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5 of the craziest transfer hijacks in football history

Scott Newman
Top 5 / Top 10
Modified 20 Dec 2019, 14:35 IST

John Obi Mikel poses in a Manchester United shirt....before the move was hijacked by Chelsea
John Obi Mikel poses in a Manchester United shirt...before the move was hijacked by Chelsea

As a big fan of any football team, there can be few worse things than a transfer hijack. You know the scenario – the newspapers and gossip websites start linking your team with a big-name player, the manager and player both sound interested, the deal is apparently all but done....and then at the last second, another team – usually a bigger and richer one – steps in to steal the player away just as it seemed safe to have his name printed on your shirt.

In the cut-throat world of modern football this kind of thing happens time after time, and with greedy agents representing practically every player, the only thing that really talks these days is money, and how much of it both player and agent can get.

And so they’re quite willing to play clubs off one another, put out false links to the media to speed up a move, and so forth. But naturally, it’s always the club doing the hijacking that gets the blame from the fans.

Here are five of the most shocking transfer hijacks in football history.

#1 Willian to Tottenham Hotspur, hijacked by Chelsea in 2013

Tottenham Hotspur v Chelsea - Premier League
Willian's move to Chelsea came after he completed a medical at Tottenham

A hugely frustrating one for all Tottenham fans, the hijacking of the transfer of Brazilian winger Willian from Russian side Anzhi Makhachkala in 2013 by Chelsea was made even worse by the veiled taunts levelled at Spurs by then-Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho following the completion of the move.

At the time, Spurs were looking to splurge the £85m that Real Madrid were about to pay them for Gareth Bale, and boss Andre Villas-Boas had already broken his club’s transfer record twice to bring in Paulinho and Roberto Soldado.

At £30m, the signing of Willian would’ve broken the record again, and Spurs even managed to fend off interest from Liverpool to seemingly land the player. On August 21st, the Brazilian arrived at White Hart Lane for a medical, and all seemed to be going swimmingly.

That was of course until Chelsea’s owner Roman Abramovich made a quick call to his good friend Suleyman Kerimov – owner of Anzhi. And so two days later – for slightly more cash – Willian was on his way to Stamford Bridge instead.


Mourinho taunted that Tottenham should’ve “done the medical in secret” in order to keep the move quiet, but everyone involved at Spurs – from the fans to their chairman Daniel Levy – were furious, feeling Chelsea had simply bought the player to stop Tottenham from getting him.

Willian for his part claimed he snubbed Spurs to “fulfil a dream” but how true that was we’ll probably never know. In the end, the Brazilian would go on to two league titles with Chelsea, while Tottenham used the cash to buy Erik Lamela from Roma instead.

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Published 10 Jan 2018, 16:38 IST
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