The Best Transfers Ever

OObviously not every big name transfer is going to turn out positively. The transfers you have to consider as great are ones like Ronaldinho to Barca and Cantona to Leeds or Man Utd, where a signing has transformed the fortunes of a club. There are also great signings like Bergkamp and Henry to Arsenal, where despite the high fees involved, a player was struggling at their previous club but a manager has seen something, signed him and then reaped the rewards. And don't forget the transfers of lesser known players, such as when Celtic signed Henrik Larsson, who have then gone on to become legends at their new club.

Paulo Di Canio - 1999 Sheffield Wednesday to West Ham (£1.7m)
Following his infamous 11 match ban for pushing over Paul Alcock, nobody seemed to want to touch the charismatic Italian forward except for the poor old Wednesday fans - they knew exactly how good he was and were desperately awaiting his return, but their boss Danny Wilson didn't fancy managing him. Just when it looked like he might be heading back to Italy, Harry Redknapp stepped up and took him by his wings.Di Canio's skill was unquestionable, but not all managers are willing to gamble on his temperament that but Redknapp thought he could handle it. It was seen as something of a gamble when he persuaded the West Ham board to write a cheque for 1.7 million, but it soon became apparent that they'd got him for peanuts. Paulo and Harry got on famously and following numerous moments of trickery, man-of-the-match performances, goals and goal of the season awards, Di Canio soon became the most popular Hammers player since Trevor Brooking. He even won acclaim for his sportsmanship after he famously caught the ball at Everton whilst the goalie was down injured. This has be Redknapp's best buy.

Neil Lennon - 1999 Crewe to Leicester City (£750,000)
When Martin O'Neill left Norwich for Leicester in 1995 one of his first signings would be that of Neil Lennon in February 1996. Many clubs had looked at the Crewe midfielder, but it was O'Neill who gambled 750k and snapped him up. And whilst O'Neill quite rightly takes the plaudits for transforming the Foxes from 2nd tier nearly-men to one of the country's top 10 teams, it was his signing of Lennon that would be the catalyst for the club's most successful period in their history. Lennon formed a fine midfield partnership with Muzzy Izzet (and later Robbie Savage), and even though a key part of the team's success was based on commitment and work rate, Lennon's passing and probing was at the time second to none, and he was undoubtedly the key player as Leicester went on to win the League Cup in 1997 and 2000, finish runners-up in 1999, qualified for Europe and never dropped out of the Premiership top 10. However, by 2000 Leicester's board decided they'd had enough of silly things like winning trophies and hanging around with the big boys at the top of the table and decided to prepare the club for relegation and fan misery by allowing both Lennon and O'Neill to move to Celtic, replacing them firstly with Junior Lewis and Peter Taylor and then Dennis Wise and Dave Bassett. The clowns.

Henrik Larsson - 1997 Feyenoord to Celtic (£650k)
The £650,000 that Celtic paid Dutch club Feyenoord in July 1997 will go down in the club's history as one of their finest bits of business. Having scored goals for fun earlier in his career in Sweden with Helsingborg, goals had been harder to come by in the Eredivisie and his Parkhead career hardly got off to the best of starts - a wayward pass on his debut against Hibs resulted in a 2-1 defeat, followed by an own goal against FC Tirol! But from that moment on things got better, and better. He finished the first season as the club's top scorer, scoring 16 league goals, but more importantly for the Celtic faithful, his goals and assists helped stop Rangers from winning a record 10th title in a row. From that moment on he effectively became a club legend and the goals, quite literally, started to fly in - 38 goals, 35 goals, 29 goals, 28 goals, all seasonal totals done in a ratio of just under a goal a game. By the end of the 2003-04 season, following 7 seasons at the club Larsson had scored an incredible 242 goals in just 315 matches for the club. Despite his overwhelming goalscoring record much of the English media were still unconvinced about just how good he was, claiming that in a stronger league than the SPL, Larsson would not have the same impact. They were made to eat their words though, as spells with Barcelona (as a 33 year old) and even Man Utd (as a 36 year old) proved his class at the top level, even at such a late stage in his career. But it will be his time, and goals, at Celtic for which he will best be remembered

Eric Cantona - 1992 Leeds Utd to Man Utd (£1.2m)
Looking back now it seems incredible that Utd had to wait 26 years for a title win. And who knows, if Fergie hadn't pulled off a master-stroke and persuaded Leeds to let them have Cantona then they might still be waiting. Admittedly, they were getting close to winning it, but Cantona gave them something extra that they were missing. 4 titles in 5 years says all you need to know, and despite the infamous kung-fu kick ban, he came back better than ever and inspired the team to a famous title win in 1995-96, overhauling Newcastle's massive 12 point gap. At Leeds he'd been an idol, at Man Utd he was considered a God.

Eric Cantona - 1992 Nimes to Leeds Utd (£1.0m)
Having just "retired" from the game after being banned for throwing a ball at a referee whilst playing for French club Nimes, Cantona was persuaded by Michel Platini to try a fresh start in English football. He first arrived in England at Yorkshire rivals Sheffield Wednesday, but after a weeks trial they stalled and asked him to stay on for another week. Cantona was having none of it and Leeds boss Howard Wilkinson sneaked in and offered him a permanent deal. The signing proved inspired as it gave Leeds the momentum to see off Man Utd and Sheffield Wednesday in a close title race to claim their first championship since 1974. It would all end in tears though, Cantona being sold to their arch rivals across the Pennines for only 1.2m, less than a year after he'd joined, much to the disgust of their fans.

Steve Bull - 1986 West Brom to Wolves (£65,000)
The transfer of local Tipton lad Steve Bull to Wolves in November 1986 for just £65,000 would still have been one of the finest in English football, but the fact that it was from bitter rivals West Brom only makes the story even greater for fans of the Molyneux club. His phenomenal strike rate at the club began almost immediately - Bull clocking up a half century of goals in his first full season as Wolves stormed to the old Division 4 title. Incredibly Bull would achieve another 50 goal haul in the following season, as his goals fired the team to a 2nd successive promotion. In those first few seasons he was untouchable, scoring 6 hat-tricks in a season, achieving a goal ratio of roughly one per game, and a prolific partnership with Andy Mutch. By 1989 he'd been capped by England and he played 4 times in the 1990 World Cup. Bully was already a legend amongst the Wolves fans but endeared himself further by resisting overtures from many top clubs to stay loyal to the club and fans, although Jack Hayward and the club deserve praise for keeping him rather than cashing in. By 1992 he'd become Wolves all-time leading goalscorer when he went past John Richard's previous record of 194. And still he kept banging them in. However, he was never able to achieve the Premiership dream, and by the summer of 1999 his knee injuries had finally taken their toll and he announced his retirement. Nearly 13 years after signing for Wolves this incredible striker had scored more than 300 goals for the club, an average of nearly 25 per season. Not bad for 65 grand.

Stuart Pearce - 1985 Coventry City to Notts Forest (£0.3m)
When Brian Clough agreed to pay Coventry £300k for central defender Ian Butterworth he also made a late request to include left back Stuart Pearce as part of the deal. Coventry manager Don Mackay agreed and so started the rise of one of English football's favourite sons. Pearce's non-nonsense tackling and 100% effort quickly endeared him to the City Ground faithful and earned him the tag Psycho. He played more than 400 games for the club, many as captain, and became the regular left-back for England following his debut in 1987. Forest fans hoped he would end his career there but, having been persuaded to take a caretaker role as player-manager, the club were relegated from the top flight in 1997 and he moved to Newcastle Utd for the following season.

Diego Maradona - 1984 Barcelona to Napoli (£5.9m)
It may have cost them a world record fee at the time and ended in controversy, but ask the Neapolitans if it was worth it and you will get a resounding "Si!". At the time of the transfer Maradona was enduring a tough time in La Liga with Barcelona whilst Napoli had been flirting with relegation to Serie B for a number of years. The men who held the Lira at the Azzurri did a fine job in persuading Maradona to join, because at the time there were no other players of real quality at the club. However, over the next few seasons the likes of De Napoli, Ferrara, Carnevale, Giordano and Careca would also arrive, and together with the genius of Maradona they would soon become a force. Third place in 1985-86 was followed by the club's first ever Scudetto , with Maradona's goals and assists proving instrumental as they won the title on the last day of the season. Two runners-up spots were followed by another title in 1989-90, with Maradona finishing the season as it's top-scorer. Having given the city two championships, Maradona was now a Neapolitan legend, but his career there would end on a sour note as he was banned for 15 months after the World Cup for testing positive for cocaine and never played for the club again.

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