Kevin Prince-Boateng’s move to Barcelona from Sassuolo has certainly raised a few eyebrows among those who remember his spells in England with Tottenham and Portsmouth. But as the Ghana international joins forces with Lionel Messi, Luis Suárez et al at Camp Nou, here are some other unlikely transfers from down the years.
Allan Simonsen, Barcelona to Charlton 1982
Deemed surplus to requirements when Barça signed Diego Maradona from Boca Juniors, Simonsen opted against moving to Real Madrid or Tottenham and instead decided to accept an offer from Second Division Charlton. The 1977 Ballon d’Or winner lasted five months at The Valley, scoring nine goals in 16 matches before returning to his boyhood club, Vejle BK.
Luther Blissett, Watford to Milan 1983
Prolific at Vicarage Road after coming through the ranks, Blissett’s 27 goals in Division One caught the eye of Milan’s top brass and they shelled out £1m to sign him. His time at San Siro was shortlived, however, with the Italians accepting little more than half the fee they had paid 12 months earlier following one season that yielded five goals in 30 appearances. He returned to Watford.
Brian Laudrup, Fiorentina to Rangers 1994
The Denmark forward was looking to resurrect his career after a disappointing loan spell at Milan came to an end and Walter Smith was to prove his saviour. Laudrup provided two assists on his debut and even turned down the opportunity to join Barcelona six months later, much to Smith’s shock. “He looked at me and said, ‘Brian, you’ve turned down Barcelona?’ I said I would prefer to play against Falkirk.”
Juninho, São Paulo to Middlesbrough 1995
The star product of São Paulo’s youth team, Juninho had been expected to join a European heavyweight until Middlesbrough swept him off his feet with a £4.5m offer. He stayed on Teesside for two seasons, finishing the second as runner-up to Gianfranco Zola in the Football Writers’ Player of the Year award, before returning on loan in 1999 and joining permanently two years later.
Sergei Yuran, Spartak Moscow to Millwall 1996
After starring for Benfica, Porto and Spartak Moscow, Yuran surprisingly opted for Bermondsey as his next port of call after Mick McCarthy was tipped off about his and compatriot Vasili Kulkov’s availability by Bobby Robson. But it all ended in tears after 16 appearances when Millwall were relegated to the third tier. “Jimmy Nicholl said I was the most unprofessional player he’d ever met,” said Yuran years later. “That was true.”
Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano, Corinthians to West Ham 2006
Not for the first time the race for two of Argentina’s best young players pitted Real Madrid and Barcelona against one another but their move to join Alan Pardew at Upton Park seemingly came out of the blue. While Mascherano was soon on his way to Liverpool, Tevez’s goal against Manchester United sent down Sheffield United instead and later led to West Ham being fined £5.5m for breaching the Football Association’s rules over third-party ownership.
Julien Faubert, West Ham to Real Madrid 2009
When Europe’s most successful club come calling, it takes a lot to say no. Despite making only eight appearances for West Ham after moving from Bordeaux in 2007, the Frenchman was identified as an alternative option for Madrid after a move for Wigan’s Antonio Valencia broke down. He ended up playing 54 minutes for the first team having missed training when he mistakenly thought he had the day off and fell asleep on the bench during a match against Villarreal.
Nicklas Bendtner, Arsenal to Juventus 2012
The striker’s relatively successful spell on loan at Sunderland ensured he was a wanted man in the summer of 2012, although it took until the final day of the transfer window to sign off his move to Juventus. After 339 minutes in Serie A and no goals, they probably wondered why they had bothered and decided against making his move to Turin permanent.