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Ireland’s Ronnie O’Brien signing for Juve and 11 more of the weirdest football transfer stories

Also featuring the infamous case of Ali Dia.

Updated at 10.09

1. Lewandowski not moving to Blackburn because of the Volcanic Ash Cloud (2008)

Germany Soccer Champions League Source: Matthias Schrader

THE POLISH STRIKER played for Lech Poznan at the time and ended up becoming one of Europe’s top strikers and signing for Bayern Munich, after an earlier proposed transfer window move to Blackburn was supposedly cancelled because of the Volcanic Ash Cloud.

2. Graeme Souness signing ‘George Weah’s cousin’ (1996)

Source: WOODDDDDDDYASOCCER/YouTube

Needless to say, Ali Dia was not a patch on his apparent relative and swiftly left the English club after just one Premier League match. Of course, it soon emerged that he was lying about Weah and the numerous caps he claimed to have earned for Senegal.

3. Ronnie O’Brien signing for Juve (1999)

MLS SUPERDRAFT SOCCER Source: AP/Press Association Images

Despite showing no signs of making a breakthrough at Middlesbrough, a 20-year-old O’Brien, who starred alongside the likes of Robbie Keane and Damien Duff in Irish youth teams, made a move to top Serie A club Juve. Unsurprisingly though, he struggled for first-team football in Italy too, and eventually moved on to the MLS with FC Dallas, where enjoyed a significantly better time.

4. Claudio Caniggia to Dundee (2000)

Source: hatedundeeutddotcom/YouTube

A free agent having left Atalanta in the summer of 2000, Caniggia improbably arrived at Dundee thereafter, owing to past connections in Italy with the Scottish club’s player-manager, Ivano Bonetti. And while many Scottish pundits initially suspected the former superstar was little more than a mercenary, he ultimately thrived in Scotland, inspiring the club’s rise up the table and eventually joining Rangers, before regaining his place in the Argentina squad before the 2002 World Cup.

5. Tottenham ‘turned down Zidane and Effenburg’ (1994)

Soccer-Bordeaux v Slavia Prague Source: Press Association Images

Back in 2001, the Daily Telegraph reported that Tottenham were given the chance to sign German World Cup star Steffen Effenburg. However, rumour has it that when he was suggested by then-Tottenham director Igal Yawetz, board members fell about laughing, having never heard of the player with an apparently amusing surname. The club also allegedly turned down Zinedine Zidane as a young Bordeaux player, with then-manager Gerry Francis claiming he was “too wooden,” though the French superstar claims he was never aware of Tottenham’s interest in him. Blackburn are also understood to have rejected the chance to sign Zidane, preferring instead to keep faith with Tim Sherwood.

6. A young Kenny Dalglish getting turned down by West Ham

Source: MyHumanVideos/YouTube

In terms of transfer gaffes, this will inevitably rank highly on any list. The young striker was taken on trial by the Hammers, with manager Ron Greenwood subsequently turning him down for being too lightweight. Celtic then snapped up Dalglish, who took little time establishing himself as a top striker, before becoming a Liverpool legend, and helping the club win numerous titles.

7. Diego Maradona to Sheffield United (1978)

Soccer - International Friendly - Argentina v West Germany - El Monumental, Buenos Aires

Then in the English second division, the Blades were reportedly keen on signing the Argentine youngster from Argentinos Juniors. However, the English club ultimately couldn’t afford the £600,000 asking price, and opted to buy fellow Argentine player Alejandro Sabella instead. Maradona subsequently went on to become one of the greatest players ever, starring for the likes of Barcelona and Napoli.

8. Gareth Bale to Birmingham (2008)

Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Norwich City v Tottenham Hotspur - Carrow Road Source: PA Archive/Press Association Images

Former Spurs manager Harry Redknapp claims he never had any intention of selling, but Birmingham boss at the time, Alex McLeish, says Bale came close to making the move to the Championship, while the Real Madrid star was also attracting interest from Nottingham Forest around then. Fortunately for Tottenham, injuries meant Redknapp had to thrust Bale into first-team action, and the rest was history.

9. Luther Blissett to Milan (1980)

Soccer - Friendly - AC Milan v USSR Source: Peter Robinson

By no means a world beater at the time, Watford’s Luther Blissett was bought for £1million by Milan to the surprise of many. The striker returned to England after just one season away though, having managed just 5 goals in 30 appearances in Serie A, with rumours abound that they had really meant to sign Watford’s other talented black player — John Barnes. However, whether or not the Barnes rumour is actually true has been heavily disputed.

10. Fabrizio Ravanelli to Middlesbrough (1996)

Source: SmoggyChris/YouTube

Back in 1996, it was still actually possible for Middlesbrough to sign a striker who had just scored in the Champions League final. Joining for £7million along with similarly talented players of the time including Nick Barmby, Juninho and Emerson, Ravanelli was a big success at the Riverside Stadium during his brief tenure there, managing 17 goals in 35 appearances.

11. David Bellion to Man United (2003)

Soccer - Carling Cup - Quarter Final - Manchester United v Arsenal Source: PA Archive/Press Association Images

At least fellow United flops around that era — Kleberson, Eric Djemba-Djemba and Liam Miller — all had shown a good deal of potential. But even Sunderland fans were surprised when United opted to sign the mercurial French winger/striker for £2million. And unsurprisingly, Bellion was not exactly Thierry Henry, and consequently didn’t last long at Old Trafford.

12. Julien Faubert to Real Madrid (2009)

Soccer - npower Football League Championship - West Ham United v Ipswich Town - Upton Park Source: PA Archive/Press Association Images

Faubert wasn’t exactly setting the world alight at Upton Park when the shock news came through that he had somehow secured a £1.5million loan deal to Real Madrid. The French winger went on to make just two appearances for the Spanish giants, before returning to the Hammers and eventually moving to Turkey and joining Elazıgspor. He is now back in France for a second spell at Bordeaux.

What’s your favourite crazy transfer story? Let us know in the comments section below.

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About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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