trafford for Elland Road, over-familiar with Alex Ferguson after almost nine years together at Aberdeen and Manchester United. Ferguson, too, had had enough and felt a fresh start would benefit both parties. It certainly benefited Strachan who led Leeds to promotion in his first full season followed by a fourth-place top-flight finish and then, thrillingly, the title from Manchester United by four points. Even in his 39th year, when he left Leeds for Coventry, his drive was undiminished and his exacting standards ensured everyone was motivated and desperate to match them. The £300,000 he cost Leeds was the canniest investment Howard Wilkinson ever made. Manchester United were left without an orthodox right-sided midfielder for a couple of seasons until Ferguson signed Andrei Kanchelskis in 1991, the same year Strachan had been named, like Collins before him in 1965, Footballer of Year at the age of 34. Peter Beardsley: Liverpool to Everton Beardsley with John Barnes after winning his second title at Anfield in 1990 Credit: Dan Smith /Allsport No one has forged such a high number of prolific partnerships with out-and-out goalscorers than Peter Beardsley before or since. At his very best during his first spell at Newcastle with Kevin Keegan, at Liverpool he paired up with John Aldridge and then Ian Rush, with Tony Cottee at Everton and then with Andy Cole and Les Ferdinand in his second spell at St James’ Park. One can criticise Graham Taylor's time as England's manager for any number of reasons, but the most cardinal sin was his jettisoning of Beardsley, which diminished Gary Lineker and effectively turned him into little more than a goalhanger. That was an error of two-for-the-price-of-one proportions. If a player of Beardsley's ability was available now, one whose intelligence brought the best out of so many partners while scoring more than 200 goals himself, there would be little cavilling at a fee of more than £50m. In different times Graeme Souness sold the 30-year-old to Everton in 1991 for £1m, a not inconsiderable sum but peanuts compared with his true value, as Newcastle would show when paying more for him two years later. Peter Beardsley scored for both sides in the Merseyside derby Credit: Shaun Botterill/Allsport There were times during his four seasons at Anfield when Kenny Dalglish seemed equivocal about his talents - dropping him for the title decider with Arsenal in 1989, buying David Speedie to replace him in the winter of 1990-91 - and Souness seems to have picked up on that lack of faith while also wanting to fund a statement signing of his own during his first close season at Anfield. The fact he went for the bullocking Dean Saunders, more rumbustious, infinitely less refined, paid £2.5m but ditched him at a loss within 12 months tells us more about Souness than it does about Beardsley who went on to have six more years at the top, scored 89 more goals and made half a century more. Matthias Sammer: Inter to Borussia Dortmund Matthias Sammer, the heir to Franz Beckenbauer Credit: Action Images In 1996 Matthias Sammer became only the second defender in 40 years to win the Ballon d’Or, following in the Trefoil bootsteps of his compatriot and fellow sweeper, Franz Beckenbauer. He was player of the tournament during Germany’s victory at Euro 96 and, like his illustrious predecessor, a converted midfielder whose reading of the game, exemplary leadership and positional skills, class and composure on the ball gave him a kind of omnipresence, smoothly interceding to whip the ball away from danger when the opposition pierced the lines. A ball hog, his passing range was limited but defined by unerring precision, his long sweeping runs upfield from the back, timed meticulously, would accelerate with the tough grace of an armour-plated ministerial Daimler. Sammer moved to Inter for £5.1m in the summer of 1992 after winning the Bundesliga in his second season at Stuttgart where he was employed as a defensive midfielder rather than the libero he would become at Borussia Dortmund. It’s a matter of only a few yards’ difference but it made a world of difference, harnessing his defensive instincts while giving him the space to make the play with those magnificent sorties. Inter signed him in 1991 but let him stay on at Stuttgart because they already had their three overseas players - Sammer’s Germany team-mates Lothar Matthaus, Andreas Brehme and Jurgen Klinsmann - and when he did arrive were surprised to find he had not mastered a single word of Italian. Osvaldo Bagnoli played him as an advanced midfielder in a counter-attacking system designed to exploit the pace of Ruben Sosa. Sammer scored four goals in 11 Serie A appearances but found the tactics too rigid and refused to put down roots. Il Messagero reported that he was living out of suitcases in his lakeside villa with his TV propped up on a tea chest the only furniture apart from a bed. Inter, spoilt by Matthaus, Brehme and Klinsmann who had loved the club, the country and mastered the language, were as fed up with a player who had just about learnt to say ‘Ciao’ by December as he was with life and work in Italy. They cut their losses after five months and sold him for £4.8m to Dortmund. There, Ottmar Hitzfeld dropped him from in front of the back four to behind it and he won his second and third Bundesliga titles and the Champions League in 1997. A serious knee injury shortly after the final ended his career at the age of 30 having played only three more games. Claude Makélelé: Real Madrid to Chelsea Makelele tackles David Batty of Leeds United at the Bernabeu in 2001 Credit: REUTERS/Desmond Boylan The second coming of Florentino Pérez as president of Real Madrid has been defined and improved by learning from the errors he made during his first spell at the Bernabéu. Then, the preening pomposity of his galáctico project, bit him on the backside when he deemed a manager and a player who were integral to the success lacked the requisite glamour to play for his marketing machine. In the summer of 2003, after winning La Liga, Vicente Del Bosque was sacked and Claude Makélelé, the players’ player of the year, was knocked back when he went to negotiate a pay rise that reflected his contribution. He wasn’t asking for parity with Luis Figo, Ronaldo, Zinedine Zidane and David Beckham but nor did he expect Pérez to refuse flatly and then disparage him when he handed in a transfer request. “We will not miss Makélelé,” said Pérez. “His technique is average, he lacks the speed and skill to take the ball past opponents, and ninety percent of his distribution either goes backwards or sideways. He wasn't a header of the ball and he rarely passed the ball more than three metres. Younger players will arrive who will cause Makélelé to be forgotten.” He went to Chelsea for £16.8m, won two league titles and must have felt more than a frisson of schadenfreude over the next three years that Real Madrid won nothing, the only central midfielder bought to replace him was Thomas Gravesen, Pérez walked away and more than a decade on instead of being forgotten Makélelé is recognised as the pivotal player in a team that did not fulfil its potential. And his sale amounted to one of the greatest acts of self-hobbling in the game’s history. Gary Cahill: Aston Villa to Bolton Gary Cahill spent three full seasons at Bolton after Aston Villa sold him and six months after he left the Reebok he won the Champions League Credit: Action Images / Lee Smith Gary Cahill was always the odd man out at Aston Villa, enjoying his best season in 2006-07 at the club he joined as a trainee when filling in for the tremendous but injury-ravaged Martin Laursen. In the autumn of the following season he signed for Sheffield United on loan and impressed so much that Gary Megson agreed a deal with Villa to take the 22-year-old to Bolton Wanderers for £5m. One can understand the logic for Martin O’Neill selling him - Laursen was imperious at the back that season, Olof Mellberg was as reliable as ever and he had just signed Zat Knight but it wasn’t to last and the fragile Laursen broke down, this time for good, within the year. And yet Cahill displayed enormous promise and lacked only experience. In three full seasons at Bolton he became an England squad regular, displaying his robustness in the tackle, power in the air and pace to correct most mistakes even if he was sometimes slack in possession and caught dithering on the ball. In January 2012 Chelsea bought him for £7m, taking advantage of Bolton’s toils on and off the field and he won the FA Cup and Champions League in his first five months. Since then he has earned two titles, the first in a Jose Mourinho back-four, the second as Antonio Conte’s captain in a back three where the beauty of his manager’s system was that it gave the captain little to do but counted on the acuteness of his antennae and astuteness of positioning to prevent it falling apart. In the two years after letting Cahill go, Villa paid more for each of Carlos Cuélar, Curtis Davies, James Collins and Richard Dunne, none of whom were as durable of the future England captain they let go. Andrea Pirlo: Milan to Juventus Milan's Andrea Pirlo turns away from Arsenal's Aleksandr Hleb Credit: Stu Forster/Getty Images If Inter’s decision to let Andrea Pirlo leave for Milan in 2001 seems a poor one, we can partially exonerate them because they received more than £13m for him and they were reluctant to play him in his optimum position as a deep-lying playmaker where he had excelled on loan at Brescia. Inter used Gigi Di Biagio there, as did Italy, and decided to liquidate their asset, investing the proceeds in Mohamed Kallon and Emre. During a decade in the black and red, Pirlo became the most elegant midfielder in the game, redefining the concept of a holding midfielder as more an advanced sweeper than a wall and exploiting his immaculate control and mastery of the arcing, rapidly dipping long pass to manipulate and often bypass the opposition’s midfield and defence. He won two Champions Leagues and two Serie A titles, the last Scudetto in his final season when he played a mere 17 times because the manager, Max Allegri, preferred the more orthodox defensive style of Mark van Bommel. That summer the club decided to retain the 35-year-old Clarence Seedorf and the 33-year-old Rino Gattuso and let Pirlo, 32, move on to Juventus where he won four successive titles and grew the fuzz that made him the mango-IPA-drinkers’ as well as the purists’ favourite player. Pirlo played 119 Serie A matches for Juve, made it to another Champions League final and finally left for MLS in 2015 while Seedorf and Gattuso managed a further 24 league matches between them for Milan. Don’t stroke your chin too vigorously at that misjudgment, it will play havoc with your beard. Kevin De Bruyne: Chelsea to Wolfsburg; Romelu Lukaku: Chelsea to Everton; Mo Salah: Chelsea to Roma Kevin De Bruyne traps the ball during Chelsea's match against Hull City in 2013 Credit: EDDIE KEOGH/REUTERS Chelsea made a commendable profit on Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku and Mohamed Salah when they sold the first two in 2014 and the Egypt forward two years later after long loan spells with Fiorentina and Roma, raking in almost £30m for players who made 43 appearances between them. A nice little earner that reflects well on Chelsea’s scouting and development system. But one can’t help thinking - despite the protestations of Frank Lampard and John Terry who have praised the players for leaving but insist it does not reflect badly on the club that has, like the cliched shark, to keep moving forward or die - that a little more patience, a few more opportunities and a touch more inflexibility when they held the upper hand would have better served them. Yes, Jose Mourinho wanted money to invest in players of his own choosing and no one could predict that each would improve so swiftly that they have become three of the most vibrant and valuable talents in the game. That was down to them and their dedication. Salah scores Chelsea's sixth in the 6-0 thrashing of Arsenal in March 2014 Credit: GLYN KIRK/AFP But someone at Stamford Bridge must have noted how assiduous each of them was, divined their characters or been swayed by their diligence and ambition. Chelsea’s loss - compounded by the lack of buy-back clauses - has been three rivals’ gain and has to represent a monstrous, three-headed blunder.
Where will Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang fit in at Arsenal? Mahrez hands in transfer request but Leicester will hold out for £90m Mahrez may not make it to Man City - but why is their solution always to write a cheque? How will Sanchez fit in at Man Utd, and who loses out most? What will Olivier Giroud bring to Chelsea? Manchester City's proposed deal for Riyad Mahrez fell through after the club were put off by Leicester's valuation of the Algeria forward. City were said to be willing to pay around £60million for the 26-year-old but ended discussions, despite the player handing in a transfer request in a bid to force a move to join Pep Guardiola's side. "He's a Leicester player", said Guardiola about Mahrez, following his side's 3-0 win over West Brom. "I don't talk about it too much, the window is over, the guys who are here will finish the season." City's withdrawal from the Mahrez deal was one of many twists on a busy deadline-day which saw Arsenal, Chelsea and Borussia Dortmund involved in a three-way transfer. Where will Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang fit in at Arsenal? Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's arrival at Arsenal for a club-record fee from Dortmund was confirmed just after 11:15am and then, just before the transfer window closed in Germany, it was announced that Chelsea striker Michy Batshuayi had completed a loan switch to the Bundesliga side. That in turn had paved the way for Olivier Giroud to leave Arsenal and be unveiled as a Chelsea player, for a fee of £18million. The France forward was at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night to see his new team suffer a shock 3-0 defeat to Bournemouth. What will Olivier Giroud bring to Chelsea and where will he fit in? Arsenal failed with a late approach for Jonny Evans, bidding far below West Brom's valuation of the defender. Mathieu Debuchy followed Giroud out of the Emirates Stadium, joining French side St Etienne until the end of the season after his Arsenal contract was terminated. Tottenham completed the signing of winger Lucas Moura from Paris St Germain on a contract until 2023. Moura moves to Spurs for £25million, having fallen behind Neymar and Kylian Mbappe in the PSG pecking order, and was presented to the crowd at half time during Spurs 2-0 win over Manchester United - the same club which the 25-year-old Brazilian was strongly linked with when Sir Alex Ferguson was in charge at Old Trafford. Lucas Moura was presented to Spurs at half time on Wednesday night Credit: GETTY IMAGES Watford brought Sunderland midfielder Didier Ndong in on loan, while goalkeeper Pontus Dahlberg signed a five-and-a-half-year deal from Goteborg before returning to the Swedish side on loan for the rest of the season. Costel Pantilimon and Isaac Success were both sent out on loan for the rest of the season, to Nottingham Forest and Malaga respectively. Elsewhere, Everton's England Under-21 winger Ademola Lookman joined Bundesliga club RB Leipzig on loan for the rest of the season, while Stoke signed Badou Ndiaye for £14million. He was present at the Bet365 stadium for the 1-1 draw with Watford. Newcastle were able to sign two players at the very last minute, taking Islam Slimani on loan for Leicester until the end of the season and were close to confirming another loan deal, this one for Slovakian goalkeeper Martin Dubravka, by the time the transfer window had closed. Jack Colback moved to Nottingham Forest on loan and Rafa Benitez concluded his deadline day business by sending young English goalkeeper Freddie Woodman out on loan to Aberdeen, where he will gain first team experience covering for the injured Joe Lewis. 11:53PM A tale of two strikers CONFIRMED: Newcastle United forward Aleksandar Mitrović has joined @FulhamFC on loan until the end of the season. #NUFCpic.twitter.com/miyvQJLv1v— Newcastle United FC (@NUFC) January 31, 2018 CONFIRMED: The deal to bring Islam Slimani to Newcastle United on loan until the end of the season is complete! #NUFCpic.twitter.com/avtJGgtxfk— Newcastle United FC (@NUFC) January 31, 2018 That's a £30million striker on loan. The Premier League transfer market is mental. And don't forget about Jack Colback. CONFIRMED: Midfielder Jack Colback has signed for @NFFC on loan until the end of the season. Full story: https://t.co/jidXDLk1nu#NUFCpic.twitter.com/stOYOfsGpO— Newcastle United FC (@NUFC) January 31, 2018 11:31PM Here's a strange one Andy King has moved to Swansea on loan. Welcome to Swansea City, @10_kingy! ���������������� We're pleased to confirm the Welsh midfielder has joined us on loan until the end of the season ➡️ https://t.co/R6DK0zy2JVpic.twitter.com/FSuFtv8AqI— Swansea City AFC (@SwansOfficial) January 31, 2018 And Leicester have confirmed that Islam Slimani will also move out on loan, to Newcastle. 11:28PM TDD summarised Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang joins Arsenal for club-record fee from Dortmund Mesut Ozil agrees a new Arsenal contract that will take him to 2021 Michy Batshuayi signs for Dortmund on loan Olivier Giroud moves to Chelsea Man City pull out of Riyad Mahrez deal over Leicester's asking price Lucas Moura completes £25m switch to Tottenham Reece Oxford rejoins Borussia Monchengladbach on loan until end of the season Swansea break club record to buy £20million Andre Ayew (again) Watford sign Sunderland's Didier Ndong on loan Stoke buy Badou Ndiaye for £14million Newcastle confirm signings of Islam Slimani and Martin Dubravka Eliaquim Mangala close to a loan switch to Everton Ademola Lookman heads to RB Leipzig on loan in move Sam Allardyce describes as one of the weirdest he's been involved in 11:09PM Some excellent quotes from Antonio Conte here Matt Lawhas some very telling words from the Chelsea boss, who is said to look thoroughly downhearted after Chelsea's defeat to Bournemouth. “We must be worried (about the top four),” said head coach Conte. “We must be worried. It won't be easy. But this is normal. “If we want to speak about football and if we think to understand football, we know very well this will be very difficult for us. If we want only to dream and not see the reality – in this case, I can tell you now we can fight to win the title this season! “It will be very important to look at the reality and to know that, if we are able to reach a place in the Champions League, it will be a great success for us. Otherwise we have a normal season.” 11:04PM Even though the window's closed... Clubs can still complete deals. They're allowed to get an extension to 1am if they ask nicely enough. The window closes in Scotland at 12am, which means there's still time for Aberdeen to sign Kevin De Bruyne. Also: Middlesbrough defender Cyrus Christie set to sign for Fulham in a deal worth up to £4m. Initial £3m + further £1m in add-ons #fulhamfc#mfc#dcfc— John Percy (@JPercyTelegraph) January 31, 2018 11:03PM Live footage of Riyad Mahrez at home 11:00PM THE TRANSFER WINDOW IS CLOSED 10:57PM Two minutes left CAN YOU HEAR THE GIANT CLOCK TICKING OUTSIDE? 10:55PM Newcastle sign a goalkeeper Martin Dúbravka had his medical before and after the Newcastle 1 - 1 Burnley match and should be confirmed in the next few minutes. Hopefully. As long as the paperwork is done the clubs can announce whatever whenever they want. 10:47PM Lazar Markovic off to Anderlecht Remember him? He's gone on loan to the Belgian club. The same Belgian club that Mitrovic was meant to sign for. 10:45PM 15 minutes to go And someone has sent a picture of their dog in a yellow tie to Sky Sports. It's all happening now. 10:34PM Islam Slimani joins Newcastle United A signing! They've done it! 10:29PM Man City done for the window #PEP: We have just three strikers but from now on Lukas Nmecha is going to train with the first team. But Gabriel is coming back soon. We were not able to buy another striker.— Manchester City (@ManCity) January 31, 2018 10:25PM Aleksandar Mitrovic on his way to Anderlecht. Or is he? According to Sky Sports, he flew all the way to Belgium to find out that Anderlecht couldn't sign him for a reason I don't entirely understand but which sounds like they weren't able to get a player off their books and had no room to sign him. Regardless, he's not going there and has ended up heading in a plane to London to sign a loan deal at Fulham. In other Newcastle news, Martin Dúbravka is very close to signing, while Islam Slimani has apparently passed his medical and will join on loan. 10:19PM Sam Allardyce on Lookman's move to Liepzig "It's one of the most unusual situations I've been in. It was his choice. He was adamant he wanted Germany. We tried to persuade him not to. But his stubbornness got him his way." 10:15PM 45 minutes to go OH MY LORD can you even believe it? Who will the transfer hawk swoop for next? Which top striker will be gripped in football talons? Stay with me for all the information on all the exciting transfers which may or may not happen in the next under-an-hour! 10:06PM Lucas Moura at half time Credit: GETTY IMAGES Lucas Moura was announced to Spurs fans at Wembley during half time of Spurs' remarkable 2-0 win over Man Utd that just finished. You can follow all the live reaction to that with Alan Tyers over in our liveblog. 10:02PM Newcastle fans not happy You may already have seen this amazing crowd display at St James' Park from tonight's match against Burnley: Credit: PA It's a Kevin Keegan quote and reads: “Don’t ever give up on your club. Keep supporting it, it’s your club and trust me, one day you will get your club back and it will be everything you wanted it to be. "Newcastle United is bigger than anyone. It hurts I know, but just keep going. He is only one man we are a city, a whole population. Trust me.” So over 11 seasons @NUFC net spend has been £4.5m a season. Throw in the TV money and ever present gate money....�� One hour left to spend some and give them a chance! Well done to the fans tonight for showing their love for the club. Shame others don't share it. #NUFC— Alan Shearer (@alanshearer) January 31, 2018 Still no signings announced tonight... 9:45PM Deadline day update Here's what we know so far: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang joined Arsenal for club-record fee from Dortmund Mesut Ozil agrees a new Arsenal contract that will take him to 2021 Michy Batshuayi signs for Dortmund on loan Olivier Giroud moves to Chelsea Man City pull out of Riyad Mahrez deal over Leicester's asking price Lucas Moura completes £25m switch to Tottenham Islam Slimani is in Newcastle having a medical ahead of a loan move Martin Dúbravka, the Slovakia goalkeeper, is heading to England to complete a loan move to St James' Park Eliaquim Mangala close to a loan switch to Everton West Ham have a bid rejected for Anderlecht's Leander Dendoncker Reece Oxford has rejoined Borussia Monchengladbach on loan until end of the season Swansea break club record to buy £20million Andre Ayew Watford sign Sunderland's Didier Ndong on loan Stoke buy Badou Ndiaye for £14million 9:25PM Alexander Sorloth He has a name like a B-plot character from Game of Thrones, but to Crystal Palace fans, Alexander Sorloth might offer hope! Crystal Palace are very close to sealing a £9million transfer for the Norwegian striker. 9:10PM Islam Slimani almost done... Sources at both Newcastle & Leicester tell us Islam Slimani has passed his Newcastle medical.— Keith Downie (@SkySports_Keith) January 31, 2018 9:03PM Manchester United sign a goalkeeper! But they're playing an important game at Wembley. How could it be? Matej Kovar is a 17-year-old from Czech Republic who likes to stop footballs going between the metal sticks. He's had a successful trial at Man Utd and will join their youth academy. 9:01PM David Silva off injured Man City's Spanish superstar has been substituted in the game against West Brom because he can't shake off an injury. Riyad Mahrez is sitting at home worrying about how much his football friends don't like him any more. 1+1 = £90million bid. 8:53PM Stoke sign expensive footballer! Even more genuine transfer news for you! Stoke have signed Badou Ndiaye for £15million, which I suppose isn't that expensive in the grand scheme of things. He moves from Turkish club Galatasaray but won't be able to play until a work permit is sorted. 8:52PM Swansea sign Andre Ayew! This is one that's been going on all day and has just been confirmed now. #AyewBack ������ pic.twitter.com/8WSOY4pP9m— Swansea City AFC (@SwansOfficial) January 31, 2018 Andre Ayew, brother of Jordan and ex-Swansea player, has signed from West Ham on a three-and-a-half year deal in a club record transfer worth £20million. 8:27PM Man City's record transfer playing well Credit: AFP Man City's new centre-back Aymeric Laporte is playing well at the heart of Man City's defence this evening. Fernandinho has put them ahead against Alan Pardew's West Brom. I wonder how much both Pep and Alan are aware of behind the scenes in regards to transfers going on right now. Here's Laporte feeding a turtle. Aymeric Laporte feeding a tortoise pic.twitter.com/RYSxVxP1wo— Footballers with animals (@ftbllrswanimals) January 31, 2018 7:54PM Swansea spending some money to reunite family By John Percy. Swansea are breaking their transfer record to re-sign Andre Ayew in a deal worth up to £18m. Ayew is returning to the Liberty Stadium from West Ham in a record deal which eclipses the £15.5m paid out for striker Borja Baston in the summer of 2016. Andy King, the Leicester midfielder, is also signing on loan - a big moment for the Wales international as he leaves the Midlands club for the first time since 2004. 7:48PM Everton spring a surprise Chris Bascombe has this for us: Bit of shock at Goodison before kick-off as Everton announce winger Ademola Lookman will spend the rest of the season with RB Leipzig. Lookman has looked promising when used, but opportunities have been limited. Plenty on Merseyside would have liked to see the 20-year-old get more chances. 7:07PM Newcastle transfer confirmed! But it's a loan. And the player is moving away from the club. And it's Henri Saivet, who doesn't really get a game anyway. Credit: GETTY IMAGES The Senegalese international has joined Sivassport in Turkey until the end of the season. And there's even more news: Rolando Aarons has joined Serie A side @HellasVeronaFC on loan until the end of the season. All the best in Italy, @RolandoAarons! ���� https://t.co/KStuBEFzfV#NUFCpic.twitter.com/uNAvvpq7gD— Newcastle United FC (@NUFC) January 31, 2018 6:52PM Arsenal fail in bid for Jonny Evans John Percy has even more wonderful insider knowledge on Arsenal's failed Jonny Evans bid: Arsenal have failed with a late - and derisory - £12m offer for long-term target Jonny Evans. West Brom have snubbed Arsenal's last-ditch attempt to sign the Northern Ireland international, who will now be staying at the Hawthorns despite interest from Manchester City and Everton. Apparently it was a very brief conversation. It has to be said Evans has conducted himself brilliantly throughout this window (and indeed the summer) and many other Premier League players could learn a lot off him. 6:32PM Lucas Moura signs for Spurs He might regret that after watching this video: �� pic.twitter.com/2geSeK0U6b— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) January 31, 2018 A great signing for Spurs though. He's 25, hugely talented and can play in a few different positions and for £25million is something of a steal. 6:28PM Inside scoops from John Percy Aitor Karanka was so annoyed with Forest's 3-0 home defeat to Preston on Tuesday he's buying an entire new midfield. Ben Watson, the Watford player, is set to join on loan after being withdrawn from the squad to play Stoke - days after admitting it was the biggest game of Watford's season. Newcastle's Jack Colback and Middlesbrough's Adlene Guedioura are also set to join the Championship club. 6:27PM Deadline Day So much is happening and it sounds like there is a lot more which could and will go on between now and 11pm. And that's ignoring the actual football games which are taking place tonight. Here's a roundup of what we've seen so far today: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang joined Arsenal for club-record fee from Dortmund Mesut Ozil agrees a new Arsenal contract that will take him to 2021 Michy Batshuayi sings for Dortmund on loan Olivier Giroud moves to Chelsea Man City pull out of Riyad Mahrez deal over Leicester's asking price Lucas Moura is expected to complete £25m switch to Tottenham Islam Slimani is in Newcastle having a medical ahead of a loan move Martin Dúbravka, the Slovakia goalkeeper, is heading to England to complete a loan move to St James' Park Eliaquim Mangala is close to a loan switch to Everton West Ham have a bid rejected for Anderlecht's Leander Dendoncker Reece Oxford has rejoined Borussia Monchengladbach on loan until end of the season Watford sign Sunderland's Didier Ndong on loan 6:24PM Team bonding going well at Arsenal Together again ���� #YoPierrepic.twitter.com/nPc2TPsQrc— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) January 31, 2018 6:18PM Lucas Moura move still on! Jason Burt Lucas Moura’s £25million move from Paris Saint-Germain to Tottenham Hotspur is still on. Sources close to the deal remain confident it will be signed off this evening, before the 11pm deadline, amid concern over the delay. The Brazilian winger was waiting for a piece of documentation to complete the deal after a fee and personal terms were finalised. The financial side of the deal was fully agreed on Tuesday evening. The 25-year-old has passed his medical while Spurs fans have grown increasingly anxious at the delay over it being formally announced. 6:13PM Leicester sign Callum Wright It's not the Leicester transfer related news you might be constantly refreshing various websites for, but Callum Wright has joined Leicester from Blackburn Rovers on a three-and-a-half-year deal. 6:07PM How a transfer works Three years ago I made this. Three years. Has anything changed? The references are a little dated but otherwise... not really. 6:05PM Newcastle appealing to higher powers And they said polytheism was dead. So Newcastle will have a Mohammed, Jesus, Christian and Islam all in the squad. We need the help of every god and religion going tbf #nufc— Adam Stoker (@ADStoker) January 31, 2018 5:54PM Didier Ndong moves to Watford on loan That's a really strange move. Usually Premier League clubs loan fringe players to Championship clubs, not Championship clubs loaning their better players to the big league! �� | Fancy some transfer news?! Didier Ndong has signed for #watfordfc on loan from @SunderlandAFC for the rest of this season, while the club also have the option on a permanent transfer in the summer. Welcome, Didier! �� More here ⤵️https://t.co/eubhCzejaypic.twitter.com/15DC61zxrH— Watford FC (@WatfordFC) January 31, 2018 A Gabonese international midfielder, Ndong is Sunderland's all time record transfer. Great business by Watford. 5:37PM Aubameyang words as an Arsenal player I'm really happy to be here and I can join Micky! It's great to be here in this great team. The club has a big history, they have great players like Thierry Henry, I'm really happy. 5:10PM Reece Oxford back to Borussia Monchengladbach on loan Reece Oxford howls into the night sky to summon Borussia Monchengladbach contract negotiators Credit: GETTY IMAGES The highly rated young English defender came home for Christmas but has decided to go out on loan again in order to get games for a European football chasing club, instead of sitting in the youth team/reserves/bench at a Premier League club keen to spend spend spend on shiny new ready made players. FAO other young UK born Premier League footballers: you play more abroad. To be fair to David Moyes, he did bring Oxford on as a sub against the mighty Wigan and Shrewsbury. And he gave him four minutes against Crystal Palace. 5:05PM City's shenanigans Good of City to call off Mahrez bid after completely unsettling the player and messing up his relationship with Leicester.— Matt Law (@Matt_Law_DT) January 31, 2018 I agree with Matt. 5:04PM Aston Villa to sign Lewis Grabban on loan John Percy has this for us: Lewis Grabban scoring for Sunderland Credit: GETTY IMAGES Aston Villa are set to sign Bournemouth striker Lewis Grabban on loan. Villa have beaten off Championship rivals Cardiff in the race to sign Grabban, who is having a medical. The capture of Grabban ends Steve Bruce’s pursuit of a striker, after Leonardo Ulloa opted to join Brighton from Leicester. 5:02PM Giroud holding a blue shirt How does this make you feel, Arsenal fans? Welcome to Chelsea, @_OlivierGiroud_! ��#GiroudIsBluepic.twitter.com/rY1VRsgyYk— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) January 31, 2018 The striker has signed an 18 month contract with Chelsea. I reckon that's an absolutely superb signing for Antonio Conte and means he can use his Euro 2016 Italy tactical setup, knocking balls long to the target man and getting the rest of the troops to advance quickly up the pitch! Dan Zeqiri's article on where Giroud fits into Chelsea's plans is excellent, and below: What will Olivier Giroud bring to Chelsea and where will he fit in? Michael Owen's analysis isn't quite as in depth. It is shorter though. Giroud a solid signing for Chelsea. Definitely a better option than Batshuayi who has been shipped off on loan to Dortmund.— michael owen (@themichaelowen) January 31, 2018 4:55PM Michy Batshuayi signs for Borussia Dortmund on loan! I don't speak German (where's Ben Bloom when you need him?) but can work this one out. Batshuayi is off to Germany! �� BVB leiht Michy #Batshuayi bis Saisonende vom @ChelseaFC aus! Alle Infos: https://t.co/WUplWHl5b4pic.twitter.com/za5nQaT2dT— Borussia Dortmund (@BVB) January 31, 2018 4:53PM Man City pull out of Riyad Mahrez deal According to Sky Sports, Man City have decided to walk away from a transfer for Riyad Mahrez because Leicester want way too much money for him. More on that as we get it! That'll be an awkward changing room for Mahrez tonight. 4:45PM Thierry Henry's opinion on Arsenal's business "Sanchez was always going to be like that, we got Mkhitaryan. Yes we lost Sanchez, Chamberlain, about to lose Giroud, Walcott - I'm not gong to name everyone (he just has). We got some players in return, that can be a plus. "When I played there were always two strikers, now managers like to pack the midfield. You might think those two have similar attributes, they do, and I don't know what Arsene is going to do or to play with two strikers, but it is an idea. "I rate him (Aubameyang) a lot but what I rate even more is goals. Like I always say the supporting case needs always to play to this level." 4:34PM Busy busy busy Hello everyone, JJ Bull here for Transfer Deadline Day. I used to love this day. There is a lot going on at various clubs this evening though and this might actually be something close to very exciting. Newcastle are busy - Islam Slimani is having a medical, apparently - West Ham are doing things, Man City are up to tricks, Arsenal want to buy people. I'll be bringing you all the lovely transfer news right through until the window shuts. 4:00PM One more in at Arsenal? 'They'd be better off spending all that money on defenders', has been a popular refrain among Arsenal sceptics. Well they might be about to according to BBC Sport's David Ornstein... Hearing whispers (nothing concrete) Arsenal have been exploring possibility of signing David Luiz from Chelsea as part of Giroud deal - as per @DavidWoodsStar yesterday - or Roma’s Kostas Manolas. Would be one or other, no idea if it will happen. Defence a clear concern #AFC#CFC— David Ornstein (@bbcsport_david) January 31, 2018 3:40PM Giroud is a done deal! As reported earlier initial 18 month contract for Giroud to fit into Chelsea policy for over 30s - he’ll have a year left like cesc, Pedro and Luiz at the end of the season and will only be offered one year option/extension. Dzeko wanted two and a half years— Matt Law (@Matt_Law_DT) January 31, 2018 3:34PM Man City make third bid for Riyad Mahrez Jason Burt Manchester City have submitted a third bid for Riyad Mahrez. The offer is believed to be in excess of £60million – although it still falls someway short of the £90million British record valuation that Leicester City were quoting on Tuesday. Mahrez is desperate to make the move before the transfer window closes having submitted a transfer request. It is possible that City will return with yet another offer, if this one is rejected, and the make-up of the latest bid is unclear amid claims they may also be willing to offer Leicester a player. City have so far failed with offers of around £50million and £55million for the Algerian international who is not in the squad for Leicester’s Premier League fixture away to Everton this evening. 3:26PM West Ham register Hugill interest Sam Wallace West Ham have made an inquiry about the Preston North End striker Jordan Hugill, whose rise through the Football League has taken him all the way from a loan at Gateshead in the Conference Premier in 2013 to the possibility of a move to the Premier League this window. Crystal Palace had looked at the 25-year-old but are currently hopeful of signing FC Midtjylland’s Norwegian striker Alexander Sorloth for around £9 million which would end their interest in Hugill. There is also interest in the Preston target man from both Reading and Hull City who are both looking for that style of striker. Jordan Hugill rises to score at Newcastle last term Credit: Getty Images Preston have resisted attempts so far to sell the player, who did miss Tuesday’s win over Nottingham Forest because of the uncertainty around his future. The premium placed on strikers in the Football League has meant that Hugill has attracted interest from the division above. So too in League One where Jack Marriott, top goalscorer in the division, has been valued at £7 million by Peterborough United. That figure has deterred the clubs interested in him, in particular Leeds United. 3:24PM Giroud to Chelsea announcement could be imminent As per others - Giroud to Chelsea done— Matt Law (@Matt_Law_DT) January 31, 2018 Our man Matt Law says the deal is done and Giroud has signed an 18-month contract at Stamford Bridge after the clubs agreed an £18m fee. 3:03PM Take it or leave Sky Sports News reporting Manchester City have made a final offer of £65 million plus 'a player' for Riyad Mahrez. Leicester are 'considering the offer' with no response yet. We’re told Manchester City preparing to pay cash + player [deal around £65m] for Riyad Mahrez. #MCFC#LCFC More on #SSN— Bryan Swanson (@skysports_bryan) January 31, 2018 2:55PM Deadline Day recap: what has happened so far Just over eight hours to go in this January transfer window. If you have managed to miss everything that has gone on so far today then firstly, well done, and secondly, here's what has happened: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang joined Arsenal for club-record fee from Dortmund Mesut Ozil agrees a new Arsenal contract that will take him to 2021 Michy Batshuayi has been pictured undergoing a medical at Dortmund ahead of a loan move Olivier Giroud could complete his move to Chelsea before the deadline Leicester are holding out for £90m for Riyad Mahrez with Man City interested Lucas Mourai is expected to complete £25m switch to Tottenham Islam Slimani is in Newcastle ahead of a loan move to the club Martin Dúbravka, the Slovakia goalkeeper, is heading to England to complete a loan move to St James' Park Eliaquim Mangala is close to a loan switch to Everton West Ham have a bid rejected for Anderlecht's Leander Dendoncker 2:32PM Everton update: Mangala close to loan move This from Merseyside correspondent Chris Bascombe: Everton's move for Manchester City centre-back Eliaquim Mangala is close to completion. The loan is now likely to include a provision to make the deal permanent in the summer. Davy Klaassen, however, has gone off the idea of moving to Napoli, indicating he wants to fight for his place. Everton bound: Eliaquim Mangala Credit: Getty Images 2:29PM Arrival at Crystal Palace Being a Sky Sports deadline day reporter has not been easy in recent years, so this is nice to see. Palace fans way too kind. A cake delivery from @becsj76 Thank you!x #deadlinedaypic.twitter.com/6EAFxjTKP9— Michael Bridge (@MichaelBridge_) January 31, 2018 2:18PM Goalkeeper en route to the Premier League Quick, deploy Flight Radar! Goalkeeper Martin Dúbravka is on his way to England, according to his current Sparta Prague, with an unnamed Premier League club in line to secure his services. Reports in the north-east suggest Newcastle will be the lucky recipients - a loan move before a permanent transfer in the summer. ⚠️����➡️���� Martin Dúbravka has left the training camp and is on the way to England now. Sparta will negotiate about a possible move to @premierleague. pic.twitter.com/JK4m0q5vmD— AC Sparta Prague (@ACSparta_EN) January 31, 2018 2:13PM Quiet deadline day for Liverpool, but one departure The have confirmed 22-year-old Lloyd Jones has left for League Two Luton Town. As our correspondent Chris Bascombe reported earlier, very little is expected from the club before the 11pm deadline. Perhaps another outgoing. Liverpool FC can confirm that Lloyd Jones has today completed a permanent transfer to Luton Town. The defender joined the Reds from hometown club Plymouth Argyle in 2011 and subsequently progressed through the club's Academy teams. Recent seasons have seen Jones gain further experience out on loan with Cheltenham Town, Accrington Stanley, Blackpool and Swindon Town. He now heads permanently to Luton Town aiming to boost their push for promotion from League Two. Everyone at Liverpool FC wishes Lloyd all the best for the future. 2:07PM Islam Slimani arrives in Newcastle The Leicester striker has landed in the city to finalise his loan move to St James' Park. One of the final stages will be a medical, despite having a thigh problem. Newcastle in need of a striker so much they are ready to give Slimani a go. Idea of Islam Slimani having a medical at Newcastle is amusing, given that: a) they literally have no other options. b) he's injured.— Daniel Storey (@danielstorey85) January 31, 2018 1:41PM Samir Nasri anyone? There's no getting away from Arsenal news and connections today as we learn that Samir Nasri is a free agent after Turkish side Antalyaspor agreed to terminate his contract. Just after half a season after moving from Manchester City to Turkey, the 30-year-old is on the hunt for another club after Antalyaspor's financial woes meant they had no other choice but to let him go. As an out of contract player Nasri would have to wait until the end of the transfer window before he can join anyone. But surely the likes of West Ham, Leicester or Watford might come in for the former Arsenal midfielder in the coming days? Nasri is a free agent Credit: Reuters 1:22PM Before the uproar over Ozil wages This is an interesting tweet from Sporting Intelligence's Nick Harris. It's all relative. In 1989-1990, Arsenal's highest paid employee earned £245k a year, or 3.2% of their £7.6m income. Ozil's new contract is worth about £16.9m a year, or about 3.8% of their income. Plus ça change, apart from a few noughts. pic.twitter.com/S2De90hxRZ— Nick Harris (@sportingintel) January 31, 2018 1:16PM And the Arsenal news doesn't stop there It's not been a bad way for Arsenal to shake off that woeful loss to Swansea last night by breaking their transfer record fee for Aubameyang and tying up Ozil to a new deal. Now there are rumours circling that the club want to sign Schalke midfielder Max Meyer. The 22-year-old is out of contract in the summer so the club would be open to sensible offers having accepted he will leave the club either in this window or at the end of the season. Bild claim Arsenal will make their move today rather than waiting until the summer. The German paper was spot on with their Ozil exclusive. This could be one to watch. Max Meyer helped Germany U21s reach the final of the Euros last summer Credit: AP 12:54PM Ozil deal confirmed Jeremy Wilson, deputy football correspondent here at Telegraph Sport, has been talking to the suits at Arsenal who have confirmed that Germany international Mesut Özil has just become the club's highest paid player of all time. Read all about it right here. 12:47PM Carvalhal preparing triple swoop Not content with earning back-to-back wins in the Premier League following their defeats of Liverpool and Arsenal, Swansea City manager Carlos Carvalhal is hoping to strengthen his squad before the day is over. John Percy has all the latest . . . Swansea City are in talks with Leicester City over a possible loan deal for Wales international Andy King. Carlos Carvalhal is desperate to land at least three new signings today and midfielder King is on his radar. Andre Ayew is expected to seal a return to the Liberty Stadium in an £18 million move from West Ham, while talks are ongoing with Liverpool over a deal for Lazar Markovic. Liverpool prefer a £15m permanent arrangement for Markovic but a loan looks most likely at this stage. 12:39PM West Ham in for Dendoncker One of our many writers with their ears to the ground – Matt Law – is hearing that West Ham are looking to bolster their midfield with a 22-year-old from Passendale in Belgium. As yet, though, the east Londoners have yet to find their man. West Ham United have had an opening bid rejected by Anderlecht for Leander Dendoncker. David Moyes's side want to sign a midfielder today, as well as a striker, and have watched Dendoncker in recent weeks. But Anderlecht want at least £20 million for the player and West Ham’s opening offer fell way short of that. West Ham may well make a second bid before the window shuts at 11pm. 12:24PM Ozil's new contract a done deal? The BBC's David Ornstein has backed up Bild's report this morning that Mesut Ozil has signed a new deal at Arsenal. According to Ornstein, the Germany international has agreed a three-and-a-half year deal until the summer of 2021. The report adds that he will become the "highest-paid player in club history on around £350k per week before tax". EXCLUSIVE: Mesut Ozil signs a new three-and-a-half year contract to remain at Arsenal until summer 2021. Becomes highest-paid player in club history on around £350k per week before tax. Deal agreed last weekend, signed at Colney this morning. Could take him to 8yrs at #AFC & 32yo pic.twitter.com/600XtVnbnH— David Ornstein (@bbcsport_david) January 31, 2018 12:22PM Lewandowski bids farewell to Aubameyang The two were rivals on the pitch and enjoyed their battles but all's fair in love and war as Robert Lewandowski becomes one of the first Bundesliga players to say ta-ta to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang Good luck @Aubameyang7 It was a pleasure to compete with you. Only a healthy fight is pushing us forward. ��— Robert Lewandowski (@lewy_official) January 31, 2018 12:00PM Sorloth and Hugill on Palace's radar Christian Benteke has welcomed Palace's search for attacking recruits. Sam Dean has the latest from Selhurst Park and what the Belgian makes of Roy Hodgson's attempts to strengthen their frontline. Crystal Palace are clearly keen to sign a striker today, with Alexander Sorloth of FC Midtjylland and Preston's Jordan Hugill both linked with a move to south London. The efforts to recruit another attacker are hardly the greatest vote of confidence in the struggling Christian Benteke, who has scored just two goals all season, but the Belgian has welcomed the prospect of competition up front. "I think it's fair from them," he said when asked about Palace management looking to bring players in. "I am ready to fight for my place and hopefully if they can bring another quality player in, it will be more than welcome." We can confirm Jordan Hugill was available for selection this evening, but given recent speculation regarding his future the manager decided a team fully focused on the game was what would be needed for the match. #pnefc— Preston North End FC (@pnefc) January 30, 2018 11:54AM Er? As cryptic tweets go, this is quite something. ������ ... ��— Michy Batshuayi (@mbatshuayi) January 31, 2018 11:46AM The final piece in the puzzle? Matt Law has the latest on Olivier Giroud's switch to Chelsea, which would complete the transfer merry-go-round. Chelsea believe they can stick to club policy by handing Olivier Giroud an initial 18-month contract once his medical is complete. Giroud’s agent travelled to London to complete the formalities of the 31-year-old’s £18 million switch from Arsenal. With Michy Batshuayi in Germany undergoing a medical ahead of his loan move to Borussia Dortmund, Giroud is due to take his Chelsea tests. The Blues have broken recent policy by paying a fee for an outfield player over the age of 30, but hope to stick to their strict rules regarding contracts. By signing Giroud to an 18-month deal, Chelsea will ensure that the Frenchman will be in the same position as their other 30-plus stars, Cesc Fabregas, Pedro and David Luiz, in the summer. All of the over-30 brigade will have 12 months remaining on their contracts at the end of the season, with Chelsea only set to offer one-year renewals. One of the reasons Chelsea pulled out of a move for Roma’s Edi Dzeko was that the Bosnian wanted a two-and-a-half-year contract that would have broken club policy. Giroud played the final 14 minutes of Arsenal's defeat at Swansea last night Credit: Getty Images 11:34AM Batshuayi having Dortmund medical The three-way transfer is happening. The Aubameyang deal has been signed off, now Dortmund are finalising their replacement with Chelsea striker Michy Batshuayi currently having his medical. Olivier Giroud's agent is said to be at the Emirates going through the details of his expected switch to Stamford Bridge. Isn't it great when a plan comes together? ������@mbatshuayipic.twitter.com/Vb0f38J7Ug— Borussen Edition (@BorussenEdition) January 31, 2018 11:22AM Arsenal to reveal Aubameyang's squad number in due course Here's what Arsenal have to say about their club-record arrival who joins on a long-term contract. Auba is one of the world’s most highly-rated strikers. He scored 98 goals in 144 Bundesliga games for Dortmund and had a hand in 172 goals in 213 matches in all competitions for his former club. That works out at an average of 96 minutes per goal or assist. Auba is the Gabon captain and all-time top goalscorer, and became the first Gabonese winner of the African Footballer of the Year award in 2015. This deal is subject to the completion of regulatory processes and Auba’s squad number will be confirmed shortly. 98 - Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's 98 Bundesliga goals: Inside Box - 97 Outside Box - 1 Penalties - 10 Headed - 13 Right Foot - 64 Left Foot - 20 Other Body Part - 1 Poacher. pic.twitter.com/iXHx1rFuDJ— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 29, 2018 #YoPierre �� pic.twitter.com/VKlUZdOqv1— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) January 31, 2018 11:15AM Done deal! He’s ours ✅ #YoPierrehttps://t.co/DiDb4Ewvt6— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) January 31, 2018 11:11AM Dortmund confirm Aubameyang switch Borussia Dortmund say they have reached an agreement to sell Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to Arsenal for £56m. We're now just waiting on word from Arsenal. �� Pierre-Emerick #Aubameyang wechselt vom BVB zum FC @Arsenal! Alle Infos: https://t.co/zxGMwUOUtypic.twitter.com/pkkfDVLPvj— Borussia Dortmund (@BVB) January 31, 2018 11:10AM Blind will join Roma - but not until the summer Daley Blind isn't likely to leave Manchester United for Roma today, but a deal will be concluded in the summer instead. That's the verdict of the defender's father, Danny, who confirmed the Italians are keen on the 27-year-old. The word on the street was that Roma were keen to sign Blind as a replacement for Emerson Palmeri who joined Chelsea last night. "I can confirm that Roma want Daley but United don’t want to let him go on loan, only on a permanent basis," Danny Blind told LaRoma24. "They don’t want to sell him now, only in the summer. Maybe if we had a few days, a week perhaps, but we’ve only got a few hours.” Daley Blind looks on course to move to Roma in the summer Credit: AP Blind has not travelled with the United squad to London ahead of their fixture against Tottenham due to an ankle injury. The Dutchman has not featured for United since January 5. 11:01AM Gone in 14 days Will Aubameyang and Lacazette fill the void? Aubameyang has undergone medical. Arsenal poised to sell their top scorer in each of the past five seasons (Walcott 21 goals, Giroud 22, Sanchez 25, Giroud 24 and Sanchez 30) in the space of 14 days.— Jeremy Wilson (@JWTelegraph) January 31, 2018 10:51AM Saints' deal for Promes hits the rocks Spending the Virgil van Dijk cash has been harder than Southampton thought. This just in from our deputy football correspondent Jeremy Wilson. Southampton’s potential club record £26.4 million signing of Quincy Promes has become increasingly unlikely amid Spartak Moscow’s failure to recruit a replacement. Negotiations have been ongoing for several weeks and, while Southampton are willing to meet the valuation and Promes is ready to join, Spartak have been reluctant to lose their star player without an incoming signing. Southampton broke their club record with the £19.2 million signing last week of striker Guido Carrillo from Monaco, but the priority this month was to add the pace and goal threat that the 26-year-old Promes would have provided. An attempt to sign Theo Walcott from Arsenal also failed, with Everton willing to pay around £140,000-a-week in wages against a package from Southampton worth £120,000 that would have made him the best paid player in their history. Quincy Promes' (middle) move now looks increasingly unlikely Credit: Getty Images Southampton also considered Liverpool’s Daniel Sturridge but he moved to West Bromwich Albion on loan until the end of the season. Barring any change now from Spartak, Southampton are now looking elsewhere today in the hope that other opportunities could emerge amid the trading elsewhere. Southampton sold Virgil van Dijk to Liverpool for £75 million before the January transfer window had even opened so that they had the funds to make signings but it has been a largely frustrating month. The team have still not won in the Premier League since November and have slipped into the relegation zone. A lack of creativity has been the main problem, with injured striker Charlie Austin their top scorer so far this season with six. Their other two main strikers – Manolo Gabbiadini and Shane Long – have just four goals between them. Carrillo made only two starts all season at Monaco in France’s Ligue 1 but had the best year of his career under current Southampton manager Manuel Pellegrino when they were together in Argentina at Estudiantes. "It’s really important as a player, above all as a striker, to be given confidence by the manager, coaches and the club," said Carrillo. "It gives me lots of confidence and I want to take that confidence out onto the pitch." 10:42AM Slimani to Newcastle in on There could finally be some joy for Newcastle and Rafael Benitez in the transfer market. After missing out on Daniel Sturridge, it looks like Islam Slimani will be heading to St James' Park. Newcastle United expected to sign striker Islam Slimani from Leicester City. Told it should be a loan - fee of around £2m - until end of season plus covering his wages.— Jason Burt (@JBurtTelegraph) January 31, 2018 Only stumbling block, however, could be whether the Algerian has suffered an injury setback in training. Sky are reporting the 29-year-old picked up a thigh problem which could rule him out for a couple of weeks. 10:28AM News from the Championship And our midlands man John Percy also has the latest goings on away from the top-flight. Andy King, the Leicester midfielder, is a target for Nottingham Forest but the move appears remote at this stage. Derby striker Chris Martin is set to have a medical at Reading later today as he prepares to move on loan. Derby's pursuit of West Brom's James McClean is over after they were quoted a mind-boggling £15m. Quite a coup for Nigel Clough at Burton Albion too - the strugglers are signing Manchester City's 2016 young player of the year, Jacob Davenport, on loan. He's a holding midfielder who can also cover at left-back and is highly regarded by City. 10:25AM Stoke close on Ndiaye John Percy says Stoke are confident that their deal for Badou Ndiaye will not be held up by a work permit issue. Here's the latest from the Potteries. Stoke are close to completing a £15m deal for Galatasaray's Badou Ndiaye, with the midfielder undergoing a medical on Tuesday night. Ndiaye, a Senegal international, is expected to attend tonight's game against Watford and Stoke are confident a work permit will not be an issue. Crystal Palace, meanwhile, have been told to pay £10m for USA international Geoff Cameron, who also has interest from Burnley. But Stoke are expecting a quiet day with no other incomings. In my opinion, the fact they have avoided selling Joe Allen - who has been brilliant this season - is a huge plus point. 10:21AM Moura nears £25m Spurs switch Lucas Moura's expected £25m switch to Tottenham has moved a step closer with reports that the winger has completed his medical. The 25-year-old was once spoken as one of the most exciting young talents in the world but has found himself on the fringes at Paris Saint Germain in recent months. Lucas Moura has not enjoyed the happiest of times at PSG recently Credit: AFP Neymar has been upset by PSG's treatment of the Brazil international. He said of Moura's likely departure: “I'm sad, because he's a good friend, he's a quality player who was rarely used. “I think it's very unfair. He is my brother in football. “I wish him the best. Whatever the destination, I hope he will score a lot and he will return to the Brazilian national team. “He's not just a friend, he's a very good guy. Here he could have been used a lot more but I'm not the owner of the team, not the owner of Paris. “For me, he should never have left Paris." Lucas has won four league titles in France and has made more than 30 appearances for Brazil. 10:02AM Mahrez update Here's the latest news on Riyad Mahrez's future from our football news correspondent Matt Law. Riyad Mahrez is set to miss Leicester City’s game against Everton tonight as he tries to force a deadline day move to Manchester City. Having handed in a transfer request, Mahrez has not been part of Leicester’s preparations for the Everton game. The Algeria international is not with the rest of the Leicester squad at the team hotel as he waits to discover his fate. City are thought to be ready to pay around £55 million to sign Mahrez today, but Leicester value the winger at closer to £90m. Sources close to the deal believe it could go either way at this stage, but Mahrez is ready to fight to try to make a transfer happen. 9:52AM Powell wanted by Brighton Nick Powell has been running rings round defenders in League One for leaders Wigan this season but how would he adjust to life back in the Premier League? The 23-year-old has recovered from the injuries which hindered his Manchester United tenure to score 11 goals this season and has drawn attention from Brighton among others. Now it seems Chris Hughton has tabled a £3m bid for the forward and wants Powell to make what would be a massive switch in terms of gulf of standard and mileage on the map. According to some reports, a potential deal could be held up as Wigan are in the middle of a takeover to new Chinese owners. Different gravy! @NPowell25#wafcpic.twitter.com/lbwnf4zDlj— Cal (@CalWafc) January 27, 2018 9:39AM A busy day for Hodgson and Palace Crystal Palace's injury to Bakary Sako last night means Roy Hodgson and his backroom staff will be active in the transfer market today. Here's what our man Sam Dean, who was at the London Stadium covering Palace's 1-1 draw with West Ham, has to say. It will come as no surprise that both David Moyes and Roy Hodgson were asked about potential comings and goings after last night's draw at the London Stadium. Hodgson, the Crystal Palace manager, has been saying ever since he arrived that they are in need of reinforcements, and they are very much in the market still despite already signing Poland centre-back Jaroslaw Jach and Erdal Rakip, the Sweden under-21 international. Hodgson said the injury to Bakary Sako last night makes it even more important that Palace are busy today. "We have been talking about it since September 12," Hodgson said. "Nothing changes. I suppose you could say it [the injury] makes it a bit more imperative to bring players in as we are going to have a very small squad... I am hoping for some good news in the next few hours." As for West Ham, Moyes confirmed that Swansea had made an offer for Andre Ayew, but said he could not make a decision on that until "we get players in". Stay tuned. Bakary Sako limped off in the first half at West Ham Credit: AFP 9:30AM Newcastle close on deal for Slovakia goalkeeper Our north east correspondent Luke Edwards says that Newcastle have two bits of business they are hoping to tie up today. While we've already covered their interest in striker Islam Slimani, Rafael Benitez is confident of signing Slovakia goalkeeper Martin Dubravka from Sparta Prague on loan. Dubravka has won nine caps for Slovakia and faced both England and Scotland during the 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign. 9:21AM Happy Jim White day The legend of the transfer deadline day window is alive and well on this fine day. His first tweet of the day ladies and gentlemen. It's a bold one to kick off proceedings. It's a Deadline Day Good Morning! Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang medical about to get underway @Arsenal.— Jim White (@JimWhite) January 31, 2018 9:19AM Nothing doing at Liverpool... And across Stanley Park, our man Chris Bascombe has the latest goings on at Anfield. Although we use the latest wording loosely... Jurgen Klopp has said he won’t be adding to his squad today and he is not bluffing. Liverpool kicked off the transfer window by signing Virgil Van Dijk, which is far too organised for some tastes. Far better to let the month drag on and scramble a deal in the last minute, obviously. They also sold Philippe Coutinho but decided to wait until the summer to re-invest the £142 million. So all that is left is an assortment of fringe players. Ovie Ojaria looks to be heading to Sunderland on loan, and Lazar Markovic is being touted to just about any club in Europe. Swansea is the most likely destination. There is also the possibility of Jon Flanagan moving on loan at some point today. 9:04AM Everton step up Mangala interest Our Merseyside correspondent Chris Bascombe has the latest news on goings on at Goodison Park. Despite playing down expectations, Everton manager Sam Allardyce is evidently still trying to add to his squad before tonight’s deadline. Manchester City centre-back Eliaquim Mangala is the latest to attract interest. Everton would like him on loan for the rest of the season. Given Allardyce had earlier suggested a left back was his priority it is an intriguing move, particularly given the number of centre-halves at the club. Everton are also likely to be active trying to offload many of those lauded so much when they were signed in the summer. Striker Sandro has already agreed a loan move to Sevilla, which will proceed subject to a medical. And Davy Klaassen is interesting Napoli. The more Allardyce can shift, the more likely he is to add new faces before 11 pm. The deal of last summer, however, look more suspect by the week. 8:59AM Song trains with Arsenal Arsenal love nothing more than allowing former players to join their squad in a training session or two if they are a) continuing their rehabilitation following a lengthy lay-off or b) helping them maintain fitness levels while said player is on lookout for their next club. Well, Alex Song falls into the latter category after Rubin Kazan told the 30-year-old to find another club as they are not financially sound to pay his wages. Song, who left Arsenal for Barcelona in a £15m deal in 2012, has in recent days been training with the club and could potentially be resigned by Arsene Wenger after the window closes this evening. He would be available on a free transfer. #Repost @jackwilshere ・・・ Good to see you my friend @17alexsong ❤�� always pleasure my friend ❤️���� A post shared by a.song17 (@17alexsong) on Jan 24, 2018 at 9:31pm PST Song watched Arsenal's 2-1 League Cup semi-final second leg win over Chelsea at the Emirates last week and has been sharing the odd picture on social media as he cuddles up to current members of the team. Song will have fond memories of his time at Arsenal and indeed Barcelona - aside from this one moment perhaps at the Nou Camp... Flash back to when Alex Song thought Puyol was going to let him hold the trophy but instead grabbed Abidal pic.twitter.com/EttK8oA85X— �� (@BaguetteFC) January 23, 2018 8:40AM Tug of war over Slimani West Ham have also joined the race to sign Leicester striker Islam Slimani. Newcastle, Watford and Monaco have all indicated their desire to sign the Algerian international and now the Hammers are said to have joined the queue. While Monaco are keen on a loan move for the 29-year-old, Leicester want Slimani to leave on a permanent deal after fellow strikers Leo Ulloa and Ahmed Musa went out on loan. Slimani set Leicester back around £28m when he joined in the summer of 2016 and the club are keen to recoup some of the fee. Slimani has scored two goals in 17 appearances for the Foxes this term. If he doesn't move to another Premier League rival this window, there is always the option of a move to China where the window doesn't close until the end of February. Watch this space. Islam Slimani is a player in demand Credit: Andrew Fox 8:23AM West Ham back in for Cairney West Ham are reported to have reignited their interest in Fulham midfielder Tom Cairney. An initial bid thought to be around the £15m mark was made by West Ham for the reigning EFL Player of the Year earlier in the month, only for the Championship side to slap a £40m price tag on their playmaker. The Hammers haven't been put off by Fulham's demands and are expected to try their luck with another bid, according to one club insider. Twitter account ExWHUemployee, who has been a reliable source of insider information surrounding the club, says West Ham will step up their interest. A possibility yes! Although another bid is in for Cairney too https://t.co/IYHA97zFMn— ExWHUemployee (@ExWHUemployee) January 31, 2018 Reece Oxford, meanwhile, will sit down with David Moyes this morning to discuss his own future at London Stadium. Oxford spent the first half of the season on loan at Borussia Monchengladbach making four appearances. West Ham recalled him at the start of the year, and could yet be needed to remain in London due to their injury crisis. 8:00AM La Galaxy coy on Zlatan rumours There are contrasting rumours circling around Zlatan Ibrahimovic this morning. French sports daily L'Equipe claim the Swede signed a deal with MLS giants LA Galaxy THREE WEEKS AGO, but the club's head coach Sigi Schmid has been coy on such revelations. “There’s been a lot of talk about it in the past and it’s something that maybe gets opened up again. “I don’t know what’s there. If there was something there, I’m sure we’d all know. Right now, it’s all rumors.” Ibrahimovic is currently recovering from an injury setback he suffered last month and his contract at Manchester United expires this summer. The report in L'Equipe adds that he will finish his rehabilitation at United before heading to California ahead of the MLS season getting under way in March. Being told @Ibra_official#ZlatanInrahimovic signed a contract with @LAGalaxy three weeks ago from a source in the #EPL - Just waiting for the next 48 hours to to go by... He would be in L.A. By Monday, February 5th. Merci, L'Equipe. @LaVoxDeportivapic.twitter.com/ZSED3ulcZe— Rene Romano (@reneromanosport) January 31, 2018 7:35AM And Ozil is staying put... Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's deal may not yet be finalised but his near arrival has been enough for Mesut Ozil to put pen to paper on a new deal at the Emirates. That's what Bild are reporting this morning. And it's not the only burning issue the German international has said yes to. The article adds that the 29-year-old will get married to his girlfriend Amine Gülse after this year's World Cup in Russia. So does that mean she asked him? The details aren't exactly clear. The German newspaper adds that Ozil will earn €350,000 (£306,691) a week to extend his stay in north London. 7:15AM Arsenal jump the gun on Aubameyang signing Ooops. Spare a thought for one member of Arsenal's website team this morning who appears to have let adrenaline and excitement get the better of them over the expected signing of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. In the early hours of Wednesday morning, Arsenal uploaded a new video to their official website in which Wenger confirmed their record signing. The video was swiftly removed but not before quick-thinking Arsenal supporters watched the clip. The interview, on Arsenal Player, starts with the interviewer saying to the Arsenal manager: "So, Aubameyang is an Arsenal player, you must be delighted to get the deal done?" Wenger responds: "Yes, it is good news. We need people who can give us more offensive power. "At the moment, we aren’t enough going forward and I am convinced he will give us that. He has a big challenge in front of him. He wants to do well in the Premier League. It is absolutely good news for us. "His pace, his finishing. The quality of his runs. His huge physical capacity, that will be important in the Premier League." Wenger has confirmed that Aubameyang has signed for Arsenal: pic.twitter.com/gZzX5jtrlb— Sam (@samuelJayC) January 31, 2018 7:05AM Sandro returns to Spain After just 15 appearances for Everton, Sandro Ramirez has returned to Spain and joined Sevilla on loan for the rest of the season. The 22-year-old forward only arrived in the summer for £5.2m and has scored one goal in the Europa League. Another of Everton's summer signings, Davy Klassen, could be on his way out of Goodison Park. Klaassen has played just 13 games since joining as one of Ronald Koeman's big-money signings but has struggled to settle on Merseyside. The £24m recruit is looking for a route away from the club having not featured for Sam Allardyce's side since December. Napoli are interested in the 24-year-old and are said to have opened talks over a loan deal. Sandro Ramirez hasn't enjoyed the best of spells on Merseyside Credit: Getty Images 6:55AM Eto'o a staple of the window A grand total of £105.3m has been spent on transfer fees for Samuel Eto'o in just nine years. The former Cameroon international has become a regular face and name of windows gone by and this one is no different. The former Chelsea, Inter Milan and Real Madrid striker, who is still only 36-years-old, is expected to sign for Turkish top-flight club Konyaspor later after being released by Antalyaspor. Konyaspor are likely to pay £1.35m for his services. He's still a big draw where ever he goes, though... This video warrants Samuel Eto'o a monument from his country. Konyaspor fans hail his arrival from Antalyaspor. pic.twitter.com/sRqS5Y5vC3— ekondedaniel (@ekondedaniel4) January 31, 2018 6:35AM Mahrez wants out at Leicester Perhaps one of the biggest twists on transfer deadline day eve, if there is such a day in the calendar, was Riyad Mahrez's late call to declare his unhappiness with life at Leicester and slap another transfer request on the manager's desk. Ok, so Mahrez might not have been quite as forceful with his decision to lay his cards on the table, but it's a kick in the teeth for Leicester's Claude Puel who has been doing a fine job at the King Power Stadium since replacing Craig Shakespeare. No wonder Puel wants the January transfer window to be scrapped in future. Mahrez's people have been quick to take note of Leroy Sane's long lay-off at Manchester City and jumped to the conclusion that Pep Guardiola would now be in the marker for a like-for-like replacement, and they appear to be on to something. Leicester's owners are taking a hard stance on the situation, though, and insist one of their biggest assets is not for sale. It is thought £90m might persuade them otherwise! Here's the full story. Mahrez is alleged to have failed to turn up for training on Tuesday, ahead of their game at Everton Credit: Getty Images 6:24AM Bye, bye, Giroud? Olivier Giroud looks to have played one last time in an Arsenal shirt with Arsene Wenger admitting after last night's awful 3-1 loss at Swansea that he was likely to be heading for pastures new. The France targetman is in search of more regular first-team football to boost his own World Cup hopes and still is on course to complete an £18m to Chelsea at some point today. Giroud was brought on late on with Arsenal chasing the game at the Liberty Stadium as Wenger trusted his compatriot not to let the club down. Wenger said: “It’s a tribute to Olivier, yes, because he is a guy who gave great service to the club and never let us down on the commitment front and saved us many times. I have absolutely no doubt when I ask him if he is ready to commit and he says yes I have no problem with that. That is why I put him in because it was needed. Unfortunately he couldn’t help us.” 6:07AM It's transfer deadline day! Morning all and welcome to our transfer deadline day coverage which promises to be a lively affair. The bar was set high at the start of the month when Liverpool splashed out a staggering £75 million on defender Virgil van Dijk. Will that figure remain the biggest outlay on a player this month, or could we see one club throwing all their lot in on one star-studded individual which could push the total spending past the 2011 record of £225m? Alexis Sanchez had long been expected to be the big-name dominating this month's transfer talk. But following a surprising twist to the tale and his unlikely move to Manchester United being completed long before D-day, what treats lie in store now for the 12 hours ahead? Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang looks on course to be one of the biggest deals of the day as his £60m move from Borussia Dortmund to Arsenal nears completion. Will this trigger Oliver Giroud's switch to Chelsea and will Michy Batshuayi be elbowed out of Stamford Bridge and sent packing to Germany? Jonny Evans' name has crept up in more than a handful of transfer stories over the past four weeks and the West Brom defender is another likely mover on deadline day. West Brom want around £25m for the former Manchester United centre-back with Arsenal favourites to land the northern Ireland international. Annoyingly, or to Sam Allardyce at least it is, there are a handful of Premier League fixtures taking place this evening which will eat into the time managers and backroom staff have to finalise transfers. But then, clubs have had 30 other days to get their houses in order so shouldn't bemoan too much the fixture list. What moves do you expect to be completed today. Who do you want your club to sign and what rumours have you heard? Get in touch at vicki.hodges@telegraph.co.uk
Transfer Deadline Day roundup: Man City pull out of Riyad Mahrez deal, Chelsea get Olivier Giroud and Spurs sign Lucas Moura
Where will Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang fit in at Arsenal? Mahrez hands in transfer request but Leicester will hold out for £90m Mahrez may not make it to Man City - but why is their solution always to write a cheque? How will Sanchez fit in at Man Utd, and who loses out most? What will Olivier Giroud bring to Chelsea? Manchester City's proposed deal for Riyad Mahrez fell through after the club were put off by Leicester's valuation of the Algeria forward. City were said to be willing to pay around £60million for the 26-year-old but ended discussions, despite the player handing in a transfer request in a bid to force a move to join Pep Guardiola's side. "He's a Leicester player", said Guardiola about Mahrez, following his side's 3-0 win over West Brom. "I don't talk about it too much, the window is over, the guys who are here will finish the season." City's withdrawal from the Mahrez deal was one of many twists on a busy deadline-day which saw Arsenal, Chelsea and Borussia Dortmund involved in a three-way transfer. Where will Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang fit in at Arsenal? Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's arrival at Arsenal for a club-record fee from Dortmund was confirmed just after 11:15am and then, just before the transfer window closed in Germany, it was announced that Chelsea striker Michy Batshuayi had completed a loan switch to the Bundesliga side. That in turn had paved the way for Olivier Giroud to leave Arsenal and be unveiled as a Chelsea player, for a fee of £18million. The France forward was at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night to see his new team suffer a shock 3-0 defeat to Bournemouth. What will Olivier Giroud bring to Chelsea and where will he fit in? Arsenal failed with a late approach for Jonny Evans, bidding far below West Brom's valuation of the defender. Mathieu Debuchy followed Giroud out of the Emirates Stadium, joining French side St Etienne until the end of the season after his Arsenal contract was terminated. Tottenham completed the signing of winger Lucas Moura from Paris St Germain on a contract until 2023. Moura moves to Spurs for £25million, having fallen behind Neymar and Kylian Mbappe in the PSG pecking order, and was presented to the crowd at half time during Spurs 2-0 win over Manchester United - the same club which the 25-year-old Brazilian was strongly linked with when Sir Alex Ferguson was in charge at Old Trafford. Lucas Moura was presented to Spurs at half time on Wednesday night Credit: GETTY IMAGES Watford brought Sunderland midfielder Didier Ndong in on loan, while goalkeeper Pontus Dahlberg signed a five-and-a-half-year deal from Goteborg before returning to the Swedish side on loan for the rest of the season. Costel Pantilimon and Isaac Success were both sent out on loan for the rest of the season, to Nottingham Forest and Malaga respectively. Elsewhere, Everton's England Under-21 winger Ademola Lookman joined Bundesliga club RB Leipzig on loan for the rest of the season, while Stoke signed Badou Ndiaye for £14million. He was present at the Bet365 stadium for the 1-1 draw with Watford. Newcastle were able to sign two players at the very last minute, taking Islam Slimani on loan for Leicester until the end of the season and were close to confirming another loan deal, this one for Slovakian goalkeeper Martin Dubravka, by the time the transfer window had closed. Jack Colback moved to Nottingham Forest on loan and Rafa Benitez concluded his deadline day business by sending young English goalkeeper Freddie Woodman out on loan to Aberdeen, where he will gain first team experience covering for the injured Joe Lewis. 11:53PM A tale of two strikers CONFIRMED: Newcastle United forward Aleksandar Mitrović has joined @FulhamFC on loan until the end of the season. #NUFCpic.twitter.com/miyvQJLv1v— Newcastle United FC (@NUFC) January 31, 2018 CONFIRMED: The deal to bring Islam Slimani to Newcastle United on loan until the end of the season is complete! #NUFCpic.twitter.com/avtJGgtxfk— Newcastle United FC (@NUFC) January 31, 2018 That's a £30million striker on loan. The Premier League transfer market is mental. And don't forget about Jack Colback. CONFIRMED: Midfielder Jack Colback has signed for @NFFC on loan until the end of the season. Full story: https://t.co/jidXDLk1nu#NUFCpic.twitter.com/stOYOfsGpO— Newcastle United FC (@NUFC) January 31, 2018 11:31PM Here's a strange one Andy King has moved to Swansea on loan. Welcome to Swansea City, @10_kingy! ���������������� We're pleased to confirm the Welsh midfielder has joined us on loan until the end of the season ➡️ https://t.co/R6DK0zy2JVpic.twitter.com/FSuFtv8AqI— Swansea City AFC (@SwansOfficial) January 31, 2018 And Leicester have confirmed that Islam Slimani will also move out on loan, to Newcastle. 11:28PM TDD summarised Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang joins Arsenal for club-record fee from Dortmund Mesut Ozil agrees a new Arsenal contract that will take him to 2021 Michy Batshuayi signs for Dortmund on loan Olivier Giroud moves to Chelsea Man City pull out of Riyad Mahrez deal over Leicester's asking price Lucas Moura completes £25m switch to Tottenham Reece Oxford rejoins Borussia Monchengladbach on loan until end of the season Swansea break club record to buy £20million Andre Ayew (again) Watford sign Sunderland's Didier Ndong on loan Stoke buy Badou Ndiaye for £14million Newcastle confirm signings of Islam Slimani and Martin Dubravka Eliaquim Mangala close to a loan switch to Everton Ademola Lookman heads to RB Leipzig on loan in move Sam Allardyce describes as one of the weirdest he's been involved in 11:09PM Some excellent quotes from Antonio Conte here Matt Lawhas some very telling words from the Chelsea boss, who is said to look thoroughly downhearted after Chelsea's defeat to Bournemouth. “We must be worried (about the top four),” said head coach Conte. “We must be worried. It won't be easy. But this is normal. “If we want to speak about football and if we think to understand football, we know very well this will be very difficult for us. If we want only to dream and not see the reality – in this case, I can tell you now we can fight to win the title this season! “It will be very important to look at the reality and to know that, if we are able to reach a place in the Champions League, it will be a great success for us. Otherwise we have a normal season.” 11:04PM Even though the window's closed... Clubs can still complete deals. They're allowed to get an extension to 1am if they ask nicely enough. The window closes in Scotland at 12am, which means there's still time for Aberdeen to sign Kevin De Bruyne. Also: Middlesbrough defender Cyrus Christie set to sign for Fulham in a deal worth up to £4m. Initial £3m + further £1m in add-ons #fulhamfc#mfc#dcfc— John Percy (@JPercyTelegraph) January 31, 2018 11:03PM Live footage of Riyad Mahrez at home 11:00PM THE TRANSFER WINDOW IS CLOSED 10:57PM Two minutes left CAN YOU HEAR THE GIANT CLOCK TICKING OUTSIDE? 10:55PM Newcastle sign a goalkeeper Martin Dúbravka had his medical before and after the Newcastle 1 - 1 Burnley match and should be confirmed in the next few minutes. Hopefully. As long as the paperwork is done the clubs can announce whatever whenever they want. 10:47PM Lazar Markovic off to Anderlecht Remember him? He's gone on loan to the Belgian club. The same Belgian club that Mitrovic was meant to sign for. 10:45PM 15 minutes to go And someone has sent a picture of their dog in a yellow tie to Sky Sports. It's all happening now. 10:34PM Islam Slimani joins Newcastle United A signing! They've done it! 10:29PM Man City done for the window #PEP: We have just three strikers but from now on Lukas Nmecha is going to train with the first team. But Gabriel is coming back soon. We were not able to buy another striker.— Manchester City (@ManCity) January 31, 2018 10:25PM Aleksandar Mitrovic on his way to Anderlecht. Or is he? According to Sky Sports, he flew all the way to Belgium to find out that Anderlecht couldn't sign him for a reason I don't entirely understand but which sounds like they weren't able to get a player off their books and had no room to sign him. Regardless, he's not going there and has ended up heading in a plane to London to sign a loan deal at Fulham. In other Newcastle news, Martin Dúbravka is very close to signing, while Islam Slimani has apparently passed his medical and will join on loan. 10:19PM Sam Allardyce on Lookman's move to Liepzig "It's one of the most unusual situations I've been in. It was his choice. He was adamant he wanted Germany. We tried to persuade him not to. But his stubbornness got him his way." 10:15PM 45 minutes to go OH MY LORD can you even believe it? Who will the transfer hawk swoop for next? Which top striker will be gripped in football talons? Stay with me for all the information on all the exciting transfers which may or may not happen in the next under-an-hour! 10:06PM Lucas Moura at half time Credit: GETTY IMAGES Lucas Moura was announced to Spurs fans at Wembley during half time of Spurs' remarkable 2-0 win over Man Utd that just finished. You can follow all the live reaction to that with Alan Tyers over in our liveblog. 10:02PM Newcastle fans not happy You may already have seen this amazing crowd display at St James' Park from tonight's match against Burnley: Credit: PA It's a Kevin Keegan quote and reads: “Don’t ever give up on your club. Keep supporting it, it’s your club and trust me, one day you will get your club back and it will be everything you wanted it to be. "Newcastle United is bigger than anyone. It hurts I know, but just keep going. He is only one man we are a city, a whole population. Trust me.” So over 11 seasons @NUFC net spend has been £4.5m a season. Throw in the TV money and ever present gate money....�� One hour left to spend some and give them a chance! Well done to the fans tonight for showing their love for the club. Shame others don't share it. #NUFC— Alan Shearer (@alanshearer) January 31, 2018 Still no signings announced tonight... 9:45PM Deadline day update Here's what we know so far: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang joined Arsenal for club-record fee from Dortmund Mesut Ozil agrees a new Arsenal contract that will take him to 2021 Michy Batshuayi signs for Dortmund on loan Olivier Giroud moves to Chelsea Man City pull out of Riyad Mahrez deal over Leicester's asking price Lucas Moura completes £25m switch to Tottenham Islam Slimani is in Newcastle having a medical ahead of a loan move Martin Dúbravka, the Slovakia goalkeeper, is heading to England to complete a loan move to St James' Park Eliaquim Mangala close to a loan switch to Everton West Ham have a bid rejected for Anderlecht's Leander Dendoncker Reece Oxford has rejoined Borussia Monchengladbach on loan until end of the season Swansea break club record to buy £20million Andre Ayew Watford sign Sunderland's Didier Ndong on loan Stoke buy Badou Ndiaye for £14million 9:25PM Alexander Sorloth He has a name like a B-plot character from Game of Thrones, but to Crystal Palace fans, Alexander Sorloth might offer hope! Crystal Palace are very close to sealing a £9million transfer for the Norwegian striker. 9:10PM Islam Slimani almost done... Sources at both Newcastle & Leicester tell us Islam Slimani has passed his Newcastle medical.— Keith Downie (@SkySports_Keith) January 31, 2018 9:03PM Manchester United sign a goalkeeper! But they're playing an important game at Wembley. How could it be? Matej Kovar is a 17-year-old from Czech Republic who likes to stop footballs going between the metal sticks. He's had a successful trial at Man Utd and will join their youth academy. 9:01PM David Silva off injured Man City's Spanish superstar has been substituted in the game against West Brom because he can't shake off an injury. Riyad Mahrez is sitting at home worrying about how much his football friends don't like him any more. 1+1 = £90million bid. 8:53PM Stoke sign expensive footballer! Even more genuine transfer news for you! Stoke have signed Badou Ndiaye for £15million, which I suppose isn't that expensive in the grand scheme of things. He moves from Turkish club Galatasaray but won't be able to play until a work permit is sorted. 8:52PM Swansea sign Andre Ayew! This is one that's been going on all day and has just been confirmed now. #AyewBack ������ pic.twitter.com/8WSOY4pP9m— Swansea City AFC (@SwansOfficial) January 31, 2018 Andre Ayew, brother of Jordan and ex-Swansea player, has signed from West Ham on a three-and-a-half year deal in a club record transfer worth £20million. 8:27PM Man City's record transfer playing well Credit: AFP Man City's new centre-back Aymeric Laporte is playing well at the heart of Man City's defence this evening. Fernandinho has put them ahead against Alan Pardew's West Brom. I wonder how much both Pep and Alan are aware of behind the scenes in regards to transfers going on right now. Here's Laporte feeding a turtle. Aymeric Laporte feeding a tortoise pic.twitter.com/RYSxVxP1wo— Footballers with animals (@ftbllrswanimals) January 31, 2018 7:54PM Swansea spending some money to reunite family By John Percy. Swansea are breaking their transfer record to re-sign Andre Ayew in a deal worth up to £18m. Ayew is returning to the Liberty Stadium from West Ham in a record deal which eclipses the £15.5m paid out for striker Borja Baston in the summer of 2016. Andy King, the Leicester midfielder, is also signing on loan - a big moment for the Wales international as he leaves the Midlands club for the first time since 2004. 7:48PM Everton spring a surprise Chris Bascombe has this for us: Bit of shock at Goodison before kick-off as Everton announce winger Ademola Lookman will spend the rest of the season with RB Leipzig. Lookman has looked promising when used, but opportunities have been limited. Plenty on Merseyside would have liked to see the 20-year-old get more chances. 7:07PM Newcastle transfer confirmed! But it's a loan. And the player is moving away from the club. And it's Henri Saivet, who doesn't really get a game anyway. Credit: GETTY IMAGES The Senegalese international has joined Sivassport in Turkey until the end of the season. And there's even more news: Rolando Aarons has joined Serie A side @HellasVeronaFC on loan until the end of the season. All the best in Italy, @RolandoAarons! ���� https://t.co/KStuBEFzfV#NUFCpic.twitter.com/uNAvvpq7gD— Newcastle United FC (@NUFC) January 31, 2018 6:52PM Arsenal fail in bid for Jonny Evans John Percy has even more wonderful insider knowledge on Arsenal's failed Jonny Evans bid: Arsenal have failed with a late - and derisory - £12m offer for long-term target Jonny Evans. West Brom have snubbed Arsenal's last-ditch attempt to sign the Northern Ireland international, who will now be staying at the Hawthorns despite interest from Manchester City and Everton. Apparently it was a very brief conversation. It has to be said Evans has conducted himself brilliantly throughout this window (and indeed the summer) and many other Premier League players could learn a lot off him. 6:32PM Lucas Moura signs for Spurs He might regret that after watching this video: �� pic.twitter.com/2geSeK0U6b— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) January 31, 2018 A great signing for Spurs though. He's 25, hugely talented and can play in a few different positions and for £25million is something of a steal. 6:28PM Inside scoops from John Percy Aitor Karanka was so annoyed with Forest's 3-0 home defeat to Preston on Tuesday he's buying an entire new midfield. Ben Watson, the Watford player, is set to join on loan after being withdrawn from the squad to play Stoke - days after admitting it was the biggest game of Watford's season. Newcastle's Jack Colback and Middlesbrough's Adlene Guedioura are also set to join the Championship club. 6:27PM Deadline Day So much is happening and it sounds like there is a lot more which could and will go on between now and 11pm. And that's ignoring the actual football games which are taking place tonight. Here's a roundup of what we've seen so far today: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang joined Arsenal for club-record fee from Dortmund Mesut Ozil agrees a new Arsenal contract that will take him to 2021 Michy Batshuayi sings for Dortmund on loan Olivier Giroud moves to Chelsea Man City pull out of Riyad Mahrez deal over Leicester's asking price Lucas Moura is expected to complete £25m switch to Tottenham Islam Slimani is in Newcastle having a medical ahead of a loan move Martin Dúbravka, the Slovakia goalkeeper, is heading to England to complete a loan move to St James' Park Eliaquim Mangala is close to a loan switch to Everton West Ham have a bid rejected for Anderlecht's Leander Dendoncker Reece Oxford has rejoined Borussia Monchengladbach on loan until end of the season Watford sign Sunderland's Didier Ndong on loan 6:24PM Team bonding going well at Arsenal Together again ���� #YoPierrepic.twitter.com/nPc2TPsQrc— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) January 31, 2018 6:18PM Lucas Moura move still on! Jason Burt Lucas Moura’s £25million move from Paris Saint-Germain to Tottenham Hotspur is still on. Sources close to the deal remain confident it will be signed off this evening, before the 11pm deadline, amid concern over the delay. The Brazilian winger was waiting for a piece of documentation to complete the deal after a fee and personal terms were finalised. The financial side of the deal was fully agreed on Tuesday evening. The 25-year-old has passed his medical while Spurs fans have grown increasingly anxious at the delay over it being formally announced. 6:13PM Leicester sign Callum Wright It's not the Leicester transfer related news you might be constantly refreshing various websites for, but Callum Wright has joined Leicester from Blackburn Rovers on a three-and-a-half-year deal. 6:07PM How a transfer works Three years ago I made this. Three years. Has anything changed? The references are a little dated but otherwise... not really. 6:05PM Newcastle appealing to higher powers And they said polytheism was dead. So Newcastle will have a Mohammed, Jesus, Christian and Islam all in the squad. We need the help of every god and religion going tbf #nufc— Adam Stoker (@ADStoker) January 31, 2018 5:54PM Didier Ndong moves to Watford on loan That's a really strange move. Usually Premier League clubs loan fringe players to Championship clubs, not Championship clubs loaning their better players to the big league! �� | Fancy some transfer news?! Didier Ndong has signed for #watfordfc on loan from @SunderlandAFC for the rest of this season, while the club also have the option on a permanent transfer in the summer. Welcome, Didier! �� More here ⤵️https://t.co/eubhCzejaypic.twitter.com/15DC61zxrH— Watford FC (@WatfordFC) January 31, 2018 A Gabonese international midfielder, Ndong is Sunderland's all time record transfer. Great business by Watford. 5:37PM Aubameyang words as an Arsenal player I'm really happy to be here and I can join Micky! It's great to be here in this great team. The club has a big history, they have great players like Thierry Henry, I'm really happy. 5:10PM Reece Oxford back to Borussia Monchengladbach on loan Reece Oxford howls into the night sky to summon Borussia Monchengladbach contract negotiators Credit: GETTY IMAGES The highly rated young English defender came home for Christmas but has decided to go out on loan again in order to get games for a European football chasing club, instead of sitting in the youth team/reserves/bench at a Premier League club keen to spend spend spend on shiny new ready made players. FAO other young UK born Premier League footballers: you play more abroad. To be fair to David Moyes, he did bring Oxford on as a sub against the mighty Wigan and Shrewsbury. And he gave him four minutes against Crystal Palace. 5:05PM City's shenanigans Good of City to call off Mahrez bid after completely unsettling the player and messing up his relationship with Leicester.— Matt Law (@Matt_Law_DT) January 31, 2018 I agree with Matt. 5:04PM Aston Villa to sign Lewis Grabban on loan John Percy has this for us: Lewis Grabban scoring for Sunderland Credit: GETTY IMAGES Aston Villa are set to sign Bournemouth striker Lewis Grabban on loan. Villa have beaten off Championship rivals Cardiff in the race to sign Grabban, who is having a medical. The capture of Grabban ends Steve Bruce’s pursuit of a striker, after Leonardo Ulloa opted to join Brighton from Leicester. 5:02PM Giroud holding a blue shirt How does this make you feel, Arsenal fans? Welcome to Chelsea, @_OlivierGiroud_! ��#GiroudIsBluepic.twitter.com/rY1VRsgyYk— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) January 31, 2018 The striker has signed an 18 month contract with Chelsea. I reckon that's an absolutely superb signing for Antonio Conte and means he can use his Euro 2016 Italy tactical setup, knocking balls long to the target man and getting the rest of the troops to advance quickly up the pitch! Dan Zeqiri's article on where Giroud fits into Chelsea's plans is excellent, and below: What will Olivier Giroud bring to Chelsea and where will he fit in? Michael Owen's analysis isn't quite as in depth. It is shorter though. Giroud a solid signing for Chelsea. Definitely a better option than Batshuayi who has been shipped off on loan to Dortmund.— michael owen (@themichaelowen) January 31, 2018 4:55PM Michy Batshuayi signs for Borussia Dortmund on loan! I don't speak German (where's Ben Bloom when you need him?) but can work this one out. Batshuayi is off to Germany! �� BVB leiht Michy #Batshuayi bis Saisonende vom @ChelseaFC aus! Alle Infos: https://t.co/WUplWHl5b4pic.twitter.com/za5nQaT2dT— Borussia Dortmund (@BVB) January 31, 2018 4:53PM Man City pull out of Riyad Mahrez deal According to Sky Sports, Man City have decided to walk away from a transfer for Riyad Mahrez because Leicester want way too much money for him. More on that as we get it! That'll be an awkward changing room for Mahrez tonight. 4:45PM Thierry Henry's opinion on Arsenal's business "Sanchez was always going to be like that, we got Mkhitaryan. Yes we lost Sanchez, Chamberlain, about to lose Giroud, Walcott - I'm not gong to name everyone (he just has). We got some players in return, that can be a plus. "When I played there were always two strikers, now managers like to pack the midfield. You might think those two have similar attributes, they do, and I don't know what Arsene is going to do or to play with two strikers, but it is an idea. "I rate him (Aubameyang) a lot but what I rate even more is goals. Like I always say the supporting case needs always to play to this level." 4:34PM Busy busy busy Hello everyone, JJ Bull here for Transfer Deadline Day. I used to love this day. There is a lot going on at various clubs this evening though and this might actually be something close to very exciting. Newcastle are busy - Islam Slimani is having a medical, apparently - West Ham are doing things, Man City are up to tricks, Arsenal want to buy people. I'll be bringing you all the lovely transfer news right through until the window shuts. 4:00PM One more in at Arsenal? 'They'd be better off spending all that money on defenders', has been a popular refrain among Arsenal sceptics. Well they might be about to according to BBC Sport's David Ornstein... Hearing whispers (nothing concrete) Arsenal have been exploring possibility of signing David Luiz from Chelsea as part of Giroud deal - as per @DavidWoodsStar yesterday - or Roma’s Kostas Manolas. Would be one or other, no idea if it will happen. Defence a clear concern #AFC#CFC— David Ornstein (@bbcsport_david) January 31, 2018 3:40PM Giroud is a done deal! As reported earlier initial 18 month contract for Giroud to fit into Chelsea policy for over 30s - he’ll have a year left like cesc, Pedro and Luiz at the end of the season and will only be offered one year option/extension. Dzeko wanted two and a half years— Matt Law (@Matt_Law_DT) January 31, 2018 3:34PM Man City make third bid for Riyad Mahrez Jason Burt Manchester City have submitted a third bid for Riyad Mahrez. The offer is believed to be in excess of £60million – although it still falls someway short of the £90million British record valuation that Leicester City were quoting on Tuesday. Mahrez is desperate to make the move before the transfer window closes having submitted a transfer request. It is possible that City will return with yet another offer, if this one is rejected, and the make-up of the latest bid is unclear amid claims they may also be willing to offer Leicester a player. City have so far failed with offers of around £50million and £55million for the Algerian international who is not in the squad for Leicester’s Premier League fixture away to Everton this evening. 3:26PM West Ham register Hugill interest Sam Wallace West Ham have made an inquiry about the Preston North End striker Jordan Hugill, whose rise through the Football League has taken him all the way from a loan at Gateshead in the Conference Premier in 2013 to the possibility of a move to the Premier League this window. Crystal Palace had looked at the 25-year-old but are currently hopeful of signing FC Midtjylland’s Norwegian striker Alexander Sorloth for around £9 million which would end their interest in Hugill. There is also interest in the Preston target man from both Reading and Hull City who are both looking for that style of striker. Jordan Hugill rises to score at Newcastle last term Credit: Getty Images Preston have resisted attempts so far to sell the player, who did miss Tuesday’s win over Nottingham Forest because of the uncertainty around his future. The premium placed on strikers in the Football League has meant that Hugill has attracted interest from the division above. So too in League One where Jack Marriott, top goalscorer in the division, has been valued at £7 million by Peterborough United. That figure has deterred the clubs interested in him, in particular Leeds United. 3:24PM Giroud to Chelsea announcement could be imminent As per others - Giroud to Chelsea done— Matt Law (@Matt_Law_DT) January 31, 2018 Our man Matt Law says the deal is done and Giroud has signed an 18-month contract at Stamford Bridge after the clubs agreed an £18m fee. 3:03PM Take it or leave Sky Sports News reporting Manchester City have made a final offer of £65 million plus 'a player' for Riyad Mahrez. Leicester are 'considering the offer' with no response yet. We’re told Manchester City preparing to pay cash + player [deal around £65m] for Riyad Mahrez. #MCFC#LCFC More on #SSN— Bryan Swanson (@skysports_bryan) January 31, 2018 2:55PM Deadline Day recap: what has happened so far Just over eight hours to go in this January transfer window. If you have managed to miss everything that has gone on so far today then firstly, well done, and secondly, here's what has happened: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang joined Arsenal for club-record fee from Dortmund Mesut Ozil agrees a new Arsenal contract that will take him to 2021 Michy Batshuayi has been pictured undergoing a medical at Dortmund ahead of a loan move Olivier Giroud could complete his move to Chelsea before the deadline Leicester are holding out for £90m for Riyad Mahrez with Man City interested Lucas Mourai is expected to complete £25m switch to Tottenham Islam Slimani is in Newcastle ahead of a loan move to the club Martin Dúbravka, the Slovakia goalkeeper, is heading to England to complete a loan move to St James' Park Eliaquim Mangala is close to a loan switch to Everton West Ham have a bid rejected for Anderlecht's Leander Dendoncker 2:32PM Everton update: Mangala close to loan move This from Merseyside correspondent Chris Bascombe: Everton's move for Manchester City centre-back Eliaquim Mangala is close to completion. The loan is now likely to include a provision to make the deal permanent in the summer. Davy Klaassen, however, has gone off the idea of moving to Napoli, indicating he wants to fight for his place. Everton bound: Eliaquim Mangala Credit: Getty Images 2:29PM Arrival at Crystal Palace Being a Sky Sports deadline day reporter has not been easy in recent years, so this is nice to see. Palace fans way too kind. A cake delivery from @becsj76 Thank you!x #deadlinedaypic.twitter.com/6EAFxjTKP9— Michael Bridge (@MichaelBridge_) January 31, 2018 2:18PM Goalkeeper en route to the Premier League Quick, deploy Flight Radar! Goalkeeper Martin Dúbravka is on his way to England, according to his current Sparta Prague, with an unnamed Premier League club in line to secure his services. Reports in the north-east suggest Newcastle will be the lucky recipients - a loan move before a permanent transfer in the summer. ⚠️����➡️���� Martin Dúbravka has left the training camp and is on the way to England now. Sparta will negotiate about a possible move to @premierleague. pic.twitter.com/JK4m0q5vmD— AC Sparta Prague (@ACSparta_EN) January 31, 2018 2:13PM Quiet deadline day for Liverpool, but one departure The have confirmed 22-year-old Lloyd Jones has left for League Two Luton Town. As our correspondent Chris Bascombe reported earlier, very little is expected from the club before the 11pm deadline. Perhaps another outgoing. Liverpool FC can confirm that Lloyd Jones has today completed a permanent transfer to Luton Town. The defender joined the Reds from hometown club Plymouth Argyle in 2011 and subsequently progressed through the club's Academy teams. Recent seasons have seen Jones gain further experience out on loan with Cheltenham Town, Accrington Stanley, Blackpool and Swindon Town. He now heads permanently to Luton Town aiming to boost their push for promotion from League Two. Everyone at Liverpool FC wishes Lloyd all the best for the future. 2:07PM Islam Slimani arrives in Newcastle The Leicester striker has landed in the city to finalise his loan move to St James' Park. One of the final stages will be a medical, despite having a thigh problem. Newcastle in need of a striker so much they are ready to give Slimani a go. Idea of Islam Slimani having a medical at Newcastle is amusing, given that: a) they literally have no other options. b) he's injured.— Daniel Storey (@danielstorey85) January 31, 2018 1:41PM Samir Nasri anyone? There's no getting away from Arsenal news and connections today as we learn that Samir Nasri is a free agent after Turkish side Antalyaspor agreed to terminate his contract. Just after half a season after moving from Manchester City to Turkey, the 30-year-old is on the hunt for another club after Antalyaspor's financial woes meant they had no other choice but to let him go. As an out of contract player Nasri would have to wait until the end of the transfer window before he can join anyone. But surely the likes of West Ham, Leicester or Watford might come in for the former Arsenal midfielder in the coming days? Nasri is a free agent Credit: Reuters 1:22PM Before the uproar over Ozil wages This is an interesting tweet from Sporting Intelligence's Nick Harris. It's all relative. In 1989-1990, Arsenal's highest paid employee earned £245k a year, or 3.2% of their £7.6m income. Ozil's new contract is worth about £16.9m a year, or about 3.8% of their income. Plus ça change, apart from a few noughts. pic.twitter.com/S2De90hxRZ— Nick Harris (@sportingintel) January 31, 2018 1:16PM And the Arsenal news doesn't stop there It's not been a bad way for Arsenal to shake off that woeful loss to Swansea last night by breaking their transfer record fee for Aubameyang and tying up Ozil to a new deal. Now there are rumours circling that the club want to sign Schalke midfielder Max Meyer. The 22-year-old is out of contract in the summer so the club would be open to sensible offers having accepted he will leave the club either in this window or at the end of the season. Bild claim Arsenal will make their move today rather than waiting until the summer. The German paper was spot on with their Ozil exclusive. This could be one to watch. Max Meyer helped Germany U21s reach the final of the Euros last summer Credit: AP 12:54PM Ozil deal confirmed Jeremy Wilson, deputy football correspondent here at Telegraph Sport, has been talking to the suits at Arsenal who have confirmed that Germany international Mesut Özil has just become the club's highest paid player of all time. Read all about it right here. 12:47PM Carvalhal preparing triple swoop Not content with earning back-to-back wins in the Premier League following their defeats of Liverpool and Arsenal, Swansea City manager Carlos Carvalhal is hoping to strengthen his squad before the day is over. John Percy has all the latest . . . Swansea City are in talks with Leicester City over a possible loan deal for Wales international Andy King. Carlos Carvalhal is desperate to land at least three new signings today and midfielder King is on his radar. Andre Ayew is expected to seal a return to the Liberty Stadium in an £18 million move from West Ham, while talks are ongoing with Liverpool over a deal for Lazar Markovic. Liverpool prefer a £15m permanent arrangement for Markovic but a loan looks most likely at this stage. 12:39PM West Ham in for Dendoncker One of our many writers with their ears to the ground – Matt Law – is hearing that West Ham are looking to bolster their midfield with a 22-year-old from Passendale in Belgium. As yet, though, the east Londoners have yet to find their man. West Ham United have had an opening bid rejected by Anderlecht for Leander Dendoncker. David Moyes's side want to sign a midfielder today, as well as a striker, and have watched Dendoncker in recent weeks. But Anderlecht want at least £20 million for the player and West Ham’s opening offer fell way short of that. West Ham may well make a second bid before the window shuts at 11pm. 12:24PM Ozil's new contract a done deal? The BBC's David Ornstein has backed up Bild's report this morning that Mesut Ozil has signed a new deal at Arsenal. According to Ornstein, the Germany international has agreed a three-and-a-half year deal until the summer of 2021. The report adds that he will become the "highest-paid player in club history on around £350k per week before tax". EXCLUSIVE: Mesut Ozil signs a new three-and-a-half year contract to remain at Arsenal until summer 2021. Becomes highest-paid player in club history on around £350k per week before tax. Deal agreed last weekend, signed at Colney this morning. Could take him to 8yrs at #AFC & 32yo pic.twitter.com/600XtVnbnH— David Ornstein (@bbcsport_david) January 31, 2018 12:22PM Lewandowski bids farewell to Aubameyang The two were rivals on the pitch and enjoyed their battles but all's fair in love and war as Robert Lewandowski becomes one of the first Bundesliga players to say ta-ta to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang Good luck @Aubameyang7 It was a pleasure to compete with you. Only a healthy fight is pushing us forward. ��— Robert Lewandowski (@lewy_official) January 31, 2018 12:00PM Sorloth and Hugill on Palace's radar Christian Benteke has welcomed Palace's search for attacking recruits. Sam Dean has the latest from Selhurst Park and what the Belgian makes of Roy Hodgson's attempts to strengthen their frontline. Crystal Palace are clearly keen to sign a striker today, with Alexander Sorloth of FC Midtjylland and Preston's Jordan Hugill both linked with a move to south London. The efforts to recruit another attacker are hardly the greatest vote of confidence in the struggling Christian Benteke, who has scored just two goals all season, but the Belgian has welcomed the prospect of competition up front. "I think it's fair from them," he said when asked about Palace management looking to bring players in. "I am ready to fight for my place and hopefully if they can bring another quality player in, it will be more than welcome." We can confirm Jordan Hugill was available for selection this evening, but given recent speculation regarding his future the manager decided a team fully focused on the game was what would be needed for the match. #pnefc— Preston North End FC (@pnefc) January 30, 2018 11:54AM Er? As cryptic tweets go, this is quite something. ������ ... ��— Michy Batshuayi (@mbatshuayi) January 31, 2018 11:46AM The final piece in the puzzle? Matt Law has the latest on Olivier Giroud's switch to Chelsea, which would complete the transfer merry-go-round. Chelsea believe they can stick to club policy by handing Olivier Giroud an initial 18-month contract once his medical is complete. Giroud’s agent travelled to London to complete the formalities of the 31-year-old’s £18 million switch from Arsenal. With Michy Batshuayi in Germany undergoing a medical ahead of his loan move to Borussia Dortmund, Giroud is due to take his Chelsea tests. The Blues have broken recent policy by paying a fee for an outfield player over the age of 30, but hope to stick to their strict rules regarding contracts. By signing Giroud to an 18-month deal, Chelsea will ensure that the Frenchman will be in the same position as their other 30-plus stars, Cesc Fabregas, Pedro and David Luiz, in the summer. All of the over-30 brigade will have 12 months remaining on their contracts at the end of the season, with Chelsea only set to offer one-year renewals. One of the reasons Chelsea pulled out of a move for Roma’s Edi Dzeko was that the Bosnian wanted a two-and-a-half-year contract that would have broken club policy. Giroud played the final 14 minutes of Arsenal's defeat at Swansea last night Credit: Getty Images 11:34AM Batshuayi having Dortmund medical The three-way transfer is happening. The Aubameyang deal has been signed off, now Dortmund are finalising their replacement with Chelsea striker Michy Batshuayi currently having his medical. Olivier Giroud's agent is said to be at the Emirates going through the details of his expected switch to Stamford Bridge. Isn't it great when a plan comes together? ������@mbatshuayipic.twitter.com/Vb0f38J7Ug— Borussen Edition (@BorussenEdition) January 31, 2018 11:22AM Arsenal to reveal Aubameyang's squad number in due course Here's what Arsenal have to say about their club-record arrival who joins on a long-term contract. Auba is one of the world’s most highly-rated strikers. He scored 98 goals in 144 Bundesliga games for Dortmund and had a hand in 172 goals in 213 matches in all competitions for his former club. That works out at an average of 96 minutes per goal or assist. Auba is the Gabon captain and all-time top goalscorer, and became the first Gabonese winner of the African Footballer of the Year award in 2015. This deal is subject to the completion of regulatory processes and Auba’s squad number will be confirmed shortly. 98 - Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's 98 Bundesliga goals: Inside Box - 97 Outside Box - 1 Penalties - 10 Headed - 13 Right Foot - 64 Left Foot - 20 Other Body Part - 1 Poacher. pic.twitter.com/iXHx1rFuDJ— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 29, 2018 #YoPierre �� pic.twitter.com/VKlUZdOqv1— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) January 31, 2018 11:15AM Done deal! He’s ours ✅ #YoPierrehttps://t.co/DiDb4Ewvt6— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) January 31, 2018 11:11AM Dortmund confirm Aubameyang switch Borussia Dortmund say they have reached an agreement to sell Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to Arsenal for £56m. We're now just waiting on word from Arsenal. �� Pierre-Emerick #Aubameyang wechselt vom BVB zum FC @Arsenal! Alle Infos: https://t.co/zxGMwUOUtypic.twitter.com/pkkfDVLPvj— Borussia Dortmund (@BVB) January 31, 2018 11:10AM Blind will join Roma - but not until the summer Daley Blind isn't likely to leave Manchester United for Roma today, but a deal will be concluded in the summer instead. That's the verdict of the defender's father, Danny, who confirmed the Italians are keen on the 27-year-old. The word on the street was that Roma were keen to sign Blind as a replacement for Emerson Palmeri who joined Chelsea last night. "I can confirm that Roma want Daley but United don’t want to let him go on loan, only on a permanent basis," Danny Blind told LaRoma24. "They don’t want to sell him now, only in the summer. Maybe if we had a few days, a week perhaps, but we’ve only got a few hours.” Daley Blind looks on course to move to Roma in the summer Credit: AP Blind has not travelled with the United squad to London ahead of their fixture against Tottenham due to an ankle injury. The Dutchman has not featured for United since January 5. 11:01AM Gone in 14 days Will Aubameyang and Lacazette fill the void? Aubameyang has undergone medical. Arsenal poised to sell their top scorer in each of the past five seasons (Walcott 21 goals, Giroud 22, Sanchez 25, Giroud 24 and Sanchez 30) in the space of 14 days.— Jeremy Wilson (@JWTelegraph) January 31, 2018 10:51AM Saints' deal for Promes hits the rocks Spending the Virgil van Dijk cash has been harder than Southampton thought. This just in from our deputy football correspondent Jeremy Wilson. Southampton’s potential club record £26.4 million signing of Quincy Promes has become increasingly unlikely amid Spartak Moscow’s failure to recruit a replacement. Negotiations have been ongoing for several weeks and, while Southampton are willing to meet the valuation and Promes is ready to join, Spartak have been reluctant to lose their star player without an incoming signing. Southampton broke their club record with the £19.2 million signing last week of striker Guido Carrillo from Monaco, but the priority this month was to add the pace and goal threat that the 26-year-old Promes would have provided. An attempt to sign Theo Walcott from Arsenal also failed, with Everton willing to pay around £140,000-a-week in wages against a package from Southampton worth £120,000 that would have made him the best paid player in their history. Quincy Promes' (middle) move now looks increasingly unlikely Credit: Getty Images Southampton also considered Liverpool’s Daniel Sturridge but he moved to West Bromwich Albion on loan until the end of the season. Barring any change now from Spartak, Southampton are now looking elsewhere today in the hope that other opportunities could emerge amid the trading elsewhere. Southampton sold Virgil van Dijk to Liverpool for £75 million before the January transfer window had even opened so that they had the funds to make signings but it has been a largely frustrating month. The team have still not won in the Premier League since November and have slipped into the relegation zone. A lack of creativity has been the main problem, with injured striker Charlie Austin their top scorer so far this season with six. Their other two main strikers – Manolo Gabbiadini and Shane Long – have just four goals between them. Carrillo made only two starts all season at Monaco in France’s Ligue 1 but had the best year of his career under current Southampton manager Manuel Pellegrino when they were together in Argentina at Estudiantes. "It’s really important as a player, above all as a striker, to be given confidence by the manager, coaches and the club," said Carrillo. "It gives me lots of confidence and I want to take that confidence out onto the pitch." 10:42AM Slimani to Newcastle in on There could finally be some joy for Newcastle and Rafael Benitez in the transfer market. After missing out on Daniel Sturridge, it looks like Islam Slimani will be heading to St James' Park. Newcastle United expected to sign striker Islam Slimani from Leicester City. Told it should be a loan - fee of around £2m - until end of season plus covering his wages.— Jason Burt (@JBurtTelegraph) January 31, 2018 Only stumbling block, however, could be whether the Algerian has suffered an injury setback in training. Sky are reporting the 29-year-old picked up a thigh problem which could rule him out for a couple of weeks. 10:28AM News from the Championship And our midlands man John Percy also has the latest goings on away from the top-flight. Andy King, the Leicester midfielder, is a target for Nottingham Forest but the move appears remote at this stage. Derby striker Chris Martin is set to have a medical at Reading later today as he prepares to move on loan. Derby's pursuit of West Brom's James McClean is over after they were quoted a mind-boggling £15m. Quite a coup for Nigel Clough at Burton Albion too - the strugglers are signing Manchester City's 2016 young player of the year, Jacob Davenport, on loan. He's a holding midfielder who can also cover at left-back and is highly regarded by City. 10:25AM Stoke close on Ndiaye John Percy says Stoke are confident that their deal for Badou Ndiaye will not be held up by a work permit issue. Here's the latest from the Potteries. Stoke are close to completing a £15m deal for Galatasaray's Badou Ndiaye, with the midfielder undergoing a medical on Tuesday night. Ndiaye, a Senegal international, is expected to attend tonight's game against Watford and Stoke are confident a work permit will not be an issue. Crystal Palace, meanwhile, have been told to pay £10m for USA international Geoff Cameron, who also has interest from Burnley. But Stoke are expecting a quiet day with no other incomings. In my opinion, the fact they have avoided selling Joe Allen - who has been brilliant this season - is a huge plus point. 10:21AM Moura nears £25m Spurs switch Lucas Moura's expected £25m switch to Tottenham has moved a step closer with reports that the winger has completed his medical. The 25-year-old was once spoken as one of the most exciting young talents in the world but has found himself on the fringes at Paris Saint Germain in recent months. Lucas Moura has not enjoyed the happiest of times at PSG recently Credit: AFP Neymar has been upset by PSG's treatment of the Brazil international. He said of Moura's likely departure: “I'm sad, because he's a good friend, he's a quality player who was rarely used. “I think it's very unfair. He is my brother in football. “I wish him the best. Whatever the destination, I hope he will score a lot and he will return to the Brazilian national team. “He's not just a friend, he's a very good guy. Here he could have been used a lot more but I'm not the owner of the team, not the owner of Paris. “For me, he should never have left Paris." Lucas has won four league titles in France and has made more than 30 appearances for Brazil. 10:02AM Mahrez update Here's the latest news on Riyad Mahrez's future from our football news correspondent Matt Law. Riyad Mahrez is set to miss Leicester City’s game against Everton tonight as he tries to force a deadline day move to Manchester City. Having handed in a transfer request, Mahrez has not been part of Leicester’s preparations for the Everton game. The Algeria international is not with the rest of the Leicester squad at the team hotel as he waits to discover his fate. City are thought to be ready to pay around £55 million to sign Mahrez today, but Leicester value the winger at closer to £90m. Sources close to the deal believe it could go either way at this stage, but Mahrez is ready to fight to try to make a transfer happen. 9:52AM Powell wanted by Brighton Nick Powell has been running rings round defenders in League One for leaders Wigan this season but how would he adjust to life back in the Premier League? The 23-year-old has recovered from the injuries which hindered his Manchester United tenure to score 11 goals this season and has drawn attention from Brighton among others. Now it seems Chris Hughton has tabled a £3m bid for the forward and wants Powell to make what would be a massive switch in terms of gulf of standard and mileage on the map. According to some reports, a potential deal could be held up as Wigan are in the middle of a takeover to new Chinese owners. Different gravy! @NPowell25#wafcpic.twitter.com/lbwnf4zDlj— Cal (@CalWafc) January 27, 2018 9:39AM A busy day for Hodgson and Palace Crystal Palace's injury to Bakary Sako last night means Roy Hodgson and his backroom staff will be active in the transfer market today. Here's what our man Sam Dean, who was at the London Stadium covering Palace's 1-1 draw with West Ham, has to say. It will come as no surprise that both David Moyes and Roy Hodgson were asked about potential comings and goings after last night's draw at the London Stadium. Hodgson, the Crystal Palace manager, has been saying ever since he arrived that they are in need of reinforcements, and they are very much in the market still despite already signing Poland centre-back Jaroslaw Jach and Erdal Rakip, the Sweden under-21 international. Hodgson said the injury to Bakary Sako last night makes it even more important that Palace are busy today. "We have been talking about it since September 12," Hodgson said. "Nothing changes. I suppose you could say it [the injury] makes it a bit more imperative to bring players in as we are going to have a very small squad... I am hoping for some good news in the next few hours." As for West Ham, Moyes confirmed that Swansea had made an offer for Andre Ayew, but said he could not make a decision on that until "we get players in". Stay tuned. Bakary Sako limped off in the first half at West Ham Credit: AFP 9:30AM Newcastle close on deal for Slovakia goalkeeper Our north east correspondent Luke Edwards says that Newcastle have two bits of business they are hoping to tie up today. While we've already covered their interest in striker Islam Slimani, Rafael Benitez is confident of signing Slovakia goalkeeper Martin Dubravka from Sparta Prague on loan. Dubravka has won nine caps for Slovakia and faced both England and Scotland during the 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign. 9:21AM Happy Jim White day The legend of the transfer deadline day window is alive and well on this fine day. His first tweet of the day ladies and gentlemen. It's a bold one to kick off proceedings. It's a Deadline Day Good Morning! Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang medical about to get underway @Arsenal.— Jim White (@JimWhite) January 31, 2018 9:19AM Nothing doing at Liverpool... And across Stanley Park, our man Chris Bascombe has the latest goings on at Anfield. Although we use the latest wording loosely... Jurgen Klopp has said he won’t be adding to his squad today and he is not bluffing. Liverpool kicked off the transfer window by signing Virgil Van Dijk, which is far too organised for some tastes. Far better to let the month drag on and scramble a deal in the last minute, obviously. They also sold Philippe Coutinho but decided to wait until the summer to re-invest the £142 million. So all that is left is an assortment of fringe players. Ovie Ojaria looks to be heading to Sunderland on loan, and Lazar Markovic is being touted to just about any club in Europe. Swansea is the most likely destination. There is also the possibility of Jon Flanagan moving on loan at some point today. 9:04AM Everton step up Mangala interest Our Merseyside correspondent Chris Bascombe has the latest news on goings on at Goodison Park. Despite playing down expectations, Everton manager Sam Allardyce is evidently still trying to add to his squad before tonight’s deadline. Manchester City centre-back Eliaquim Mangala is the latest to attract interest. Everton would like him on loan for the rest of the season. Given Allardyce had earlier suggested a left back was his priority it is an intriguing move, particularly given the number of centre-halves at the club. Everton are also likely to be active trying to offload many of those lauded so much when they were signed in the summer. Striker Sandro has already agreed a loan move to Sevilla, which will proceed subject to a medical. And Davy Klaassen is interesting Napoli. The more Allardyce can shift, the more likely he is to add new faces before 11 pm. The deal of last summer, however, look more suspect by the week. 8:59AM Song trains with Arsenal Arsenal love nothing more than allowing former players to join their squad in a training session or two if they are a) continuing their rehabilitation following a lengthy lay-off or b) helping them maintain fitness levels while said player is on lookout for their next club. Well, Alex Song falls into the latter category after Rubin Kazan told the 30-year-old to find another club as they are not financially sound to pay his wages. Song, who left Arsenal for Barcelona in a £15m deal in 2012, has in recent days been training with the club and could potentially be resigned by Arsene Wenger after the window closes this evening. He would be available on a free transfer. #Repost @jackwilshere ・・・ Good to see you my friend @17alexsong ❤�� always pleasure my friend ❤️���� A post shared by a.song17 (@17alexsong) on Jan 24, 2018 at 9:31pm PST Song watched Arsenal's 2-1 League Cup semi-final second leg win over Chelsea at the Emirates last week and has been sharing the odd picture on social media as he cuddles up to current members of the team. Song will have fond memories of his time at Arsenal and indeed Barcelona - aside from this one moment perhaps at the Nou Camp... Flash back to when Alex Song thought Puyol was going to let him hold the trophy but instead grabbed Abidal pic.twitter.com/EttK8oA85X— �� (@BaguetteFC) January 23, 2018 8:40AM Tug of war over Slimani West Ham have also joined the race to sign Leicester striker Islam Slimani. Newcastle, Watford and Monaco have all indicated their desire to sign the Algerian international and now the Hammers are said to have joined the queue. While Monaco are keen on a loan move for the 29-year-old, Leicester want Slimani to leave on a permanent deal after fellow strikers Leo Ulloa and Ahmed Musa went out on loan. Slimani set Leicester back around £28m when he joined in the summer of 2016 and the club are keen to recoup some of the fee. Slimani has scored two goals in 17 appearances for the Foxes this term. If he doesn't move to another Premier League rival this window, there is always the option of a move to China where the window doesn't close until the end of February. Watch this space. Islam Slimani is a player in demand Credit: Andrew Fox 8:23AM West Ham back in for Cairney West Ham are reported to have reignited their interest in Fulham midfielder Tom Cairney. An initial bid thought to be around the £15m mark was made by West Ham for the reigning EFL Player of the Year earlier in the month, only for the Championship side to slap a £40m price tag on their playmaker. The Hammers haven't been put off by Fulham's demands and are expected to try their luck with another bid, according to one club insider. Twitter account ExWHUemployee, who has been a reliable source of insider information surrounding the club, says West Ham will step up their interest. A possibility yes! Although another bid is in for Cairney too https://t.co/IYHA97zFMn— ExWHUemployee (@ExWHUemployee) January 31, 2018 Reece Oxford, meanwhile, will sit down with David Moyes this morning to discuss his own future at London Stadium. Oxford spent the first half of the season on loan at Borussia Monchengladbach making four appearances. West Ham recalled him at the start of the year, and could yet be needed to remain in London due to their injury crisis. 8:00AM La Galaxy coy on Zlatan rumours There are contrasting rumours circling around Zlatan Ibrahimovic this morning. French sports daily L'Equipe claim the Swede signed a deal with MLS giants LA Galaxy THREE WEEKS AGO, but the club's head coach Sigi Schmid has been coy on such revelations. “There’s been a lot of talk about it in the past and it’s something that maybe gets opened up again. “I don’t know what’s there. If there was something there, I’m sure we’d all know. Right now, it’s all rumors.” Ibrahimovic is currently recovering from an injury setback he suffered last month and his contract at Manchester United expires this summer. The report in L'Equipe adds that he will finish his rehabilitation at United before heading to California ahead of the MLS season getting under way in March. Being told @Ibra_official#ZlatanInrahimovic signed a contract with @LAGalaxy three weeks ago from a source in the #EPL - Just waiting for the next 48 hours to to go by... He would be in L.A. By Monday, February 5th. Merci, L'Equipe. @LaVoxDeportivapic.twitter.com/ZSED3ulcZe— Rene Romano (@reneromanosport) January 31, 2018 7:35AM And Ozil is staying put... Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's deal may not yet be finalised but his near arrival has been enough for Mesut Ozil to put pen to paper on a new deal at the Emirates. That's what Bild are reporting this morning. And it's not the only burning issue the German international has said yes to. The article adds that the 29-year-old will get married to his girlfriend Amine Gülse after this year's World Cup in Russia. So does that mean she asked him? The details aren't exactly clear. The German newspaper adds that Ozil will earn €350,000 (£306,691) a week to extend his stay in north London. 7:15AM Arsenal jump the gun on Aubameyang signing Ooops. Spare a thought for one member of Arsenal's website team this morning who appears to have let adrenaline and excitement get the better of them over the expected signing of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. In the early hours of Wednesday morning, Arsenal uploaded a new video to their official website in which Wenger confirmed their record signing. The video was swiftly removed but not before