Caulker to Liverpool, Pato to Chelsea: 15 of the strangest loan signings in football history

Jese Rodriguez strangely went from PSG to Stoke

In an age of football that is dominated by jaw-dropping transfer fees and contracts that can set somebody for life, finding value for money in transfers can be difficult.

Permanent signings can make or break seasons for clubs, in some cases, make or break clubs full stop. That’s where loan signings come in handy. Or should, in most cases.

The loan system gives clubs a chance to find a more temporary solution to issues within their squad and has proven vital to those at the top of a league, just as much as those at the bottom. Injuries can strike or flat spots can appear within a squad, and if no permanent solution is available just yet, a loan can do the job.

However, the loan pool isn’t always full of football’s most premier names, meaning things can get really weird.

Forgotten heroes and fringe players galore, GIVEMESPORT has compiled a list of the 15 weirdest loan spells to occur.

1. Emmanuel Adebayor – Manchester City to Real Madrid

Having fallen down the pecking order at City during the 2010/11 season, Adebayor sought a mid-season move away in order to play some more regular football. Of course, the natural next step for the fringe striker who had been struggling for goals was Real Madrid. Jose Mourinho brought Adebayor to the Santiago Bernabeu, where he bagged eight times and won a La Liga winners medal.

Adebayor's loan to Real Madrid was unexpected
MADRID, SPAIN – APRIL 27: Emmanuel Adebayor (L) of Real Madrid stands dejected backdropped by his teammate Lassana Diarra after conceding a goal during the UEFA Champions League Semi Final first leg match between Real Madrid and Barcelona at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on April 27, 2011 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)

2. Grant Holt – Wigan to Aston Villa

Holt signed for Wigan in the summer of 2013, but after struggling to find goals in the Championship, was available for loan the following January. Aston Villa decided to bring him back up to the top flight in a desperate bid to avoid relegation. Unsurprisingly, he wasn’t the man to help them achieve that.

Grant Holt couldn't save Aston Villa from relegation
BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND – APRIL 05: Grant Holt (R) of Aston Villa holds off pressure from Brede Hangeland of Fulham during the Barclays Premier League match between Aston Villa and Fulham at Villa Park on April 5, 2014 in Birmingham, England. (Photo by Ben Hoskins/Getty Images)

VOTE NOW: The GMS April Fan Awards

3. Jese Rodriguez – Paris Saint-Germain to Stoke

One of the pieces of the jigsaw in Mark Hughes’ infamous ‘Stoke-a-lona’ project, Jese swapped Paris for Potters in the summer of 2017 on a season-long loan. One goal in 13 appearances summarised an underwhelming season that was marred by unfortunate personal circumstances, while Stoke were relegated from the Premier League.

Jese's loan to Stoke unfortunately fell apart
STOKE ON TRENT, ENGLAND – AUGUST 19: Jese of Stoke City is challenged by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain during the Premier League match between Stoke City and Arsenal at Bet365 Stadium on August 19, 2017 in Stoke on Trent, England. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

4. Henrik Larsson – Helsingborgs FK to Manchester United

It’s not a loan spells list without this peach. Larsson getting a move to a top club wasn’t all that strange. It was more so the fact that he’d already had his time in the top at Barcelona, and had now gone back to his former club Helsingborgs, when United came calling in 2007. Sir Alex Ferguson needed a striker, and veteran Larsson answered his call, earning cult hero status in a short-lived spell at Old Trafford.

Larsson was loved at Manchester United
MANCHESTER, UNITED KINGDOM – JANUARY 07: Henrik Larsson of Manchester United in action during the FA Cup sponsored by E.ON Third Round match between Manchester United and Aston Villa at Old Trafford on January 7, 2007 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Paul Pogba happy to join Man City (Football Terrace)

5. Julien Faubert – West Ham to Real Madrid

Again, here’s a loan spell that should be hung in the Louvre of bad loans. Faubert’s mid-season switch to Real Madrid in 2009 was, frankly, as bizarre as it gets. Having largely underwhelmed at West Ham, his agent secured him a deadline day move to the Spanish giants with a £1.5m permanent buy option. His biggest highlight in Madrid? Falling asleep while on the substitutes bench and getting his days off mixed up.

Blink and you'd have missed Faubert's time in Madrid
LONDON, ENGLAND – FEBRUARY 20: Julien Faubert of West Ham celebrates scoring their third goal during the Barclays Premier League match between West Ham United and Hull City at Boleyn Ground on February 20, 2010 in London, England. (Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images)

6. Alexandre Pato – Corinthians to Chelsea

Having already had his time in the sun that is European football as a youth starlet with Milan, Pato was very suddenly presented with a chance to return to Europe, with none other than Chelsea in January 2016. The deal went through and he made his debut – in April – scoring a penalty in the process. He didn’t stay permanently, but stuck around in Europe once again, signing for Villarreal that summer.

Pato's move to Chelsea was unexpected
BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND – APRIL 02: Alexandre Pato of Chelsea converts the penalty to score his team’s second goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Aston Villa and Chelsea at Villa Park on April 2, 2016 in Birmingham, England. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

7. Joey Barton – QPR to Marseille

A season spent in the south of France, Barton was laughing when QPR sent him away on loan to Marseille in 2012/13. What followed was just shy of a year of very strange, but also very Barton antics. A poor French accent in pressers and a mixed bag of performances saw him return to QPR the following year, despite previously stating that he definitely wouldn’t be going back.

Joey Barton was loaned to Marseille
PARIS, FRANCE – FEBRUARY 24: Joey Barton of Marseille reacts during the Ligue 1 match between Paris Saint-Germain FC and Olympique de Marseille at Parc des Princes on February 24, 2013 in Paris, France. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

8. Emmanuel Emenike – Fenerbahce to West Ham

Known by many for becoming an icon on FIFA Ultimate Team, real life felt like a bit of a simulation when West Ham actually signed Emenike on loan in January 2017. His first and only goals came in the form of a brace in the FA Cup, and he left quietly come the end of the season. Still not convinced that was a real thing that happened.

Emenike's loan was a strange one
BLACKBURN, ENGLAND – FEBRUARY 21: Emmanuel Emenike of West Ham United scores his team’s fourth goal during The Emirates FA Cup fifth round match between Blackburn Rovers and West Ham United at Ewood park on February 21, 2016 in Blackburn, England. (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)

9. Andy Kellett – Bolton to Manchester United

You remember Kellett, right? Who doesn’t? Yeah, just about everyone, actually. Having a loan spell at Plymouth cut short halfway through the 2014/15 season, Kellett literally didn’t believe it when parent club Bolton were telling him that he was off to United. He only ever turned out for the under-21s before leaving again. One of the strangest signings in an already bizarre era under Louis van Gaal.

Kellett swapped Plymouth for Manchester United
SHEFFIELD, ENGLAND – DECEMBER 06: Ryan Flynn of Sheffield United is tackled by Andy Kellett of Plymouth Argyle during the FA Cup Second Round match between Sheffield United and Plymouth Argyle at Bramall Lane on December 6, 2014 in Sheffield, England. (Photo by Tony Marshall/Getty Images)

10. Renato Sanches – Bayern Munich to Swansea

A+ for effort and logic, but an F for execution. Sanches was sent packing by Bayern in order to gain experience in a more demanding league and followed former Bayern assistant Paul Clement to Swansea as a result. On paper, it was a masterstroke for the Swans. But in reality, it was incredibly forgettable.

Renato Sanches joined Swansea on loan
SWANSEA, WALES – JANUARY 02: Renato Sanches of Swansea City (l) is challenged by Victor Wanyama of Tottenham Hotspur during the Premier League match between Swansea City and Tottenham Hotspur at Liberty Stadium on January 2, 2018 in Swansea, Wales. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

11. Javier Hernandez – Manchester United to Real Madrid

Falling out of favour as United took a new, Dutch direction under Louis van Gaal, the natural next step for their fringe forward was of course Real Madrid. The Mexican did alright for them, too, scoring the goal that sent them to the Champions League semi-final among other strikes in his sole season in Madrid. Still, a very strange decision by Los Blancos.

Chicharito scored a big goal on loan at Real Madrid
MADRID, SPAIN – APRIL 22: Javier Hernandez of Real Madrid CF (14) celebrates as he scores their first goal during the UEFA Champions League quarter-final second leg match between Real Madrid CF and Club Atletico de Madrid at Bernabeu on April 22, 2015 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)

12. Kevin-Prince Boateng – Sassuolo to Barcelona

We’re convinced Europe’s top clubs delve into the loan market every now and then purely for a bit of a laugh, at this point. One of several very questionable pieces of business from Barcelona in the latter end of the 2010s, Boateng headed to Camp Nou in January 2019 and became the first ever Ghanaian to represent the club. Fever dream stuff.

Boateng was a real surprise at Barcelona
SEVILLE, SPAIN – JANUARY 23: Kevin Prince Boateng of FC Barcelona runs with the ball during the Copa del Quarter Final match between Sevilla FC and FC Barcelona at Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan on January 23, 2019 in Seville, Spain. (Photo by Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images)

13. Kim Kallstrom – Spartak Moscow to Arsenal

In the Autumn of his career by this point, Arsenal came calling for the services of Kallstrom on deadline day in January 2014, despite finding out that he was bogged down with a back injury. Four appearances and a penalty that sent them to the FA Cup final, it was very short and a little strange, but sweet.

Kallstrom's time at Arsenal was short
LONDON, ENGLAND – APRIL 12: Kim Kallstrom of Arsenal celebrates scoring in the penalty shoot during the FA Cup Semi-Final match between Wigan Athletic and Arsenal at Wembley Stadium on April 12, 2014 in London, England. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

14. Steven Caulker – QPR to Liverpool

Very early Jurgen Klopp days, was this, and you can’t half tell. It was weird enough that Liverpool targeted Caulker, who had already spent half of the season at Southampton, but it was even weirder when he arrived and Klopp started using him as a target man in the dying embers of games. They’ve come a long way.

Caulker's move to Liverpool was bizarre
LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND – JANUARY 30: Steven Caulker of Liverpool is watched by Aaron Cresswell of West Ham United during the Emirates FA Cup Fourth Round match between Liverpool and West Ham United at Anfield on January 30, 2016 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

15. Odion Ighalo – Shanghai Shenhua to Manchester United

Kicking off the most unpredictable year in the strangest way possible, United were desperate for a striker in January 2020. So much so, that when they were priced out of a pursuit of Joshua King, they turned to the Chinese Super League and took Ighalo on a loan to the end of the season. Ighalo managed to get over before COVID-19 ran riot, and scored a handful of goals for the Red Devils, before leaving a year later. What a time to be alive.

Ighalo's United loan was a success
LINZ, AUSTRIA – MARCH 12: (FREE FOR EDITORIAL USE) In this handout image provided by UEFA, Odion Ighalo of Manchester United celebrates after scoring his team’s first goal during the UEFA Europa League round of 16 first leg match between LASK and Manchester United at Linzer Stadion on March 12, 2020 in Linz, Austria. The match is played behind closed doors as a precaution against the spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus). (Photo by UEFA – Handout/UEFA via Getty Images )

QUIZ – Name these obscure Leeds United January transfers

1 of 9
Mateusz Bogusz - Leeds

Do you know this obscure player Leeds signed in the January transfer window?

News Now - Sport News