Top 10 Most Controversial Football Transfers

There are transfers that make you go “Yep, that’s the way for the club to go”. Then, there are transfers that make you contemplate if your club was managed by a team of mindless baboons.

The circus surrounding the Transfer Season is the kind of fun Football fans look forward to each year. The Clubs look to bag the best players, and sometimes the best players play for their rival clubs. This results in them poaching star players’ of the other team. That kind of behavior sends the Football world into a frenzy, and fans get agitated.

This has happened more than once in the history of Football. Whether it be Raheem Sterling agreeing to a big money move to Manchester City, or a certain “snake” switching sides.

10. William Gallas (Chelsea to Arsenal)

Controversial Transfer #10

Yes it’s true, Arsenal has also done its share of poaching from rivals as well. While it’s very common to see Arsenal part ways with their best players to go play for their rivals. It still comes as a shock. This one in particular is special because it was Arsenal on the other end of the stick.

Bizarrely, Chelsea released a statement claiming that the Frenchman had threatened to score own goals if he was made to stay at the club. Gallas, who’s stint at the Bridge began long before Abramovich’s and Mourinho’s arrivals, denied the claims and was critical of the club’s leadership: “All this is very, very petty on behalf of Chelsea. But at the same time, coming on behalf of its new leaders, that does not surprise me. Even if Chelsea has much money, its new leaders lack class.” Ouch.


9. Paul Ince (West Ham to Manchester United)

Controversial Transfer #9

Paul Ince was a darling in the eyes of West Ham supporters. He was the product of their then-excellent youth system. He impressed fans with this goal-scoring in a 1988 League Cup run.

It came as a shock to them when a picture of Paul Ince in a Manchester United shirt came to light. Ince claims that the picture was taken to promote the move while he was on holiday, but had been leaked early. West Ham supports did not see that coming and were left dumbfounded after such a shock move. That is the reason why Paul Ince’s name is still mud in the eyes of the East Londeners.


8. Javier Mascherano and Carlos Tevez (Corinthians to West Ham United)

Controversial Transfer #8

When two of the most exciting prospects during that time were rumored to be making a move to the Premier League. It was easy logic to start associating them with giants such as Manchester United, Liverpool or Arsenal. Few to none expected that they will end up signing the dotted line for West Ham United.

Despite their dreadful form, Mascherano barely played for the Hammers, hinting at financial clauses related to his appearances for the club. Tevez, however, scored seven goals for the club, including the winner at Manchester United on the last day of the season which would keep West Ham up. The club did have to pay the Premier League £5.5 million for breaching transfer regulations though, and a further £18 million in compensation to Sheffield United who were relegated at West Ham’s expense.


7. Denis Law (Manchester United to Manchester City)

Controversial Transfer #7

This one is particularly of the dramatic quality as it gave birth to one of the most iconic moments in football. Before his glorious 11-year career at United, that saw him win two league titles, a European Cup and named European Player of the Year, Denis Law had been a British record signing for Manchester City, at the cost of £55,000. With United in decline in 1973, Law was allowed a free transfer back to the club’s intra-city rivals.

At Maine Road on the final day of the following season, Law scored a back-heeled winner in the 81st minute against his former team. Believing his goal would relegate United, Law refused to celebrate and left the field with his head down.


6. Johan Cryuff (Ajax to Feyenoord)

Controversial Transfer #6

Johann Cryuff was The Man in Dutch football, without question. Whichever team had the services of Johan Cryuff was a sure-shot contender for the title. That were the facts in Dutch Football at the time.

Following a distinguished international and club career in both Europe and North America, Johan Cruyff returned to his home club of Ajax to help the Amsterdam club to two more Eredivisie titles. Following the league winning 1982-83, Ajax elected not to renew Cruyff’s contract.

As if out of spite, Cruyff signed for the club’s archrivals Feyenoord, and helped the Rotterdam club to its first title for a decade. In what would prove to be the final season of his career, Cruyff helped Feyenoord win a league-cup double and was named Dutch footballer of the year for the fifth time.


5. Roberto Baggio (Fiorentina to Juventus)

Controversial Transfer #5

Roberto Baggio is still remembered because of 3 things- his amazing work as a player, his controversial transfer to Juventus, that glorious mullet. Roberto Baggio was considered by many to be the best player in the history of Fiorentina. It’s understandable, then, that the club’s fans would be upset when he was sold to rivals Juventus for a then-world record fee of £8 million. Such was the unrest in Florence at the move that there were riots in the streets that left many injured.

You can only imagine the passion the Italians had for football. Baggio himself seemed unhappy with the move, replying to fans that he was “compelled to accept the transfer.” He seemed to corroborate these claims the following year when playing against his old side for the first time. The striker refused to take a penalty and was promptly substituted. Baggio’s replacement missed the penalty, and Juventus lost. On the way off the field, Baggio collected and kissed a purple Fiorentina scarf, and later stated: “Deep in my heart I am always purple”.

How can you not be emotional about Football?


4. Ashley Cole (Arsenal to Chelsea)

Controversial Transfer #4

This was the move that sent Arsenal fans fuming and burning pictures of the Englishman out in the streets. Few transfer sagas have left behind a sourer taste than Ashley Cole’s eventual 2006 move to Chelsea. Having played for his childhood club, Arsenal, for six years, Cole met with Chelsea representatives, including manager José Mourinho, without informing his owners. The meeting infringed league rules and Chelsea, Cole and Mourinho were all heavily fined.

Cole signed a one-year extension at Highbury, but would later claim that Arsenal had “fed him to the sharks” over the whole affair. The fullback admitted to “almost crashing his car” and being left “trembling with anger” after receiving the paltry offer of £55,000 a week from Arsenal. Cole then signed at Stamford Bridge for £90,000 a week.


3. Carlos Tevez (Manchester United to Manchester City)

Controversial Transfer #3Controversial Transfer #3

This is Carlos Tevez’s second appearance in this list. This might be pointing to a sinister habit of Tevez trying to rile up fans with his transfer antics. This time Tevez jumped ship from Manchester United to their inter-city rivals, Manchester City.

Following two fairly strong seasons at Manchester United, Carlos Tevez felt somewhat unwanted by the club and manager Alex Ferguson, when they dawdled over signing the player up to a new contract. Across town, and equipped with a new war-chest courtesy of Abu Dhabi, Manchester City were more than happy to turn Tevez from red to sky blue.

Tevez was uber popular with United fans and this move came as a very shocking turn of events. City fans, to rub it in their faces, hoarded up posters of  “THIS IS MANCHESTER” over Carlos Tevez’ pictures, all sky blue. United fans pelted the posters with red paint as their act of defiance.


2. Sol Campbell (Tottenham to Arsenal)

Controversial Transfer #2

This was nothing short of Football blasphemy. This was equivalent to Harry Potter suddenly deciding to team up with Voldemort. Yep, as shocking as that. Tottenham and Arsenal do not like each other. This rivalry was born when Arsenal moved stadiums to North London.

Sol Campbell was the face of Tottenham, he was part of their setup for a duration of 9 years, captained them for 4. He had told Spurs Monthly that he would never play for Arsenal. But when faced with another year without Champions League football, Campbell traversed North London in 2001 on a free transfer.

If this was not enraging enough for fans, the news came as a complete surprise, even to reporters at the press conference who thought they were witnessing the unveiling of goalkeeper Richard Wright. The move proved fruitful for Campbell, who netted two league titles and three FA Cups at Arsenal, but he’ll likely have to shoulder the “Judas” label from Spurs fans forever.


1. Luis Figo (Barcelona to Real Madrid)

Controversial Transfer #1

The scorching hot rivalry between Barcelona and Real Madrid, perhaps the greatest in world football, needed no further stoking. Those flames were fanned though when Luís Figo completed a shock move to the Bernabeu in 2000, for a world record fee of £37 million. The Portuguese winger had been Barcelona’s best player in the previous two seasons, helping bring successive La Liga titles to Camp Nou, and earning the adoration of Catalonians.

The move to Madrid, and Barcelona’s most bitter competition, appalled the Barça faithful. When he first returned to Camp Nou with his new team, 98,000 fans greeted Figo with deafening boos. Figo, who would ordinarily take corners for Real, avoided the corner flags where he’d otherwise be pelted by missiles of oranges, bottles, cigarette lighters and mobile phones. “Traitor” and “Scum” signs adorned the stadium, effigies were burnt in the crowd, and even a pig’s head was smuggled in to be flung towards Figo.

In his first season at Real though, Figo would go on to win the Ballon d’Or, and lead one of the most successful careers in club football history. So it was probably all worth the pig’s head.



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