The sport of soccer is well known for being littered with prima donnas and it’s a common occurrence to see contract deals and transfers become quite ugly at times. Contracts basically mean nothing in the sport as players gladly sign multi-year deals one day and then try to break them the next as soon as a better offer comes along. Loyalty is rare on and off the pitch and players are often labeled as traitors when they leave one club for a close rival. For some reason, soccer players have way too much power and teams simply don’t enforce contracts the way they should.
There have been hundreds of players over the years who have forced transfers by acting in a childish manner and threatening to go on strike if they’re not sold to their team of choice. But instead of enforcing their signed contracts, clubs typically give in and sell them. Sometimes the teams get more than the player’s worth and at other times they receive a lot less. Yes, the players definitely run the show when it comes to soccer. They have the power to veto any move, there are rarely any trades, there’s no salary cap and no collective bargaining agreements to adhere to. In addition, the clubs pay the player agent fees rather than the players paying them.
One of the reasons there are so costly transfers is because players rip up their old contracts and negotiate new ones when they’re sold. This is unlike North American sports where the contract goes with the player when he’s moved. Therefore as soon as a soccer player hears another team will pay him a better salary he’s off and usually tries to force a transfer through petulant and unprofessional behaviour. There are literally hundreds of instances that could be listed, but these are 15 well-known soccer transfers that turned ugly.
15. Gabriel Heinze
Gabriel Heinze was an Argentine international star who generally underperformed with Manchester United and eventually lost his starting position to Patrice Evra. In 2007 Heinze had his eyes on a move to Liverpool, but of course manager Sir Alex Ferguson wasn’t about to sell him to United’s fiercest rivals. For some reason, the transfer saga dragged on and it finally went to a tribunal board. The board agreed that United didn’t have to bow to the player’s wishes and allow him to join Liverpool, so he was shipped off to Spanish La Liga team Real Madrid instead.
14. Xisco and Ignacio Gonzalez
Xisco was transferred from Spanish La Liga side Deportivo to English Premier League club Newcastle United in 2008. He was signed without the approval of manager Kevin Keegan though and he wasn’t happy about it. Keegan was in his second go-round boss at St James’ Park as he had walked away from the club once before. Ignacio Gonzalez was signed along with Xisco Keegan claimed he was never scouted, but had only been seen via a You Tube video. Keegan claimed the two players were signed as a favour to a pair of South American player agents and the resigned as manager when the summer transfer window closed in 2008.
He released a statement which said a club shouldn’t force players on a manager if he doesn’t want them. As for the players, Gonzalez made just two appearances while Xisco ended up playing nine games for Newcastle in five years. Keegan then took Newcastle to court over the issue when and they breached his contract. Keegan won his £2 million case.
13. Carlos Tevez
Argentine international striker Carlos Tevez lost a lot of Manchester United fans when he crossed from the red to blue side of town and joined Manchester City back in 2009. Tevez was insulted by a contract offer and wasn’t happy about his increasing lack of playing time under manager Sir Alex Ferguson. Most fans believed he would be heading to Real Madrid, but perhaps out of spite he joined City instead. Tevez was actually at United on loan from West Ham at the time and United offered to pay £25 million for him in a permanent deal. Tevez was also offered a five-year deal, but turned it down.
After joining City, he showed his true colours again when he refused to play in a UEFA Champions League match and was subsequently fined by the club and told not to bother showing up to the ground while they tried to sell him. They found no takers at the time and after a public apology from Tevez, he was allowed to rejoin the club after about a 12-week absence.
12. Robbie Savage
Robbie Savage played for Birmingham City in 2005, but wanted to play for Blackburn. He attempted to engineer a transfer there, but Birmingham wasn’t interested. Savage went to the club’s board and claimed he wanted to move to Blackburn to be closer to his ageing parents who lived in Wrexham, north Wales. However, Savage obviously failed geography since the board told him Birmingham is actually a couple of miles closer to Wrexham than Blackburn is. Savage was “punished” by being sent to train with Birmingham’s youth side.
He returned to the first team in January of 2005 and admitted that he didn’t put an effort into the match as he was trying to force a transfer. His poor play and attitude paid off as Savage was sold to Blackburn a couple of weeks later for three million pounds.
11. William Gallas
All London clubs are basically fierce rivals and fans aren’t happy when a player leaves their team to join another London outfit. French international William Gallas didn’t worry about that when he left Chelsea for Arsenal in 2006. Gallas handed in a transfer request, but Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho rejected it. His contract was due to expire the next year and he said he wouldn’t re-sign anyway as the pay was too low. The Stamford Bridge club went as far as releasing a statement which claimed Gallas said he’d score own goals if he wasn’t released. The player denied this accusation, called the organization petty, and said the club under owner Roman Abramovich lacked class.
Gallas eventually got his wishes when Chelsea shipped him off to Arsenal after the Gunner’s Ashley Cole went the other way as a replacement. Gallas was handed the captaincy at Arsenal and then stripped of it a couple of years later. He asked for more money from Arsenal for the 2010 season, but was refused. He then joined another London club, Tottenham Hotspur.
10. Pierre van Hooijdonk
Pierre van Hooijdink caused a stir n 1999 when he left English side Nottingham Forest to join Vitesse Arnhem of his Dutch homeland. Van Hooijdonk was a fan favourite at Forest as he helped the team earn promotion into the Premier League. He played well with striking partner Kevin Campbell, but when Campbell was sold just before the 1998/99 campaign kicked off, van Hooijdonk decided he also wanted to leave. Like all petulant players do, he decided to go on strike.
Forest didn’t cave in at first though and van Hooijdonk played a few games in the second half of the season. When he did score a goal, his teammates refused to celebrate it. Forest was relegated at the end of the season and van Hooijdonk was soon sent to Vitesse Arnhem. This wasn’t the first time the Dutch striker embarrassed himself as he was involved in a contract dispute a year earlier at Celtic. He was offered seven thousand pounds a week by the Scottish club, but said that kind of money might be okay for the homeless, but it’s not enough for an international soccer striker.
9. Raheem Sterling
The latest transfer saga occurred this July when Raheem Sterling left Liverpool for Premier League rivals Manchester City. The Jamaican-born, English international publicly announced last season that he wanted to leave Anfield even though he was under contract for two more years at 35,000 pounds a week. Sterling got nasty when manager Brendan Rodgers turned down a couple of transfer bids and denounced his boss through the media. Sterling claimed Liverpool’s chances of winning trophies weren’t as good as City’s and added that it had nothing to do with money.
Once Sterling found out City was prepared to pay him the ridiculous amount of £200,000 a week compared to the £100,000 Liverpool offered he told Liverpool he wouldn’t show up for preseason training and a tour of Australia and Asia. The 20-year-old Sterling, who has played under 100 Premier League games, was then sold to City for approximately £49 million, which is a new record for an English player.
8. John Obi Mikel
Back in 2005, John Obi Mikel of Nigeria was playing with the Lyn Oslo club in Norway and ended up moving controversially to Chelsea of the Premier League. In April, 2005, shortly after he turned 18 years old, Manchester United announced they had a deal with Lyn to buy Mikel for four million pounds. The player was supposed to show up at Old Trafford in January of 2006. Lyn said the deal was made with Mikel as his agents weren’t involved. However, Chelsea claimed they had also made a deal with Lyn and the player though his agents. The Norwegian club denied this claim though and Mikel went missing for nine days in May of 2005.
Reports said he was kidnapped after Lyn had received threats. It turned out Mikel had traveled to London to speak with Chelsea. He then announced that United had pressured him into signing at Manchester as his agents weren’t present. United and Lyn denied these accusations, went nuts, and complained to FIFA. Chelsea, United and Lyn then all met to resolve the issue. Chelsea ended up paying United £12 million and handed another four million to Lyn. The Lyn director was later found guilty of fraud and making false claims and handed a 12-month suspended sentence. Chelsea wanted their money back and their claim was settled out of court. After watching Mikel play for numerous years, it looks like Man United came out the winners in this soap opera.
7. Sol Campbell
English international defender Sol Campbell was another player who left one London club for another when he joined Arsenal from Tottenham Hotspur in 2001. Campbell was Spurs’ captain, but his contract was about to expire. Tottenham offered him a new deal which would have seen him become the highest-paid player in club history. However, after publicly stating to fans that he intended to stay at White Hart Lane, he turned it down and also rejected offers from a few European teams.
To the horror of Spurs supporters, Campbell signed with their arch rivals and to rub salt into the wound Tottenham didn’t receive a penny as it was a free transfer. Campbell was hung in effigy by Spurs fans and ridiculed endlessly whenever the two clubs played each other. He had earlier stated he would never play for Arsenal, but then claimed he moved to the enemy because he wanted to play Champions League football.
6. Ashley Cole
Defender Ashley Cole was a part of the William Gallas ordeal when Cole went from Arsenal to Chelsea and Gallas came the other way in 2006. Cole was offered £55,000 a week by the Gunners in a new deal, but it wasn’t enough for him as Chelsea were willing to pay £90,000. He then got together with his agent and met with Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho and CEO Peter Kenyon in a London hotel even though he was still under contract at Arsenal. The parties were all fined heavily for the June 2005 meeting, but the amounts were reduced following an appeal.
Just a month after meeting with Chelsea, Cole agreed to a year-long extension with Arsenal. A year later, he blasted Arsenal in his autobiography and was then left out of the Arsenal team photo at the beginning of the 2006/07 season. Cole ended up moving to Stamford Bridge in August of 2006 while Gallas signed with Arsenal. Chelsea also handed over five million pounds in the deal.
5. Joleon Lescott
English international defender Joleon Lescott was considered Everton’s most consistent player when he moved to Manchester City in 2009. Everton turned down a pair of bids for Everton’s two-time player of the year, but of course Lescott now knew City was interested in him and higher wages were around the corner. This led him to put in an official transfer request at Everton, but it was turned down by manager David Moyes.
Lescott then told Moyes he didn’t want to play in the 2009/10 season opener, but Moyes named him to the squad anyway. Moyes dropped the player a week later due to his bad attitude. The manager then caved in to Lescott and he was sold to City a couple of weeks later for about £22 million. He quickly became one of City’s worst big-money flops.
4. Luis Suarez
Luis Suarez had just led the English Premier League in scoring with 31 goals and the league’s player of the year helped Liverpool to the runners-up position in the 2013/14 season. But he was adamant on moving from Merseyside even though he had several years to go on a newly-signed contract inked just months earlier. In May of 2013 Suarez publicly said he wanted to leave Anfield. In August, Arsenal offered £40 million and one pounds for him, but the bid was rejected. Suarez then threatened to take Liverpool to court as he claimed manager Brendan Rodgers promised he could leave if the team didn’t qualify for the Champions League. Rodgers denied this and told the serial biter and alleged racist that he’d have to train by himself. Suarez was told by club owner John Henry that he wouldn’t be sold.
Suarez then had an excellent season and signed yet another long-term contract with the Reds in December of 2013. Suarez pulled a similar stunt to the previous year when he found out Barcelona was offering a ton of money for him. He was eventually sold to the Spanish giants just seven months after pledging allegiance to Liverpool and signing on the dotted line.
3. Fabian Delph
Aston Villa Captain Fabian Delph repeatedly assured the club and fans alike that he was staying at Villa Park for the upcoming 2015/16 Premier League season. He made numerous statements about his loyalty to the club and wasn’t interested in leaving even though City agreed to pay the eight million pound release clause in his contract. Villa fans and officials rejoiced and praised his loyalty. They also wanted to raise his release clause as well as his weekly wages.
Villa offered to jack up his paycheque from £50,000 to £80,000 a week. But just six days after professing his undying love for Villa the England international decided to join City after all as they were offering £100,000 a week. In fact, City didn’t contact Delph to see if he’d reconsider his earlier stance he called them. Predictably, Villa fans went ballistic on social media sites and Delph is definitely in for a rough ride when he returns to Villa Park with his new team this season.
2. Peter Odemwingie
In one of the most bizarre soccer transfer cases, Nigerian international Peter Odemwingie basically tried to force a club into signing him rather than forcing his own team to let him go. The striker was a member of West Bromwich Albion in 2012/13 and had signed a new contract six months earlier. However, when he found out the club had turned down a bid for him in January of 2013 he attacked his employers via Twitter. He was hoping the move would result in a transfer, but when deadline day came there was no deal in place. West Brom was close to a deal with Queens Park Rangers (QPR), but wanted to make sure they had a replacement for him. When one couldn’t be found the deal was called off.
However, this didn’t deter Odemwingie as he got in his car and drove to Loftus Road, the home ground of QPR and attempted to get them to sign him. The London club had no idea what he was doing there and didn’t let him in since no permission was granted by West Brom. Odemwingie drove back to Birmingham and was promptly suspended and fined. The striker then apologized as was back in the squad a month later. He took to Twitter again though when he was used sparingly and was unloaded to Stoke City after the season.
1. Luka Modric
The worst case of petulance came from Croatian international Luka Modric as he attempted to force Tottenham Hotspur to sell him to Chelsea and then Real Madrid. Modric signed a six-year deal with Spurs in 2010 and said he had no desire to leave. Just a year later he learned London neighbours Chelsea were interested in him. Spurs turned down two bids and then Modric outraged fans by saying he’d like to move to Stamford Bridge with Chelsea. He claimed that Spurs had an agreement with him which would allow him to leave if a big club came knocking. Spurs didn’t give in as they turned down a third bid and Modric responded by refusing to play in the team’s 2011/12 season opener. He soon changed his tune when he found out he wouldn’t be paid if he walked out. Modric sulked, but played the season with Tottenham.
It was déjà vu all over again the next year when Modric sat out preseason in order to force a move. Spurs fined him £80,000, but didn’t want the hassle anymore and sold him to Real Madrid for £30 million. However, this was £10 million less than what Chelsea offered 12 months earlier. Tottenham said they wouldn’t sell Modric to a fellow Premier League club and the league’s fans should thank them for that as they didn’t have to witness his disgraceful behaviour any longer.
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