Transfers are of course an integral part of the game, more so now than ever before, with many teams changing almost their entire squad in as little as three or four years. Transfers can define seasons, and make or break the careers of both managers and players. We all know the great transfers, we all know the terrible transfers, but what about the really weird transfers? These transfers raised a few eyebrows and shocked the world of soccer.
Transfers tend to be the movement of a player who has performed well to a club in a better position than their current one, or a player who is now out of favor moving to another one. In the modern game, finances also play a major role in most players movements. Sometimes though, there are transfers which are slightly more difficult to understand, bizarre deals which often have fascinating back-stories.
Many of the players upon this list are stars of the beautiful game who have joined relative minnows. Whilst in some cases, it is the other way round, soccer powerhouses signing relatively unknown talents for no good reason. The list includes traditional transfers as well as loan deals and Bosman signings. Here are the top 25 weirdest transfers in soccer history:
25 Tyrone Mears to Marseille
Marseille are one of the giants of French soccer, so their fans may have been somewhat perplexed when they took Tyrone Mears on a year-long loan deal from Championship club Derby County. The season prior to his arrival in the South of France, Mears had been a part of the worst Premier League side in history with Derby, playing 25 times as the club won only one game all season. Mears played 7 times for OM before returning to England and joining Burnley, he signed for the Seattle Sounders earlier this year.
24 Kevin Keegan to Southampton
Kevin Keegan had won the Ballon d'Or in 1978 and 1979, and was undoubtedly one of the best players in Europe at the time, so there was some surprise when he swapped Hamburg for Southampton. Hamburg were one of Europe's top clubs at the time, whilst the Saints were battling the drop in the First Division. It was later revealed that Liverpool turned down the chance to sign Keegan before his shock move to Southampton. He scored 37 goals in 68 games on the south coast before heading to Newcastle.
23 Nicklas Bendtner to Juventus
Nicklas Bendtner, or 'Lord Bendtner', as the internet seems to have crowned him in recent years, is an unusual player. His mix of self-confidence and lack of actual final product on the pitch have made him something of a cult hero to some. The Dane played just over 100 times for Arsenal in almost a decade with the Gunners, in which time he scored 24 goals. He had mediocre loan spells with Birmingham and Sunderland, but somewhere in the above statistics there was enough to convince Juventus to make a loan move for him. He played 9 games and scored no goals.
22 Craig Davies to Hellas Verona
Craig Davies grew frustrated as a 21-year-old striker playing for League Two Oxford United back in 2006, so he swapped the English fourth division for the Italian second, and joined Hellas Verona in Italy in a shocking move. Few English players make the move to Italy, and very few from the fourth tier. Davies became the only Englishman playing in Italy at the time and soon returned on-loan to Wolves. He played only once for the 1985 Serie A champions.
21 Sir Bobby Charlton to Waterford Town
Sir Bobby Charlton is one of the game's all-time greats. He is Manchester United and England's all-time top scorer as well as winning three league titles, one European Cup and most famously the World Cup with England in 1966, the same year that he won the Ballon d'Or. Charlton spent 17 years at Old Trafford, before spending a season at Preston North End followed by a shock move to lowly Waterford Town. Charlton is, unsurprisingly, the only Ballon d'Or winner to play for the club, and one suspects the last. He scored once in three appearances.
20 Pele to New York Cosmos
The reason behind Pele's move to the New York Cosmos is less difficult to understand than most of the others on this list, but that didn't make it any less surprising. Pele had been out of the game for almost two years having left Santos, and despite his incredible fame, he was not an exceptionally wealthy man. The offer of almost $6 million and the New York lifestyle was enough to secure the greatest player of all-time headed to the big apple and kicked off a wave of superstars moving to the U.S.
19 Jimmy Greaves to Barnet
Jimmy Greaves is one of the most deadly strikers in the history of the English game. For Chelsea, A.C. Milan, Tottenham, West Ham and England he was clinical. Following retirement, Greaves became an alcoholic and after two years out of the game he looked to make a return. After getting fit with local side Brentwood and Chelmsford, he joined Barnet in 1977. He spent two years with the Bees, playing as a midfielder, and scored 25 goals.
18 Didier Drogba to Shanghai Shenhua
In 2012 Didier Drogba ended an eight-year spell at Chelsea by winning the Champions League, which had been the club's holy grail for some time. He was voted Chelsea's greatest player of all time the same year, and when he announced his departure, among the sadness there was a feeling that the time was right. His next club came as something of a surprise though, Chinese team Shanghai Shenhua. The lucrative deal was short-lived, asDrogba scored eight goals in 11 games before heading to Galatasaray and subsequently back to Chelsea, with whom he won the Premier League title last season.
17 Tevez & Mascherano to West Ham
Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano were opponents playing for Barcelona and Juventus respectively at this years Champions League final, but nine years earlier, the pair had just signed for West Ham United. Historically a big side, West Ham were relegation candidates, and the capture of two Argentine internationals from Corinthians was a major coup. Both stayed only a season, with Tevez making a huge impact, which soon led to a controversial court cases as Sheffield United protested the validity of his signing.
16 Claudio Caniggia to Dundee
Renowned for his electric pace, Claudio Caniggia was always likely to struggle to play at the highest level once he reached his 30s, but few could have predicted his move to Scotland and Dundee in 2000. Caniggia became an immediate star with Dundee, and soon moved to Rangers, before heading off to Qatar. Caniggia played in three World Cups with Argentina, finishing as a runner-up at Italia '90.
15 Ali Dia to Southampton
Ali Dia's name is always likely to crop up on lists of this ilk. The man who fooled Graeme Souness into thinking he was a professional footballer, Dia's signing for Southampton is surely one of the oddest and most embarrassing in the game's history. The Senegalese striker never made it in football, with many failed trials and a spell at Blyth Spartans the highest level he'd played at. Yet in 1996, after his friend told Souness that Dia was George Weah's cousin, he got one game in the Premier League. Dia came on for Southampton legend Matthew Le Tissier, and was soon sussed out, playing only minutes for the Saints.
14 Chris Waddle to Worksop
Former England star Chris Waddle has a real passion for the game, and even today, aged 52, he is still playing. In his prime, Waddle was named player of the year at both Tottenham and Sheffield Wednesday, as well as winning three French titles with Marseille and amassing 62 caps for England, featuring at Italia '90. Despite being 40 at the time, there was still some shock when Waddle headed into the non-league, joining Worksop Town. He spent two seasons at the club, playing 60 times and is currently playing for Hallam FC.
13 Allan Simonsen to Charlton Athletic
Allan Simonsen won the Ballon d'Or in 1977 and became the first man in history to score in the European Cup, UEFA Cup and Cup Winners Cup finals in 1982, yet that same year, Simonsen swapped Barcelona for Charlton Athletic. Despite having impressed at the Camp Nou, the arrival of Diego Maradona pushed Simonsen out and he shocked the world of soccer when he rejected Real Madrid and Tottenham to join Second Division side Charlton Athletic. Simonsen played 16 times for Charlton, scoring nine goals, but stayed less than a year since the club couldn't pay his wages.
12 Alejandro Sabella to Sheffield United
Few players swap Buenos Aires for the Steel City, but that's exactly what Alejandro Sabella chose to do in 1978. Much like Simonsen's deal, the transfer had a lot to do with Diego Maradona. Sheffield United had tried to sign El Diego from Argentinos Juniors, but deemed his price tag too high, instead turning their attention to Sabella. The Magician, as he was known, played 76 times for United, as they were relegated to the third division, and joined Leeds United in 1980. He managed Argentina at the 2014 World Cup.
11 Johan Cruyff to L.A. Aztecs
A star of the European game moving to the NASL in the late 70's to early 80's was rarely a surprise, in fact it was so common that it bordered upon the cliche. However, Cruyff's move to the Los Angeles Aztecs still shocked the world of soccer, due to his age. Cruyff moved to the U.S. in 1979, aged 32, when he was still one of the best players in the world. The Dutchman proved this because when he left the U.S. in 1981, after a brief spell with the Washington Diplomats, he played a further 3 seasons for Levante, Ajax and Feyenoord.
10 Tommy Lawton to Notts County
Tommy Lawton is widely regarded by those who saw him in action as one of the games greatest marksman. After spells with Burnley and Everton, Lawton had become Chelsea's star man, which made it all the more surprising when he dropped down to the second division to join Notts County. Lawton was only 28 at the time and still playing for England, he became a hero at County, and said he went to the club as a favor for a friend.
9 Rivaldo to Bunyodkor Tashkent
Although he was becoming something of a journeyman and was 36 at the time, few could have predicted that Rivaldo's next destination would have been Uzbekistan in 2008. The Brazil legend signed a contract worth around $12 million over the course of two years, more than he was likely to receive from anyone else at his age. He played 53 games for the club, scoring 33 goals. Rivaldo won the World Cup with Brazil in 2002, the Ballon d'Or in 1999 and retired in 2014, at the age of 42.
8 Paul Merson to Tamworth
Former England and Arsenal winger Paul Merson began a steady descent down the league's after leaving Arsenal in 1997. He became Walsall player/manager in 2004, but after leaving in 2006 he dropped out of the football league to take charge of Tamworth, a move which shocked many. Merson spent only a month at Tamworth, playing only once. He briefly came out of retirement in 2012, playing once for Welshpool Town.
7 Paul Gascoigne to Boston
It is not easy for Paul Gascoigne to shock the world of football, 'Gazza', as he is better known, has a history of bizarre antics. Yet in 2004, he managed to shock us once more, becoming the player/manager of non-league side Boston United. Gazza rejected a contract from D.C. United and had a failed month in China before joining Boston. He played five times in three months before leaving the club.
6 Julien Faubert to Real Madrid
Julien Fabuert's loan move to Real Madrid really did beggar belief. He had been a useful utility player for West Ham, but nothing more. Real are renowned for pinching the greatest talents on earth due to their incredible pulling power, but Faubert didn't quite seem to be in this category, with the greatest deal of respect. Faubert's biggest claim to fame is being the first man to wear the famous French no. 10 shirt following Zidane's retirement, which came in Faubert's first and last France cap. Faubert played twice for Real, and must have been wondering himself what he was doing there.
5 Edgar Davids to Barnet
The second weird transfer of a great player to Barnet is that of former Dutch star Edgar Davids. The distinctive looking Davids was one of Europe's best midfielders for almost a decade, playing his best football for Ajax and Juventus, as well as spells with AC Milan, Barcelona, Inter Milan, Tottenham and Crystal Palace. The Champions League winner dropped all the way to League Two and eventually the Conference, the fourth and fifth tiers of English football, with Barnet, who he joined in 2012 and left in 2014. Davids struggled in the Conference, being sent off three times in his first 8 games, and left after 38 appearances for the Bees.
4 Sol Campbell to Notts County
Sol Campbell shocked many people when he became the first player in the world to earn more than £100,000 when he crossed North London rivals, joining Arsenal from Tottenham, but his move to Notts County was even more surprising. The former England star was named in three Premier League team of the Year's, the 2002 World Cup team of the tournament and the 2004 Euro's team of the tournament. In 2009, after 17 years with Spurs, Arsenal and Portsmouth, Campbell joined fourth tier Notts County on a five-year-deal, he played only once before terminating his contract.
3 Ronnie O'Brien to Juventus
The signing of Ronnie O'Brien on a five-year deal by Juventus is truly one of the most mind-boggling deals to have ever taken place. O'Brien was 20, had just been released by Middlesbrough and had never played a professional football game in his life; yet Juventus offered him such an incredible deal. The Irishman's only success had come at youth level, with the likes of Robbie Keane and Damien Duff. O'Brien didn't play a single game for the Old Lady in his 5 years at the club, but did have a successful later career in the M.L.S.
2 George Best to Dunstable & Jewish Guild
George Best played for a number of less than legendary teams after leaving Manchester United, but undoubtedly these two were the biggest shocks. Best left United in 1974, aged 28, when he should have still been at his best. He never played for non-league Dunstable but turned out five times for South African side Jewish Guild, where he drew thousands of fans but frustrated the team due to his behavior and missing training sessions. He continued upon his rapid decline which had begun in his mid 20s.
1 Socrates to Garforth Town
The transfer of Socrates to Garforth Town is truly the most bizarre transfer in the history of the game, and it is difficult to fathom a stranger one ever occurring. The late, great Socrates was one of the greatest midfielders to ever grace a football field. He was composed and graceful with all the footballing intelligence and ability to create chances at a whim. He spent his entire career in Brazil, retiring in 1989, before returning to the game in 2004, joining Yorkshire minnows Garforth Town. The Brazil legend played only 12 minutes for the club, who played in the ninth tier of English football.