Top 5 Most Controversial Transfers in Football History

Top 5 Most Controversial Transfers in Football History

The beautiful game, is no stranger to drama and controversy, especially when it comes to player transfers. Let's take a look at the top five most controversial transfers in football history.

Football is the most popular sport on the planet and one that reaches to every corner of the world. Although lots of people like to play it, watching is hugely popular and fans get a real kick from following their favourite team. 

This is a sport that also connects with fans because of the number of exciting leagues, tournaments and competitions there are to keep tabs on. When it comes to the best club football tournament, the UEFA Champions League is a case in point and is popular with all manner of people who like to get involved with football. When international competitions and top domestic leagues are considered, it is easy to see how the variety of competition keeps supporters engaged.

Football is also a widely followed sport because of the drama it often generates. While this is usually restricted to action on the pitch, player transfers can also be a real bone of contention. But which have been the sport’s most controversial transfers ever?

Mo Johnston – Nantes to Rangers

On the face of it, Mo Johnston’s move to Glasgow Rangers from French side Nantes doesn’t look controversial at all. The key thing to remember though is that the striker had played for Celtic, who are Rangers’ bitter rivals, before joining Nantes.

The situation was even more tense as Johnston had been expected to rejoin Celtic when leaving France in 1989, and was even quoted in the press as saying Celtic were the only side he wanted to play for. His decision to suddenly sign for Rangers not only upset Celtic fans massively but also left him playing for fans who didn’t really want him there either.

Roberto Baggio – Fiorentina to Juventus

There are fierce rivalries between teams all across the footballing world but few match the intensity of Fiorentina’s hatred for Juventus. This seems to stem from a controversial Serie A season in 1982, when Juve snatched the title from Fiorentina.

It was not really surprising to see fans of La Viola being less than impressed when their star player at the time, Roberto Baggio, was sold to Juventus for £8m in 1990. This transfer caused a literal riot in the streets of Florence and saw the Juventus team bus needing a police escort when his new team returned to the city in 1991.

Luis Figo – Barcelona to Real Madrid

Some footballers seem to look for trouble when moving teams and this is certainly true of Portuguese winger Luis Figo leaving Barca for Real Madrid in 2000. These two, after all, are bitter La Liga rivals.

Figo was also a top star in the world of football at the time and his silky skills had made him a real fan hero at Camp Nou, so his perceived betrayal hurt even more when he jumped ship to Madrid. The depths of Barca fans’ feelings towards Figo were on full display when they threw a variety of objects (including a pig’s head!) onto the pitch to rebuke him in a 2002 ‘El Clásico’ match.

Sol Campbell – Tottenham to Arsenal

Sol Campbell had a brilliant career at the top level of English football and on the international stage. He did not go through his playing days without controversy, though, and this was certainly true when he moved from Spurs to bitter enemies Arsenal in 2001.

Campbell was a key member of the Spurs side and had come through the ranks as a well-loved youth player. As with Figo’s transfer, his status among fans served to make his betrayal all the more stinging. Fans of Tottenham were also less than impressed that Campbell could have moved to a number of other clubs before Arsenal, and netted the team a decent transfer fee. Instead, the player chose to stall on a new contract and moved to the Gunners for nothing.

Alan Smith – Leeds to Manchester United

It is fair to say that there is no love lost between Leeds and Manchester United. As a result, Alan Smith’s decision to move from Leeds to Manchester United in 2004 for £7m was a real talking point. This is even clearer when Smith’s previously stated desire to never play for Manchester United is taken into account. While the transfer fee saved Leeds from serious financial trouble, fans just could not get past one of their own joining their hated rival.

There is no doubt that transfers are something that makes football exciting – but they can also prove very controversial at times. This is easy to understand when moves such as those discussed here are considered and we take into account the upset they caused.