The most surprising transfers in football history

Following Brazilian legend Ronaldinho's move to Mexican side Queretaro, Sports Mole looks at some of the most surprising transfers in football history.

This summer's transfer window saw a number of notable moves, some of which were talked about for months and some of which seemingly came out of the blue.

Manchester United's pursuit of Angel di Maria was well documented, yet their capture of Radamel Falcao on deadline day was a surprise that stole all of the headlines.

However, perhaps the most peculiar deal of the summer went through after the window had closed, with two-time FIFA World Player of the Year Ronaldinho joining Mexican side Queretaro.

Having been named South American Footballer of the Year just last season, it is fair to say that the Brazilian legend could still play at a higher level than that required by a team who only avoided relegation on a technicality in 2013.

With that in mind, Sports Mole takes a look at some of the more surprising moves in football history.



1. Tommy Lawton, Chelsea to Notts County (£20,000 in 1947)

Having shone during spells with Burnley, Everton and Chelsea, Tommy Lawton was rightly regarded as one of the finest strikers in world football during the 1930s and '40s. An England regular with a sensational international record of 22 goals in 23 appearances, Lawton's services would have been coveted by numerous top-level teams.

However, having fallen out with Chelsea boss Billy Birrell and requested a transfer from the West London outfit, his next move stunned the football world. He signed for Third Division South side Notts County for a record transfer fee of £20,000, going on to spend five productive seasons with the Magpies.

During that time he scored 90 league goals and helped the team to promotion before seeing out his playing days with Brentford and Arsenal respectively.



2. Kevin Keegan, Hamburg to Southampton (£420,000 in 1980)

Southampton's Kevin Keegan in action on September 1, 1981© Getty Images

Kevin Keegan made such an impact during his time with Liverpool that the club's fans were fearful that they would never find a replacement when he joined Hamburg in 1977. Of course, Kenny Dalglish soon allayed such fears, but Keegan's star continued to rise in Germany as he picked up the prestigious Ballon d'Or award in 1978 and 1979.

He went on to help Hamburg to the 1980 European Cup final, where they were beaten by Brian Clough's Nottingham Forest, and also captained England at the 1980 European Championship. It came as an even bigger surprise, then, when the 'Mighty Mouse' returned to English football with Southampton - then a relatively small club who were beginning to establish themselves in the top division.

Keegan's time at The Dell was successful as he helped the club to their highest ever league finish of sixth, before following that up with a seventh-placed finish in his second and final season. Another surprise move followed as Keegan joined Second Division side Newcastle United in 1982.



3. Socrates, Unattached to Garforth Town (Free in 2004)

Brazilian football legend Socrates on the football field at Garforth Town 20 November 2004© Getty Images

The name Garforth Town would have been unfamiliar to the masses a decade ago, but that all changed when the minnows pulled off one of the biggest coups in non-league history. The Northern Counties East Football League outfit signed Brazilian legend Socrates to a one-month player-coaching deal, making headlines around the world as a result.

Socrates had been one of the finest players of his generation, winning 60 caps for Brazil and captaining his country at the 1982 World Cup, where his side became arguably the greatest team not to win the competition. Having initially retired in 1989, the 50-year-old was coaxed back into the game by Garforth for one last hurrah.

Unsurprisingly, the transfer was for publicity reasons more than football ones, with the midfielder making just one appearance for his new club. He came on as a sub with 12 minutes left of their clash against Tadcaster Albion, which finished as a 2-2 draw.



4. Edgar Davids, Unattached to Barnet (Free in 2012)

Edgar Davids of Barnet in action during the npower league Two match between Northampton Town and Barnet at Sixfields Stadium on April 27, 2013© Getty Images

Another player who was among the world's best midfielders during his heyday, Edgar Davids added a touch of glamour to Barnet when he joined as player-manager in October 2012. Having won the Champions League and six domestic titles in Holland and Italy respectively, Davids certainly arrived at Underhill with a well-earned reputation as a football superstar.

Things started well for the Dutchman as he put in a man-of-the-match debut performance in a 4-0 win for his side but, having taken sole charge of the club in December, things began to go downhill, resulting in relegation from the Football League that season.

Disciplinary problems plagued the midfielder throughout the next campaign as he was sent off three times in the opening eight matches, and he eventually retired from his post in January 2014.



5. Julien Faubert, West Ham United to Real Madrid (Loan in 2009)

New Real Madrid player French Julien Faubert poses during his official presentation at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium in Madrid, on February 02, 2009© Getty Images

It may have only been a loan move, but Julien Faubert's transfer from Upton Park to the Bernabeu was one that many fans could not get their head around. The versatile Frenchman had only made eight appearances in all competitions during his first season with the Hammers, but Real Madrid still came knocking in January 2009.

The Spanish giants reportedly paid £1.5m to take Faubert on loan, with the option to make the deal permanent on a three-year contract for an undisclosed fee. That was not an option they exercised, however, with Faubert failing to take his unexpected chance at the big time.

He made his debut in a 1-0 win over Racing Santander in February but went on to miss training when he mistakenly thought he had the day off before being caught sleeping on the bench during a match against Villarreal. Two appearances later, Faubert was back in England with West Ham following his bizarre Spanish holiday.


6. Luis Figo, Barcelona to Real Madrid (£37m in 2000)

Luis Figo is pelted with lighters and coins as he prepares to take a corner.© Getty Images

While many of the names on this list are due to players punching above or below their weight, Luis Figo's transfer to Real Madrid was shocking in a different way. The Portuguese winger had become a fan favourite at Barcelona before committing what those at the Camp Nou saw as the ultimate betrayal by joining arch rivals Real Madrid.

The transfer was for a world record fee of £37m, but even that didn't appease the Catalans' hatred towards their new public enemy number one. They made their feelings known on Figo's returns to the Camp Nou, including one infamous occasion when a pig's head was hurled onto the field.

From Figo's point of view, the move was a success as he won two league titles and the Champions League during Madrid's 'Galacticos' era. He also won the Ballon d'Or later in 2000 before scooping the FIFA World Player of the Year prize in 2001.



7. Allan Simonsen, Barcelona to Charlton Athletic (£300,000 in 1982)

During spells with Borussia Monchengladbach and Barcelona, Allan Simonsen had established himself as one of the finest strikers of his generation. He became the only player to have scored in the European Cup, UEFA Cup and Cup Winners' Cup finals, and was also named European Footballer of the Year in 1977.

However, the Dane had his nose put out of joint at the Camp Nou by the arrival of a certain Diego Maradona, meaning that he would have to compete with the Argentine and Bernd Schuster for the two starting spots allowed for foreign players in La Liga then.

Despite receiving offers from the likes of Real Madrid and Tottenham Hotspur, Simonsen opted to join Second Division side Charlton Athletic in order to play for a club with less attention than he had previously. Nine goals in 16 appearances was a promising start for the diminutive forward, but after just three months at the Valley he was put up for sale due to the club's struggles to pay his transfer fee and wages.



8. Ronnie O'Brien, Unattached to Juventus (Free in 1999)

When a 20-year-old Ronnie O'Brien was released by Middlesbrough in 1999, he may have been forgiven for thinking that his football career was over before it had even begun. The Premier League side had not seen enough potential in the Irish midfielder to grant him a new contract, instead parting company with the youngster.

However, while Boro ruled that O'Brien would never be good enough for them, an unlikely source had earmarked him as one for the future. Italian giants Juventus arrived and offered the free agent a five-year deal to move to Turin, which he unsurprisingly accepted.

What happened next was all too predictable, however, as the majority of his Juventus career was spent out on loan at clubs such as Lugano, Crotone, Lecco and Dundee United. In 2002, after just three appearances in the Intertoto Cup, O'Brien was released from his contract.


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