Top ten players who actually handed in a transfer request

Matt Stead

With reports claiming that both Alexis Sanchez and Philippe Coutinho will hand in transfer requests to Arsenal and Liverpool respectively, it’s time to look at those who were plucky enough to void their loyalty bonus by placing a small piece of paper on their manager’s desk.


10. Marko Arnautovic (Stoke)
The summer of 2017 has produced two notable Premier League transfer requests. That both were handed in by mercurial foreign wingers with a wand of a left foot could be construed as a mere coincidence. That both were aiming to leave the Midlands is no such thing.

Riyad Mahrez is still waiting for his wish to be granted, with Leicester’s £50million asking price a rather large stumbling block. But Stoke were satisfied with an offer of around half that for Marko Arnautovic, who forced his move to West Ham by braving the frosty conditions of Mark Hughes’ office to state his case.


9. Jose Fonte (Southampton)
Whether Jose Fonte believed a more illustrious club than West Ham would have their interest piqued by a transfer request, only the Portuguese centre-half knows. In August 2016, both Manchester United and Arsenal had been linked with the Southampton captain; by January the following year, only a struggling Hammers outfit were interested.

Southampton director of football Les Reed declared that the 33-year-old “formally asked for a transfer” at the beginning of the month, and Fonte received his apparent desire within two weeks. He even relinquished the opportunity to lead Saints out at Wembley against former suitors United in the Capital One Cup final in February.

“My conscience is very clear,” the defender would later state, adding that he had not explicitly asked to leave St Mary’s. After playing alongside Cristiano Ronaldo for Portugal in their Euro 2016 victory the previous summer, he clearly just wanted to link up with similarly talented players at club level. Like Jonathan Calleri.


8. Carlos Tevez (Manchester City)
If years of playing Football Manager has taught the vicarious coach in all of us one thing, it’s that transfer requests often mean sod all. Manchester City fulfilled all our hopes and wishes in late 2010 by rejecting captain Carlos Tevez’s written request out of hand, less than 24 hours after the Argentinean had submitted it.

‘It is with disappointment that we confirm to our supporters that Carlos Tevez has submitted a written transfer request. The club can also confirm that the request has been rejected,’ read a matter-of-fact statement on the club website.

Mere days later, Tevez reversed his stance. The club confirmed that ‘clear-the-air talks’ had been held with the player, which roughly translates to: ‘We won’t sell you in January and will probably sue you for breach of contract if you refuse to play, pal. Oh, and that Kia Joorabchian is a little bugger, isn’t he?’

Tevez returned to the side later that month, but his relationship with the club never truly recovered. A year later he refused to come on as a substitute in a Champions League fixture, and by the summer of 2013 he had departed for Juventus.


7. Pascal Chimbonda (Wigan)

“I was standing ready to shake the players’ hands as they came off the pitch and to congratulate them on a magnificent season in leading this club to a miraculous top-half finish in the Premiership. The player came up to me, still dressed in his kit, and handed me his transfer request, along with a note to thank me and the club for all our help this season.”

Pascal Shimbomba had so incensed Paul Jewell that the then-Wigan manager questioned the “quite spectacular level of disrespect” shown by the player. “To say I was livid was an understatement,” he would add. No wonder, considering the right-back produced a written transfer request from his sock minutes after Wigan were beaten by Arsenal on the final day of the 2005/06 season. That is one sweaty, pungent demand.

Chairman Dave Whelan, fresh from discussing breaking his leg in an FA Cup final, claimed that “he can play in the reserves until the day his contract is over” if no club met his valuation. “The price is £6m, not a penny less,” he stated.

Tottenham signed him for £4.5m by the end of August.


6. Fernando Torres (Liverpool)

‘Fernando Torres tonight submitted a written transfer request, which has been rejected by Liverpool.

‘Fernando is under long-term contract and the Club expect him to honour the commitment he made to Liverpool FC and its supporters when he signed the agreement.’

Liverpool committed two cardinal sins that January evening in 2011: Not willingly ceding to the wants and desires of Fernando Torres, and capitalising the word ‘club’. A points deduction would not have sufficed.

Of course, when the Reds publicly discussed such minutiae as ‘honour’, ‘commitment’ and ‘agreement’, they neglected to disclose that their stance might just change if a club, say Chelsea, increased their £38m offer to one of £50m.

January 28, 2011 was quite the momentous day at Anfield. For three days at least, fans dreamed of Torres partnered alongside Luis Suarez in attack, the club having agreed a £22.8m fee with Ajax for the Uruguayan.


5. Luis Suarez (Liverpool)
Speaking of seamless segues, Torres and Suarez may never have been teammates, but the Spaniard’s itchy feet were apparently contagious to fellow brilliant forwards.

The eventual pain threshold for both was three-and-a-half seasons on Merseyside, but had Suarez’s initial plans come to fruition, his stay would have been even more fleeting.

The summer after scoring 30 goals in Liverpool’s otherwise forgettable first season under the guidance of Brendan Rodgers – the club’s second top scorer, Daniel Sturridge, joined in January and had 11 goals – Suarez was understandably antsy. “My reason for leaving is my family and my image, I don’t feel comfortable here any more,” he stated in August, clearly displeased with the standard of life in England.

The issue was that the only known suitor at that time, Arsenal, were equally based in England, but more importantly had qualified for the Champions League. Yet not even a hilarious bid of £40,000,001 was enough to sign him.

Suarez stated his wish to leave the club on August 7, with reports claiming he would hand in a transfer request by the end of the week if Liverpool did not cede to his demands. By August 17, Rodgers confidently claimed the matter to have been “resolved”. As with any worthwhile fairytale, it ended with a near-Premier League title win and the player being sold amid the controversy of having bitten another human being.


4. Jermain Defoe (West Ham)
To Jermain Defoe’s credit, the striker has shown contrition on at two separate occasions for an action which David James described as “unhelpful” at the time. Less than 24 hours after West Ham’s relegation from the Premier League was confirmed in 2003, a younger, more naive, easily led Defoe committed an act of betrayal which saw him dubbed ‘Judas’ at Upton Park for years.

Caretaker manager Trevor Brooking dealt with the situation with typical grace. “Whoever advises him, and I don’t know who it is off the top of my head, has made an error of judgment and this is not in Jermain’s nature,” he said.

Defoe did stay in East London, but only for a matter of months. He refused to sign a new contract, started the new season with three sendings-off, and eventually made the short trip to Tottenham in January 2004.


3. John Stones (Everton)
There is a common misconception that every player who hands in a transfer request actually means to do so. It seems an inherently deliberate thing to do, to ask for your release from a professional contract. It is a conscious decision, not one that can be interpreted as a mistake or oversight.

Perhaps John Stones is simply the outlier: the innocent, pure, misunderstood victim amid a crowd of calculating, studious troublemakers. Or perhaps Roberto Martinez misread the situation. “The transfer request was something he didn’t mean to do,” stated the erstwhile Everton boss in August 2015. He stuck around when Chelsea courted him, but turned all doe-eyed when Manchester City invited him to the dance 12 months later.


2. Steven Gerrard (Liverpool)
For Liverpool, the club where transfer requests are welcomed like a family friend, the warning signs had been there a year prior. ‘Steven Gerrard has made up his mind to leave Liverpool for Chelsea and has asked for a transfer,’ the Daily Mail reported in June 2004. ‘The England midfielder has told the Anfield club of his intention to move this summer – though he has yet to formalise his request by putting it in writing.’

The Reds managed to appease their wantaway captain, the appointment of Rafael Benitez as Gerard Houllier’s successor and the arrivals of Josemi and Antonio Nunez enough to satisfy any man, disgruntled or otherwise.

But that was only a plaster over a gaping wound, and a year later the situation reached breaking point. A couple of months after guiding the club to victory in the Champions League final, the midfielder outlined his intention to leave. Chelsea wanted him, and a £32m bid had already been rejected.

Gerrard’s subsequent transfer request was an informal one, but devastating nonetheless. ‘I rang Struan [Marshall, his agent],’ he wrote in his 2007 autobiography. ‘”Struan, I’m going to find out whether they want to sell me. Put in a transfer request.” Struan phoned Liverpool. “Take this call as a transfer request,” Struan told them. “We will back it up in writing if you need us to. But this is it.”

‘Bang. In went the transfer request, a hand-grenade rolled into the Liverpool boardroom.’

Less than 24 hours (which has become something of a theme), numerous burned replica shirts and a club-record wage offer from Liverpool later, and the 25-year-old decided to stay at Anfield.


1. Wayne Rooney (Everton and Manchester United)
It takes a brave man to request a transfer, such is the effect it can have on your relationship with the club, the fans, your teammates, the media, any potential future employers and your loyalty bonus. It takes a potentially rather silly man to make such requests first to David Moyes and then to Sir Alex Ferguson. Twice.

Rooney’s transfer fetish began in the summer of 2004. Fresh from starring at the European Championships, the teenage phenomenon made “one of the hardest decisions of my life” to leave boyhood club Everton.

Manchester United came calling, but Rooney could not suppress his urges for long. By 2010, and with bitter rivals Manchester City circling, the striker discussed his desire to leave Old Trafford. Two years later, he described that transfer request as “the biggest mistake of my football career”.

In the stylings of a young Paolo Nutini, Rooney’s last request came in May 2013. With the season coming to a close, a retiring Ferguson stated that the 27-year-old had “asked for a transfer”.

Rooney’s eventual retort came in 2015: “I went in to see him and just said if you’re not going to play me it might be better if I moved on – then all of a sudden it’s all over the press I put in a transfer request, which I never did.”

Whatever, Wayne. You’ve got a problem. You need help. And this is an intervention.


Matt Stead