Most Epic Transfer-Window Chases of All Time

Allan JiangTransfers CorrespondentDecember 29, 2013

Most Epic Transfer-Window Chases of All Time

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    Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

    Here are some of the most epic transfer-window chases in football history.

    Extravagant spending, cunning agents, stranger-than-fiction stories, deception, controversy and betrayal are characteristics you will find in these epic chases.

    Don't hesitate to comment below with your own examples.

Didier Baptiste

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    While Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger and then Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier were never in the running to sign Monaco Harchester United defender Didier Baptiste, several British media outlets, including The Times and The News of the World, created an epic fictional transfer chase in late November 1999.

    Yep, about eight months past April Fools. 

    "We think Didier Baptiste would be an ideal addition to Liverpool's back four," then News of the World sports editor Mike Dunn wrote (h/t The Independent). "He's a really attractive player, and you will be seeing a lot more of him in The News of the World."

    At the time, Dunn could have talked about David Trezeguet, Marcelo Gallardo, Ludovic Giuly, Rafael Marquez or maybe John Arne Riise (Dunn would have looked real good there as Riise would join Liverpool two years later).

    But Dunn chose Baptiste, a fictional character on Sky One's football-based soap show Dream Team.

    John Davison at The Independent sarcastically wrote: "At least part of the blame must lie with Baptiste himself, played by Tom Redhill, who made his first appearance on last Thursday's edition of the show. He revealed that he would 'sign for an English club who have a French manager'."

    A spokesman for Dream Team told Ian Ross at The Guardian: "We were as amazed as anyone to see this story in the papers. We can only assume someone saw the show and thought it was genuine."


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    After scolding Manchester City for "kamizaze spending," then Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson spent £7.4 million on a player he had never seen—Bebe, represented by superagent Jorge Mendes.

    "I know Real Madrid were hovering and so were Benfica," Ferguson said, as per Paul Wilson at The Guardian. "It was one of those decisions that had to be made quickly, so I made it quickly."

    Say it ain't so: Elite European clubs in Benfica, Real and United were targeting a footballer from the slums. 

    If you're a fan of Goal!, your reaction to the transfer at the time probably would have been, "This is a real-life version of Santiago Munez."

    Mendes, who made £2.89 million when Bebe signed on the dotted line for United, would later make easy money taking advantage of Cardiff City owner Vincent Tan in the Etien Velikonja transfer.

Ashley Cole

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    Ashley Cole's relationship with Arsenal was broken beyond repair in one incident he outlined in his autobiography (h/t The Guardian):

    Somewhere along the A406 North Circular Road, one telephone call changed everything about how I viewed and felt about Arsenal.

    'Ash! Are you listening?' said a virtually hyperventilating Joanthan [Barnett; agent]. 'I'm here in the office and David Dein [Arsenal vice-chairman at the time] is saying they aren't going to give you £60K a week [as Cole had demanded]. They've agreed £55K and this is their best and final offer. Are you happy with that?'

    When I heard Jonathan repeat the figure of £55K I nearly swerved off the road. 'He [Dein] is taking the piss Jonathan,' I yelled down the phone.

    I was so incensed. I was trembling with anger. I couldn't believe what I'd heard. I suppose it all started to fall apart for me from then on.

    This kind of behaviour is a rationale to why Cole was so forthright in talking to Chelsea despite being contracted at Arsenal.

    This was not an issue for Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho, who was insistent in chasing Cole, one of the world's best left-backs.

    For joining Chelsea, Cole cost himself £75,000 (pocket money to him) when the Blues were caught tapping him up.

John Obi Mikel

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    John Obi Mikel was a Manchester United player one moment, posing in a United shirt, before changing his mind and becoming a Chelsea player.

    "I don't believe it's true that Mikel doesn't want to join Manchester United," then United manager Sir Alex Ferguson said, as per Daniel Taylor at The Guardian. "The manner in which he and his family have been treated and pressurised is, quite frankly, disgusting."

    Mikel became the easiest £12 million United ever made.

    Amid Chelsea and United tussling over Mikel, Lyn—the club that held his playing rights—only received £4 million for one of the world's best young players at the time.

    Chelsea proceeded to change the elegant playmaker into a deep-lying midfielder.

    He went from being a special talent to just another player.

Cesc Fabregas

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    Cesc Fabregas was another prospect at Barcelona, and it was Arsene Wenger who made the Spaniard into a star at Arsenal when he arrived as a 16-year-old in 2003.

    As soon as Fabregas started playing like a world-class player, all this "Barca DNA" talk occurred.

    "I am convinced Cesc [Fabregas] will join us," Barca right-back Dani Alves said in 2011, as per RAC1 (h/t The Guardian) "Arsenal are tourist class. Barcelona are in business class and any player would want to join us."

    What arrogance.

    After a protracted chase, Fabregas joined Barca in 2011.

    Since then, Wenger has signed Jon Toral and Hector Bellerin from Barca.

Mario Goetze

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    The £31.5 million evaluation of Mario Goetze's Borussia Dortmund release clause was way too modest.

    Bayern Munich triggered it, and the deal was essentially wrapped up prior to Dortmund's UEFA Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid.

    Coincidentally, the news of his defection broke immediately.

    "The timing of it is not ideal. Anybody can make their own minds up as to why it's come out now, but it is out," Dortmund manager Jurgen Klopp said, as per The Guardian. "Now I can say that time heals everything. It's going to take a while, this news is not good for us."

    Bayern didn't need Goetze as a necessity. He was signed to weaken Dortmund.

Luis Figo

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    "We know you're always there [for the team]," then Barcelona player Pep Guardiola wrote of Luis Figo in a biography of the Portuguese star, as per Sid Lowe at The Guardian.


    Figo had been giving everyone associated with Barcelona lip service.

    He denied, denied and denied that he wanted to go to Real Madrid.

    In reality, then Real president candidate Florentino Perez had legally tied Figo to a pre-contract that he would join Real if Perez was elected president.

    Perez won the election and the Galacticos era was born.

    This is why there was so much venom directed at Figo by Barca fans.

Kaka, Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale

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    When AC Milan supporters were protesting outside Kaka's house fearing the club would sell him to Manchester City, he waved his Milan shirt to say: "I'm staying."

    Milan management found a middle ground with him in Real Madrid. 

    "The reasons for the departure of Kaka are solely economic," Milan chief executive Adriano Galliani said, as per FourFourTwo."In January, Kaka didn't want to go to Manchester City. Instead he would go to Madrid."

    The latter quote was a reference to City's failed bid for Kaka, as per The Guardian: "City had proposed a £91 million deal to the Italian club and a weekly wage of £500,000 for the former World Footballer of the Year."

    City dodged a bullet because Kaka was plagued by injuries at Real. 

    Milan not only received £56 million for him, but then received him back for free. 

    When Manchester United were holding on to Cristiano Ronaldo for dear life as Real Madrid kept making their advances known, FIFA president Sepp Blatter likened it to "slavery."

    "When we sold Gabriel Heinze to Real Madrid we knew it was going to happen because Ronaldo was very close to Heinze," then Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson said, as per GQ (h/t The Telegraph). "The end game was to get Ronaldo."

    Ferguson then likened Real to dictator Francisco Franco, which prompted then Real president Ramon Calderon to call Ferguson "senile."

    Ferguson would finally relinquish Ronaldo in return for £80 million, but not to Calderon—it was to Florentino Perez. 

    Tottenham Hotspur chairman Daniel Levy waited it out until Perez cracked.

    The transfer chase was epic in the sense that Perez spent £78 million on Gareth Bale despite his injury issues and him only scoring 20 goals or more in one season once. 

Zinedine Zidane

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    "My wife is Spanish, we have Spanish friends and I want to move there," Zinedine Zidane said in 1999 while he was on the books of Juventus, as per The Independent. "I have never hidden my problems about the life here in Turin. I will finish this season and then see."

    So what happened? Real Madrid president Florentino Perez was at a formal meal with Zidane and wrote on a napkin, as per Simon Talbot at FourFourTwo: "Do you want to play for Real Madrid?" before passing it to the French star.

    Zidane passed it back: "Yes."

    Nothing like tapping up a once-in-a-generation player and getting away with it. 

    Zidane would go on to become one of Real Madrid's greatest-ever players and is now an assistant manager at the club. 

Alfredo Di Stefano

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    Alfredo Di Stefano was the key component of the Real Madrid dynasty, yet he was contracted to Barcelona after the Catalonian club signed him from River Plate, the club that owned Di Stefano's playing rights.

    Yet Real felt Di Stefano was their player, having negotiated with Millonarios, the club that Di Stefano was playing for.

    Here is the key sentence outlined in "A strange federative manoeuvre with Francoist backing stipulated that Di Stefano should play alternate seasons with each club. Barca went against the verdict and relinquished the player."

    Note the Francoist part. 

    It was the difference between Real dominating that period and Barca being an afterthought. 

    Pele in the past has claimed Di Stefano is the greatest footballer ever.

    Maybe it was karma. 

    In a stranger-than-fiction tale, prior to joining Barca, Laszlo Kubala was set to join Real, as per The Guardian: "Kubala had made plans to sign for Real Madrid—he had been spotted playing for a troupe of touring exiles called Hungaria—but, all pissed up on booze, got on the wrong train and ended up in Barcelona."

    Kubala went on to score 280 times for Barca.