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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
QUIZ – Name these obscure Leeds United January transfers