It’s that time of year when thoughts should ineffably turn to those less fortunate than ourselves, ’tis the season of ‘goodwill to all men’ and all that jazz.
However, me being a stingy son of a gun, I felt the clamour to turn my thoughts to those far more fortunate than ourselves, and produce a list of some of the luckiest, gummy-grinned chancers the modern game has offered up to date.
On the first day of Christmas, your true love brings to you…the top 5 luckiest transfers ever conducted and a partridge in a pear tree.
5. Pegguy Arphexad, Liverpool (Bosman transfer, 2000)
Despite having only ever made two appearances for Liverpool during his three-year stay on Merseyside, Arphexad received five winners’ medals during his first calender year at Anfield.
Liverpool secured a treble of sorts in 2000/’01 (FA Cup, League Cup, UEFA Cup) and then claimed the Charity Shield and the European Super Cup during the first half of the 2001/’02 campaign – with Arphexad ‘featuring’ as an unused substitute in every single game.
The French ‘keeper was released by then-manager Gerard Houllier at the end of the following season, but not before picking up yet another winners’ medal for Liverpool’s 2002/’03 League Cup triumph.
Brief ill-fated spells with Stockport, Notts County and Marseilles ensued before Arphexad was finally forced to call time on his 16-year career at the end of the 2004/’05 campaign.
More Liverpool Transfers.
4. Michael Carrick, Manchester United (£18.6 million, 2006)
Whereas you could argue that a few of his teammates are luckier in that they are actually being paid handsomely in the bracket of top-level professional footballers (for some reason lump-merchant John O’Shea springs instantly to mind), it’s hard to argue that Carrick didn’t time his move from Tottenham with almost ruthless clairvoyance.
In the following three seasons, United powered their way to three-straight Premier League titles which had almost nothing to do with Carrick who spent most of the time either out with injury for an obligatory three weeks or by steadily becoming a shadow of the player he once was – a footballing ethos by which he continues to conduct himself to this very day.
3. Ludovic Giuly, Barcelona (€7 million, 2004)
Struck a rich vein of form whilst captaining AS Monaco to the 2003/’04 Champions League final (which the unfavoured French side duly lost to Jose Mourinho‘s unfavoured Porto outfit) and snagged himself a high-profile move to Barcelona.
The diminutive winger continued to impress, playing a considerable (if a little sporadic) part in Barca and Frank Rijkaard‘s resurgent title-winning 2004/’05 campaign, a feat they managed to repeat the season after – a season in which they also added the Champions League trophy to their collective silverware haul.
During the latter stages of 2005/’06 and the onset of 2006/’07, Guily’s influence at the club was in visible decline, with injuries and a loss of impact seeing him fade from the fans’ affections.
The emergence of teenage tyro Lionel Messi at the Camp Nou also did nothing to help Giuly’s cause and, following a lukewarm stint in Serie A with Roma, the Frenchman returned home in the summer of 2008 with Paris Saint Germain where he has since reverted to type, i.e a little-above-average flanker.
More Barcelona Transfers.
2. Gerard Pique, Barcelona (€5 million, 2008)
In terms of title won in a debut season, Pique’s six-gong haul on his return to Barca makes his swift exit from the doldrums of Manchester United’s reserve side seem like the very definition of a ‘timely’ transfer.
Upon the culmination of the 2008/’09 schedule, Pique was able to add La Liga, Copa del Rey, Supercopa de Espana, Champions League, Super Cup and Club World Cup winners’ medals to list of personal honours that had only previously comprised of a few ‘by association’ titles he picked up at Old Trafford and a certificate for ‘best handwriting’ that he was once awarded at Primary School.
More Barcelona Transfers.
1. David May, Manchester United (£1.2 million, 1994)
How could you draw up a list of football’s most serendipitous chancers without including David ‘more medals than Shearer’ May?
Having carved out an average reputation for himself during Blackburn’s maiden outing in the embryonic Premier League in 1993/’94, May joined United in the summer of 1994, though his spawniest (and career defining) moment at Old Trafford – or, more precisely at the Camp Nou – was still some way off.
Five years later in 1999, May was included on United’s squad list for their Champions League final outing with Bayern Munich having not made a single appearance in the competition to date.
The English side famously ran out last-ditch victors thanks to a fairly Herculean joint-effort, yet it was May, with not a drop of sweat broken, who celebrated hardest at the final whistle – as if it he had single-handedly downed the Bavarians with a resplendent extra-time hat-trick.
He was farmed out on loan to Huddersfield the very next season.
Agree/Disagree? Think of anyone I’ve missed? Please feel free to leave your suggestions in the comments box below…
Also see: Detailed league-by-league & club-by-club transfer lists.