In the wake of the news that Sunderland hit man Darren Bent is on the verge of a big money move to Aston Villa – which, let’s face it, no-one saw coming – join NaijaBet.com in recalling other eyebrow-raising transfers involving Premiership clubs from January transfer windows.
1. Sol Campbell to Arsenal, 2010 – The veteran centre-back had his contract terminated by mutual consent after making just one (disastrous) appearance for Notts County, so not much more than a spot of fitness training was expected when he returned to Arsenal this time last year. However, after making an appearance for the Gunners’ reserve side, he was handed a contract until the end of the season and, due to injuries to William Gallas and Thomas Vermaelen, ended up figuring prominently during the run-in. A successful Indian summer.
2. Victor Moses to Wigan Athletic, 2010 – Having been linked with a plethora of top sides after rising to prominence as an exciting young forward at Crystal Palace last season, the DW Stadium came as a surprise destination. What, wondered gossip column readers across the country, happened to the interest from Manchester United and Liverpool? The 20 year-old is still yet to establish himself in the top flight but if he turns out to be even half as good as his prior hype suggested then Roberto Martinez will have pulled off quite a coup.
3. Jimmy Bullard to Hull City, 2009 – With Fulham unwilling to offer a bumper new deal to a 30 year-old with a history of injuries, the playmaker/jester joined Phil Brown’s Hull City for £5m and £45,000 a week’s wages. The Tigers had enjoyed a fairytale start to the season, with wins at Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and Newcastle United elevating them into the upper reaches of the Premier League – buy, by January, the downwards spiral had begun in earnest while Roy Hodgson’s Fulham were emerging as European contenders. The Cottagers went on to claim a highest ever top flight finish of 17th, while Hull survived by a solitary point and were relegated the following season. Bullard’s wrong turn (as wrong as you can be for £45,000 a week, we suppose) was compounded by the fact that he incurred a long term injury on his debut and has barely figured since.
4. Lassana Diarra to Portsmouth, 2008 – In this particular instance, even the player himself acknowledged the surprising nature of his move to Fratton Park from Arsenal, having only joined the Gunners from Chelsea the previous summer. “My choice could shock and surprise people, I am conscious of that,” he said at the time. “It isn’t Arsenal, it isn’t Chelsea but I know the Portsmouth manager [Harry Redknapp], I know he is going to play me.” Indeed he did, as Diarra became a key part of the Pompey side which won the FA Cup just a few months later. Of course, he was sold to Real Madrid the following summer, where he has shown himself to be a tough-tackling Lass.
5. Henrik Larsson to Manchester United, 2007 – Injuries to strikers Ole Gunnar Solskjaer prompted Sir Alex Ferguson to draft a 35 year-old Larsson in from Helsingborg during the Swedish close season. The surprise element of the move lay in the apparent winding down of the Celtic legend’s career, given his age and the fact that he had returned to his homeland, but he went on to make a significant impact on and off the pitch during his brief spell at Old Trafford.
6. Ashley Young to Aston Villa, 2007 – Then a young striker/winger at Watford, Young’s performances at Vicarage Road had certainly put him on the radar but perhaps not to the extent that eyebrows weren’t raised when Martin O’Neill took him to Villa Park for a then club record fee of £8m rising to just shy of £10m. His meteoric rise to Premier League stardom would soon put paid to doubts about the business sense of such a deal, especially as he is now being linked with Chelsea for a cool £20m. Alongside James Milner, Young has to go down as the most successful of O’Neill’s big money signings for Villa.
7. Andres D’Alessandro to Portsmouth, 2006 – “This is a massive signing for the club and I am delighted,” declared Harry Redknapp upon bringing a 24 year-old Argentina international to Fratton Park on loan from Wolfsburg. The playmaker did not disappoint during his short stint with Pompey and his 4 goals in 13 appearances played their part in preserving the club’s top flight status. He now plays for Brazilian side Sport Club Internacional and was last year named South American Footballer of the Year ahead of Juan Sebastian Veron and Neymar. Incidentally, D’Alessandro was Harry “I’m not a wheeler dealer” Redknapp’s ninth signing of the January 2006 transfer window. Just saying is all.
8. Thomas Gravesen to Real Madrid, 2005 – Losing the Danish midfielder mid-way through a season in which he had finally started to perform consistently seemed like a blow for Everton fans at the time – but, despite the undoubtedly outstanding form that had propelled David Moyes’ side to 4th over the previous five months, the disappointment was tempered by the faintly comical notion of seeing Gravesen in a Real shirt. Suspicions that the Spanish giants had mistaken him for Lee Carsley were arguably confirmed when he turned out for the Bernabeu club in the decidedly unsuitable position for such a loose cannon of a player of defensive midfield. After a year, he was moved on to Celtic.
9. Christophe Dugarry to Birmingham City, 2003 – Then Blues manager Steve Bruce described the capture of the World Cup-winning French forward as “the biggest signing this club has ever made”. It was to prove a suitable billing as the former AC Milan and Barcelona man’s loan spell played a significant part in Birmingham securing Premiership survival with a relative degree of comfort.
But the winner is…
10. Tottenham Hotspur, 2009 – Harry “I’m not a wheeler dealer” Redknapp brought not one, not two but THREE former Spurs players back to White Hart Lane within the same window: namely Jermain Defoe, Robbie Keane and Pascal Chimbonda. Younes Kaboul would follow a year later.