Analysis: Before Robin van Persie - Five of the most controversial English Premier League transfers

Inspired by Robin van Persie's move from Arsenal to Manchester United, James Ranson casts his mind back and digs out five transfers that boiled the blood of supporters

By James Ranson

Robin van Persie's £22 million move from Arsenal to Manchester United added his name to a long list of defectors from the Gunners, including Samir Nasri, Emmanuel Adebayor, Ashley Cole, Kolo Toure and Gael Clichy.

In the wake of his dramatic transfer, takes a look at five of the most controversial transfers in English Premier League history.


The former England defender infamously told Spurs' club magazine, among various other public statements, he would never leave for Arsenal... that was until a few months later, when he chose Tottenham's bitter North London rivals with Champions League football in mind at the end of the 2000-2001 season. That the Gunners got the centre back on a free transfer merely rubbed salt into the wound. Campbell was one of the highest-profile players to move on a free transfer within the Premier League under the Bosman ruling and went on to win two titles and two FA Cups for Arsene Wenger's side.


The Argentine made the move few have in Premier League circles after winning over the Old Trafford faithful for his hardworking performances during a two-year loan spell. Naturally, Tevez drew the ire of Red Devils supporters but bizarrely, it was their displeasure at manager Sir Alex Ferguson for not throwing the kitchen sink at the striker that ensured Tevez was not stoned in the city square. The Scot claimed Tevez was not worth the £25 million price tag to make the deal permanent and, in what has turned out to be a rather symbolic gesture, their neighbours from the blue half of the city snapped him up. City felt they had acquired a player United either could not afford or did not want and promptly erected a large 'Welcome to Manchester' billboard with Tevez's head smack bang in the middle of it just to rile their bitter rivals all the more.


The Tyne-Wear derby is one of the most heated in English football, so when Newcastle youth product Clark jumped down a division to play for bitter rivals Sunderland in 1997, plenty of eyebrows were raised. Following seven years playing for Newcastle's first team, Clark made the move few have dared to and actually enjoyed a degree of success at the Stadium of Light as part of the side that won the old Division One in 1999 with a record 105 points. That is where the association ended, with Clark brazenly - some would say stupidly - brandishing an anti-Sunderland shirt reading 'Sad Mackem Bastards' while supporting Newcastle in the 1999 FA Cup Final. With such venom it is difficult to imagine what possessed Clark to agree to the move in the first place, but all seemed to be forgotten when he closed out his career with one season at Newcastle following six at Fulham.


Cole's move to Chelsea saw the practice of 'tapping up' simmer to the surface, when the England left-back, a contracted player at the time, was caught up in accusations of illegal negotiations with Chelsea. Part of the Arsenal's 'Invincibles' squad, Cole quickly turned into a figure of scorn for Gunners fans following the infamous meeting with Chelsea's officials at the Royal Park Hotel. Cole had been hanging out for an extra £5,000 pounds a week from Arsenal, but got his wish when he was sold to the Blues on deadline day. The Premier League eventually stepped in to deal with the matter legally, with Cole, Chelsea and its officials fined for their part in the saga. Later in his autobiography, Cole burnt the last of any bridges that may have remained by blaming Arsenal over the scandal.


The sheer monetary compensation - £50 million - for Torres' transfer to Chelsea did little to dampen the outrage spilling from Anfield on the eve of the 2011-12 season. Torres proved himself a prolific scorer [65 goals in 102 games] in front of The Kop and endeared himself to the fans, but his claims of loyalty and long-term commitment proved feeble. Liverpool fans rightly felt cheated and misled just a month after Torres had intimated his desire to see out his contract. The Spaniard later claimed the departures of key cogs Javier Mascherano and Xabi Alonso justified his 'professional' move and he further stoked the fire when he claimed he had never kissed the Liverpool badge, believing romance in football was long gone. Liverpool fans wounds healed a little in Torres' stuttering maiden campaign with Chelsea, going on a 24-game goal drought.


  • In 2000, Nick Barmby became the first player since 1959 to move across Merseyside from Everton to Liverpool.
  • After four seasons at Arsenal, William Gallas retraced Campbell's footsteps across town to North-London rivals Tottenham at the start of the 2010 season.
  • Harry Redknapp had two stints managing Portsmouth either side of an unsuccessful one-year spell in charge of south-coast rival Southampton during the 2004-05 season.
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