Beckham, Figo, Tevez: The 55 most shocking transfer deals of all time


The transfer market provides football fans with much to discuss, particularly when the various windows in which moves can be made are open.

The rumours, speculation and – in some cases – outright wishful thinking are all part of the rich tapestry of supporting your time. Sometimes, fans will get what they want. Inevitably, on most occasions, they won’t.

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Juan Cuadrado in action for Chelsea

How much did Chelsea pay for Juan Cuadrado in February 2015?

However, there are rare instances where a deal is so unexpected or outrageous that it takes the entire football community by shock.

To illustrate this point, FourFourTwo has ranked the most shocking transfers in the history of the game – and we bring that countdown to you here, together with a brief analysis of some of the most significant moves.

55 Football Transfers that Shocked the World

55. Ronaldinho (AC Milan to Flamengo, 2011)

54. Andrea Pirlo (Inter to Milan, 2001)

53. Paul Pogba (Juventus to Man United, 2016)

52. Carlos Gamarra (Palmeiras to Olimpia, 2007)

51. Cafu (Zaragoza to Palmeiras, 1995)

50. Colin Kazim-Richards (Fenerbahce to Galatasaray, 2011)

49. Roy Keane (Nottingham Forest to Man United, 1993)

48. Paul Gascoigne (Newcastle to Tottenham, 1988)

47. Gareth Bale (Tottenham to Real Madrid, 2013)

46. Alan Shearer (Blackburn to Newcastle, 1996)


45. Andy Carroll (Newcastle to Liverpool, 2011)

44. Johan Cruyff (Ajax to Barcelona, 1973)

43. Jaap Stam (Man United to Lazio, 2001)

42. Juninho Paulista (Sao Paulo to Middlesbrough, 1995)

41. Andreas Moller (Borussia Dortmund to Schalke, 2000)

From Ronaldinho forcing through a return to Brazil in 2011 after falling out with current Juventus manager Massimiliano Allegri to Manchester United forking out £89m to retrieve Paul Pogba from Turin having let him leave for free four years earlier, this early portion of the countdown already features a number of memorable transfer sagas.

Elsewhere, fees paid for the likes of Paul Gascoigne, Roy Keane, Alan Shearer and Gareth Bale saw transfer records tumble.

40. David Luiz (PSG to Chelsea, 2016)

39. Bebe (Vitoria to Man United, 2010)

38. Mario Gotze (Borussia Dortmund to Bayern Munich, 2013)

37. Gigi Buffon (Parma to Juventus, 2001)


36. Julien Faubert (West Ham to Real Madrid, 2009)

35. Ruud Gullit (Sampdoria to Chelsea, 1995)

34. Ashley Cole (Arsenal to Chelsea, 2006)

33. Steve Daley (Wolves to Man City, 1979)

32. Alan Smith (Leeds to Man United, 2004)

31. Esteban Cambiasso (Inter to Leicester, 2014)

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson bravely spent £7.4m on Portuguese youngster Bebe in 2010 without ever seeing him play (the gamble did not pay off!) The Old Trafford legend, though, did have slightly better luck when convincing Alan Smith to make the jump from rivals Leeds United in 2004. This was despite Smith previously claiming that he would never play for the Red Devils.

Chelsea also feature heavily in this stretch. Their captures of Ruud Gullit and Ashley Cole made plenty of headlines at the time they respectively went through – as did David Luiz’s shock deadline day return in 2016.

Finally, eyebrows were definitely raised when Juventus splashed out €53m on a 23-year-old Gigi Buffon. After making the better part of 600 appearances and winning numerous trophies for Juve over the next two decades, though, you’d have to consider that a bit of a bargain.

30. Gabriel Batistuta (River Plate to Boca Juniors, 1990)

29. Jurgen Klinsmann (Monaco to Tottenham, 1994)

28. Enrique Borja (Pumas to America, 1969)

27. Diego Maradona (Barcelona to Napoli, 1984)

26. Alex Teixeira (Shakhtar Donetsk to Jiangsu Suning)

25. Gianluigi Lentini (Torino to Milan, 1992)

24. Carlos Tevez (Boca Juniors to Shanghai Shenhua, 2017)

23. Carlos Tevez (West Ham to Man City, 2009)

22. Pele (Unattached to New York Cosmos, 1975)

21. David Beckham (Real Madrid to LA Galaxy, 2007)


Starring no less than three times in this list, Carlos Tevez was seemingly incapable of moving clubs without it causing some form of controversy. His transfers to Manchester City and Chinese outfit Shanghai Shenhua attracted plenty of attention, while also making the Argentinian frontman a truckload of cash.

David Beckham is another man who secured a lucrative payday with a high-profile transfer. Beckham likely had plenty left to offer in European football when he opted to leave Real Madrid, jetting off to Los Angeles to ply his trade in Major League Soccer in 2007.

20. Clive Allen (Arsenal to Crystal Palace, 1980)

19. Fernando Torres (Liverpool to Chelsea, 2011)

18. Tommy Lawton (Chelsea to Notts County, 1947)

17. Robin van Persie (Arsenal to Man United, 2012)


16. Alfredo Di Stefano (Millonarios to Real Madrid, 1953)

15. Allan Simonsen (Barcelona to Charlton, 1982)

14. Trevor Francis (Birmingham to Nottingham Forest, 1979)

13. Robinho (Real Madrid to Man City, 2008)

12. Andy Cole (Newcastle to Man United, 1995)

11. Ricky Villa and Ossie Ardiles (Racing Club/Huracan to Tottenham, 1978)

There are some genuinely surprising moves in among this lot. When Brazil forward Robinho rocked up at Manchester City on transfer deadline day, even he was shocked. That is mainly because he appeared to mistakenly believe at first that he was joining Manchester United.

Two men that did sign for United, however, were Andy Cole (from Newcastle – 1995) and Robin van Persie (from Arsenal – 2012). The departures of both men left fans at their former clubs pretty angry.

10. John Obi Mikel (Lyn Oslo/Man United to Chelsea, 2006)

9. Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano (Corinthians to West Ham, 2006)


8. Eric Cantona (Leeds to Man United, 1992)

7. Luther Blissett (Watford to Milan, 1983)

6. Jean-Marc Bosman (RFC Liège to Unattached, 1990)

5. Kevin Keegan (Hamburg to Southampton, 1980)

4. Roberto Baggio (Fiorentina to Juventus, 1990)

3. Mo Johnston (Nantes to Rangers, 1989)

2. Sol Campbell (Tottenham to Arsenal, 2001)

1. Luis Figo (Barcelona to Real Madrid, 2000)


This should probably go without saying, but if you are dead-set on leaving your current club, it might not be the best idea to depart for their arch-rivals.

However, this is exactly what Luis Figo and Sol Campbell did in the early part of this century. Spurs fans have never forgiven Campbell for crossing the North London divide, while Figo routinely had objects thrown at him during his first few visits back to the Camp Nou with Real Madrid, famously including a pig’s head.



Former Celtic player Mo Johnston wasn’t received much better when he committed the sin of signing on the dotted line for Rangers.

Granted, there’s a lot of money involved in some of these deals, but you do have to wonder if it was worth all the hassle.

OFFICIAL: Arsenal sign Ben White (The Football Terrace)

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