The transfer season is ongoing all over the football world, players, coaches and agents are busy scoping the market looking for who to buy or sell. Most times, clubs get lucky and make favourable acquisitions while some clubs are left to mourn their woe when they make an unfavourable buy.
Today, we want to look at the eleven most surprising transfers in the English Premier League (EPL).
These are transfers that shocked football fans and made them ask, Why?
First on our list is Dutchman and hugely gifted player, Ruud Gullit. (Sampdoria to Chelsea).
In 1995 the Blues picked up the bargain of the summer as they landed Dutch hero Gullit. He struggled to get going in a sweeper role but, once Glenn Hoddle moved him into midfield, he was flying and ended the campaign as the second best player in the Premier League behind Eric Cantona.
Gullit has since often stated in interviews that it was in London he enjoyed his career the most and felt happiest, “Every time I played for Chelsea, I thought, ‘Nice game, beautiful stadium, great crowd, I’m playing well’. It was the only time I really had fun.” In moving to Chelsea, Gullit played an important part in the “foreign revolution” as numerous high profile international stars, such as the Italian superstar Gianfranco Zola who became a Chelsea legend, and the Dutch magician Dennis Bergkamp, joined Premiership clubs and helped to increase its worldwide profile.
Bebe – £7.4m (Vitoria de Guimaraes to Manchester United).
“Who?” Is what most people said when the Red Devils announced a deal for unknown Portugal winger Tiago Manuel Dias Correira otherwise known as Bebe in 2010. He’d never even played for his previous club when Sir Alex Ferguson swooped, persuaded by Carlos Queiroz, in the end he made just four Premier League appearances before leaving Old Trafford in 2014.
Bebe now plays as a forward for Spanish club Rayo Vallecano, on loan from Benfica.
Abandoned by his parents at a young age, Bebé grew up in a homeless shelter near Lisbon. He began his football career as an amateur with Loures before joining Estrela in 2009. A year later, he was signed by Vitória de Guimarães but transferred almost immediately to Manchester United for a fee of about £7 million, despite manager Alex Ferguson admitting he had never seen Bebé play.
Unable to make an impression on the Manchester United first team, he spent time on loan with Turkish side Beşiktaş and back in Portugal with Rio Ave and Paços de Ferreira, before joining Benfica permanently in July 2014.
Fabrizio Ravanelli – £7m (Juventus to Middlesbrough)
Affectionately known the “White Feather” (Italian: Penna Bianca) in recognition of his prematurely whitened hair, he was one of Europe’s top goalscorers in the mid-1990s.
The White Feather, won the Champions League in May 1996, scoring in the final as Juventus beat Ajax on penalties. By July he was Middlesbrough player. During his one full Premier League season, Ravanelli hit 16 goals, and helped Bryan Robson’s side to the finals of the FA Cup and League Cup, notching 17 times in 13 matches. Sadly, though, Boro were relegated from the top-flight and lost both finals and moved on to Marseille.
He made an immediate positive impact on moving to the Premier League with Bryan Robson’s Middlesbrough on a £7 million transfer, his success was sustained. He scored a hat-trick on his league debut against Liverpool on the opening day of the 1996–97 season. Despite being one of the league’s top scorers.
Esteban Cambiasso – Free transfer (Inter Milan to Leicester City)
One of the biggest coups of last summer was the Foxes deal to land former Argentina international Cambiasso. It turned out to be inspired too as the midfielder fought tooth and nail to keep Leicester in the top-flight, despite it looking against the odds at Christmas.
On 18 May 2015, at Leicester City’s annual awards, Cambiasso’s impressive performances over the course of the season saw him pick up the Player of the Year award, as voted by the club’s supporters. On 24 May, Cambiasso scored in a 5–1 defeat of Queens Park Rangers in Leicester’s final match of the Premier League season.
Jurgen Klinsmann – £2m (Monaco to Tottenham)
The German striker joined Spurs from AS Monaco for £2million after the 1994 World Cup, which was a surprise given his ability and the fact the English fans and media were very critical of the player’s histrionics because he played in the 1990 West Germany team that knocked England out of the world cup and partly his reputation as a diver. His debut goal changed that though as he celebrated with a self-deprecating dive against Sheffield Wednesday, and he won over the crowd with that single move. A stunning campaign ensued as he scored 21 goals for Tottenham and helped them to an FA Cup semi-final but he left after just one year, although he would returned again in 1997-8 to save the club from relegation.
Klinsmann went on to win the 1995 Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year.
Because of his humour, but also because of his athletic achievements and his combative playing style, Klinsmann quickly became extremely popular in England. Over 150,000 of his shirts were sold. He now holds legendary status at Spurs and was inducted into Madame Tussauds Wax Museum.
Edwin van der Sar – £7.1m (Juventus to Fulham)
When Gianluigi Buffon joined Juventus in 2001, it left the Dutchman needing to move away from the Old Lady to secure first-team football. In the end he joined newly-promoted Fulham, in their first ever Premier League season and he was a huge success before joining Man United four years later.
Throughout a long and successful career, Van der Sar achieved and set numerous records. In the 2008–09 season he set the world league clean sheet record by not conceding a single goal for 1,311 minutes. Along with being the most capped player for the Netherlands national team, with 130 caps, he is also the oldest player to win the Premier League, at 40 years and 205 days old. Individually Van der Sar has won several honours, including Best European Goalkeeper in 1995 and 2009, and UEFA Club Goalkeeper of the Year in 2009. He is considered, by critics and fellow players, as one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time.
Former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson considers him the best goalkeeper to have played for the club since Peter Schmeichel.
Attilio Lombardo – £1.6m (Juventus to Crystal Palace)
After struggling to find his feet in Turin, Lombardo flew the nest to join Palace in 1997. Soon, his talents saw him crowned the Bald Eagle as he lit up Selhurst Park before becoming player-manager.
Lombardo is one of the few players that has won the Serie A title with 3 different teams. He was given the nicknames “Popeye” during his career, due to his appearance, as well as “the Ostrich”, due to his physique, pace, stamina, and work-rate. Although not gifted with particularly notable technical ability, he possessed good control when dribbling, and he frequently used his acceleration and agility to beat opponents in one on one situations; a versatile team player, he was also known for his accurate crossing ability as a winger, as well as his contribution in front of goal.
In 1997, Lombardo was on the move again, joining Premiership new-boys Crystal Palace. He instantly became the star-player, and scored on his debut at Everton. In early 1998, Mark Goldberg assumed control of the club, and manager Steve Coppell moved to the Director of Football post. Lombardo, along with Swedish international Tomas Brolin as an interpreter, was appointed as caretaker player-manager, for the rest of the season.
Lombardo’s season was curtailed by injury whilst with the Italian national squad in November (a recall came his way due to sparkling form with the Londoners). At the time of the injury Palace were 10th in the table, but by the time he came back to the first team, in April, they were bottom of the league. Palace were subsequently relegated to the First Division (now The Championship), even though Lombardo’s return lead them to their only two home league wins of the season.
Lombardo decided to stay following relegation as Palace started poorly under new manager Terry Venables. A severe financial crisis and a need to cut Palace’s wage bill resulted in Lombardo leaving in January 1999 to join a S S Lazio team managed by Sven-Goran Eriksson. In 2005, Lombardo was voted into Palace’s Centenary XI, despite having only made 49 appearances for the Eagles (far fewer than any of the other ten players, showing how highly Palace fans held The Bald Eagle).
Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano – Undisclosed fee (Corinthians to West Ham).
Somehow, in 2006, the Hammers stunned world football by landing two of Argentina’s hottest young talents for undisclosed fees. They struggled to settle, although in the end Tevez would be the inspiration for their Premier League survival. A third party owned the players’ registrations it turned out, though, and, after just one season.
On 23 August 2006, Sky Sports reported that Tevez was refusing to play for Corinthians. Tevez confirmed on his website on 31 August that both he and Javier Mascherano were signing for West Ham United on permanent deals for undisclosed fees. Media reports speculated that other Premier League clubs turned down the opportunity of signing Tevez and Mascherano because of stipulations put in place by third parties MSI and Global Soccer Agencies, who owned both players’ rights.
The investigation by the Premier League later revealed that Tevez was signed from MSI and Just Sports Inc., and West Ham had the registration rights of the player, but the transfer fees were fully contributed to MSI and Just Sports (the economic rights).
Mascherano ended up being loaned to Liverpool, while Tevez went to Old Trafford.
Andy Carroll – £35m (Newcastle United to Liverpool).
After Fernando Torres had been sold to Chelsea it was not the player who was the shock part of Carroll’s move to Liverpool.
Carroll signed for Liverpool on the last day of the transfer window on 31 January 2011 for a fee of £35 million, at the time the highest amount ever paid by one club to another for a British footballer. Carroll was bought to replace Fernando Torres, who moved from Liverpool to Chelsea on the same day for a fee of £50 million. An injury sustained in December delayed his Liverpool debut until March 2011, and he scored his first two goals for his new club in April 2011 in a 3–0 victory over Manchester City
The giant Geordie had hit 11 Premier League goals in the first half of the 2010/11 season but £35m was an astronomical fee, which he failed to live up to with injuries blighting his time at Anfield before he was loaned and then sold to West Ham.
Robinho – £33m (Real Madrid to Manchester City).
On 1 September 2008, the final day of the Premier League summer transfer window, Robinho completed a €42,500,000 (£33,000,000) move to Manchester City, on a four-year deal. This occurred on the same day the club was bought out by the Arab investment company Abu Dhabi United Group.
The Brazilian had previously been linked with a transfer to Chelsea, and he had emphasised his desire to play for the London club up to the eve of the transfer. On 27 August, Chelsea Chief Executive Peter Kenyon said that the club were “confident” that the transaction would go through, and Madrid had also given their consent for the player to leave.
Robinho’s expectancy to move to Chelsea was such that upon signing for Manchester City he accidentally stated “On the last day, Chelsea made a great proposal and I accepted.” To this a reporter replied: “You mean Manchester, right?”. “Yeah, Manchester, sorry!” answered Robinho.
He was initially a success but faded quickly before being sold to AC Milan in 2010.
Eric Cantona – £1.2m (Leeds United to Manchester United)
It never hurts to ask is the moral of this story. Leeds attempted to sign Denis Irwin in November 1992 but were rebuffed, only for the Red Devils to counter with an offer for the mercurial Frenchman. Howard Wilkinson agree to the deal and Sir Alex Ferguson got his man.
Cantona left Leeds for Manchester United for £1.2 million (equivalent to £2.22 million in 2015) on 26 November 1992. Leeds chairman Bill Fotherby had telephoned Manchester United chairman Martin Edwards to enquire about the availability of Denis Irwin. Edwards was in a meeting with United manager Alex Ferguson at the time, and both men agreed that Irwin was not for sale. Ferguson had identified that his team was in need of a striker, having recently made unsuccessful bids for David Hirst, Matt Le Tissier and Brian Deane, and instructed his chairman to ask Wilkinson whether Cantona was for sale. Fotherby had to consult with the manager Howard Wilkinson, but within a few days the deal was complete.
The rest is history.