|Alfredo Di Stefano - Barcelona to Real Madrid, 1953
Madrid legend Di Stefano initially moved to Spain to play for Barcelona after his Colombian club Millionarios accepted an offer from the Catalans. The Argentine played a few friendly games for Barca but things got spicy when Real Madrid wanted the player too and offered money to Millionarios to get him. A lengthy saga ensued, forcing the Spanish football authorities to get involved before the player made the move from Barcelona to Real Madrid in time for the new season.
|Patrick Vieira - Arsenal to Real Madrid, 2002-2004
Much like picking up your tennis racket for two weeks during Wimbledon, the Vieira to Real Madrid story became an annual summer event. After getting shot of Vieira's French teammate Claude Makelele to Chelsea, the Spanish outfit was desperate for some steel to add to its superstar lineup. In 2004 the deal finally looked like being done, with Arsenal accepting a £30m fee for their captain. Vieira pulled out at the last minute after it emerged he wouldn't be on a Galactico level salary. Eventually left a year later for Juventus.
|John Obi Mikel - Lyn to Man United/Chelsea, 2006
A controversial transfer involving agents, strange TV interviews, death threats and the eventual payment of millions to a club for which Mikel never kicked a ball. The player had been identified by Manchester United in 2003 after starring in the FIFA U-17 World Youth Championships. He joined Norwegian side Lyn Oslo to enable him to get a work permit and was announced as a Manchester United player shortly after his 18th birthday. Chelsea then intervened, claiming it had a deal with the player. In the meantime Mikel was the target of death threats in his native Nigeria and disappeared when he was meant to play a match for Lyn. He showed up in London and gave an interview saying he had been pressured into signing for United and wanted to join Chelsea instead. FIFA was forced to get involved and the transfer looked to be going down the legal route. Chelsea avoided this by paying Manchester United £12m and Lyn £4m to settle the saga. Former Lyn director Morgan Andersen was convicted of fraud for his part in the long-running transfer.
|Rafael van der Vaart - Hamburg to Valencia, 2007
So confident was the Dutchman of joining Valencia that he was pictured holding the club shirt back in 2007. Hamburg wasn't willing to let him go for the €14m offered and the player went out of his way to make the move happen. Van der Vaart pulled out of a European game for the German club claiming he had hurt himself - lifting his one-year-old son - so he wouldn't be cup-tied. The sage was dubbed 'Van der Farce' by the German press and the final straw was when the player invited journalists to his house to talk about his dream move so his Spanish grandparents could see him play in La Liga. Hamburg remained firm and the player was forced to stick it out for another year before joining Real Madrid. Apparently Van der Vaart's Hamburg teammates gave him a Christmas present of a Valencia shirt with the name van der Verrat on it. Verrat being the German word for betrayal.
|David Villa - Valencia to various, 2008-2010
The prospect of Villa leaving Mestalla had been mooted heavily for at least two years before his eventual move to Barcelona. Linked with Chelsea once upon a time, Villa was rumored to be on the way to Manchester United and Manchester City since then. Chelsea was best placed and offered Villa a big salary, but the player was always keen to remain in Spain. "I do not close the door to either Real Madrid or Barcelona. I am 27 years old and I do not know what will happen in my future. I have a contract with Valencia until I'm 32, but nobody knows what the future holds," he said in December 2009. Villa went to Camp Nou for €40m prior to Spain's victory in the World Cup in the 2010 World Cup.
|Cristiano Ronaldo - Man United to Real Madrid, 2008-2009
This one was always going to happen once Ronaldo put himself in the Madrid shop window after a stunning 2007-08 season when he scored 42 goals. Desperate to join Los Blancos, the player, who was earning £120,000 a week with Manchester United, compared himself to a modern-day slave when the Red Devils dug their heels in and insisted he give them one more season. The saga dominated the summer of 2008 until Ronaldo agreed to stay with the Red Devils for another campaign. The media went into collective mourning when Ronaldo joined Madrid early the following summer, ensuring there was no repeat of the previous year's saga.
|Franck Ribery - Bayern Munich to Real Madrid, 2009
Seemingly intent on buying every single attacking player in the world, Real Madrid set its sights on Bayern Munich playmaker Franck Ribery last summer. Endorsed by Zinedine Zidane, the Frenchman was tipped to follow in the footsteps of Kaka and Ronaldo by moving to the Bernabeu. Desperate to leave the Allianz, Ribery told L'Equipe: "I have made up my mind, I want to leave. It will be Real or nothing." It was claimed a deal was done for Ribery to do one more season - a la Ronaldo - and join in 2010. In the end, he stayed put at Bayern, helping the club to the treble in 2013 and is still under contract at the club until 2017.
|Cesc Fabregas - Arsenal to Barcelona, 2010-11
Cesc Fabregas was never anything less than vocal in his desire to return to boyhood club Barcelona from Arsenal but he had to wait quite some time for his dream move to materialise. It was 2010 when it became obvious that a move was something of an inevitability. Barca stepped up its charm offensive either side of Spain's World Cup triumph, with Arsene Wenger taking exception to comments from Xavi in particular, and Pepe Reina was seen forcing Fabregas into the Catalans club's colors. Arsenal dug in and convinced its captain to stay but only for an additional year and in mid-August 2011, he finally got his wish and his Gunners career was over.
|Neymar - Santos to Barcelona & Real Madrid, 2011-13
Europe's finest first registered an interest in Neymar's talents as he won the Copa Libertadores with Santos in 2011. Chelsea was the first club to be linked with a move for the Brazilian, but it was soon joined by Barcelona, Real Madrid and, bizarrely, Anzhi Makhachkala. It soon became obvious that he was bound for La Liga, but Madrid, favorite at the time, could not wrap up deal that summer. Neymar insisted that he would stay at Santos until the 2014 World Cup, meaning the speculation cooled off in 2012, but Barca swooped for him a year later, despite 11th-hour attempts from its eternal rival to prevent the deal.
|Gareth Bale - Tottenham to Real Madrid, 2013
Gareth Bale was never going to stay at Tottenham after his string of exceptional performances took it to within touching distance of a Champions League spot, only to miss out on the final day of the season. The Welshman had signed a new deal at Tottenham to silence paper talk that he could be on his way a year earlier and Spurs chairman Daniel Levy did everything in his power to keep his star asset at the club. Bale dug his heels in and refused to train with the north Londoners and, on the penultimate day of the summer transfer window, they accepted a bid of around €100m and the winger became the most expensive player in footballing history.