Babelcopters and dildos: The best deadline days

Matt Stead

From Babelcopters to large purple dildos, we tell the stories of the greatest ever transfer deadline days…


Winter 2015

February 2, 2015: the day that one of the greatest pieces of transfer deadline day trivia was born. Who was the only player Manchester United signed on the final day of this transfer window?

“It’s a great opportunity for Andy,” said Bolton manager Neil Lennon. “We called about Saidy [Janko] and Manchester United asked for him to go the other way. He thought it was a wind-up. He hadn’t got a clue. He was on his way to Plymouth. It took a good five or 10 minutes – he wouldn’t believe us.”

After a winter of chasing Borussia Dortmund defender Mats Hummels, Manchester United had finally landed a last-minute defender; Andy Kellett joined from Championship Bolton. Andy Kellett of four senior Trotters appearances. Andy Kellett, who was previously on the brink of joining Plymouth, before United stepped in. Andy. Kellett. What. The. F**k?

There was logic behind the decision, of course. Kellett was identified to boost United’s dwindling numbers in the Under-21 squad, and with Saidy Janko headed to Bolton on loan, the defender was added in as part of the deal. Still, it was bloody weird, wasn’t it?

United were more busy with outgoings, with Darren Fletcher ending his 20-year association with the club by signing for West Brom. Fletcher, who boasts one of the most Scottish middle names in existence – Barr – made 223 Premier League appearances for the Old Trafford club, and left for the Baggies on a free transfer. He was instantly made captain by Tony Pulis.


Elsewhere on winter 2015 transfer deadline day…

* Leicester signed Robert Huth on loan from Stoke, one of the players credited with their miraculous Premier League survival.

* Aaron Lennon, who is somehow still only 28, joins Everton on loan after a decade at Tottenham; he is ecstatic. Spurs sign some kid called Dele Alli.

* Chelsea sell Andre Schurrle and sign Juan Cuadrado as part of their weird – and rather unsuccessful – relationship with wingers.

* Tom Ince joins Derby County on loan from Hull City, reminding everyone how he turned down an approach from Inter Milan that summer.


Summer 2014

It was the transfer deadline day deal that no-one expected. Not a single source or insider had claimed knowledge of the deal beforehand, and Sky Sports were rather fortunate to be able to televise an exclusive. But more on that later.

Transfer deadline day of summer 2014 was about righting wrongs for Manchester United. The previous summer was an unmitigated disaster under David Moyes, and January wasn’t considerably better. Louis van Gaal had been appointed the Scot’s long-term successor, and the Dutchman had work to do to improve his squad after arriving late from a successful World Cup with the Netherlands. Ander Herrera, Luke Shaw and Marcos Rojo had been signed, Angel di Maria arrived for a British record £59.7million, and some degree of deadwood had been shifted. United still had business to conduct heading into the final day.

September 1 started in peculiar fashion, with Arsenal, Manchester City, Manchester United and Juventus all credited with an interest in Monaco striker Radamel Falcao in the early hours of the day. The Colombian was thought to be on the brink of joining Real Madrid, but a hitch in the deal provided an opportunity for those three Premier League clubs to slug it out. This was Radamel Falcao, scorer of 155 goals in his last 200 appearances for Porto, Atletico Madrid and Monaco. His signing could change everything.

By 10am, United had emerged as the frontrunners to sign Falcao on loan. With Van Gaal deeming Danny Welbeck and Javier Hernandez surplus to requirements at Old Trafford, Falcao was identified as a no-risk deal. Goals were guaranteed.

After almost a day of speculation, rumoured medicals and supposed sightings, Falcao completed his move to United in the early hours of September 2. Poor Daley Blind’s deadline-day arrival at Old Trafford was completely overshadowed.

Falcao’s wasn’t the only dramatic deal to be pushed through late on. Jeremy Wilson of the Daily Telegraph had told us that it is “likely to be a quiet day” at Arsenal. That warning came at 11am. Jermain Defoe of Toronto FC had been offered, but Arsene Wenger was unmoved. Injury had ruled Olivier Giroud out until the new year, but Arsenal would refuse to sign another striker. How Arsenal.

Across the north London divide, Spurs were planning a busy day. Welbeck had been earmarked as a potential arrival from Manchester United on loan. At 4:15pm, Matt Law of the Telegraph described the deal as “very much on”. Two hours later, Arsenal were interested. What? Arsenal? By half seven, Sky Sports denied the rumours. That was essentially confirmation that the deal had been completed. It was a done deal by 1am the following Tuesday.

But while Falcao and Welbeck were shock late deals, they could not prepare for the drama that unfolded at Goodison Park. According to Sky sources, a large purple dildo was set to complete a move to Alan Irwin’s ear. Within seconds, the deal was complete. History was made. Sky would never allow fans on their deadline-day broadcasts again. Shame.

Still, it inspired this from the excellent David Squires:

Elsewhere on summer 2014 transfer deadline day…

* Hull decided to sign four players in their attempt to stave off Premier League relegation. Did it work? It did not.

* Southampton signed Toby Alderweireld and Sadio Mane.

* Crystal Palace broke their club transfer record to sign James McArthur from Wigan for £7million. Things were different before Yohan Cabaye, you see.

* Miracles happened. Glorious, hilarious miracles:



Summer 2013

Manchester United don’t tend to enjoy a quiet transfer deadline day, do they? Sir Alex Ferguson oversaw some dramatic last-minute deals during his Old Trafford reign, and Louis van Gaal has mastered transfer ridiculousness since being appointed in summer 2014. Although David Moyes lasted just one summer transfer window at United, it was the most glorious one imaginable.

Just a few months on from winning the title in Ferguson’s first season, Moyes entered transfer deadline day in summer 2013 still without his first signing. Moves for Thiago Alcantara and Cesc Fabregas had failed earlier in the window as Moyes sought to sign a midfield maestro. After reports broke of Arsenal’s interest in Real Madrid’s Mesut Ozil in the late hours of the previous day, it was thought that United would rival them for the German’s signature. By quarter to ten, Sky Sports had reported that United had “contacted Ozil’s people”.

Spanish newspaper Marca had the inside track on Ozil, reporting that he had decided to stay at Real despite Arsenal’s late interest. By midday, it was reported everywhere that the two clubs had agreed a fee. Bloody Marca.

But transfer deadline day went on, and there was no confirmation of the Ozil deal from any official party. Arsenal fans had changed each vowel in their Twitter handle to include an umlaut just hours previous, but now panic set in. They should never have worried. In typical Arsene Wenger fashion, the deal was completed just half an hour before the deadline. Arsenal, whose previous club-record transfer was for Juan Antonio Reyes in 2005, had obliterated that £17million fee; Ozil joined for £42.5million.

Back to United. Tasked with signing at least one actual human player, Ed Woodward set about doing Ed Woodward stuff on September 2. Ander Herrera of Athletic Bilbao had been identified as the main target. The Spanish midfielder had a buy-out clause of just over £30million. A simple, straightforward deal. Hardly. As the deadline loomed and the deal remained in purgatory, United sent three lawyers to Bilbao to thrash through the transfer. A deal seemed imminent. But were these lawyers representing United? To this day, the club deny any official involvement with the trio, described as “impostors”. As Daniel Taylor wrote for The Guardian:

‘United are angry about the suggestion, emanating from the Herrera farce, that a club of their stature and transfer experience somehow failed to understand the Spanish tax system – and bewildered, more than anything, that they are supposed to have employed three lawyers they say they had never heard of.’

A late deal for Sami Khedira also failed as soon as it surfaced, and United were left with one option. Marouane Fellaini joined for £27.5million late on. The club had offered just £500,000 for both the midfielder and Everton team-mate Leighton Baines a couple of months prior, while Fellaini’s £24million release clause – one which former manager Moyes was all-too-aware of – had expired at the end of July. United had just enough time to fail with a late loan move for Fabio Coentrao of Real Madrid, but the Moyes era had already been encapsulated in one window.

Elsewhere on summer 2013 transfer deadline day…

* Everton won emphatically. They sold Fellaini for £27.5million and signed Romelu Lukaku and Gareth Barry on loan, as well as James McCarthy from Wigan.

* QPR sign Niko Kranjcar, Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Tom Carroll. Never change, ‘Arry.

* Liverpool failed with a late attempt to sign Shay Given from Aston Villa. Weird.


January 2013

What business does January 31, 2013 have in a rundown of the greatest transfer deadline days in history? David Beckham joining Paris Saint-Germain as a free agent was the headline deal. Big, but hardly groundbreaking.

Yet this deadline day goes down in the annals of history because of one man: Peter Odemwingie.

The striker had submitted a transfer request to West Brom on January 25, one which the club rejected. That was not to be the end of the matter. Odemwingie posted a series of tweets in reply, including the following: ‘Loyalty left 70 percent. the rest they stole out of my pocket thinking I was keeping money in there.’ QPR had submitted a £2million bid for the Nigerian. West Brom rejected it.

And so to January 31: deadline day. Few know what compelled Odemingie to drive from West Brom to QPR’s Loftus Road of his own volition. The Baggies had not granted permission for the club to speak to the player, and so QPR had to lock the striker out. Odemwingie had tweeted beforehand: ‘West Brom was my home but this is a new chapter. I love West Brom and always will. I am optimistic. A few good players have arrived here (at QPR) and I am happy with the trust Harry Redknapp has in me. The last few results have given us a chance to stay up. I don’t think the owners will bring in so many players if they don’t think it will happen.’

The Nigerian gave an interview to Sky Sports at the Loftus Road gates. Meanwhile, Rangers boss Redknapp was talking up Odemwingie himself, telling London Call-In of his “pace” and “great movement”.

But the slight stumbling block remained in place; West Brom had not granted Odemwingie permission to speak to any other clubs. The Baggies released a statement saying the striker had acted “wholly unprofessionally”, while Redknapp blamed “crossed wires”. QPR were relegated come May, and Odemwingie left West Brom.

Elsewhere on winter 2013 transfer deadline day…

* QPR signed Andros Townsend and Jermaine Jenas, with Christopher Samba arriving from Anzhi Makachkala for £12.5million and declared himself 40% fit. He was sold for the same price to the same team upon the club’s relegation.

* Arsenal signed some fella called Nacho Monreal as a £10million back-up at left-back.

* Despite recent claims to the contrary from Everton fans, money can buy you Stones. It took £3million to purchase young John from Barnsley.

* George Boyd’s move from Peterborough to Nottingham Forest collapsed after the midfielder failed an eye test.


January 2011

The greatest deadline-day ever? Possibly. Certainly one of the most memorable and bizarre. The day started with Paulo da Silva leaving Sunderland for Real Zaragoza, a massive deal acting as a precursor for things to come.

Just days before the deadline, Liverpool had been rocked/shocked/deadlocked after Fernando Torres handed in a transfer request. Kenny Dalglish was less than a month into his managerial return after replacing Roy Hodgson, and Torres’s head had been turned by interest from Chelsea. The Blues were fourth in the Premier League, with Liverpool seventh.

It took until half past seven in the evening, but confirmation finally arrived from Liverpool that they had agreed a fee with Chelsea for the departure of their Spanish talisman. With the deadline closing in, who would replace him?

The arrival of Ajax striker Luis Suarez had been sealed by around nine o’clock, the Uruguayan forward joining for a club-record £22.8million. His reign as the most expensive Anfield import would last a matter of hours.

For while Suarez had a reputation in the Eredivisie for scoring goals, Liverpool wanted Premier League experience. Andy Carroll had just 41 top-flight games to his name by January 2011, with 14 goals, but the Reds saw fit to spend £35million for the 22-year-old. As usual, Mike Ashley was the winner.

Elsewhere on winter 2011 transfer deadline day…

* Liverpool legend Paul Konchesky joins Nottingham Forest on loan; Merseyside mourns.

* David Luiz arrives at Chelsea for £21m and Nemanja Matic. Mental.


Summer 2010

It has taken a long journey, but transfer deadline day finally swallowed itself when a sex toy was inserted into the ear of a Sky Sports journalist in 2014. Four years prior, the lasting image of the day was rather more family-friendly.

August 31 heralded the birth of the ‘Babelcopter’. With no discernible transfer news, the Dutchman became the story. It all started with a exclusive at 10am: Tottenham wanted Ryan Babel.

Weirdly enough, that was it. No further news from the player, nothing from either club. Until four hours later. Babel was spotted in London. Well, above London. In a helicopter. The Liverpool Echo had reported by 3pm that Babel was staying at Anfield, but his whereabouts were unknown. Why was he in a helicopter? Where was he off to? Within minutes, Sky reported his destination as West Ham. By 4pm, reports broke that Spurs had offered £10million. The football world was still none the wiser, and Babel was still in that ruddy helicopter.

By half past five, Babel had returned, still a Liverpool player. At this point, previous suitors Tottenham were headline news. Despite Harry Redknapp’s claims to the contrary that their deals were done at 4pm, a move for Real Madrid’s Rafael van der Vaart was in motion. Two hours before the deadline closed, Spurs made an £8million bid for the midfielder. Spurs were forced to wait for confirmation due to technical problems, but the Premier League eventually ratified the deal.

Let’s leave the last word to Ryan Babel, who told The Guardian:

“It was the last day of the window, the director of football wanted to sign [Carlton] Cole from West Ham and send me on loan in a swap. He called me and said, ‘Hey, you can go to West Ham.’ I thought that wouldn’t be bad; I can play regularly and build my confidence. But it was 12pm and the window closed at six so we didn’t have much time. He told me to come to the airport so we can go to London by helicopter. I hate flying so I was nervous. The whole ride was bumpy. When we arrived, we got into the car and [Damien] Comolli was on the phone constantly. Then he said to me, ‘There is a five-year deal, you’re going to sign it and with that money, we’ll buy Cole.’ I was confused – it was a loan and then it became a five-year contract! I called my agent and he said ‘absolutely not’, so there was no deal. And then he sent me back on the train and he took the helicopter. Now, every window the ‘Babelcopter’ still makes an appearance on Twitter.”


Summer 2008

Monday, September 1, 2008 – transfer deadline day – began with Robinho and Dimitar Berbatov as headline news, and ended much the same. A few things happened in between, mind.

Throughout the summer, Manchester United had courted Tottenham striker Berbatov. Spurs signed Roman Pavlyuchenko from Spartak Moscow earlier in the day, almost confirming Berbatov’s departure. United were the only club interested, and only the formalities of the fee remained.

The morning passed with no update. By lunchtime, everything had changed. United had offered an opening bid of £25million for Berbatov. From nowhere, neighbours Manchester City, fresh from a Dubai-led takeover, had offered £34million. City also entered talks with Valencia over David Villa and Stuttgart over Mario Gomez. Suddenly, the club meant business. All the while, manager Mark Hughes was busy playing golf.

But United would not give up Berbatov without a fight. After Spurs accepted City’s Berbatov bid, the striker headed to Manchester. Ferguson, not City, met the Bulgarian at the airport, and the manager took him directly to the club’s Carrington training ground. Spurs – who had accused United of ‘tapping up’ Berbatov earlier in the summer – had not granted them permission to speak to the player. Berbatov even underwent a medical.

Meanwhile, City were not at all pleased with the conduct of their neighbours. With Berbatov held captive at United, Hughes pressed ahead with a deal to sign Robinho from Real Madrid. Chelsea had infamously began taking orders for shirts with the Brazilian’s name on the back. Within six hours of their interest becoming common knowledge, City had signed Robinho. The Brazilian was suitably happy with his new gig. “On the last day, Chelsea made a great proposal and I accepted,” he said at his first press conference. When a reporter corrected him, Robinho added: “Yeah, Manchester, sorry!”

By half past midnight, Berbatov’s future became clearer. United had signed the 27-year-old for £30.75million, plus one Fraizer Campbell. And so concluded one of the most memorable transfer deadline days in recent memory.

Elsewhere on summer 2008 transfer deadline day…

* Everton signed some massive bloke with a huge afro by the name of Marouane Fellaini for a club record £15million.

* Tyrone Mears left Derby County to join Marseille on loan. Because obviously.

* Liverpool fans cried the saltiest tears possible as Andriy Voronin joined Hertha Berlin on loan.


Summer 2006

‘What the ruddy heck just happened?’ was the question asked by everyone in the aftermath of transfer deadline day in summer 2006.

This was the deal which would forever ensure that Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano, no matter their future achievements, would become synonymous with the term ‘third party’. The two Argentina internationals, courted by Real Madrid and numerous Premier League sides, joined West Ham from Corinthians. Setting Kia Joorabchian and Media Sports Investments aside, this was a spectacular – and rather unexpected – double deal.

The transfer had far-reaching consequences. Tevez helped the Hammers to Premier League survival with seven goals in his last ten games. Mascherano failed to displace Hayden Mullins in central midfield. Sheffield United suffered relegation and took legal action against West Ham due to the controversial nature of the double signing. The deadline-day arrival of 17-year-old keeper Marek Stech at Upton Park was completely overshadowed, the poor thing.

Elsewhere on summer 2006 transfer deadline day…

* Arsenal enjoyed a busy day. Ashley Cole sealed his protracted move to Chelsea for £5million, while Pascal Cygan joined Villarreal, and Jose Antonio Reyes moved to Real Madrid on loan. Julio Baptista, William Gallas and Denilson all joined.

* Harry Redknapp embarked on his love affair with Niko Kranjcar, signing him for the first time as Portsmouth manager.


Matt Stead