The term 'hijacking' in relation to a football transfer is certainly a modern one, but the practice itself is not. Since the dawn of the game teams have done everything in their power to get the player they want, and that can sometimes lead to things getting a bit nasty. For those who aren't aware of the phrase, it simply means when a player is on the verge of joining one team before another swoops in at the last minute to hijack the deal.
Although it has been a long-time practice, it has become particularly common in recent years. Many of the most famous cases came at Manchester United under Alex Ferguson, with the Scot often emerging on both the winning and losing side of such deals. Some consider such deals to be worthy of moral condemnation; being somewhat dirty, underhanded or Machiavellian, while others see it as just another act of the transfer window circus which ought to be taken as part and parcel of the modern game.
In recent times, it is common to see a number of high-profile transfer hijacking's most transfer windows, and as such, narrowing a list down to just 15 cases involves some discretion on the part of the author. Those included, and the order in which they are presented, has been decided using criteria such as the implications of the deal, the controversy of it and the circumstances which surrounded it. Here are the top 15 hijacked transfers.
15 Michael Laudrup
14 Chelsea Signings
13 Faustino Asprilla
12 Herbert Burgess
11 Park Chu-Young
10 Paul Gascoigne
9 Mo Johnston
8 Dave Mackay
At one time the hottest prospect in world football, Robinho was still highly sought after in 2008. Chelsea had been trailing the Brazilian for some time, with Robinho stating his desire to live in London and Real giving him permission to fly over for contract talks. Oil-rich Man City needed a marquee signing in their first transfer window since the new owners had arrived, and quickly turned their attention to hijacking the deal.
6 Emmanuel Petit
4 Ian Storey-Moore
In 1972, a 27-year-old Ian Storey-Moore had spent a decade at Nottingham Forest, scoring 105 goals in 236 games. After 10 years at Forest, Storey-Moore agreed to join rivals Derby County, with Clough once again appearing to have worked his magic. With the fee agreed, Storey-Moore was paraded around the ground and was introduced by Brian Clough. Storey-Moore commented, "I've joined a great club," and when questioned on reports regarding Manchester United he dismissed them and re-emphasized his original point, saying "I don’t know anything about it. All I know is I’ve joined a great club."
3 David Beckham
The transfer of David Beckham from Manchester United to Real Madrid was not just a hijacking in of itself, it also led to Barcelona hijacking Manchester United's move for Ronaldinho. Becks' relationship with Sir Alex had become strained and he seemed destined to leave the club in the summer of 2003. Both Manchester United and Barcelona told the press that they had reached an agreement regarding the England international, but Real made a late attempt to make Beckham the latest addition to their galácticos.
2 Roy Keane
Free-spending Blackburn Rovers had begun their pursuit of Roy Keane in 1992, with Kenny Dalglish, much to the annoyance of Nottingham Forest manager Brian Clough. When Forest were relegated though, it appeared a certainty the Irishman would leave the club, given that he was one of the hottest prospects in the country. Given their long-time interest, Blackburn emerged as clear favorites, and in the summer of 1993, they agreed to terms with the combative midfielder. The deal was set to go through on the Friday, but a mix-up regarding the paper work caused a delay.
1 Alfredo di Stefano
The greatest transfer hijacking in the history of the game is another including Barcelona and Real Madrid, but the transfer of Alfredo di Stefano makes that of David Beckham's pale in comparison. Probably the greatest player in the world and one of the most complete footballers the sport has ever seen, Di Stefano had been playing in the highly lucrative Colombian league before arriving in Spain. Di Stefano had actually retired due to River Plate's refusal to cancel his contract, but Barcelona handed him a lifeline, offering him a deal in 1953. Barcelona spent seemingly an eternity trying to strike a deal with Di Stefano's two previous clubs and in the midst of it all, Real Madrid swooped in.
It was probably the most controversial transfer in footballing history, and is still the cause of great debate between the two clubs today. Di Stefano was the last piece in the Real jigsaw, and he inspired them to eight league titles and five consecutive European Cup successes. The signing of Di Stefano essentially made Real the most successful team in the world, and were it not for him, things could have been very different in terms of Spanish football.
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