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Odion Ighalo: Who are some other unlikely football signings of past years?

Odion Ighalo was not able to train with Manchester United’s players in a Coronavius precaution but is expected to be in Monday’s squad

Odion Ighalo was one of the stranger signings of the January transfer window.

The former Watford striker, 30, could make his Manchester United debut on Monday against Chelsea after joining on loan from Shanghai Shenhua,

So what are some of the other random signings in recent years and how have they fared? Let’s start with four previous United recruits.

Henrik Larsson to Man Utd

Henrik Larsson scored against Lille in the Champions League – one of three goals for Manchester United

Striker in his 30s ✅

Playing in a less glamorous league ✅

Used to play in British football ✅

Manchester United have been here before when they signed former Celtic striker Henrik Larsson, then 35, on a three-month loan deal from Helsingborg in 2007 – with injury and fitness problems for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Alan Smith.

The Swede scored three goals – one in the FA Cup, one in the Premier League and one in the Champions League – in 13 games and United wanted to extend the loan spell.

But Larsson, who had won the Champions League with Barcelona two seasons earlier, always insisted he would return to Helsingborg on 12 March and kept his word.

However he later said his one career regret was not extending his stay and playing enough games to get a Premier League winners’ medal.

William Prunier to Man Utd

William Prunier partnered Gary Neville at centre-back for two United games

Up there with the very strangest Premier League signings. French centre-back William Prunier effectively bought out his contract from Bordeaux and joined United on trial in December 1995.

But United were so short at the back because of injuries, he had to play two first-team games – a 2-1 win over QPR and 4-1 defeat by Tottenham.

Sir Alex Ferguson offered him an extension to his trial but he said no because he wanted a full-time contract.

He went on to play plenty of Ligue 1 football with Montpellier and Toulouse, and even played three times in Serie A for Napoli, but we will never know what may have happened had he taken that longer trial.

Bebe to Man Utd

Bebe got to celebrate with the Premier League, although he did not get a winner’s medal

Another baffling one. Three weeks after Vitoria de Guimaraes signed then 20-year-old forward Bebe from a Portuguese third-tier side, United paid £7.4m to sign him from Vitoria.

Some £3m of the fee was reportedly paid to super-agent Jorge Mendes’ Gestifute agency, a payment which later became part of a police investigation.

He played a total of seven times for United – with zero Premier League starts – scoring against Wolves and Bursaspor.

Bebe has gone on to have a decent career, playing in the top flights in Turkey, Portugal and Spain – although he has never appeared anywhere near United’s (old) standards. Now 29, he plays in the Spanish second tier for Rayo Vallecano.

Andy Goram to Man Utd

Andy Goram’s two Premier League appearances both ended in being replaced by Raimond van der Gouw – who played in the 10 games needed to win a medal

The last Manchester United signing on our list.

With Fabien Barthez injured and Raimond van der Gouw recovering from surgery, United needed a keeper – so paid Motherwell £100,000 to take former Scotland goalkeeper Andy Goram, then 36, on a three-month loan in early 2001.

He played twice – conceding two goals to each of Coventry and Southampton – although Van der Gouw replaced him in both games as to help the Dutchman get enough appearances for a title winner’s medal.

Green, Carson, Wright, Turnbull, Lonergan, Grant…


In the past few years, there have been plenty of players making seemingly strange moves in a new breed – third-choice goalkeepers who are just there in case of emergency.

Scott Carson, 34, is on a season-long loan at Manchester City from Derby. He’s still waiting for his debut. In fact he’s probably not.

Rob Green, 39, retired last summer after the greatest achievement of his career, winning the Europa League with Chelsea. That was almost two years after his last appearance, which had been for Leeds against Newport.

Andy Lonergan, 36, has won the Uefa Super Cup and Club World Cup this season with Liverpool. He has never played for the Reds – or in the top flight for anybody in his entire career.

We could go on. And we will…

Richard Wright was a decent keeper back in his day – playing twice for England – but ‘his day’ was long over when he joined Manchester City in 2012 after a trial spell with Colchester. He spent four years with City – making exactly zero appearances.

Lee Grant, now 37, has played twice for Manchester United since his £1.5m move from Stoke 18 months ago.

We will end with Ross Turnbull, whose clubs read Middlesbrough, Darlington, Barnsley, Bradford, Barnsley again, Crewe, Cardiff, Chelsea, Doncaster, Barnsley AGAIN and Leeds.

Turnbull won a Champions League medal. Spoiler alert – it wasn’t for Crewe.

Steven Caulker to Liverpool

Steven Caulker’s move to Liverpool came as a surprise in January 2016 when he joined on loan from Championship side QPR.

He had been on loan at Southampton but he was being kept out of the team by Virgil van Dijk – so the Saints were happy for him to leave and go to Anfield.

Signed because of injuries, the then 24-year-old, whose career had stalled after one cap for England – he played in one FA Cup game for the Reds and as an 89th-minute substitute in two league games.

He now plays for Alanyaspor in Turkey.

Dale Jennings to Bayern Munich

Dale Jennings never made Bayern Munich’s first team

In the history of football, there cannot be many stranger transfers than Tranmere – Bayern Munich, but that is the move Dale Jennings made as a teenager in 2013.

He never played a first-team game, although did feature 36 times for their reserve team in the fourth tier – and returned to England with Barnsley two years later.

After a spell with MK Dons, he did not play football for about three years after his daughter was diagnosed with leukaemia, before returning to play for non-league Runcorn last season.

Julien Faubert to Real Madrid

The one and only photo of Julien Faubert playing in a game for Real Madrid that BBC Sport have access to

We could discuss Thomas Gravesen’s move from Everton to Real Madrid, but while unglamorous or the standard you expect from Real, he was a decent player. Certainly better than Julien Faubert.

He was a regular for West Ham at right-back without setting the world alight when Real Madrid signed him on January deadline day in 2009. He would make only two substitute appearances for Real – and go viral for appearing to sleep on the bench, although he said he was just resting his eyes.

Faubert would spend another three years at West Ham – including in the Championship – before playing for clubs in Turkey, France, Scotland, Finland and Indonesia.

Paulinho to Barcelona

Barcelona’s £36.4m signing of then 29-year-old Brazil midfielder Paulinho from Chinese club Guangzhou Evergrande raised some eyebrows in August 2017.

Paulinho joined Tottenham for £17m from Corinthians in 2013, before moving to China in 2015.

He actually did much better than expected, scoring nine goals in 34 games and winning La Liga – which made his move back to the Chinese club a year later even more surprising.

Kevin-Prince Boateng to Barcelona

Tottenham Hotspur, Borussia Dortmund, AC Milan, Barcelona – Kevin-Prince Boateng has played for some big clubs. But also Portsmouth, Las Palmas and Sassuolo

In the January transfer window last year, Barcelona signed former Tottenham and Portsmouth player Kevin-Prince Boateng, then 31, from Italian side Sassuolo on a six-month loan deal.

His previous two clubs had been Las Palmas and Eintracht Frankfurt.

He was basically signed to help take the workload off Luis Suarez – however Barca barely used him. He played four times in total – Barca winning only one of those.

Boateng is now at his seventh club in just over four years – on loan at Besiktas from Fiorentina.

The players who went ‘the other way’

The day Socrates played for Garforth

While some big clubs sign less glamorous players, it can happen the other way round too.

Edgar Davids had played for Ajax, AC Milan, Juventus, Barcelona, Inter Milan, Tottenham and Crystal Palace before rocking up as Barnet player-manager in 2012.

The central midfielder wore the number one on his shirt, got sent off five times in 38 games and did not attend some away fixtures. He left in 2014 and has never played or managed again.

Claudio Caniggia, who won 50 caps for Argentina and starred at the 1990 and 1994 World Cups, was a surprise signing for Scottish side Dundee under Ivano Bonetti. Caniggia must have enjoyed his eight months in Dundee, because he stayed in Scotland and spent two seasons with Rangers.

Non-league clubs occasionally enjoy a headline signing with former Brazil captain Socrates playing for Garforth in a 2-2 draw with Tadcaster Albion in November 2004.

Wembley FC signed Caniggia, Ray Parlour, Martin Keown, Graeme Le Saux, Ugo Ehiogu and Brian McBride to play in their FA Cup campaign in 2012-13 – in a sponsorship publicity stunt.

Article courtesy of BBC Sport
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