13 Worst Transfers in World Football History

Charles LawleyContributor IApril 21, 2013

13 Worst Transfers in World Football History

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    This week has seen one of Manchester United’s stupidest ever signings, Bebe, hit out at Sir Alex Ferguson.

    Bebe, who is currently on loan at Portuguese club Rio Ave, says

    “I never took Manchester United seriously and never understood a word about what Alex Ferguson was saying ...He told me to cut my hair, it will look better. So I cut it the same day. In the next training session, he didn’t recognise me. I went past him many times and he didn’t know me ...He called me 'Baby.' After I told him it wasn’t like that.

    Bebe even blamed Cristiano Ronaldo’s success on why his Old Trafford career hasn’t gone to plan. What a cry Bebe!

    So with Bebe’s United career all but over, we’re opening up the history and looking at what were world football’s stupidest ever transfers.

13. Adrian Mutu

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    Parma to Chelsea in 2003 for £15.8 million

    We start with Adrian Mutu, who features so low down in the list because he actually wasn't that bad for Chelsea and even started his Stamford Bridge career with four goals in three games.

    However, Mutu soon fell out with manager Jose Mourinho.

    Players fall out with their managers—it happens—but this deal wouldn't have been so stupid if not for the English's pesky habit of taking drug testing seriously.

    Mutu was released from his contract after testing positive for cocaine.

    And the club ended up suing the player. The deal was that bad.

    Just a warning: This isn't the last time Chelsea FC will be mentioned in this list.

12. Denilson

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    Sao Paolo to Real Betis for £21.5 million in 1998.

    Betis broke the world transfer record when they signed Denilson, following a great World Cup 1998 for the Brazilian winger.

    It was football's equivalent of the time Kanye West bought diamond teeth

    When you look at the list of players who have also broken the world transfer record (Zidane, Ronaldo 1, Ronaldo 2, Maradona, Cruyff, Figo), Denilson did nothing to earn having his name mentioned along with theirs.

    After seven years at Betis, Denilson managed a modest 13 goals in 186 games. But he may have done better if Betis hadn't loaned him out to Flamengo in 2000.

    Denilson eventually left Betis for Bordeaux in 2005 for an undisclosed fee, but it was probably significantly less than £21.5 million.

    He later achieved the dizzy heights of playing for clubs like FC Dallas, Vietnam's Vicem Hải Phòng and Greece's Kavala. 

    He retired in 2010.

11. Tony Cottee

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    West Ham to Everton for £2.2 million in 1988

    When Tony Cottee left West Ham, he had a choice between Everton and Arsenal.

    Because Everton had the won league in 1987, he chose them so he could win trophies.

    Arsenal then won the league in '89, '91, '98, 2002 and 2004, as well as FA Cup wins in '93, '98, 2002, 2003, 2005 and the League Cup in '93.

    Everton didn't win another trophy until 1995. By which point Cottee had moved back to West Ham.

    Good call, Tony.

10. Paul Gascoigne

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    Newcastle United to Tottenham Hotspurs in 1988 for £2 million.

    Now, no one is saying here that Gazza wasn't a big success for Spurs: He was.

    But when signing for them, he had another option: Manchester United. In Sir Alex Ferguson's autobiography, Managing My Life, Gascoigne had promised Ferguson he'd sign for the Reds, so Ferguson went on holiday to Malta.

    The next thing he knew, Gazza had signed for Spurs after the chairman bought his parents a house.

    You can't help to think what one of football's most wasted talents would have become at Manchester United. Would his much-publicized issues with alcohol in later life have been as bad under the guidance of a disciplinarian like Ferguson?

    Well, at least he stopped singing.

9. Winston Bogarde

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    Barcelona to Chelsea in 2000 for free

    Chelsea are to terrible signings what Ivan The Terrible was to being terrible.

    Bogarde makes it on the list, even though he didn't cost a penny. Well, that's if you don't count his £40,000-per-week wages.

    Only weeks after Bogarde signed with Chelsea, new manager Claudio Ranieri wanted him out. Like, really wanted him out.

    But Bogarde didn't want to leave. Like, really didn't want to leave.

    A battle of wills then ensued over four years, where Bogarde made just nine appearances for Chelsea (compare that to 41 games in two seasons at Barca), sitting on the subs bench of the reserve and youth teams.

    It wasn't until Abramovich took over, where Bogarde decided "do you know what? This isn't probably the sort of man that likes being messed about over money issues" and retired.

8. Massimo Taibi

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    Venezia to Manchester United for £4.5 million in 1999.

    It was always going to be tough for Manchester United to replace arguably their greatest-ever goalkeeper in Peter Schmeichel.

    Especially when his replacement can't catch.

    Massimo Taibi, Italy's answer to Rob Green, made four appearances for United. Those four appearances included his debut against Liverpool that saw him flap at a free kick, allowing Sami Hyypia to grab a goal.

    The others were a 5-0 defeat to Chelsea; the infamous match against Southampton where Taibi let a Matt Le Tissier shot bobble through his legs into the back of the net; and a fourth game no one ever talks about due to its lack of slapstick goalkeeping.

    He was loaned back to Italy in the next transfer window.

7. Robbie Keane

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    Coventry City to Inter Milan for £13 million in 2000.

    In 2013, the concept of Inter Milan buying a player from Coventry City for £13 million seems like something from a science-fiction film. But in 2000, things like that happened.

    Marcello Lippi signed a 19-year-old Robbie Keane, citing, "At that time at Inter, they had a policy of going for young players and Robbie Keane was the best one that I saw."

    However, in what is a common theme in this list, the manager left the club and, like a wicked stepmother, the new manager didn't like Robbie that much.

    Despite the fee paid for him, Keane was loaned to Leeds in the following December after just six league games for Inter, and the deal was made permanent.

    It was the last Inter would ever see of Robbie Keane.

6. Robbie Keane

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    Tottenham Hotspurs to Liverpool for £20.3million in 2008

    ...But it wasn't the last this list would see of Robbie Keane!

    If you haven't noticed by now, teams have an uncontrollable urge to sign Robbie Keane for large sums of money (a total of £70 million in transfer fees have been for Keane throughout his career). Whenever Keane is available for transfer, football chairmen around the world sign blank cheques.

    After causing controversy by publicly "unsettling" Keane, Liverpool finally got their man for £19 million with a further £1.3 million add-on.

    But he only played 19 times for Liverpool before being sold back to Spurs for £12 million—over £8 million less than what they bought him for six months earlier.

    Imagine he was a house. What would you have to do to a house in six months for it to decrease in value by 40 percent? Rip the roof off? Set fire to a wall? Discover a poltergeist?

    Anyway, it was the last Liverpool FC would see of Robbie Keane.

5. Andy Carroll

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    Newcastle United to Liverpool for £35 million in 2011.

    ...But it wasn't the last time this list would see Liverpool FC.

    Kenny Dalglish's time at Liverpool won't be an era renowned for its good decisions.

    An example of this would be when just all of a sudden, Liverpool decided that relatively unproven Newcastle United striker Andy Carroll was worth more than the club has ever paid for a player—and more than any football team has ever played for a British player.

    In Liverpool's defence, they had just received £50 million from Chelsea for Fernando Torres (spoiler alert: There's a chance that might get mentioned again in a minute) and were obviously worried that the money was poisonous and had to spend it as soon as possible.

    They paid £35 million for Carroll on the last day of the January 2011 transfer window, in what is a footballing version of going to a pub and, when last orders are called, panic and buy a pint of cider for £36.

    Carroll is still a Liverpool player but currently on loan to West Ham after just six league goals in 44 league games.

4. Zlatan Ibrahimovic

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    Inter Milan to Barcelona for €49.5 million (£42.5 million) plus Samuel Eto'o in 2009

    On the pitch, Zlatan had a pretty good time at Barca.

    Off the pitch, not so much.

    Barcelona paid nearly €50 million plus Samuel Eto'o for a striker who would only play one season at the club before being sold to AC Milan for €24 million (£20.5 million).

    Zlatan left Barca after falling out with Guardiola in a feud that is still rumbling to this day.

    In fact, "falling out" does it no justice. I'll let the man himself explain the reason why he fell out with Guardiola: "He is the philosopher who has broken my dream of being at Barcelona."

3. Jonathan Woodgate

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    Newcastle United to Real Madrid for £13.4 million in 2004

    Footballers, here's a tip if you're trying to decide if your time at a club went well. If Spanish newspaper Marca declares it "the worst signing of the 21st century" despite said century only being seven years old at the time, then it's fair to say it was a bit of a stinker.

    Despite signing in 2004, Woodgate didn't actually play for Real Madrid for over a year because of injury.

    And when Woodgate finally made his much anticipated debut in September 2005 against Athletic Bilbao, he scored an own goal and was sent off.

    Woodgate went on to make nine league appearances for Real Madrid during his three years at the club but made thousands of appearances in their treatment room.

    He was then loaned to his hometown club of Middlesbrough in a deal that would be eventually made permanent.

2. Fernando Torres

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    Liverpool to Chelsea for £50 million in 2011

    If you put every word written about what a flop Fernando Torres has been since he broke the British transfer record in January 2011 by signing for Chelsea back-to-back, it would reach from here to the sun.

    So here's a video detailing why Torres is the second stupidest transfer in world football history instead.

1. Ali Dia

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    Free Agent to Southampton for free in 1996

    In 1996, then-Southampton manager, Graeme Sounness got a call from someone claiming to be former World Player of the Year George Weah. The person claiming to be Weah tipped Sounness off to his "cousin," a Senegalese footballer called Ali Dia.

    The man claiming to be Weah also said Dia had played for his country and Paris Saint Germain.

    Souness then signed Dia to a one-month contract.

    It later turned out that it wasn't Weah on the phone, Dia wasn't his cousin, and he had never played for Senegal or PSG. In fact, it turned out he wasn't a very good footballer at all.

    But this didn't stop Dia making a Premier League appearance for Southampton against Leeds.

    This ranks as the stupidest ever transfer because even if Ali Dia was George Weah's cousin, that doesn't mean he'll automatically be a good footballer. Stella McCartney is Sir Paul's daughter, but you wouldn't let her play bass in your band, would you?

    All has worked out well in the end: Southampton are back in the Premier League, Ali Dia managed to stretch his football career out for another year with eight appearances for Gateshead, and Graeme Sounness is said to be excited about becoming rich beyond his wildest dreams after receiving an email from an exiled Nigerian prince that promises a big pay off.