You know when you scan the papers, pause, and think to yourself, “Uhm...what?”
It typically happens to me at least two or three times per season, and usually involves a player transfer that simply baffles the imagination.
“Who is going where?”
“How much money are they paying for him?”
Following are 10 such transfers that have occurred in and around the time I’ve been following football, and the criteria I used in selecting them was, plain and simple, exasperation.
It could have been the clubs involved, or merely the player in question. But each of the 10 caused me to scrunch my face and wonder, “Uhm...what?"
When Mo Johnston joined Rangers from Nantes in 1989, he became just the second footballer to cross the Old Firm divide since the Second World War.
Not surprisingly, many Celtic fans disowned the Scotland international, and a large section of the Rangers support was none too happy, either. Even the club kit-man made the striker arrange his own uniform.
But Johnston managed to win over a good many Rangers fans when he scored against Celtic in his first season at Ibrox, and in both seasons he spent at the club he ended up winning the league title.
When Afonso Alves joined Middlesbrough for nearly €20 million in January 2008, he did so primarily based on a single match—a seven-goal performance in a 9-0 demolition of Heracles just three months earlier.
Needless to say, he never enjoyed anywhere close to the same success at the then-Premier League side.
In 42 Premier League appearances for Boro, Alves managed just three goals more than he had that memorable night in October. In 2009, he was offloaded to Qatari side Al-Sadd for half what the Teeside club had paid.
Which was still too much.
Andriy Shevchenko was very much a Roman Abramovich man when he joined Chelsea from AC Milan in 2006.
Jose Mourinho, who was Blues manager at the time, was thought to have disapproved of the deal, which saw the Ukraine international move to Stamford Bridge for more than £30 million.
Shevchenko was nearly 30 at the time of the transaction and would play only 47 Premier League matches for Chelsea, scoring a paltry nine goals.
Few players are as despised by a former club the way Sol Campbell is by Tottenham Hotspur—which shouldn’t be surprising, given that he had starred for the club for eight seasons before moving down the road to join arch-rivals Arsenal on a free transfer.
Having repeatedly promised to never play for the Gunners, Campbell immediately became a Judas figure after donning the red-and-white strip in 2001.
But while he was never again welcome at White Hart Lane, he won the appreciation of his new club, as he helped Arsenal to two Premier League titles and three FA Cups over the course of his stay.
Despite having never seen him play, Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson authorized a £7 million swoop for Portuguese attacker Bebe in 2010, after being turned onto the player by former assistant Carlos Queiroz.
It might have made a good story.
Abandoned by his parents at a young age, Bebe had lived in a homeless shelter and played street football before joining the Red Devils, although two-and-a-half years later he has only two Premier League appearances to show for his time at Old Trafford.
He is currently on loan at Rio Ave.
Had Zinedine Zidane not moved to Real Madrid from Juventus that same year, Gaizka Mendieta would have established a new world transfer record in 2001, when he joined Lazio from Valencia for a fee of €48 million.
It proved to be one of the worst transfers of all time.
Despite playing in back-to-back Champions League finals with Los Che and twice being named the competition’s best midfielder, the Spain international proved a bust in Italy, playing just 20 Serie A matches for Lazio and failing to find the back of the net in any of them.
He was loaned briefly to Barcelona and then played out the rest of his career at Middlesbrough, retiring in 2008.
The £50 million Chelsea paid Liverpool for Fernando Torres in January 2011 ranks as the sixth-most expensive transfer in football history.
And so far, the Blues have got just 14 Premier League goals to show for their record investment.
In fact, the nine goals Torres managed in the first half of the 2010-11 season is still more than he has managed in any of the parts of three campaigns he has spent at Chelsea.
Just a year after Ronaldo’s £19.5 million move from Barcelona to Inter Milan established a new transfer record, another Brazilian raised the money bar: Denilson de Oliveira Araujo.
Known simply as Denilson, the crafty winger had won the 1994 Copa CONMEBOL as a 17-year-old with Sao Paulo—four years before Real Betis were to come in with an astonishing £21.5 million offer for his services.
The then-21-year-old would score only 13 goals over his seven seasons in Seville, and while Betis won the 2004-05 Copa del Rey, he figured in only three matches for the club that campaign and joined Bordeaux in the summer.
One of the ways Lazio managed to fund their offer for Mendieta in 2001 was by offloading Juan Sebastian Veron to Manchester United for a whopping £28 million.
By then, the Argentine midfielder had won the Coppa Italia and UEFA Cup with Parma and Italy’s league and cup double with Lazio, although his play had tailed off considerably by the time he made the move to Old Trafford after the 2000-01 season.
He stayed only two years at United, and while he did play a small part in the title triumph of 2002-03, he was packaged off to Chelsea in the summer for £15 million—his value having been nearly cut in half.
An icon at Barcelona after joining the Catalan giants from Sporting Lisbon in 1995, Luis Figo did about the worst thing he could ever do in the eyes of the Camp Nou faithful when he joined the club’s existential rivals Real Madrid in 2000.
The €61 million Madrid paid for him is still the fifth-most expensive transfer in the history of world football, and while other players wilted shortly after making similarly high-profile moves, the Portugal international played some of the best football of his career in the Spanish capital, winning two league titles and the 2002 Champions League.
But he was never forgiven for betraying Barcelona, and on one occasion had a pig’s head tossed at him on a trip to Camp Nou.
Then, in a Euro 2004 match in Portugal, a Barcelona fan invaded the pitch and draped him in the club’s flag.