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Top 10 football legends with the most controversial club transfers in history

In football, the transfer windows are known very crucial for the clubs as these can make or break a team in a moment. While there are a lot of memorable transfers in the world, here we are bringing some controversial club moves related to the legendary footballers.

Top 10 football legends with the most controversial club transfers in history

1. Giuseppe Meazza (Inter to AC Milan in 1940)

Giuseppe Meazza, legend, controversial, football
Giuseppe Meazza (Image Credit: Twitter)

Legendary Italian footballer Giuseppe Meazza was one of the earliest players who were involved in the controversial transfers by moving to the arch-rivals club.

Giuseppe Meazza started his senior football career for Inter in 1927 after promoting from their youth academy. The Italian forward served Inter for 13 consecutive seasons.

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Already two-time FIFA World Cup winner Meazza finally left Inter in 1940 after a weak season for Inter due to injury. The Italian star footballer then joined the other top Milan club, AC Milan, which he was always admired since his childhood. However, it was a two-season journey for Meazza for I Rossoneri.

Later he served for the Italian clubs Juventus, Varese and Atalanta, before ending his career with a short spell for Inter.

The popular San Siro stadium, the home venue of AC Milan and Inter as well as the Italy national football team, has been named in honour of Meazza since 1980, as this stadium is now also known as Stadio Giuseppe Meazza.

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2. Denis Law (Manchester United to Manchester City in 1973)

Denis Law, legend, controversial, football
Denis Law (Image Credit: Twitter)

The Scottish forward Denis Law was also a legendary footballer. In his pick time, he served for English first-tier club Manchester United between 1962 and 1973. During this period, he became a legend of the Red Devils’ football history.

As a free transfer, Law returned to Manchester City in 1973, where he already served more than one season before moving to the Italian club Serie A in 1961.

The 1973/74 English first division league ended in a thrilling way where Manchester United confirmed their relegation after they had a 1-0 defeat in the Manchester Derby in the penultimate round. In the late moment of that game, Law’s back-heel opened the scoreline of the game, but he didn’t celebrate that goal. It was his last game in league football, which was abandoned in the closing minutes of the game due to pitch invention.

Law officially retired in August 1974.

3. Johan Cruyff (Ajax to Feyenoord in 1983)

Johan Cruyff
Johan Cruyff (Image Credit: Twitter)

Legendary Dutch footballer Johan Cruyff is also on this list as his move from Ajax to Feyenoord in 1983 was highly noteworthy.

Cruyff had a memorable return to Ajax but he was angered after the club didn’t offer him a new contract after the end of the 1982/83 season. He soon responded by signing for Feyenoord, the arch-rivals of Ajax.

While 1983/84 was his last season, Cruyff not only helped Feyenoord to win the domestic double, including the club’s winning the first division league trophy for the first time in a decade, but he also won the Dutch Footballer of the Year award. While many were concerned about his 35+ age in that season, he started all the league games except for one.

4. Mo Johnston (former Celtic player shifted from Nantes to Rangers in 1989)

Mo Johnston
Mo Johnston (Image Credit: Twitter)

The legendary Scottish forward Mo Johnston is also on this list after his transfer from French club Nantes to Scottish club Rangers in 1989. However, the controversy was related to two Scottish rivals Celtic and Rangers.

Johnston served for Celtic between 1984 and 1987. He was a fan favourite of Celtic when he moved to Nantes in 1987. In 1989, when he considered returning to the Scottish club, many thought he would return to Celtic. He even reportedly claimed that Celtic was the only team he could think to play for.

However, in 1989 summer, Johnston surprised everyone with his move to Rangers. While the Celtic fans were so angry to call him Judas and threw a pie in his face, the Rangers fans also went wild after that inclusion to the team. Rangers fans never wanted to see a Catholic player in the team. Though there were a few Catholic players who served for Rangers earlier, Johnston was the first high-profile Catholic player in that club.

Rangers fans ultimately got cool down after Johnston’s late winning goal against Celtic in November 1989.   

5. Roberto Baggio (Fiorentina to Juventus in 1990)

roberto baggio Top 10 football legends with the most controversial club transfers in history
Roberto Baggio (Image Credit: Twitter)

Another Italian superstar forward Roberto Baggio was also involved in the controversial transfers. His 1990 move from Fiorentina to Juventus didn’t go well in Italian football.

Fiorentina was Baggio’s second club in his senior career, where he served between 1985 and 1990. For the next five years, the Italian footballer served for Juventus, one of Fiorentina’s rivals. Juventus brought him to the club with a world record transfer fee at that time. That transfer was a reason for riots on the streets of Florence, where around 50 people were reportedly injured. He later reportedly clarified to his fans, “I was compelled to accept the transfer.”

After leaving Juventus in 1995, Baggio continued his club football for nine years, where he served for four more Italian teams, including AC Milan and Inter Milan.

6. Eric Cantona (Leeds United to Manchester United in 1992)

Eric Cantona
Eric Cantona (Image Credit: Twitter)

Former French forward Eric Cantona is a legend in Manchester United football history. But his move from the English club Leeds United to their traditional rivals Manchester United wasn’t really smooth.

While Leeds United chairman Bill Fotherby enquired about the availability of Denis Irwin, Manchester United chairman Martin Edwards and the manager Sir Alex Ferguson asked about Eric Cantona’s status. Later, Cantona ultimately moved to the Old Trafford for reportedly £1million.

Leeds fans were furious with their manager Howard Wilkinson after came to know about that deal acceptance. Initially, it was told that the transfer fee was £1.6million but the Red Devils chairman Edwards later clarified about their higher transfer fee report only to satisfy the Leeds fans.

7. Luis Figo (Barcelona to Real Madrid in 2000)

luis figo Top 10 football legends with the most controversial club transfers in history
Luis Figo (Image Credit: Twitter)

Portuguese legend Luis Figo was the first official sign of the Real Madrid President Florentino Perez’s Galactico era. However, that move from the arch-rivals Barcelona in 2000 wasn’t a smooth and friendly experience for him.

Figo enjoyed his tenure in the Spanish club Barcelona between 1995 and 2000, where they achieved many successes. But Real Madrid then bought him for a huge transfer fee from Barcelona and offered him a world record fee.

Barcelona fans didn’t take that transfer lightly as many of them felt betrayed by him. After his joining Los Blancos, their first El Clasico in Barcelona’s home venue (Camp Nou) didn’t go memorable for the Portuguese star. The chants and banners like “Traitor”, “Judas”, “Scum”, and “Mercenary” were very common among the Barca fans in that game.

Not only in that game, but Figo’s second game for Real Madrid at Camp Nou also experienced objective missiles from the home fans. During his second game at Camp Nou as a Real Madrid player, a Barcelona fan threw a pig’s head targeting him when he came to take a corner.     

8. Sol Campbell (Tottenham Hotspur to Arsenal in 2001)

Sol Campbell Top 10 football legends with the most controversial club transfers in history

Former English centre-back Sol Campbell’s move from Tottenham Hotspur to Arsenal in 2001 created a big headline in English football.

Campbell was earlier known as a favourite among Spurs fans due to his almost one decade of tireless service for the club (1992-2001). Though he earlier denied some rumours about his future move to the rival club Arsenal, the English defender finally joined the Gunners in the 2001 summer as a free transfer.

Though he was offered lucrative deals to stay at Spurs, Campbell chose to serve for UEFA Champions League teams. While many Spurs supporters didn’t make his move to Arsenal lightly, that move was labelled “Judas” by some Spurs fans.

During his service in Arsenal till 2006, Campbell experienced many notable successes, including being a part of the famous “Invincibles” in the 2003/04 season (Arsenal won the Premier League title without losing a game in the entire season). 

9. Ashley Cole (Arsenal to Chelsea in 2006)

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Legendary English left-back Ashley Cole was a key member during Arsenal’s successful period in the early 21st century, including being an important part of the “Invincibles” team of the 2003/04 season. However, many Arsenal fans felt angry when he moved to the rival London club Chelsea in 2006.

In 2005, Cole was already found guilty and fined for contacting the League rivals Chelsea over a possible move without informing Arsenal.

Unhappy with Arsenal’s weekly wages offer for him, Cole finally moved to Chelsea in 2006 summer. Due to that reason, some Arsenal fans introduced the nickname ‘Cashley Cole’ to him. Cole successfully served for Chelsea till 2014, where he ended up as a legend for guiding the club to the top successes. 

10. Robert Lewandowski (Borussia Dortmund to Bayern Munich in 2014)

Robert Lewandowski Top 10 football legends with the most controversial club transfers in history
credits – sport.de

The legendary Polish footballer Robert Lewandowski was a superstar of the German club Borussia Dortmund before evolving as a legend of their arch-rivals Bayern Munich.

After serving for Borussia Dortmund for four seasons, Lewandowski joined Bayern on a free transfer in the 2014 summer. He even signed a pre-contractual agreement in 2014 January for Bayern after which he was reportedly considered hiring personal security as the BVB fans were very angry on him, including attacking him on social networks.

While Bayern and Lewandowski both were always interested to make a deal, Dortmund’s reluctant behaviour ultimately affected the club financially as the Polish striker moved as a free agent.

However, during his last game for BVB, Lewandowski received a great and memorable farewell from the Black and Yellows fans. 


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