I’m a footballer, get me out of here!

by Brett Curtis

Grant Holt NorwichFollowing Christian Benteke’s transfer request at Aston Villa, Brett Curtis takes a look at ten of the more shocking and absurd transfer requests that have rocked the Premier League over the years.

Grant Holt, 2012

Holt makes this list purely because it shows how far football has come as, if Grant Holt can successfully hold a club to ransom, then we’re pretty much all screwed. Rumours have it that the striker regularly attended lessons at the Rooney School of How To Successfully and Very Publicly Engineer Yourself A New Contract – and he even had the cheek to admit it once the pen and paper was signed. He’s now bagged himself yet another three-year contract at Wigan.

Rio Ferdinand, 2002

Off the back of a superb World Cup campaign, in which he scored against Denmark in the second round, Ferdinand was not short of suitors, but it was the pursuit from Manchester United which particularly appealed to him. However, with Leeds holding out for £35m, the centre-half believed his best chance of lowering that price was a transfer request. And it worked, as two weeks later he was the most expensive defender in the world after joining United for £30m.

Leeds fans were left devastated, with Ferdinand’s decision to leave marking the beginning of the club’s rapid decline, with the likes of Robbie Keane, Jonathan Woodgate, and Harry Kewell following him out of the exit door within the next year. The club went from Champions League semi-finalists in 2001 to being relegated in 2004.

Darren Bent, 2011

After a disappointing spell with Tottenham, Bent had returned to lethal form at Sunderland, scoring 24 league goals during the 2009-10 campaign. Yet, rather than learning his lesson from failing at a bigger club, he was apparently dissuaded by Steve Bruce from moving clubs during the summer. It did not last, with the striker handing in a transfer request in January, despite Sunderland sitting pretty in the top six.

Fair enough, some Sunderland fans probably thought: a player with his goal-scoring pedigree deserves another chance at a truly big club. It was to their astonishment, then, when he agreed a ridiculous £24m move to Aston Villa, a club on the decline and sitting in the bottom three at the time. Now out of favour with Paul Lambert, the England man has cost Villa more than £1m per league goal.

Carlos Tevez, 2010

He’d already switched Manchester United for City in 2009 in one of the more infamous transfers in Premier League history, but Tevez decided he didn’t fancy stopping there in terms of controversy. Handing in his first transfer request in December 2010, citing homesickness as the major reason, another swiftly followed in July. Both were rejected, with Tevez staying at Eastlands for the foreseeable future.

At least, that’s what Roberto Mancini must have thought. In September, however, the Argentinean allegedly refused to come on as a substitute against Bayern Munich, leading to him being fined two weeks’ wages and going on garden leave until February, with Mancini declaring he would never play for the club again.

But, as we all know, football is a fickle, funny old game. With City’s form stuttering under pressure from their city rivals, Tevez returned to action in March, scoring four league goals along the way as the club won its first top-tier title since 1968. Amazingly, he managed to go the entire 2012-13 campaign without engineering any disputes, and has now finally been rewarded with a return home to Juventus. Wait, what?

Dwight Yorke, 1998

Despite spending nine successful years at Villa Park, Yorke is generally disliked by Aston Villa fans due to the nature of his departure. The club had made it clear to Manchester United that, if they wished to sign the Trinidad and Tobago international, they would have to offer Andy Cole in exchange. But Yorke had other ideas. After initially telling manager John Gregory he wanted to leave the club, he reportedly spent the night outside chairman Doug Ellis’ house as he begged to leave. Both refused to give in, but after Yorke appeared to exert minimal effort in a Premier League match against Everton, the club wilted and sold him to United for £12.5m.

Gregory famously declared, “If I had a gun, I’d have shot him.” Don’t worry, John, I feel exactly the same every time I watch him attempt punditry on Sky Sports.

Fernando Torres, 2011

After Liverpool missed out on Champions League football the previous season, rumours were rife during the summer of 2010 that Torres would join Javier Mascherano in jumping ship. To his credit, the World Cup winner chose to stay. A stunning double against Chelsea aside, however, he suffered with injury and form under Roy Hodgson – but the return of Kenny Dalglish, and the proposed signing of Luis Suarez, appeared to signal an upturn in fortune for the Reds. Another brace against Wolves indicated Torres was back to his best – yet six days later, he signalled his intention to leave, betraying the fans that had come to love him during his three-and-a-half year stay. Chelsea stumped up £50m on deadline day – still a record fee for a Premier League club – and, as they say, the rest is history, with neither Liverpool nor Torres quite able to recover elite form since.

Pascal Chimbonda, 2006

He’d only signed a new four-year deal in January but, after being named in the PFA Team of the Season after a breakthrough season for both himself and Wigan, Chimbonda declared he wanted to move on. Yet, rather than waiting to do it at the end of the season like a normal human being, he decided he’d do it immediately after losing to Arsenal as he walked off the pitch.

Wigan manager at the time, Paul Jewell, recalled, “He came up to me, still in his kit, and handed me a transfer request. I was livid.” The chairman, Dave Whelan, exclaimed, “I thought the timing of it was absolutely diabolical … if any club want to pay £6 million for him, they can have him.” As it happens, Tottenham paid £4.5m and, despite winning the League Cup in 2008, it all went gradually downhill from there for the Frenchman.

Peter Odemwingie, 2013

Unlike Chimbonda, there was nothing unusual about Odemwingie’s transfer request itself:  just another footballer looking to leave a top-half side for a club desperately fighting relegation.

But the way in which this saga unfolded in front of our very eyes was truly bizarre, and indeed representative of modern football and media. On Sky Sports’ Transfer Deadline Day™, it became clear that Odemwingie had travelled to Loftus Road without West Brom’s permission, and despite the fact QPR had made no increased bid since its second had been rejected three days earlier. The Nigerian returned to the Midlands empty-handed the following day and has not scored for the club since – he now looks set to join Crystal Palace under Ian Holloway, who really loves the modern footballer.

Steven Gerrard, 2005

Cast your minds back to May 25th, 2005, when an extraordinary Champions League final in Istanbul had been inspired by an extraordinary footballer: Steven Gerrard. His leaping header had given his side hope; his surging run helped bring the score back to 3-3. Asked about his future after the remarkable victory, his response was, “How can I leave after a night like this?” Yet six weeks later, he rejected a club-record £100,000-per-week contract offer amid a £32m bid from Chelsea, who had shown interest the previous summer. Liverpool chief executive Rick Parry all but conceded the club’s talisman was leaving, telling the press, “Now we have to move on … it looks pretty final.” Liverpool fans reacted just as you’d imagine: by burning shirts with Gerrard’s name on the back.

However, the next day, Gerrard signed a four-year deal with the club and never looked back, becoming the first Liverpool player to win the PFA Player of the Year award since John Barnes in 1988, as well as almost single-handedly winning the FA Cup after one of the all-time great strikes in the dying seconds of the final. He is, alongside Kenny Dalglish, recognised as the club’s greatest ever player – but it could have been all so different.

Wayne Rooney, 2010

Following the departures of Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez in 2009, Rooney had the most productive season of his career, scoring 34 times in 44 appearances as Manchester United narrowly missed out on the Premier League title on goal difference to Carlo Ancelotti’s Chelsea. Despite an awful summer with England, as he failed to score for the second World Cup running, he rightly remained the main man at Old Trafford. Yet, apparently, this resembled more of a burden than a blessing to the forward, with his out-of-the-blue transfer request in October sending shockwaves throughout Manchester and the rest of the world.

His reasons for the request were stated as being a lack of “assurances I was seeking about the future squad” and concerns over the “club’s ability to attract the top players in the world”. Yet such fears seemingly evaporated when, just two days after announcing he wanted to leave, he signed a reported £250,000-per-week five-year contract in a dramatic u-turn.

Fast forward two-and-a-half years and we’re almost back to square one, after Rooney apparently handed in another transfer request following being left on the bench in United’s crucial second-leg Champions League tie against Real Madrid in March (though it appears only queries were raised rather than a full-blown transfer request, as Ferguson alleged).

From demanding better players at the club, to being surpassed by one in Robin van Persie, and then not being happy about it. Footballers, eh?

3 Responses

  1. Jeff says:

    You highlight Darren Bent in disparaging tones and point out his goals average out at £1m/ league goal….

    However, as you rightly point at, Villa were languishing in the relegation zone at the time. Significantly, DB’s goals were a contributory factor in keeping them in the premiership…….worth every penny then,given the lost revenue that relegation would have cost……Good luck to DB. He hasn’t created any waves and this is one Villa fan who wishes him well wherever he ends up.

  2. David says:

    The other thing to keep in mind with Bent was that he was moving to a club where he could play alongside Downing and Young to better his chances for a national team recall. Probably worth a mention for another daft reason to leave.

    Downing could have made the list come to think of it.

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