Top 10: Players who went on strike to force a transfer

Date published: Monday 26th June 2017 8:40 - Ian Watson

John Aldridge suggested Virgil van Dijk go on strike to force Southampton to sell him to Liverpool. He wouldn’t be the first…

10. Morgan Schneiderlin
With everyone else jumping the Southampton ship in 2014, Schneiderlin presumed he would be allowed to leave too, with former boss Mauricio Pochettino keen to pay £10million take him to Tottenham. But Saints drew the line at losing the France midfielder.

“Calum Chambers signed for Arsenal the day before our meeting and the club saw the fans getting mad. They thought: ‘If Morgan leaves the stadium will be burnt’. So they told us: ‘Morgan is not for sale, we won’t listen to anything. That is the decision and there is nothing more to say’.”

Schneiderlin declared himself ‘not physically or mentally ready’ for a pre-season friendly against Bayer Leverkusen, but that was as long as his strike lasted. He was back for the opening weekend trip to Liverpool and got his head down before being allowed to leave the following summer for Manchester United.


9. Sebastien Squillaci
The France defender refused to turn out for Sevilla in their Champions League qualifier against Braga, though he either neglected to tell the coach, or Antonio Alvarez didn’t believe him, given Squillaci was named in the starting XI.

“I knew if I played against Braga then I would not have been able to play for Arsenal in the Champions League,” admitted an apparently unrepentant Squillaci.

He got his move, much to the regret of Arsenal fans ever since. Squillaci was wretched for the Gunners, making only one Premier League appearance throughout the final two years of his three-year £50,000-a-week deal, which he saw out while steadfastly refusing any kind of loan move that might have involved any kind of activity more strenuous than a daily jog around the training ground.


8. Marcos Rojo
It was “a huge surprise” to Rojo that Louis van Gaal wanted to bring him to Manchester United in 2014 but the defender was determined to do whatever it took to make it happen.

“I was in Portugal when my representative told me. He asked me to stay calm but I could not. I started living this dream. I could not think of anything else. I would call him every day, but when it seemed the transfer would not happen then I refused to work with Sporting.”

So, in stepped Juan Sebastian Veron because, why not?

“Veron was like a strict father to me, scolding me. He called me one day when I had refused to train with Sporting and said ‘Do not be stubborn. If Manchester United wants a player then they will not let you escape.”


7. Dimitri Payet
After tearing up the Premier League and Euro 2016, Payet signed a new £100,000-a-week contract last summer. But that wedge wasn’t enough to keep him happy – the playmaker was determined to move back to Marseille.

Payet told West Ham he would “never kick a ball again for West Ham”, leaving Slaven Bilic somewhat confused: “We have said we don’t want to sell our best players but Payet does not want to play for us. We are not going to sell him.”

They did, though. But only when it became clear they had no choice. Marseille upped their offer to £25million and the Hammers decided to get shot rather than leave him to rot. David Sullivan insisted: “To be frank, my board and I would have preferred for him to have stayed in order to make an example of him, as no player is bigger than the club.”


6. Dimitar Berbatov
Sir Alex Ferguson’s dealings with Daniel Levy were presumably limited before United persued Berbatov in 2008. “We have made Tottenham an offer on Berbatov and we have good expectations that this deal will go through,” the manager said in mid-July. “I think time will work for us more than against us. We will not stress this situation. We are hoping to have a constructive conversation with Tottenham in the near future.”

Fergie’s ease seemingly succeeded in winding Levy up, who played hardball like only he could. By the start of 2008-09, United were no closer to getting their man, forcing Berbatov to ramp up the pressure on Spurs.

He began the season on the bench against Middlesbrough, then said he was not in the right frame of mind to travel to Sunderland. That led to Berbatov being fined a week’s wages, but he stood firm and refused again to line up for Spurs against Chelsea. It went to the wire, but United finally completed a deal with minutes to spare on deadline day, having paid almost £30million.


5. Raheem Sterling
Liverpool were looking to tie down Sterling to a new deal at the start of 2015 but Sterling, or rather his agent had other ideas. The winger insisted he would not negotiate until the end of the season, upon which point Aidy Ward insisted: “I don’t care about the PR of the club and the club situation. He is definitely not signing. He’s not signing for £700, £800, £900,000 a week.”

Understandably, Liverpool didn’t like the cut of his jib. Sterling could go, but not until they received an offer that matched their £50million valuation. Man City had offers of £30million and £40million rejected, by which point it was time for Sterling to return for pre-season training. He threw a sickie for a couple of days before refusing to travel on the pre-season tour of the Far East and Australia.

Thankfully for Sterling, City eventually coughed up around £49million.


4. Leonardo Ulloa
‘I need to feel like a footballer again’ said Ulloa, after going on strike at Leicester because they refused to sell him to Sunderland. David Moyes’ Sunderland. THAT Sunderland, who’ll make you feel many things, but never ‘like a footballer’.

Apparently unaware that Claudio Ranieri was doing him a huge favour, Ulloa claimed he felt “betrayed” by the Foxes boss, who refused to sell the striker to a relegation rival.

Ranieri was gone before Ulloa, who remains at the club, presumably thanking whichever God he prays to for his lucky escape.


3. Carlos Tevez
Tevez had already tried to leave City once before he refused to come off the bench during a Champions League clash at Bayern Munich in September 2011. City backed Roberto Mancini, who claimed Tevez “wanted out of City”, while upon being suspended and fined, the player decided he’d had enough and legged it back to Argentina.

While he was away, Kia Joorabchian attempted to negotiate a move to AC Milan, but when they refused to meet City’s £25million asking price, Tevez was forced to return to Manchester.

After getting somewhere close to match fitness, Tevez returned to Mancini’s squad in March, just in time to score four goals as City pipped United to the Premier League title.


2. William Gallas
The France defender not only refused to play in the 2006 FA Cup semi-final, but he threatened to score own goals if forced to line up against Manchester City on the opneing day of the 2006-7 season, such was his desire to quit Chelsea.

That, along with a series of other allegatons, was the Blues’ version of events, a view Gallas confronted: “I never went that far. But if people want to hide behind false accusations in order to give a reason for why I left so they can calm down the club’s supporters then they can.

“All this is very, very petty on behalf of Chelsea. But at the same time, coming on behalf of its new leaders, that does not surprise me. Even if Chelsea has much money, its new leaders lack class.”

An acrimonious divorce saw Gallas head to Arsenal, with Ashley Cole going the other way. Despite all the charges levelled at him, Gallas’s greatest crime was yet to be committed: accepting Denis Bergkamp’s No.10 shirt.


1. Pierre van Hooijdonk
The Forest striker wanted to leave in December 1997 when PSV Eindhoven were interested but Dave Bassett offered a compromise of being allowed at the end fo the season, by which time Van Hooijdonk fired Forest back into the Premier League.

But with Newcastle said to be willing to pay £7million, Bassett declared he would only consider an offer of £10million. “But £10m in 1997 was ridiculous,” the striker has since said. “That’s like trying to sell a cappuccino for £25 – it’s for sale, but nobody will touch it.”

So van Hooijdonk returned to Holland and refused to come back, and move which left Bassett ‘disgusted’. Van Hooijdonk was no fan of Bassett either, despite the manager guiding Forest back to the top flight. “People say we became champions, but so what? If you were to change all the managers in the league for cats, at the end of the season there will still be one champion and three will get relegated.

“Does that mean the cat who is champion is fantastic?”



Ian Watson

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