By Martin Cloake
As Southampton continue to slug it out with Tottenham and Atletico Madrid over who has the legal right to buy or sell defender Toby Alderweireld, here are five other famous football transfer disputes that got distinctly U-G-L-Y before being resolved.
1. John Obi Mikel
Mikel was the subject of a squabble between Chelsea, Manchester United and Lyn Olso in 2005. United said they’d signed the Nigerian midfielder, but Chelsea claimed they had first dibs because of a deal with Mikel’s agents.
FIFA stepped in to order Chelsea to send the player back to Lyn Oslo, but the Blues got their man after paying a £16million fee, £12million of which went directly to United for their trouble.
Sadly, it seems nobody kept the receipt.
2. Carlos Tevez
Tevez ’s move from West Ham to Manchester United in 2007 brought the issue of third-party player ownership to the attention of the wider public. The move stalled in a row over who would get the transfer fee. West Ham said it should be them, but agent Kia Joorabchian claimed his two companies – MSI and Just Sports Inc – owned the player.
West Ham were found to have breached Premier League rules on joint ownership of players and were fined. The East London club finally reached a £2million settlement with Tevez’s representatives that allowed the player to go to Manchester United – not that it all ended there, of course…
3. Tevez (cont’d…)
After Tevez scored the winning goal (against Manchester United, ironically) that saw Sheffield United relegated from the Premier League, the Blades duly stepped in to sue West Ham having understandably taken umbrage at being shunted out of the division by a player who by rights shouldn’t have been on the pitch.
The South Yorkshire club argued that, as Tevez was not eligible to play for West Ham because of the rules on player ownership, they were due compensation for relegation.
The two clubs eventually reached an out-of-court settlement, said to be £10million.
4. Jean Marc Bosman
The infamous transfer dispute that changed the face of football. Bosman played for Belgian side Liege and, when his contract expired, he wanted to move to French side Dunkerque. But the French side would not pay the fee Liege wanted, so Liege refused to let Bosman go, and then reduced his wages as he was no longer a first team player.
Bosman sued for restraint of trade in the European Court of Justice. On 15th December 1995 he won, and established the principle that players were entitled to a free transfer if their contracts ran out. Over in North London, a certain Sol Campbell was making careful notes…
5. George Eastham
Eastham refused to sign a new contract with Newcastle United in 1959 and requested a transfer to Arsenal. Newcastle refused, and refused to release his registration, meaning he could play for no one. Eastham called this ‘retain and transfer’ system “slavery”, went on strike and went to court arguing restraint of trade.
He won, paving the way for the modern transfer system – although he was singularly unimpressed 39 years later when Ashley Cole called the modern system slavery in a dispute over an extra £5,000 a week.