Who doesn’t love a transfer story?
The evidence points to it being a small minority when it comes to football fanatics, writes GARETH ROBERTS.
For an older generation, the appetite for suggestions around signings was sated by twisting a tabloid newspaper around on a daily basis. The back page was always scanned first for that much-craved mention of your club.
Pre-internet, many fans – at least those with deep pockets and access to a landline – will remember ringing premium rate phone services like ClubCall to snack on snippets of “exclusive” information.
And then there was Ceefax. Page 312. The TV remote equivalent of the modern-day gossip column on the BBC’s website – one of the most-read pages on the Beeb.
Transfer windows have only served to heighten the experience. Now we have rolling-TV news, the event that is a deadline day and the self-proclaimed ‘ITKs’ (in the knows) of social media.
Why we do crave a new signing so much?
It’s part of the psyche of the dedicated supporter. Just one more player could make the difference: a striker to grab the goals, a goalie to keep them out, a winger whose magic could make that dream come true: be it a cup, a title, promotion or just avoiding relegation.
Transfers offer us hope. A chance to imagine better times. And doesn’t everyone in the media just know it?
So today, a cautionary word. Not all big-money moves work out as everyone would like. Here’s our light-hearted look at five big transfers that were high on promise but low on returns.
1: Jonathan Woodgate: Newcastle United to Real Madrid – 2004 (£13.4m)
Woodgate was an accomplished centre half for Newcastle and, previous to The Toon, Leeds. No one ever doubted his talent as defender, but it was his injury-record where the worries lay.
There was some surprise then when – after pulling on the black and white of Newcastle in just 37 of a possible 128 games – the might of Real Madrid came calling for his services.
Less surprising was that his fresh new kit for Real went untouched for a whole season through injury.
When he finally made his first appearance in 2005, lining up against Athletic Bilbao, it went down in football history as the defacto ‘debut from hell’.
An own goal was bad enough, but to follow it up with a sending off for two yellow cards….
It didn’t get much better from that point. Woodgate played just eight more league games in three years with Real before moving to Middlesbrough in 2007.
2: Ali Dia: Southampton (trial) – 1996
For football fans of a certain vintage, the story of Ali Dia is the go-to tale of transfer nightmares.
Dia may have only graced the Premier League for 53 minutes, but it’s cameo that will live long in the memories of many.
Having faced a raft of rejections, the striker was given a chance by Graeme Souness at Southampton on the recommendation of someone pretending to be George Weah.
An injury-crisis followed, and Dia – after just one training session – found himself summoned from the subs’ bench to face Leeds United.
A performance lacking for the level followed, and the hook put an end to his brief spell on the big stage.
Souness later admitted it was a “kick in the bollocks” to see how awful Dia played.
3: Chris Samba: Anzhi Makhachkala to QPR – 2013 (£12.5m)
Sometimes it just doesn’t work out. And that was certainly the case when Harry Redknapp lured Chris Samba back to England with a bumper wage packet of £100,000 per week.
Well loved at Blackburn Rovers where he clocked up 185 appearances, Redknapp thought the big centre half was just what was needed to sure up a struggling QPR side.
But the Republic of Congo international was soon turning to social media to return ire at a flurry of fury from fans after a game against Fulham.
“Fed up with the money tweets, get over it,” he tweeted. “Tell me what is a £100k performance? See everyone talking about mistakes, like footballers cannot have an off day on the pitch. We are human like all of you. Grow up some of you, please.”
After relegation and only 10 appearances, Samba was sold back to Anzhi for £12m.
4: Bebe: Vitoria de Guimaraes to Manchester United – 2010 (£7.5m)
From an orphanage near Lisbon to posing for media photos at Old Trafford in the space of just two months, Bebe’s rocket rise to the top of football was a remarkable one.
The 20-year-old forward had just one season of professional football at lowly Estrela da Amadora under his belt before being thrust into the limelight at United.
And the story goes that Sir Alex Ferguson rubber-stamped his signing without ever seeing him play.
To make things worse, he was signed at the expense of following up a move for Eden Hazard, who was then at Lille.
Four years on United’s books followed, but he clocked up just seven appearances and 334 minutes of action for the first team – all in his first season.
5: Marco Boogers: Sparta Rotterdam to West Ham United – 1995 (£800,000)
Put off by a price tag of £1.5m for Bristol Rovers’ Marcus Stewart, Hammers boss Harry Redknapp signed Marco Boogers without seeing the 28-year-old forward in the flesh.
“I signed Boogers off a video,” he said. “He was a good player but a nutter.”
As per, Harry cuts no corners. Boogers had netted an impressive 103 goals in 238 league appearances for a string of clubs in Holland.
But the mark he left on English football was not made by putting the ball in the back of the net. A second-half sub against Manchester United at Old Trafford, Boogers launched an x-rated rib-level challenge at Gary Neville that, predictably, sparked a brawl, a red-card and a four-match ban.
He made just two more sub appearances, playing just 44 minutes as a substitute for West Ham in four defeats.