Footballing contracts are like marriage certificates, but if only marriage certificates were as brittle. That analogy would have made more sense in the 1980s or the 1970s. The race to sign players down to new contracts is an annual festival and like in every celebration, there are always weird fireworks.
The sport has encouraged players to agree to a weird list of contract clauses throughout history. Some have been downright unacceptable while others have been silly – yet affirmative: all in the hope of tying down players to new contracts in good spirit.
In this segment, we take a look at five such contracts that turned heads and made you wonder whether humans have evolved in the past few centuries.
#5 The one with the sheep testicles
Cardiff City's former owner Sam Hamman has quite the reputation in football, thanks in no small part to the kind of clauses he's inserted into contracts. Spencer Prior's deal with the club also happened to fall in that category.
The Englishman signed the contract which said he had to eat a Lebanese delicacy that involved two testicles slowly cooked. Hamman, however, was little accommodating. He allowed Prior to eat the dish with a pinch of salt, a dash of lemon and a little parsley.
Prior, amazingly, followed through on the request and ate an entire plate placed in front of him. It would later be revealed that the Englishman did have a plate of slow-cooked chicken made to look 'different'.
#4 The spoilt brat clause
Neymar's controversial transfer from Santos to Barcelona still lingers on in courtrooms, rumour mills and Real Madrid's vision room. The Brazilian is a sensational footballer and is en route to sealing his fate as one of the best footballers of all-time.
But as is the case with most players these days, Neymar's agreement with Barcelona came with certain conditions. The Brazilian's contract with the Catalan club at the time reportedly involved a clause, which allows his friends to fly down from Brazil to Barcelona every two months and spend time with him.
All the expenses for his friends – including travel, accommodation and food, was taken care of by the club while Neymar shelled out close to nothing. The mercurial Brazilian has since then sealed a world-record move to Paris Saint-Germain in Ligue 1 and continues to be linked with a return to Spain.
#3 The 'space travel is not for footballers' clause
Former Swedish footballer and Arsenal favourite, Stefan Schwarz, played for a bunch of European clubs throughout his career. That said, his contract at particular club stood out the most. Having just signed for Sunderland in 1999, Schwarz took the time to tell the club that he intended to be amongst the first people to fly commercially to outer space – a baby boomer's ultimate dream.
Sunderland, put the protection of the club and their reputation as a Premier League side first. They insisted that for the duration of the Swede's stay at the club, he would not be allowed to leave Earth under any circumstance.
As such, Stefan Schwarz became the first human to be denied to go to space by a footballing club. Twenty one years later, the Black Cats might look back and wonder why they even bothered to do it.
"One day it could become be quite acceptable to put such clauses in various contracts," said then-Sunderland chief executive John Fickling.
#2 'The one who wanted to stay grounded' clause
Dennis Bergkamp is one of the greatest players to have ever played in the Premier League. The Dutchman was a wizard with the ball at his feet and was often the one taking on the best of defences with a smile on his face. Yet, one thing terrified him more than anything else, and that was an aeroplane.
In one of his Arsenal contracts, Bergkamp insisted that he would not be a part of any Arsenal squad that needed air travel to get to their destination. The three-time Premier League winner chose to travel by train or other modes of transport to wherever required.
There are rumours aplenty, even now, that this was the reason Bergkamp choose to stay at Ajax. His insistence on not 'bothering' clubs to arrange alternate modes of transport for him alone made him reject greener pastures in favour of remaining in his home country, where he serves as Ajax's assistant manager between 2011 and 2017.
#1 The 'my wife needs cooking classes' clause
Something that seems inherently wrong even today was when Eintracht Frankfurt were forced into arranging cooking classes for Rolf-Christel Guié-Mien's wife, as a part of the midfielders deal with the club.
The Congolese international was insistent that his wife take up those classes to help him settle into German football. According to multiple records from the time, his missus did take it well and learnt dishes she probably wouldn't have dreamt of.
A clause that's highly likely to be implemented again today was a defining one in the history of the Bundesliga – who have since then streamlined procedures to be undertaken for any professional footballer who demands extra 'special' clauses in his contract.