Aston Villa

Aston Villa slideshow

How revived Grealish is dragging Aston Villa back to the top - and deserves an England call-up
How revived Grealish is dragging Aston Villa back to the top - and deserves an England call-up
How revived Grealish is dragging Aston Villa back to the top - and deserves an England call-up
The Aston Villa attacker says his team is good enough to brush aside any opponent in the English Championship
Adomah: We don't fear anyone
The Aston Villa attacker says his team is good enough to brush aside any opponent in the English Championship
John Terry will consider his future in May as he weighs up whether to extend his career for another year. Terry, the Aston Villa captain, has decided to delay his next move until the end of the season as he focuses on helping guide Steve Bruce’s team back to the Premier League. Telegraph Sport can reveal that Terry and Villa have a mutual option to trigger another 12 months to his current £60,000-a-week contract. Terry turned 37 in December and his impact at Villa has been significant since making the emotional decision to quit Chelsea on a free transfer last summer after two decades of service. Villa are now second in the Championship after the 2-0 win over rivals Birmingham on Sunday, a victory which ensured Terry has recorded 227 clean sheets in English football. His Villa contract expires at the end of this season and there are a number of factors for him to consider, which could be determined by which division Villa will be operating in, while he could take up more lucrative offers abroad or opts for retirement. Terry missed two-and-a-half months of the season with Villa after suffering a broken metatarsal in November but since his return Villa have racked up five Championship victories in a row. Villa are reluctant to put any pressure on the former England centre-half, with a decision likely over the summer.
John Terry delays next career move until May as Aston Villa push for Premier League promotion
John Terry will consider his future in May as he weighs up whether to extend his career for another year. Terry, the Aston Villa captain, has decided to delay his next move until the end of the season as he focuses on helping guide Steve Bruce’s team back to the Premier League. Telegraph Sport can reveal that Terry and Villa have a mutual option to trigger another 12 months to his current £60,000-a-week contract. Terry turned 37 in December and his impact at Villa has been significant since making the emotional decision to quit Chelsea on a free transfer last summer after two decades of service. Villa are now second in the Championship after the 2-0 win over rivals Birmingham on Sunday, a victory which ensured Terry has recorded 227 clean sheets in English football. His Villa contract expires at the end of this season and there are a number of factors for him to consider, which could be determined by which division Villa will be operating in, while he could take up more lucrative offers abroad or opts for retirement. Terry missed two-and-a-half months of the season with Villa after suffering a broken metatarsal in November but since his return Villa have racked up five Championship victories in a row. Villa are reluctant to put any pressure on the former England centre-half, with a decision likely over the summer.
John Terry delays next career move until May as Aston Villa push for Premier League promotion
John Terry delays next career move until May as Aston Villa push for Premier League promotion
John Terry delays next career move until May as Aston Villa push for Premier League promotion
Soccer Football - Championship - Aston Villa vs Birmingham City - Villa Park, Birmingham, Britain - February 11, 2018 Birmingham City's Cheick Ndoye clashes with Aston Villa's John Terry as he is sent off Action Images/Matthew Childs
Championship - Aston Villa vs Birmingham City
Soccer Football - Championship - Aston Villa vs Birmingham City - Villa Park, Birmingham, Britain - February 11, 2018 Birmingham City's Cheick Ndoye clashes with Aston Villa's John Terry as he is sent off Action Images/Matthew Childs
Soccer Football - Championship - Aston Villa vs Birmingham City - VIlla Park, Birmingham, Britain - February 11, 2018 Aston Villa's John Terry applauds the fans after the match Action Images/Matthew Childs
Championship - Aston Villa vs Birmingham City
Soccer Football - Championship - Aston Villa vs Birmingham City - VIlla Park, Birmingham, Britain - February 11, 2018 Aston Villa's John Terry applauds the fans after the match Action Images/Matthew Childs
Soccer Football - Championship - Aston Villa vs Birmingham City - VIlla Park, Birmingham, Britain - February 11, 2018 Aston Villa's Conor Hourihane celebrates with Robert Snodgrass and Ahmed Elmohamady after scoring their second goal Action Images/Andrew Boyers
Championship - Aston Villa vs Birmingham City
Soccer Football - Championship - Aston Villa vs Birmingham City - VIlla Park, Birmingham, Britain - February 11, 2018 Aston Villa's Conor Hourihane celebrates with Robert Snodgrass and Ahmed Elmohamady after scoring their second goal Action Images/Andrew Boyers
Soccer Football - Championship - Aston Villa vs Birmingham City - Villa Park, Birmingham, Britain - February 11, 2018 Aston Villa's Albert Adomah in action with Birmingham City's Carl Jenkinson Action Images/Matthew Childs
Championship - Aston Villa vs Birmingham City
Soccer Football - Championship - Aston Villa vs Birmingham City - Villa Park, Birmingham, Britain - February 11, 2018 Aston Villa's Albert Adomah in action with Birmingham City's Carl Jenkinson Action Images/Matthew Childs
Soccer Football - Championship - Aston Villa vs Birmingham City - VIlla Park, Birmingham, Britain - February 11, 2018 Birmingham's Cheikh NDoye is shown a second yellow card and then a red card by referee Peter Bankes Action Images/Andrew Boyers
Championship - Aston Villa vs Birmingham City
Soccer Football - Championship - Aston Villa vs Birmingham City - VIlla Park, Birmingham, Britain - February 11, 2018 Birmingham's Cheikh NDoye is shown a second yellow card and then a red card by referee Peter Bankes Action Images/Andrew Boyers
Soccer Football - Championship - Aston Villa vs Birmingham City - VIlla Park, Birmingham, Britain - February 11, 2018 Aston Villa's John Terry in action with Birmingham's Jermie Boga Action Images/Andrew Boyers
Championship - Aston Villa vs Birmingham City
Soccer Football - Championship - Aston Villa vs Birmingham City - VIlla Park, Birmingham, Britain - February 11, 2018 Aston Villa's John Terry in action with Birmingham's Jermie Boga Action Images/Andrew Boyers
Soccer Football - Championship - Aston Villa vs Birmingham City - VIlla Park, Birmingham, Britain - February 11, 2018 Birmingham City's Cheick Ndoye (L) walks off dejected after being sent off Action Images/Matthew Childs
Championship - Aston Villa vs Birmingham City
Soccer Football - Championship - Aston Villa vs Birmingham City - VIlla Park, Birmingham, Britain - February 11, 2018 Birmingham City's Cheick Ndoye (L) walks off dejected after being sent off Action Images/Matthew Childs
Aston Villa 2 Birmingham City 0: Emotional Steve Bruce ends tough week with Second City Derby victory
Aston Villa 2 Birmingham City 0: Emotional Steve Bruce ends tough week with Second City Derby victory
Aston Villa 2 Birmingham City 0: Emotional Steve Bruce ends tough week with Second City Derby victory
Aston Villa 2 Birmingham City 0: Emotional Steve Bruce ends tough week with Second City Derby victory
Aston Villa 2 Birmingham City 0: Emotional Steve Bruce ends tough week with Second City Derby victory
Aston Villa 2 Birmingham City 0: Emotional Steve Bruce ends tough week with Second City Derby victory
Aston Villa 2 Birmingham City 0: Emotional Steve Bruce ends tough week with Second City Derby victory
Aston Villa 2 Birmingham City 0: Emotional Steve Bruce ends tough week with Second City Derby victory
Aston Villa 2 Birmingham City 0: Emotional Steve Bruce ends tough week with Second City Derby victory
Jack Grealish produced the star performance as Aston Villa saw off rivals Birmingham City at Villa Park.
Aston Villa 2 Birmingham City 0: Grealish stars as Bruce's men go second
Jack Grealish produced the star performance as Aston Villa saw off rivals Birmingham City at Villa Park.
Aston Villa extend unbeaten league run against arch-rivals Birmingham City to move up to second
Aston Villa extend unbeaten league run against arch-rivals Birmingham City to move up to second
Aston Villa extend unbeaten league run against arch-rivals Birmingham City to move up to second
Aston Villa extend unbeaten league run against arch-rivals Birmingham City to move up to second
Aston Villa extend unbeaten league run against arch-rivals Birmingham City to move up to second
Aston Villa extend unbeaten league run against arch-rivals Birmingham City to move up to second
Aston Villa extend unbeaten league run against arch-rivals Birmingham City to move up to second
Aston Villa extend unbeaten league run against arch-rivals Birmingham City to move up to second
Aston Villa extend unbeaten league run against arch-rivals Birmingham City to move up to second
Aston Villa extend unbeaten league run against arch-rivals Birmingham City to move up to second
Aston Villa extend unbeaten league run against arch-rivals Birmingham City to move up to second
Aston Villa extend unbeaten league run against arch-rivals Birmingham City to move up to second
Aston Villa extend unbeaten league run against arch-rivals Birmingham City to move up to second
Aston Villa extend unbeaten league run against arch-rivals Birmingham City to move up to second
Aston Villa extend unbeaten league run against arch-rivals Birmingham City to move up to second
Aston Villa vs Birmingham City and the story of a football rivalry characterised by its glorious, gleeful pettiness
Aston Villa vs Birmingham City and the story of a football rivalry characterised by its glorious, gleeful pettiness
Aston Villa vs Birmingham City and the story of a football rivalry characterised by its glorious, gleeful pettiness
Aston Villa vs Birmingham City and the story of a football rivalry characterised by its glorious, gleeful pettiness
Aston Villa vs Birmingham City and the story of a football rivalry characterised by its glorious, gleeful pettiness
Aston Villa vs Birmingham City and the story of a football rivalry characterised by its glorious, gleeful pettiness
Aston Villa vs Birmingham City and the story of a football rivalry characterised by its glorious, gleeful pettiness
Aston Villa vs Birmingham City and the story of a football rivalry characterised by its glorious, gleeful pettiness
Aston Villa vs Birmingham City and the story of a football rivalry characterised by its glorious, gleeful pettiness
Aston Villa vs Birmingham City and the story of a football rivalry characterised by its glorious, gleeful pettiness
Aston Villa vs Birmingham City and the story of a football rivalry characterised by its glorious, gleeful pettiness
Aston Villa vs Birmingham City and the story of a football rivalry characterised by its glorious, gleeful pettiness
Aston Villa vs Birmingham City and the story of a football rivalry characterised by its glorious, gleeful pettiness
Aston Villa vs Birmingham City and the story of a football rivalry characterised by its glorious, gleeful pettiness
Aston Villa vs Birmingham City and the story of a football rivalry characterised by its glorious, gleeful pettiness
Aston Villa Fan View: Looking ahead to playing the Blues
Aston Villa Fan View: Looking ahead to playing the Blues
Aston Villa Fan View: Looking ahead to playing the Blues
The Peterborough United manager Grant McCann is one name in contention as Barnsley search for a successor to Paul Heckingbottom with a track record for developing young players. McCann, 37, played one year at Barnsley, helping them see off relegation from the Championship in 2007, and he fits the bill as a young coach who can improve players in a league where the leading teams boast big recruitment budgets. The former Northern Ireland international has two and a half years on his current deal at Peterborough. Barnsley have been left shocked by the departure of Heckingbottom to Leeds United this week just days after they announced a new deal for the hometown player and manager who had kept the club in the Championship on one of the division’s smallest budgets. Heckingbottom was a key part of the club’s new ownership strategy under the Chinese-American consortium of Chien Lee and Paul Conway. McCann took over Peterborough in 2016, and has kept them in contention for the play-offs as well as beating Championship Aston Villa in the FA Cup third round. He was among the youngest coaches to obtain the Uefa Pro License, first working as a coach at Peterborough before being appointed to the first team for the start of last season. Peterborough have seen the development of Jack Marriott, the current League One top goalscorer, whom McCann signed from Luton Town where the striker was out the team at the end of last season. Marcus Maddison, bought from Conference Premier Gateshead before McCann’s appointment as manager, has also attracted interest with his performances. Barnsley are shocked by Paul Heckingbottom's departure for Elland Road Credit: Harry Murphy/Getty Images Barnsley’s owners also have a controlling stake in the French Ligue 1 club Nice and stressed last month that they would seek to advance the club gradually, while balancing budgets and maintaining its identity. Other contenders include the well-travelled Simon Grayson and Danny Cowley, the Lincoln City manager whose inexperience in the Football League could count against him. Barnsley have appointed the club’s Under-23s manager Paul Harsley on a temporary basis while they hunt for a successor.
Barnsley identify Peterborough's Grant McCann as candidate to succeed Paul Heckingbottom
The Peterborough United manager Grant McCann is one name in contention as Barnsley search for a successor to Paul Heckingbottom with a track record for developing young players. McCann, 37, played one year at Barnsley, helping them see off relegation from the Championship in 2007, and he fits the bill as a young coach who can improve players in a league where the leading teams boast big recruitment budgets. The former Northern Ireland international has two and a half years on his current deal at Peterborough. Barnsley have been left shocked by the departure of Heckingbottom to Leeds United this week just days after they announced a new deal for the hometown player and manager who had kept the club in the Championship on one of the division’s smallest budgets. Heckingbottom was a key part of the club’s new ownership strategy under the Chinese-American consortium of Chien Lee and Paul Conway. McCann took over Peterborough in 2016, and has kept them in contention for the play-offs as well as beating Championship Aston Villa in the FA Cup third round. He was among the youngest coaches to obtain the Uefa Pro License, first working as a coach at Peterborough before being appointed to the first team for the start of last season. Peterborough have seen the development of Jack Marriott, the current League One top goalscorer, whom McCann signed from Luton Town where the striker was out the team at the end of last season. Marcus Maddison, bought from Conference Premier Gateshead before McCann’s appointment as manager, has also attracted interest with his performances. Barnsley are shocked by Paul Heckingbottom's departure for Elland Road Credit: Harry Murphy/Getty Images Barnsley’s owners also have a controlling stake in the French Ligue 1 club Nice and stressed last month that they would seek to advance the club gradually, while balancing budgets and maintaining its identity. Other contenders include the well-travelled Simon Grayson and Danny Cowley, the Lincoln City manager whose inexperience in the Football League could count against him. Barnsley have appointed the club’s Under-23s manager Paul Harsley on a temporary basis while they hunt for a successor.
The Peterborough United manager Grant McCann is one name in contention as Barnsley search for a successor to Paul Heckingbottom with a track record for developing young players. McCann, 37, played one year at Barnsley, helping them see off relegation from the Championship in 2007, and he fits the bill as a young coach who can improve players in a league where the leading teams boast big recruitment budgets. The former Northern Ireland international has two and a half years on his current deal at Peterborough. Barnsley have been left shocked by the departure of Heckingbottom to Leeds United this week just days after they announced a new deal for the hometown player and manager who had kept the club in the Championship on one of the division’s smallest budgets. Heckingbottom was a key part of the club’s new ownership strategy under the Chinese-American consortium of Chien Lee and Paul Conway. McCann took over Peterborough in 2016, and has kept them in contention for the play-offs as well as beating Championship Aston Villa in the FA Cup third round. He was among the youngest coaches to obtain the Uefa Pro License, first working as a coach at Peterborough before being appointed to the first team for the start of last season. Peterborough have seen the development of Jack Marriott, the current League One top goalscorer, whom McCann signed from Luton Town where the striker was out the team at the end of last season. Marcus Maddison, bought from Conference Premier Gateshead before McCann’s appointment as manager, has also attracted interest with his performances. Barnsley are shocked by Paul Heckingbottom's departure for Elland Road Credit: Harry Murphy/Getty Images Barnsley’s owners also have a controlling stake in the French Ligue 1 club Nice and stressed last month that they would seek to advance the club gradually, while balancing budgets and maintaining its identity. Other contenders include the well-travelled Simon Grayson and Danny Cowley, the Lincoln City manager whose inexperience in the Football League could count against him. Barnsley have appointed the club’s Under-23s manager Paul Harsley on a temporary basis while they hunt for a successor.
Barnsley identify Peterborough's Grant McCann as candidate to succeed Paul Heckingbottom
The Peterborough United manager Grant McCann is one name in contention as Barnsley search for a successor to Paul Heckingbottom with a track record for developing young players. McCann, 37, played one year at Barnsley, helping them see off relegation from the Championship in 2007, and he fits the bill as a young coach who can improve players in a league where the leading teams boast big recruitment budgets. The former Northern Ireland international has two and a half years on his current deal at Peterborough. Barnsley have been left shocked by the departure of Heckingbottom to Leeds United this week just days after they announced a new deal for the hometown player and manager who had kept the club in the Championship on one of the division’s smallest budgets. Heckingbottom was a key part of the club’s new ownership strategy under the Chinese-American consortium of Chien Lee and Paul Conway. McCann took over Peterborough in 2016, and has kept them in contention for the play-offs as well as beating Championship Aston Villa in the FA Cup third round. He was among the youngest coaches to obtain the Uefa Pro License, first working as a coach at Peterborough before being appointed to the first team for the start of last season. Peterborough have seen the development of Jack Marriott, the current League One top goalscorer, whom McCann signed from Luton Town where the striker was out the team at the end of last season. Marcus Maddison, bought from Conference Premier Gateshead before McCann’s appointment as manager, has also attracted interest with his performances. Barnsley are shocked by Paul Heckingbottom's departure for Elland Road Credit: Harry Murphy/Getty Images Barnsley’s owners also have a controlling stake in the French Ligue 1 club Nice and stressed last month that they would seek to advance the club gradually, while balancing budgets and maintaining its identity. Other contenders include the well-travelled Simon Grayson and Danny Cowley, the Lincoln City manager whose inexperience in the Football League could count against him. Barnsley have appointed the club’s Under-23s manager Paul Harsley on a temporary basis while they hunt for a successor.
David Moyes is unlikely to extend his stay at West Ham United past the end of the season – whether or not the club stay in the Premier League. West Ham’s 3-1 defeat to Brighton put them back in relegation danger and meant the club have not won any of their last three Premier League games. During their poor run, the Hammers were also dumped out of the FA Cup by League One Wigan Athletic. Despite the fact Moyes dragged West Ham away from the bottom three after succeeding Slaven Bilic on a six-month contract, the club are already expected to be searching for a new permanent manager in the summer. Rafa Benitez remains a possible target with his Newcastle United future seemingly dependent on whether or not Amanda Staveley’s takeover bid is successful, while Huddersfield Town’s David Wagner is well liked. The fact Marco Silva is now out of work and would not cost anything in compensation to appoint would be interesting to the Hammers. West Ham sacked director of player recruitment Tony Henry last week following accusations of racial discrimination, although his departure will have no bearing on the future of Moyes. Marco Silva has been mooted as a replacement for Moyes Credit: Dan Istitene/Getty Images There have been tensions behind the scenes regarding West Ham’s transfer policy with Moyes failing to land a number of targets in January. Although West Ham signed Jordan Hugill from Preston North End, they missed out of Islam Slimani and Ibrahim Amadou at the end of the transfer window and Moyes now looks short of players after being hit by injuries. West Ham also made a failed bid for Anderlecht’s Leander Dendoncker and could move again for him in the summer, even though Belgian sources claim Moyes is not particularly keen on the player. Moyes has already made it clear that he will assess his options at the end of the season and is not planning talks about his or the club’s long-term plans before then. Should he keep West Ham in the Premier League, then Moyes may well have options elsewhere and if he does not then he is fully aware there is little chance of West Ham keeping him on. West Ham fans have turned on the club's owners Credit: Rob Newell/CameraSport Other than having to face questions over Henry’s departure last week, Moyes has also seen co-owner David Sullivan give an interview in which he revealed his son had told him not to sign Jose Fonte and Karren Brady criticise the signing of Robert Snodgrass in her Sun column. It later transpired that Moyes had been interested in recalling Snodgrass from his Aston Villa loan. West Ham fans have turned their anger on Sullivan, co-owner David Gold and vice-chairman Brady, singing ‘sack the board’ and unveiling banners calling for them to leave. A number of supporters’ groups are planning to march together, under the banner of West Ham Groups United, before the home game against Burnley on March 10th and have discussed hiring 20 hearses to signify the ‘death’ of the club and its tradition. Sullivan, though, has claimed any protests against him will achieve “nothing” and insisted the Hammers need unity. “I ask the supporters, every one of them: get behind the team,” Sullivan told TalkSport. “Through unity we can turn it all around. We don't want to find that a disappointing season has turned into a disastrous one.”
Exclusive: David Moyes unlikely to remain at West Ham beyond end of season - even if club avoid relegation
David Moyes is unlikely to extend his stay at West Ham United past the end of the season – whether or not the club stay in the Premier League. West Ham’s 3-1 defeat to Brighton put them back in relegation danger and meant the club have not won any of their last three Premier League games. During their poor run, the Hammers were also dumped out of the FA Cup by League One Wigan Athletic. Despite the fact Moyes dragged West Ham away from the bottom three after succeeding Slaven Bilic on a six-month contract, the club are already expected to be searching for a new permanent manager in the summer. Rafa Benitez remains a possible target with his Newcastle United future seemingly dependent on whether or not Amanda Staveley’s takeover bid is successful, while Huddersfield Town’s David Wagner is well liked. The fact Marco Silva is now out of work and would not cost anything in compensation to appoint would be interesting to the Hammers. West Ham sacked director of player recruitment Tony Henry last week following accusations of racial discrimination, although his departure will have no bearing on the future of Moyes. Marco Silva has been mooted as a replacement for Moyes Credit: Dan Istitene/Getty Images There have been tensions behind the scenes regarding West Ham’s transfer policy with Moyes failing to land a number of targets in January. Although West Ham signed Jordan Hugill from Preston North End, they missed out of Islam Slimani and Ibrahim Amadou at the end of the transfer window and Moyes now looks short of players after being hit by injuries. West Ham also made a failed bid for Anderlecht’s Leander Dendoncker and could move again for him in the summer, even though Belgian sources claim Moyes is not particularly keen on the player. Moyes has already made it clear that he will assess his options at the end of the season and is not planning talks about his or the club’s long-term plans before then. Should he keep West Ham in the Premier League, then Moyes may well have options elsewhere and if he does not then he is fully aware there is little chance of West Ham keeping him on. West Ham fans have turned on the club's owners Credit: Rob Newell/CameraSport Other than having to face questions over Henry’s departure last week, Moyes has also seen co-owner David Sullivan give an interview in which he revealed his son had told him not to sign Jose Fonte and Karren Brady criticise the signing of Robert Snodgrass in her Sun column. It later transpired that Moyes had been interested in recalling Snodgrass from his Aston Villa loan. West Ham fans have turned their anger on Sullivan, co-owner David Gold and vice-chairman Brady, singing ‘sack the board’ and unveiling banners calling for them to leave. A number of supporters’ groups are planning to march together, under the banner of West Ham Groups United, before the home game against Burnley on March 10th and have discussed hiring 20 hearses to signify the ‘death’ of the club and its tradition. Sullivan, though, has claimed any protests against him will achieve “nothing” and insisted the Hammers need unity. “I ask the supporters, every one of them: get behind the team,” Sullivan told TalkSport. “Through unity we can turn it all around. We don't want to find that a disappointing season has turned into a disastrous one.”
David Moyes is unlikely to extend his stay at West Ham United past the end of the season – whether or not the club stay in the Premier League. West Ham’s 3-1 defeat to Brighton put them back in relegation danger and meant the club have not won any of their last three Premier League games. During their poor run, the Hammers were also dumped out of the FA Cup by League One Wigan Athletic. Despite the fact Moyes dragged West Ham away from the bottom three after succeeding Slaven Bilic on a six-month contract, the club are already expected to be searching for a new permanent manager in the summer. Rafa Benitez remains a possible target with his Newcastle United future seemingly dependent on whether or not Amanda Staveley’s takeover bid is successful, while Huddersfield Town’s David Wagner is well liked. The fact Marco Silva is now out of work and would not cost anything in compensation to appoint would be interesting to the Hammers. West Ham sacked director of player recruitment Tony Henry last week following accusations of racial discrimination, although his departure will have no bearing on the future of Moyes. Marco Silva has been mooted as a replacement for Moyes Credit: Dan Istitene/Getty Images There have been tensions behind the scenes regarding West Ham’s transfer policy with Moyes failing to land a number of targets in January. Although West Ham signed Jordan Hugill from Preston North End, they missed out of Islam Slimani and Ibrahim Amadou at the end of the transfer window and Moyes now looks short of players after being hit by injuries. West Ham also made a failed bid for Anderlecht’s Leander Dendoncker and could move again for him in the summer, even though Belgian sources claim Moyes is not particularly keen on the player. Moyes has already made it clear that he will assess his options at the end of the season and is not planning talks about his or the club’s long-term plans before then. Should he keep West Ham in the Premier League, then Moyes may well have options elsewhere and if he does not then he is fully aware there is little chance of West Ham keeping him on. West Ham fans have turned on the club's owners Credit: Rob Newell/CameraSport Other than having to face questions over Henry’s departure last week, Moyes has also seen co-owner David Sullivan give an interview in which he revealed his son had told him not to sign Jose Fonte and Karren Brady criticise the signing of Robert Snodgrass in her Sun column. It later transpired that Moyes had been interested in recalling Snodgrass from his Aston Villa loan. West Ham fans have turned their anger on Sullivan, co-owner David Gold and vice-chairman Brady, singing ‘sack the board’ and unveiling banners calling for them to leave. A number of supporters’ groups are planning to march together, under the banner of West Ham Groups United, before the home game against Burnley on March 10th and have discussed hiring 20 hearses to signify the ‘death’ of the club and its tradition. Sullivan, though, has claimed any protests against him will achieve “nothing” and insisted the Hammers need unity. “I ask the supporters, every one of them: get behind the team,” Sullivan told TalkSport. “Through unity we can turn it all around. We don't want to find that a disappointing season has turned into a disastrous one.”
Exclusive: David Moyes unlikely to remain at West Ham beyond end of season - even if club avoid relegation
David Moyes is unlikely to extend his stay at West Ham United past the end of the season – whether or not the club stay in the Premier League. West Ham’s 3-1 defeat to Brighton put them back in relegation danger and meant the club have not won any of their last three Premier League games. During their poor run, the Hammers were also dumped out of the FA Cup by League One Wigan Athletic. Despite the fact Moyes dragged West Ham away from the bottom three after succeeding Slaven Bilic on a six-month contract, the club are already expected to be searching for a new permanent manager in the summer. Rafa Benitez remains a possible target with his Newcastle United future seemingly dependent on whether or not Amanda Staveley’s takeover bid is successful, while Huddersfield Town’s David Wagner is well liked. The fact Marco Silva is now out of work and would not cost anything in compensation to appoint would be interesting to the Hammers. West Ham sacked director of player recruitment Tony Henry last week following accusations of racial discrimination, although his departure will have no bearing on the future of Moyes. Marco Silva has been mooted as a replacement for Moyes Credit: Dan Istitene/Getty Images There have been tensions behind the scenes regarding West Ham’s transfer policy with Moyes failing to land a number of targets in January. Although West Ham signed Jordan Hugill from Preston North End, they missed out of Islam Slimani and Ibrahim Amadou at the end of the transfer window and Moyes now looks short of players after being hit by injuries. West Ham also made a failed bid for Anderlecht’s Leander Dendoncker and could move again for him in the summer, even though Belgian sources claim Moyes is not particularly keen on the player. Moyes has already made it clear that he will assess his options at the end of the season and is not planning talks about his or the club’s long-term plans before then. Should he keep West Ham in the Premier League, then Moyes may well have options elsewhere and if he does not then he is fully aware there is little chance of West Ham keeping him on. West Ham fans have turned on the club's owners Credit: Rob Newell/CameraSport Other than having to face questions over Henry’s departure last week, Moyes has also seen co-owner David Sullivan give an interview in which he revealed his son had told him not to sign Jose Fonte and Karren Brady criticise the signing of Robert Snodgrass in her Sun column. It later transpired that Moyes had been interested in recalling Snodgrass from his Aston Villa loan. West Ham fans have turned their anger on Sullivan, co-owner David Gold and vice-chairman Brady, singing ‘sack the board’ and unveiling banners calling for them to leave. A number of supporters’ groups are planning to march together, under the banner of West Ham Groups United, before the home game against Burnley on March 10th and have discussed hiring 20 hearses to signify the ‘death’ of the club and its tradition. Sullivan, though, has claimed any protests against him will achieve “nothing” and insisted the Hammers need unity. “I ask the supporters, every one of them: get behind the team,” Sullivan told TalkSport. “Through unity we can turn it all around. We don't want to find that a disappointing season has turned into a disastrous one.”
David Moyes is unlikely to extend his stay at West Ham United past the end of the season – whether or not the club stay in the Premier League. West Ham’s 3-1 defeat to Brighton put them back in relegation danger and meant the club have not won any of their last three Premier League games. During their poor run, the Hammers were also dumped out of the FA Cup by League One Wigan Athletic. Despite the fact Moyes dragged West Ham away from the bottom three after succeeding Slaven Bilic on a six-month contract, the club are already expected to be searching for a new permanent manager in the summer. Rafa Benitez remains a possible target with his Newcastle United future seemingly dependent on whether or not Amanda Staveley’s takeover bid is successful, while Huddersfield Town’s David Wagner is well liked. The fact Marco Silva is now out of work and would not cost anything in compensation to appoint would be interesting to the Hammers. West Ham sacked director of player recruitment Tony Henry last week following accusations of racial discrimination, although his departure will have no bearing on the future of Moyes. Marco Silva has been mooted as a replacement for Moyes Credit: Dan Istitene/Getty Images There have been tensions behind the scenes regarding West Ham’s transfer policy with Moyes failing to land a number of targets in January. Although West Ham signed Jordan Hugill from Preston North End, they missed out of Islam Slimani and Ibrahim Amadou at the end of the transfer window and Moyes now looks short of players after being hit by injuries. West Ham also made a failed bid for Anderlecht’s Leander Dendoncker and could move again for him in the summer, even though Belgian sources claim Moyes is not particularly keen on the player. Moyes has already made it clear that he will assess his options at the end of the season and is not planning talks about his or the club’s long-term plans before then. Should he keep West Ham in the Premier League, then Moyes may well have options elsewhere and if he does not then he is fully aware there is little chance of West Ham keeping him on. West Ham fans have turned on the club's owners Credit: Rob Newell/CameraSport Other than having to face questions over Henry’s departure last week, Moyes has also seen co-owner David Sullivan give an interview in which he revealed his son had told him not to sign Jose Fonte and Karren Brady criticise the signing of Robert Snodgrass in her Sun column. It later transpired that Moyes had been interested in recalling Snodgrass from his Aston Villa loan. West Ham fans have turned their anger on Sullivan, co-owner David Gold and vice-chairman Brady, singing ‘sack the board’ and unveiling banners calling for them to leave. A number of supporters’ groups are planning to march together, under the banner of West Ham Groups United, before the home game against Burnley on March 10th and have discussed hiring 20 hearses to signify the ‘death’ of the club and its tradition. Sullivan, though, has claimed any protests against him will achieve “nothing” and insisted the Hammers need unity. “I ask the supporters, every one of them: get behind the team,” Sullivan told TalkSport. “Through unity we can turn it all around. We don't want to find that a disappointing season has turned into a disastrous one.”
Exclusive: David Moyes unlikely to remain at West Ham beyond end of season - even if club avoid relegation
David Moyes is unlikely to extend his stay at West Ham United past the end of the season – whether or not the club stay in the Premier League. West Ham’s 3-1 defeat to Brighton put them back in relegation danger and meant the club have not won any of their last three Premier League games. During their poor run, the Hammers were also dumped out of the FA Cup by League One Wigan Athletic. Despite the fact Moyes dragged West Ham away from the bottom three after succeeding Slaven Bilic on a six-month contract, the club are already expected to be searching for a new permanent manager in the summer. Rafa Benitez remains a possible target with his Newcastle United future seemingly dependent on whether or not Amanda Staveley’s takeover bid is successful, while Huddersfield Town’s David Wagner is well liked. The fact Marco Silva is now out of work and would not cost anything in compensation to appoint would be interesting to the Hammers. West Ham sacked director of player recruitment Tony Henry last week following accusations of racial discrimination, although his departure will have no bearing on the future of Moyes. Marco Silva has been mooted as a replacement for Moyes Credit: Dan Istitene/Getty Images There have been tensions behind the scenes regarding West Ham’s transfer policy with Moyes failing to land a number of targets in January. Although West Ham signed Jordan Hugill from Preston North End, they missed out of Islam Slimani and Ibrahim Amadou at the end of the transfer window and Moyes now looks short of players after being hit by injuries. West Ham also made a failed bid for Anderlecht’s Leander Dendoncker and could move again for him in the summer, even though Belgian sources claim Moyes is not particularly keen on the player. Moyes has already made it clear that he will assess his options at the end of the season and is not planning talks about his or the club’s long-term plans before then. Should he keep West Ham in the Premier League, then Moyes may well have options elsewhere and if he does not then he is fully aware there is little chance of West Ham keeping him on. West Ham fans have turned on the club's owners Credit: Rob Newell/CameraSport Other than having to face questions over Henry’s departure last week, Moyes has also seen co-owner David Sullivan give an interview in which he revealed his son had told him not to sign Jose Fonte and Karren Brady criticise the signing of Robert Snodgrass in her Sun column. It later transpired that Moyes had been interested in recalling Snodgrass from his Aston Villa loan. West Ham fans have turned their anger on Sullivan, co-owner David Gold and vice-chairman Brady, singing ‘sack the board’ and unveiling banners calling for them to leave. A number of supporters’ groups are planning to march together, under the banner of West Ham Groups United, before the home game against Burnley on March 10th and have discussed hiring 20 hearses to signify the ‘death’ of the club and its tradition. Sullivan, though, has claimed any protests against him will achieve “nothing” and insisted the Hammers need unity. “I ask the supporters, every one of them: get behind the team,” Sullivan told TalkSport. “Through unity we can turn it all around. We don't want to find that a disappointing season has turned into a disastrous one.”
Steve Clarke has already played down speculation linking him with the vacant position of Scotland manager but his lustre will be enhanced by Kilmarnock’s unexpected success against Celtic on Saturday, winning 1-0 at Rugby Park, where Youssouf Mulumbu scored the only goal. The Ayrshire side remain closer to the relegation zone than the higher reaches of the Scottish Premiership but their weekend win saw them into the top half of the division. That prospect looked remote during Lee McCulloch’s spell in charge earlier in the season, when Killie lost 5-0 to Celtic at Parkhead in the Betfred Scottish League Cup and 2-0 at home in the league, but under Clarke they have now drawn with Celtic and Rangers in Glasgow and beaten both Old Firm teams at Rugby Park. Clarke had been away from Scottish football for 30 years prior to the return to his native Ayrshire and in his 11 years as a Chelsea defender he won FA Cup, League Cup and European Cup Winners’ Cup medals as well as making six appearances for Scotland. Coaching and management experience followed at Chelsea, West Ham, Liverpool, West Brom, Reading and Aston Villa, so it would be no surprise if the Scottish Football Association should take more than a passing interest in the 54-year-old. Not that the possibility is welcome amongst the Kilmarnock players. “If it happens, he does have credentials,” said Jamie MacDonald. The goalkeeper added: “It’s been a long time since Scotland’s been to an international tournament and that’s something we hope will be addressed in the coming years, but for purely selfish reasons I hope he’s here in the long run.’’ Pressed to identify how Clarke has transformed Kilmarnock’s fortunes, MacDonald said: “Everybody asks this and I don’t think anybody can give you a proper answer. He just makes everything so simple in terms of knowing what you’re doing. “Football’s not a difficult game as such. It’s us players who seem to make it more difficult. We worked on our shape all week, what we were going to do to combat Celtic, what we would do when we got the ball back – little simple things – but he doesn’t overdo it. Football players only need to take in little bits at a time, to be honest.” The occasion was one of singularities. Kilmarnock had not beaten Celtic since October 2012 and Mulumba – who was the subject of a transfer bid from Bordeaux last week – had not scored since March 15, 2014, when he was on target for West Brom in a 2-1 win at Swansea. “It was a great ball from Jordan Jones and Youssuf found a bit of space,” said MacDonald. “It was a composed finish as well, especially taking it first time on the astro, because it can sometimes check up a little bit. You can tell the quality he has – although the boys are having a bit of a joke, saying he only turns up for the TV games.” Celtic, it must be said, could have cited exculpatory reasons for what was only their second domestic defeat during Brendan Rodgers’ 20 months in charge. The early loss to injury of two of their three starting central defenders – Dedryck Boyata and Kristoffer Ajer – plus the inhibiting tendencies of Rugby Park’s much-used artificial 3G pitch were undoubtedly disruptive, but it is a measure of the mindset instilled by Rodgers that Celtic declined to use those factors to excuse a performance which was their poorest against domestic opposition under his supervision. Celtic had 69% of possession but it took them until the 87th minute to force the first of two corner kicks. Their single shot on target did not arrive until the 90th minute when Olivier Ntcham’s free-kick was blocked by MacDonald. Had Jones, Malumba and Kirk Broadfoot taken all of the clear chances that came their way Celtic would have sustained a setback on the scale of the 4-0 defeat by Hearts at Tynecastle in December which ended their run of successive unbeaten domestic fixtures after 69 outings. On that occasion, though, the champions had four attempts on target and were ahead on the corner-kick count by full time. “We did create more in the Hearts game,” said James Forrest, the Celtic winger. “We know as a team that it wasn’t good enough on Saturday and we just have to rectify that next week against Partick Thistle in the Scottish Cup. “Then the game after that is the Europa League against Zenit St Petersburg so we know we have to try to turn it around. We do play a lot of games but the manager does change it to help the boys get a rest. We have a strong squad and we will be able to cope with that.”
Steve Clarke again linked with Scotland job after Kilmarnock beat Celtic
Steve Clarke has already played down speculation linking him with the vacant position of Scotland manager but his lustre will be enhanced by Kilmarnock’s unexpected success against Celtic on Saturday, winning 1-0 at Rugby Park, where Youssouf Mulumbu scored the only goal. The Ayrshire side remain closer to the relegation zone than the higher reaches of the Scottish Premiership but their weekend win saw them into the top half of the division. That prospect looked remote during Lee McCulloch’s spell in charge earlier in the season, when Killie lost 5-0 to Celtic at Parkhead in the Betfred Scottish League Cup and 2-0 at home in the league, but under Clarke they have now drawn with Celtic and Rangers in Glasgow and beaten both Old Firm teams at Rugby Park. Clarke had been away from Scottish football for 30 years prior to the return to his native Ayrshire and in his 11 years as a Chelsea defender he won FA Cup, League Cup and European Cup Winners’ Cup medals as well as making six appearances for Scotland. Coaching and management experience followed at Chelsea, West Ham, Liverpool, West Brom, Reading and Aston Villa, so it would be no surprise if the Scottish Football Association should take more than a passing interest in the 54-year-old. Not that the possibility is welcome amongst the Kilmarnock players. “If it happens, he does have credentials,” said Jamie MacDonald. The goalkeeper added: “It’s been a long time since Scotland’s been to an international tournament and that’s something we hope will be addressed in the coming years, but for purely selfish reasons I hope he’s here in the long run.’’ Pressed to identify how Clarke has transformed Kilmarnock’s fortunes, MacDonald said: “Everybody asks this and I don’t think anybody can give you a proper answer. He just makes everything so simple in terms of knowing what you’re doing. “Football’s not a difficult game as such. It’s us players who seem to make it more difficult. We worked on our shape all week, what we were going to do to combat Celtic, what we would do when we got the ball back – little simple things – but he doesn’t overdo it. Football players only need to take in little bits at a time, to be honest.” The occasion was one of singularities. Kilmarnock had not beaten Celtic since October 2012 and Mulumba – who was the subject of a transfer bid from Bordeaux last week – had not scored since March 15, 2014, when he was on target for West Brom in a 2-1 win at Swansea. “It was a great ball from Jordan Jones and Youssuf found a bit of space,” said MacDonald. “It was a composed finish as well, especially taking it first time on the astro, because it can sometimes check up a little bit. You can tell the quality he has – although the boys are having a bit of a joke, saying he only turns up for the TV games.” Celtic, it must be said, could have cited exculpatory reasons for what was only their second domestic defeat during Brendan Rodgers’ 20 months in charge. The early loss to injury of two of their three starting central defenders – Dedryck Boyata and Kristoffer Ajer – plus the inhibiting tendencies of Rugby Park’s much-used artificial 3G pitch were undoubtedly disruptive, but it is a measure of the mindset instilled by Rodgers that Celtic declined to use those factors to excuse a performance which was their poorest against domestic opposition under his supervision. Celtic had 69% of possession but it took them until the 87th minute to force the first of two corner kicks. Their single shot on target did not arrive until the 90th minute when Olivier Ntcham’s free-kick was blocked by MacDonald. Had Jones, Malumba and Kirk Broadfoot taken all of the clear chances that came their way Celtic would have sustained a setback on the scale of the 4-0 defeat by Hearts at Tynecastle in December which ended their run of successive unbeaten domestic fixtures after 69 outings. On that occasion, though, the champions had four attempts on target and were ahead on the corner-kick count by full time. “We did create more in the Hearts game,” said James Forrest, the Celtic winger. “We know as a team that it wasn’t good enough on Saturday and we just have to rectify that next week against Partick Thistle in the Scottish Cup. “Then the game after that is the Europa League against Zenit St Petersburg so we know we have to try to turn it around. We do play a lot of games but the manager does change it to help the boys get a rest. We have a strong squad and we will be able to cope with that.”
Aston Villa Fan View: Villans win 5 on the bounce
Aston Villa Fan View: Villans win 5 on the bounce
Aston Villa Fan View: Villans win 5 on the bounce
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.

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