Sol Campbell’s decision to join Notts County in August was one which shocked the English game. Yes he would link up with his old England boss Sven Goran Eriksson and yes the club had recently been the subject of a takeover meaning they are the richest club in League Two. However, it still seemed a very strange decision for an ex-England international that was apparently wanted by a host of Premier League and Championship clubs. Just three weeks into his contract he has again shocked English football by walking away from the club “by mutual consent,” with stated reasons being his unhappiness with the club’s progress over improved training facilities and the playing squad.
Campbell is not the first player to leave a club after a very short period of time or to regret a decision and Notts County is certainly not the first club to suffer from a particular signing.
Probably the most famous short term move in the Premier League is that of Ali Dia. He was signed by Graeme Souness for Southampton in 1996 on the supposed recommendation of former FIFA World Player of the Year George Weah. The Liberian supposedly rang Souness recommending his cousin, Dia, who had apparently previously played for Paris St Germain and had been capped 13 times for his country, Senegal. This all proved fabrication and it was Dia’s agent, not the former Milan star, who made the call, but it was enough for Souness to signed him to a one month deal. Dia made his debut against Leeds on November 21, 1996 replacing Matt Le Tissier in the 32nd minute. His performance was so poor that he was himself substituted after being on the pitch for 53 minutes. He never played for the Saints again being released two weeks into his contract. This is a story that always brings a smile to the face of this writer having seen the comedic performance by Dia. The move was not too detrimental to the club other than losing the match against Leeds and the embarrassment for Souness. However, there have been many moves, which have been detrimental to either the player or the club or in some instances both.
The signing of Juan Sebastian Veron by Manchester United in July 2001 for £28.1m has been heralded as one of the biggest flops in Premier League history with the ‘little witch’ only lasting two seasons at Old Trafford before being shipped to Chelsea for half the price. Veron was a fantastic player before joining United and still remains one having single-handedly taken Estudiantes to Copa Libertadores victory last season at the age of 34. He struggled to find his form at United and United struggled to find the best position for him. It seemed an unnecessary signing for a team that boasted a midfield of David Beckham, Roy Keane, Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs and they didn’t have a natural spot for the Argentine. He showed glimpses of magic in Europe but ultimately it proved a costly signing for United. The Veron signing is one which everyone remembers and is often mentioned to United fans in pubs up and down the country but here are a few that we may not always remember.
Many football fans have abiding memories of a young Tomas Brolin terrorising defences for Sweden at Euro 92. Following injury at Italian club Parma, he was shipped off the Leeds United in 1995 for £4.3m. The Brolin who arrived at Elland Road was in stark contrast to the one seen in the Euro’s. He was vastly overweight and ‘largely’ over the hill. He made a total of 19 appearances for the Yorkshire club leaving two years later when his contract was cancelled. At the time the transfer fee was a considerable one, however, not as considerable as the £10m paid to Blackburn Rovers by Chelsea for the services of Chris Sutton for one goal in 28 Premier League appearances or the £11.5m Tottenham paid for Sergei Rebrov.
There are so many transfers which we can include in these categories but there are two concerning Chelsea which merit particular attention. Only weeks after signing a contract with the club, Winston Bogarde was deemed surplus to requirements by newly appointed manager Claudio Ranieri. Bogarde had other ideas and demanded his contract be honoured, remaining at the club for the full four years earning £40 000 a week and only making 11 appearances. Not a good move for Chelsea. Another seemingly poor move by the west Londoners was the signing of Adrian Mutu. The Romanian scored six times in 27 appearances and was subsequently sacked for use of cocaine. However, Chelsea have done well out of the compensation for his breach of contract.
The previous examples of poor moves and signings are all interesting to look back on and there are countless others every year. In fact the mistakes by Rafa Benitez at Liverpool probably merit a full article alone, but the Campbell decision is in stark contrast to these. The move may have been in part motivated by money but Campbell stated that he felt something big was happening at County and he felt he wanted to be a part of possibly changing the football landscape. If Eriksson was in, so was he. There is only really one other example in recent times which is on similar footing – that of David Beckham. When Beckham announced he was to join LA Galaxy following the conclusion of his contract with Real Madrid, the decision was met with much criticism and surprise in the footballing world with money thought to be the decisive factor. Reportedly Beckham had offers from many top sides at home and abroad and was clearly at the top of his game having played a major part in Real Madrid’s La Liga triumph. Beckham countered this criticism by issuing the following statement:
“People are going to see the quality that exists over here, and I fully recognise that many people in England don’t have a grasp of what’s going on with major league soccer on or off the field. But the fact is we have competitive teams, competitive individual players and a very good and growing league. It’s not that we can’t get better and I put our teams up against some Premiership teams in a second.”
No-one would claim Beckham’s move to the US has been a successful one – apart from improving his celebrity image – as he has returned on loan to Milan to help his England career and looks likely to do so again prior to the World Cup, the player suffering abuse from his own fans on returning to America. He has not necessarily increased the profile of the sport in the States and it remains a long way behind the more traditional American sports. This is a clear example of a move made not necessarily for sporting reasons becoming detrimental for the player involved.
Campbell’s realisation has come a lot quicker than Beckham’s with the former Arsenal man only turning out once in League Two and he is fortunate that County are willing to let him go. This debacle will be detrimental to what County are trying to achieve as Campbell was to be used as an attraction for more high profile players. Sol has not necessarily behaved in the correct way but he has realised he still has more to give at the top level and he has shown that what is promised or hoped – either by players or clubs – does not always materialise in football.