Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Steven Gerrard, John Terry, and about half of Barcelona‘s squad have one special honour in common – of being called a “one club man”, meaning, spending one’s entire career at a single club. They are the epitome of loyalty, and are known to take great pride in it. On the other side of the coin, there are those who feel staying put at one club and trying to become a legend is not their cup of tea. Such players always tend to look towards the apparently greener grass on the other side, longing for more. More goals, more clean sheets, or more money, as the case may be.
Below are 5 players who have roamed around more clubs than fans can care to remember, and are still in search of that eternal happiness and satisfaction. Presenting, the 5 nomads of club football. Here we go!
The great Zlatan does not need to move. Zlatan is a great footballer. Zlatan only changes clubs to satisfy the bidders and their fans! From comments of the highest order of absurdity to outright arrogance, one would be compelled to hate him, but his performances on the pitch makes people think twice before taking a decision on that. Zlatan is a champion, but wait, does he have a Champions League winners’ medal?
In his early days, Zlatan scored 16 goals in 40 appearances in a three year stint with Swedish side Malmo, followed by another 4 years at Ajax that yielded 48 goals. However, a row with Rafael van der Vaart meant Ibra was shipped off to Juventus. Two years, a transfer stunt involving Real Madrid, two Serie A titles (which were later taken back), and 26 goals later, Zlatan was on the move again. Surely, a player of Zlatan’s quality was too good for a side relegated to Serie B. A move to Inter followed, and it was here where the world saw the talent of Mr. Zlatan. Within three years, he was one of the top earners in club football, and scored important goals, some spectacular ones as well. A spell of three years yielded 66 goals, before he was shipped off to Barcelona in exchange for Samuel Eto’o.
After a promising start, situations took a turn for the worse as he could neither fit into Pep Guardiola’s passing game, nor shared a healthy relationship with him. Two years of frustration ended in 2010 as he secured a loan move to AC Milan, which was later made permanent. He netted prolifically for the Rosenarri, scoring 56 times. As Milan initiated a massive restructuring of their squad, Ibrahimovic moved to PSG, as he believed in Parisians’ potential of being a world superpower, and also claiming Ligue 1 to be a very challenging league. However, each of Ibrahimovic’s moves are vindicated, as he has won trophies wherever he has gone. Zlatan also holds the record of the highest combined transfer fees, eclipsing that of the next nomad on the list here, Nicholas Anelka.
Nicolas Anelka was predicted to have a bright future ahead, but could never really cut it at PSG. Anelka joined Arsenal in 1997 and was a bit part player in his first season under Arsene Wenger. However, he really flourished in his second season there and was known for his pace. Towards the end of 1998-99 season however, he lost his form, and was believed to have displayed disinterestedness, which earned him the nickname “Le Sulk”. Arsenal gladly accepted a 22 million pound bid from Real Madrid at the beginning of the 1999-00 season.
Real must have regretted the purchase, as Le Sulk scored only 4 times in the whole season, and fell out with teammates, the coach, and the fans. PSG bought him back for 20 million in 2000, but he could score only 18 goals in a two year stint. Issues with the manager again prompted Nicolas to look elsewhere, and Liverpool offered him a short loan spell. Here, Anelka contributed immensely, but then manager Gerard Houlier decided against signing him on a permanent basis. Anelka later signed for Manchester City, and scored 45 times in a two and a half year spell. Just when his nomadic career seemed to be settling, Fenerbahce swooped for him in January 2005. He helped Fenerbahce to a league title before deciding on a return to England with Bolton Wanderers. Ever since he joined, he was on the lookout for the exit, which finally arrived in January 2008, as Chelsea secured his services. In total, Anelka scored 59 times for Chelsea, his best at all his clubs. A fallout with manager Andre Villas Boas resulted in Anelka moving, possibly for the last time in his career, to little know Chinese side Shanghai Shenhua.
Known more for his ridiculous hairstyles, Djibril Cisse was a superstar in the making at Auxerre, scoring 70 goals, before securing a move to Liverpool in 2004. However, a freak incident, months after the move, saw him sidelined for a lengthy spell. His second season earned better results, which included a memorable penalty conversion on that night in Istanbul. But differences with Rafael Benitez meant Cisse had to look elsewhere, and after another serious injury, had to move to Marseille in 2006.
He shined at Marseille, but somewhat surprisingly, secured a short loan deal to Sunderland in 2007, and then wanted to make it permanent. No deal was struck and Cisse returned to France. The summer of 2009 saw him move to Panathanikos in Greece. Despite scoring prolifically, Cisse was subject to racial abuse, and even questioned the fairness of refereeing in the Greek League after a derby draw against arch rivals Olympiakos. Cisse quit Greece for Lazio in the summer of 2011, but returned to England a year and a half later, moving to the struggling QPR. Cisse has so far scored 10 goals for QPR.
Peter Crouch was picked up by Tottenham’s youth academy. He could not force his way into the first team and was soon sold to QPR in 2000. Due to relegation, QPR were forced to sell most of their key players, which sent Peter Crouch to Fratton Park (Portsmouth). He left Portsmouth soon, Pompey having accepted a 5 million bid from Aston Villa. Crouch had a difficult time breaking into the first team and was subsequently loaned out to Norwich City, where he is still popular. Villa then sold him to Southampton, who at that time, were under the management of Harry Redknapp. It was here that Crouch really took off, scoring 17 goals in a single season, appearing 33 times.
However, he could not save Southampton from relegation, which prompted his sale to Liverpool in 2005. In spite of a painstaking goal drought before opening his Liverpool account, Crouch was appreciated for his off the ball work. He gained praise for his on the ball skills, which was, at that time, more than what one would expect from a classic English centre forward. Once he got going, Crouch was a regular in Liverpool’s line up, until the arrival of strikers like Fernando Torres relegated him to the bench. Crouch agreed upon a return to Pompey in 2008, and moved again to Tottenham a year later, thus completing a transfer circle. At the start of the 2011-12 season, Peter Crouch requested a transfer from Tottenham upon learning about Stoke City’s interest in him. In spite of his many transfers, Peter Crouch has been in the short term plans of just about every England manager, appearing 42 times and scoring 22 goals. Crouch has scored 162 goals in his nomadic club career, hopping from one club to another in the English League. Peter Crouch’s magical moment came when he scored a brilliant long range volley against Manchester City in a 1-1 draw.
A pacy winger cum forward, Craig Bellamy has been known to be more of a volatile character. He has played for, believe it or not, an astonishing 9 clubs. Craig started his career with Norwich City and played for them for 5 seasons. This was to be his longest stint at a single club. He then began his seemingly endless nomadic journey by moving to Coventry City, followed by moves to Newcastle, Celtic, Blackburn Rovers, Liverpool, West Ham United, Manchester City and Cardiff City, before finally returning to Liverpool in 2011. Bellamy was around for just one season in his second Anfield spell, and was one of the top performers in Kenny Dalglish’s dysfunctional squad. The sacking of Dalglish and the appointment of Brendan Rodgers, who preferred youth, convinced Bellamy to return to Cardiff in 2012. Like Peter Crouch, Craig Bellamy is a constant fixture in the Welsh national team. Bellamy has scored about 159 goals in English football.
There you have it folks, the nomads of club football. Anelka and Ibrahimovic are top players, and will still be remembered after they retire in spite of their numerous transfers. But what about players like Cisse, Bellamy or Crouch? Could they have become club legends by now, had they stayed at one club? With the transfer window still open, expect one of these to be making all the wrong noises again, chasing an ill-advised transfer.
Honourable mentions: Juan Sebastian Veron, Christian Vieri, Darren Bent, Marcus Bent, Steve Sidwell.
Who among the 5 in the list made the right choices regarding their transfers? VOTE here: