Transfers that shaped Football History


Every once in a while there is a football transfer that makes a huge impact, one that grabs everyone’s attention. Rarer still are those signings who have made a significant impression because of their exorbitant price-tag or for the influence they’ve had on entire teams and, in some cases, leagues. Here we take a closer look at some of these big, if not historic transfers – including the first ‘million pound footballer’ and the impact a single player managed to make on a whole country.

Willie Groves to  Aston Villa

We start will Willie Groves, the first ever player to be transferred to another club for more than £100.

Groves was a Scotland player but hung up International his boots 3 years before he made transfer history. In 1890 he joined West Brom from Celtic, and over the course of 3 seasons he played 58 games. In what would have been considered ‘Splashing the cash’ or ‘Taking a risk’ in those days, Aston Villa offered the Baggies £100 for the striker.

Aston Villa didn’t offer the money out of choice however, they were forced by the English FA to pay the fee when they were found to have illegally approached Groves and his teammate Jack Reynolds.

Groves spent one season at Villa before leaving after a dispute over his contract. His name may not be widely recognised, but it is widely believed that his move to Villa Park started the trend of big money spending.

Alf Common to Middlesbrough

As time progressed, Transfer fees were becoming common and were rising all the time, but the next milestone came in 1905 when Alf Common joined Middlsebrough from Sunderland for £1,000.

Common was a hot property in football in his generation, having broken the transfer record already just a year earlier when he joined Sunderland from Sheffield United for £520.

He spent 5 years at Middlesbrough, and his record transfer fee was well worth it as his record proves, with 56 goals in 156 appearances.

Alf also played for England, but given how rarely Internationals were played at the time, he only played in 3 games, but scored 2 goals.

‘Dixie’ Dean to Everton

In 1925 young striker William Ralph Dean joined Everton from Tranmere Rovers for £3,000. It was not a transfer record, but his influence and impact on the game in England was amazing.

It was during his Everton days that he was christened with the name ‘Dixie’, although its the name he was well known by, Dean himself disliked it.

Many flocked to Goodison Park to just see the striker, and they were never disappointed. With a ball as hard is it was at the time, he was actually a keen header of the ball and one of those came in his first game after recovering from a motorcycling accident in which he suffered head injuries!

Two of his records have never been matched. His 349 goals in 399 games is an exceptional strike rate, and it was probably a shock horror not to see him score for Everton on match day. His other record is 60 League goals in one season (1927-28), its a record which may never be matched, and Dean himself even spoke about the chances of it happening: “People ask me if that 60-goal record will ever be beaten. I think it will. But there’s only one man who’ll do it. That’s the fella that walks on the water. I think he’s about the only one.”

Dean is no stranger to Irish shores either, in his later years he spent one season with Sligo Rovers, scoring a long standing record of most goals in a single game (7 against Waterford United).

Even the most staunch Liverpool supporter can’t deny that Dean is one of the true greats in Football and his move to Everton had a massive impact on the game in the country.

Alfredo Di Stéfano to Real Madrid

Argentinan striker Alfredo Di Stéfano arrived at Real Madrid in 1953, and no one could’ve imagined the lasting impact he would have as he played a major role in turning Madrid into a dominant force on both Spanish and European fronts.

Alfredo scored for fun, and was one of the most lethal strikers in the world. In 1958 he formed of the greatest striker partnerships of All-Time when Hungarian forward Ferenc Puskas joined the club. Together they easily tore defences apart and together they won 4 La Liga titles, 1 Copa Del Rey, 2 Champions League Titles and 1 Club World Cup.

Di Stéfano’s finest hour came in the 1960 Champions League Final against German outfit Eintracht Frankfurt when they had a convincing 7-3 victory. Madrid’s performance has been described as the Greatest footballing masterpiece ever witnessed in European football, with simply stunning passing displays and the Di Stéfano-Puskas partnership in full fling as Alfredo scored a hat-trick, and Puskas scored 4.

In his 11 years at The Bernebeu, he had a stunning strike rate scoring 246 goals 302 appearances, but his overall career record looks all the more incredible as he scored 526 goals in 660 games.

He helped Madrid to 8 La Liga Titles, 5 European Cups, 1 Copa Del Rey and 1 Club World Club. He has been quite rightly been considered one of the Greatest Players of All-Time, and any man who played the role he did making Madrid into the force they are today deserves that title!

Denis Law to Torino

Moving forward a bit now, to 1961 to be exact, when Denis Law became the first £100,000 signing when he signed for Italian side Torino from Manchester City.

Now Law was an exceptional talent, I myself never got to see him play, just clips of his goals, but those clips and records alone prove that he was a fantastic striker for both club and country, however, Torino wasn’t one of those clubs.

Like many English players, Law had great difficulty adapting over there. Perhaps for Law it was like as Ian Rush once said “It was like living in a foreign country.” The Italians love their defensive football, and for a striker, it was nightmare, especially someone like Law.

Subsequently, he returned to England one season later and joined Man United. So who knows, maybe you could classify Law as the first big money flop ?

Ron Yeats to Liverpool

Ron Yeats is often overlooked by the younger generation of Liverpool supporters, but anyone who was lucky enough to see the big centre-back in action will know that his arrival in 1961 was the beginning of the ‘Shanks Revolution’.

Yeats was immediately handed the captain’s armband by Shankly upon arriving from Dundee United and was an instant hit as he helped guide Liverpool back to the top flight.

Ron was one of the hardest defender’s of his time, with a great tackling ability and using his size to his advantage, many players feared coming up against the big man.

In his 10 years at Liverpool, he won 2 1st Division title’s and 1 FA Cup and left behind a legacy, knowing he began the club’s rise to glory and captained what can only be dubbed as the ‘first great Liverpool team’. Shankly himself spoke fondly of Yeats, and regarded the signings of him and Ian St. John as the “Turning points” in the clubs history. I think its fair to say he was spot on!

Trevor Francis to Nottingham Forest

With Trevor Francis, we take a look at what was the very famous first ever £1,000,000 (£1,085,000 to be exact) signing when he joined Nottingham Forest from Birmingham City.

Francis had a memorable introduction to life at Nottingham Forest as he turned up at a Press Conference with his new manager Brian Clough, who being usually unpredictable, turned up in a red tracksuit and a racket to answer questions. A man who clearly held a game of squash of higher importance than introducing his record striker to the media!

Its often been said that he didn’t live up to his full potential as a Forest player, and that maybe because Clough played him as a winger rather than up front.

Trevor had a record of 28 goals in 70 games, not exactly spectacular compared to his prolific form at Birmingham, but if only he were played up front more often, he may have justified his transfer fee.

He has certainly made it clear whenever possible that he doesn’t want to be remembered as the ‘First ever £1,000,000 signing and wants to be remembered for his goal scoring.

Diego Maradona to Napoli

In 1984, Napoli announced the arrival of Diego Maradona from Barcelona.

Napoli were struggling to find any sort of success, but the arrival of the genius that is Maradona was the first and biggest step towards the success they craved as he elevated the club the most successful era in their history.

Maradona led Napoli to back to back top 4 finishes, winning 2 Serie A titles, the only ones in the clubs history as well as the 1989 UEFA Cup.

Maradona’s presence also saw some top quality purchases joining the club such as Brazlian duo Alemao and Careca as well home grown talents Cira Ferrera and Fernando De Napoli.

Maradona was also a ‘man of the people’ so to speak, he loved the fans and loved playing for Napoli, which made him all the more popular.

Although they weren’t a ‘one man team’ in his time there, there is no way you could underestimate Maradona’s importance in Napoli’s rise to prominence. He brought a whole new style of play to the club, brought a lot of success in a short time and to this day is still a legend at the club and of course they can proudly say that they once had the world’s Greatest footballer of all time donning the blue jersey.

Eric Cantona to Man United

When Alex Ferguson signed Eric Cantona from Leeds United in 1991 for £1.2 million, I don’t he could have expected that he would prove to a bargain at that price.

In his first season, the Frenchman helped United win the inaugural Premier League title in 1993, but he showed his controversial side in this debut season on his return to Elland Road as he was slapped with £1,000 fine for spitting on a fan.

The following season was even bigger for Cantona, his goals helped United towards the League and Cup double and was voted the PFA Player of the Year.

1994-95 was a season to remember for this man, but for all the wrong reasons. After being given his marching orders in an away match at Crystal Palace, Cantona lauched a kung fu style attack on a Palace who heckled him on the way down the tunnel. He recieved an 8 month ban.

In his Final two seasons, his crucial goals helped United two another League and Cup double, and at the end of the 1996-97 season, he announced he was retiring at age 30, much to the shock of many fans.

Although a controversial figure, United may not have become such a dominant force without the Frenchman.

Alan Shearer to Newcastle United

In 1996 Newcastle United smashed the British Transfer record when they beat Man United to the signing of Blackburn Rovers Alan Shearer for £15,000,000.

Shearer picked up from where he left off at Blackburn as he continued to score prolifically. Despite a mid-season injury, Shearer finished his first season with Newcastle as the League’s top scorer for the 3rd year in a row, scoring 25 goals and also being named the PFA Player of the Year.

Shearer hit a rough patch due to injuries and was not nearly prolific as he was, but things picked up again under old boss Kenny Dalglish and eventually went on to score 14 goals in 30 games, a small highlight in a miserable season for the club.

New boss Bobby Robson failed to lift Newcasle out of mid-table in his first season, but was still getting the best out of Shearer as he notched up 23 goals. Shearer then suffered another injury plagued season, scoring just 5 goals, but he found form the following season, bagging 23 goals as the Magpies finished 4th.

The following season proved even better, as Shearer scored 25 and Newcastle finished 3rd.  In his final years, Shearer’s form was patchy, scoring goals here and there, but did break the clubs goalscoring record by notching up over 200 goals before retiring in 2006.

Despite a forgettable period as manager, Shearer will forever be a hero to the Newcastle faithful as he was a pivotal part of the successful team that finished in the top 4 for a number of seasons during his time at St. James Park.

David Becham to LA Galaxy

In 2007 David Beckham created a worldwide media frenzy when he announced he would be joining LA Galaxy from Real Madrid.

Beckham arrived in LA that summer for a spectacular out door press conference (pictured left). Even those with little interest in football have heard the name ‘David Beckham’ and its no surprise the interest in MLS football rose dramatically when he joined Galaxy.

Now, he hardly joined them because he always wanted to  play in the MLS like a certain new teammate of his, but his impact on the game stateside has been enormous.

Attendances are up, more and more people are taking interest in the sport and more former Premiership stars are making the move to America, with Thierry Henry joining New York Red Bulls and Robbie Keane joining Beckham at LA Galaxy just this month.

Football was never a sport of great interest in America until more recent year’s, and its not often one player would have such a massive impact on one League.

Fernando Torres to Chelsea

I think this transfer just sums up how crazy and money mad football has become.

When Torres joined Chelsea in January for a whopping £50 million, there was much debate over whether someone like Torres could justify such a price tag and if Abaramovich may have gone just a little bit nuts.

So far, the injury plagued striker has only had one competitive goal to show for his efforts. Now i’m not trying to say it won’t work out, who knows, he may go onto be a great striker for Chelsea, but one day the club could look back on this and think ‘£50 million down the drain on that guy’.

The biggest surprise of all was the fact that Torres is nowhere near worth that much money. Ravaged by injury and already lacking form at Liverpool prior to his move, its hard imagine he’ll ever rediscover the form he once had, when he was worth that money.

Anyways, the point is spending that much money on one player is absolute madness, and one day its that sort of purchase that could plunge a big club into serious financial difficulty, and its an extremely risky thing to do in the current economic climate, so the Stamford Bridge faithful will be hoping ‘Nando can do what he was signed for and actually start finding the back of the net again and get back on the job of repaying that transfer fee, which with all due respect to the striker, is unlikely. I think this one shaped Football History, but perhaps for all the wrong reasons as it shows that clubs now just have too much money to spend, and as typical as it sounds, it seems unsurprising that they don’t know how to use it wisely.

So from Willie Groves £100 Transfer to Villa to Fernando Torres £50 million move to Chelsea, does this show how far football has come or how mad football has become since 1893? As always, please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions below.

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