Contentious 10 – Biggest Club Betrayals

The return of our Contentious 10 series sees Chris Sermanni give us a run down of the biggest club betrayals in player transfers. Do you agree or disagree? Let us know your thoughts by commenting below or tweeting us @90minutecynic.

Mario Goetze’s move from Borussia Dortmund to Bundesliga rivals raised more than a few eyebrows last week. The German wunderkid was co-opted in the München juggernaut when they triggered a €37 million release clause in his contract. Fans of Dortmund reacted angrily to the news, naturally, and bombarded the players Facebook page with some less than pleasant comments. The timing of the announcement added to the ill feeling, coming days before their Champions League semi-final clash with Real Madrid. All in all, it’s fair to say Goetze has assumed the status of ‘bastard’ amongst the Dortmund faithful

Goetze is far from the first player to be anointed with the Judas tag, and nor is his move the most controversial switch. Fans of all clubs will still harbour ill will or a sense of injustice over a transfer or two of their favourite players from yesteryear. Others, however, have a hatred burning inside them that time fails to extinguish. Goetze’s move got me thinking of some of the biggest betrayals in football over the years, and the impact they have had.

The following is ten of the most controversial ‘betrayals’, in no particular order.


1. Niko Kranjcar – Dinamo Zagreb to Hadjuk Split


In 2004, Kranjcar was the rising star of Croatian football. He was made the youngest ever captain of Dinamo Zagreb, a club that his father had starred for years before and led them to the title in 2003. Croatian football is generally unable to hang on to their brightest prospects for long, so when Kranjcar fell out with the Dinamo management team in 2004/5, it was naturally assumed the gifted playmaker would be transferred to a foreign club. Kranjcar, however, chose to move to Dinamo’s biggest rivals, Hadjuk Split for a Croatian record of €1.5 million. Dinamo fans were furious, and more than a little hurt. They had assumed that Kranjcar’s family links to them would have prevented such a move. Despite winning the league in his first season in Split, Kranjcar failed to recapture and maintain his Zagreb form. When Dinamo recaptured the title the following season, fans of the club descended on the main square in Zagreb to celebrate their triumph and sing songs about how fat Niko was, and how he hadn’t won anything. Get that round ye, Niko.


‘You bastard!’ Rating – 7/10


2. Roberto Baggio – Fiorentina to Juventus


Fiorentina fans have harboured a hatred for the Old Lady of Turin since the final day of the season in 1982. The two sides were level on points going into the last day of the season. Fiorentina could only muster a 0-0 away to Cagliari, with a goal controversially chopped off, whereas Juventus managed to overcome Cantazaro 1-0 thanks to a more than controversial Liam Brady penalty. “Meglio secondi che ladri” (better to be second than thieves) became the slogan of La Viola faithful. Fast forward to 1990, and the two clubs met in a two legged UEFA cup final. Baggio was the star man for Fiorentina, but it was clear that the owners wished to cash in on their prized asset, with Turin being mooted as the most likely destination. Day after the final, which was a tense affair, the deal to take him to Juventus was sealed for €10 million, then a world record. The Fiorentina faithful took to the streets of Florence and proceeded to riot, leaving 50 injured and the owners fearing for their safety. When Juventus travelled to Florence that season, they done so under heavy police guard Baggio, however, made peace of sorts with the Fiorentina faithful in this match, by refusing to take a penalty against them, and picking up a Fiorentina scarf and kissing it. He was substituted shortly after with the scarf around his neck. Juventus fans never took to him like fans of his other clubs did, and Fiorentina fans never forgave the owners. They were eventually forced into selling the club.


‘You bastard!’ Rating – 6/10


3. Eric Cantona – Leeds United to Manchester United.


In the history of shite phone calls, the mooted chat between Sir Alex Ferguson and Howard Wilkinson over the possible transfer of Denis Irwin to Elland Road must surely rank up there with Russell Brand’s horny junkie tirade to Manuel from Faulty Towers and Australian radio DJ pranksters suicide inducing Queen Elizabeth impersonation. The actual details of the call and who it was between seem to have become shrouded in myth, with Martin Edwards, Bill Sotheby, Alex Ferguson and Howard Wilkinson all mooted to have been on the end of the receiver. Nevertheless, the call could justifiably be the single most important in Man United’s history. With the Red Devils struggling mid table and without a league title in 26 years (yes kids, you read that correctly) Ferguson took what at the time was thought to be serious risk in securing the signature of mercurial Frenchman (for mercurial read ‘bonkers’). It turned out to be a sensational move, when they secured the title, and was a springboard to two decades of dominance in England. Leeds fans never forgave Cantona the betrayal, and having won the title the season prior, have never really threatened since. Their hatred continues to simmer in the championship.


‘You bastard!’ Rating – 7/10


4. Mo Johnston – Nantes to Rangers


The mere mention of this ginger haired mercenary rat bastard’s name is enough to boil the blood of almost any Celtic fan. Le Petit Merde had enjoyed a successful spell with Celtic between 1984 and 1987, before he made the move to Nantes in France for a two year spell. At the end of his contract, Johnston was sounded out about coming back to Celtic and agreed, even going as far as to announce his return to “the only club he wanted to play for”. Days later, to the disbelief of the entire country, it was announced he had signed for Rangers. Fans of both clubs were livid. Celtic due to his shameful about turn, and Rangers fans enraged at the signing of such a high profile Catholic, and ex Celtic player. The motivation was purely financial, Celtic being hampered by the biscuit tin mentality of the old board, whereas Rangers were displaying the fiscal decadence that ultimately led to their demise. Celtic failed to recover from his betrayal for nearly a decade, and ushered in a period of almost complete dominance for the blue half of Glasgow. After two years, he pissed off like a rat down a drainpipe to Everton, before scurrying back for spells with Hearts and Falkirk. In 1996, he took his shite hair and 30 pieces of silver and disappeared to Canada for a spell in the MLS. A horrible jobby of a human being


‘You bastard!’ Rating – 32/10


5. Alfredo Di Stefano – Millionarios to Real Madrid


A strange tale this one, a transfer that shows the favour Real have enjoyed in Spain for decades, and many feel still benefit from to this day. In 1952, Di Stefano and his Millionarios team arrived in Spain to play a series of friendlies for the 50th anniversary of Real Madrid. In what can only be described as an omnishambles, both Barcelona and Real Madrid claimed to have signed the striker. Bizarrely, Barcelona claimed to have bought him from River Plate (who part owned the rights to him) and Real from Millionarios. FIFA asked that the Spanish Federation decide on the transfer. They ruled on a “share agreement” – Di Stefano was allowed four seasons in Spain, two for Real Madrid and two for Barcelona, but starting with Barcelona. The management team in Barcelona were furious at the decision, and felt that Real president Santiago Bernabeu had hijacked the deal and snatched the player from under their noses (he had actually played a handful of friendlies for the Catalan club whilst waiting for the red tape to be cleared). Barcelona rejected the deal, and Di Stefano went on to have a half decent career in Madrid. The Catalans felt a burning sense of injustice that lasts until the present day


‘You bastard!’ Rating – 8/10


6. Luis Figo – Barcelona to Real Madrid


The Di Stefano saga was perhaps part of the preamble to the reaction of Luis Figo’s move from Barcelona to Real Madrid. Figo had been a fan favourite at Nou Camp in a five year spell between 1995 and 2000, securing a couple of La Liga titles and a Cup Winner’s Cup. Florentino Perez campaigned for the presidency of Real Madrid on the promise he would take Figo from Catalonia to Madrid if elected. When he was elected he set about making good on his promised and a €38 million fee was agreed between the sides. Figo briefly had cold feet over the move, and considered pulling out but eventually signed on the dotted line and made the switch to the capital. The Barcelona faithful didn’t take too kindly to the move, and made their feeling on the betrayal apparent. On his return to the Nou Camp with his new club, Figo was showered with object from the Barcelona fans including a whisky bottle filled with hot piss (I assume it was hot) and, bizarrely, a pigs head amongst many coins and lighters. Four years after the move, it seems passions still ran high as a Barcelona fan ran onto the pitch in the Euro 2004 final and threw the clubs flag in his face.


‘You bastard!’ Rating – 9/10


7. Paul Ince – West Ham United to Manchester United


Boyhood Hammers fan Paul Ince had caught the eye of Manchester United manager with his combative midfield displays for West Ham. The Upton Park faithful had resigned themselves to the fact that their star man would be departing, but it was the manner in which Ince conducted himself that enraged the fans, and fuelled a hatred which still burns to this day. Whilst still contracted to West Ham – and with no sign of any deal being near completion, Ince was pictured holding a Manchester United strip. The sight of Ince posing before the deal was struck enraged the Hammers fans, and they have never forgiven him since. Ince claims that his agent informed him the move was all but tied up, and that he should pose with the picture in order that he did not have to return early from holiday. Upon his return, Ince came home to a shitstorm of cockney vitriol. Ince has been roundly abused every time he has returned to Upton Park, even as recently as during his stint as Blackburn boss. Even Ince’s son Tom was booed by ‘The Irons’ fans. Bitter.


‘You bastard!’ Rating – 7/10


8. Sol Campbell – Tottenham Hotspur to Arsenal


Big Sol came through the ranks at Tottenham and his commanding displays at centre half quickly endeared him to the fans. Campbell had been at Spurs for nearly a decade come 2001, but with the London side having underachieved in this period, he had never finished higher than seventh position. Whilst the Spurs fans might have expected him to leave the club, they would not be prepared for his move to their biggest rivals. The bold Sol had gone on record in the official club paper to say he would never, ever sign for Arsenal. As his contract ticked towards expiry, Sol soothed the Spurs faithful with repeated desires to stay with the club, but when The Gunners flashed their chequebook, Sol dropped his drawers like a two bob hooker and signed on the dotted line. Needless to say, White Hart Lane was up in arms over the mercenary actions of Campbell, and held up ‘Judas’ signs to let him know exactly how they were thinking.


‘You bastard!’ Rating – 8/10


9. Johan Cruyff – Ajax to Feyenoord


Johan Cruyff is arguably the greatest player in Ajax’s history. In his two spells at the club, the great playmaker notched up a dozen league titles and three European cups in a glorious career. Cruyff had returned to the Netherlands in 1981 after spells in Spain and the USA and quickly settled back in at his new club, securing back to back titles in seasons 81-82 and 82-83. At the end of his second season, the Ajax board decided not to offer Cruyff a new contract, preferring instead to focus on youth and cut the club legend loose. Cruyff was greatly angered by this, and in an act motivated by revenge, he signed a contract with their greatest rivals, Feyenoord and formed a partnership with the emerging Ruud Gullit. His impact was immediate, and Ajax were left to rue their decision. In his only season with the club, he helped them secure a league and cup double. Fans of Ajax felt a bit cheated by Cruyff decision to make the switch.


‘You bastard!’ Rating – 6/10


10. Lee Clark – Newcastle to Sunderland


Boyhood Newcastle fan made the move from St James’ Park to Sunderland in 1997 after almost 200 appearances in the Toon shirt. Clark had lost his place, and the promise of first team football prompted his move to the Mackems. The Tyneside clubs famously do not see eye to eye, so Clark’s move was not greeted with enthusiasm by the Newcastle faithful. His spell at Sunderland was a successful one, captaining the side to promotion in 1997. However, his affiliation to the club was abruptly curtailed in 1999, when Clark was famously pictured at the Newcastle vs. Manchester United FA Cup Final wearing a “Sad Mackem Bastards” t-shirt. He never played for the club again, and was hastily shuffled off to Fulham days later. It’s safe to say the Mackem fans don’t hold warm memories of Clark’s appearance in a Sunderland shirt


‘You bastard!’ Rating – 8/10


Chris is a Celtic supporter who is also a fan of Italian football. His all time favourite players include Paul McStay and Francesco Totti. Other interests include music, politics as well as a passion for boxing. You can follow Chris on twitter here: @iaminagreement

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