2020 has certainly been a strange year, and one that we won’t forget in a hurry. But this month, it suddenly got weirder with the news that Championship side Barnsley have shown interest in former Manchester City striker, Mario Balotelli. The Italian is a free agent, having left Brescia at the end of the last campaign, following their relegation to Serie B. And it got us thinking – there have been plenty of bizarre signings in English football. With the transfer window opening in under two months, let’s take a look at some of them.
Julien Faubert: West Ham to Real Madrid (loan)
Okay, so this first one wasn’t a permanent transfer, but it’s still strange nonetheless. Faubert had been at Upton Park for 18 months, with injuries ravaging his debut season, before his shock move to the Spanish giants. At the time, West Ham were eighth in the table, so favoured more fancily in the Premier League odds. He made just two appearances for Los Blancos, having reportedly also missed training as he believed he had the day off. Not a huge success, and he returned to West Ham, before disappearing into obscurity.
Bebe: Vitória de Guimarães to Manchester United
The midfielder joined the Red Devils in the summer of 2010 – having never played for previous club, Vitória de Guimarães of the Portuguese Primeira Liga. If that wasn’t strange enough, he arrived at Old Trafford on a €9m transfer fee and manager Sir Alex Ferguson only met Bebe the day before he signed. He made just two Premier League appearances in his first season, before being shipped out on loan to a number of clubs in Turkey and Portugal. Having expressed a desire to stay in his native country, he signed for Benfica in July 2014 – but only for €3m!
Juninho: Sao Paulo to Middlesbrough
Samba stars often swap their native Brazil for the Premier League, or any other team amongst Europe’s elite, but when the diminutive playmaker joined Middlesbrough, it was considered a strange and unexpected move. After all, the city itself is industrial and its natives are often known as ‘smoggies’. But Juninho proved a hit on Teesside, enjoying one-and-a-half seasons with the club, before leaving at the end of the 1996-97 season when Boro were relegated. TLF (the Little Fella) as he was known, must have loved it in the North East, as he returned on a loan spell in the 1999-2000 season, before enjoying another two years at the Riverside between 2002-04.
Nicklas Bendtner: Arsenal to Juventus (loan)
The Dane joined the Serie A champions on a season-long loan in August 2012 – a strange move, considering he had spent the previous campaign at Sunderland. At the time, he tweeted: “I can now finally say I am a Juventus player. Very proud and can’t wait to wear the stripes!” – but as late as March, the club admitted they hadn’t sold a single shirt with his name on. A series of injuries and off-the-field issues marred his time in Turin and Juventus decided not to make the move permanent, with Bendtner returning to parent club Arsenal. Of course, him joining Juve wasn’t as strange as the striker turning out for Championship club Nottingham Forest later on in his career!