Sport: Top 10 most controversial football transfers of all time

After breaking the news of Glenn Murray’s move from Brighton & Hove Albion to Crystal Palace, Tom Stewart looks at other players who have crossed the divide between rivals.

Here is his Top 10:

10. Glenn Murray: Brighton-Crystal Palace (2011)

After a somewhat nomadic career, Murray joined Albion in 2008. Across his three seasons with the club he scored 53 goals in 118 appearances and last season his goals helped Albion win the League One title.

By January 2011, however, it was clear that Murray would probably be leaving the club on a free transfer after his high wage demands left him being unable to negotiate a contract.

Despite interest from several other Championship clubs, Murray signed a 3-year deal with the Albion’s arch rivals, Crystal Palace, a move that will earn him a warm reception on his first trip to the Amex Community Stadium next season.

This infamous logo helped make Clark a Newcastle icon

9. Lee Clark: Newcastle United-Sunderland (1997)

A born-and-bred Toon fan, Clark joined rivals Sunderland in 1997, after losing his place in the Newcastle team.

He played 195 games for Newcastle before captaining the Mackems team which achieved promotion to the Premiership in 1997.

However, at the 1999 FA Cup Final, between Newcastle and Manchester United, he was spotted with the Geordie fans wearing a “Sad Mackem Bastards” t-shirt.  He was immediately dropped from the team and sold to Fulham days later.

8. Johan Cruyff: Ajax-Feyenoord (1983)

Considered to be the greatest Dutch footballer of all time, Cruyff returned to his boyhood club, Ajax, in 1980 at the end of a glittering career.

At the end of the 1982–83 season, Ajax decided not to offer Cruyff a new contract.  So enraged was Cruyff that he signed for Ajax’s arch-rivals, Feyenoord, and he completed his revenge by helping the Rotterdam club beat Ajax to the title that year.

7. Denis Law: Manchester United-Manchester City (1973)

United’s second highest-ever goalscorer actually first played for City, but after a spell in Italy, he joined United in 1962 and became part of United’s ‘Holy Trinity’ with Bobby Charlton and George Best.

He returned to City after being released by United in 1973, and on the final day of the 1973-74 season, City faced United, with United needing a draw to avoid relegation.

When Law’s back-heel gave City a 1-0 win he refused to celebrate and actually retired after the World Cup later that year.

6. John Robertson: Nottingham Forest-Derby County (1983)

Robertson was part of Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest side that were twice crowned European champions and scored the winning goal in the 1980 final. But in 1983, Robertson left to join Forest’s arch-enemies, Derby County.

Derby were managed at the time by Peter Taylor, Clough’s former assistant and best friend. Taylor failed to consult with Clough over the Robertson transfer, and although Clough himself admitted that Robertson was past his peak, he never spoke with Taylor again, and one of football’s great partnerships was broken forever.

5. Giuseppe Meazza: Inter Milan-AC Milan (1940)

These two clubs share a stadium named in this player’s honour. Few players are held in such high regard by fans of rival clubs.

Meazza was initially rejected by his preferred AC Milan for being too small. So he joined city rivals Inter instead, where he was fed steaks to bulk up.

He scored 240 goals for Inter before controversially transferring to AC in 1940.

Despite the intense rivalry between the two clubs, Meazza remains revered on both sides of the divide, and is the only man in over a century of Milan derbies who has come close to bridging the chasm between the two clubs.

Cantona's United career was so inspirational it even led to this 2009 movie

4. Eric Cantona: Leeds United-Manchester United (1992)

Eric Cantona helped Leeds to the 1991-92 title, forming a lethal partnership with Lee Chapman. Their rivals from across the Pennines finished second that year, and manager Alex Ferguson was under pressure to secure United’s first title in 25 years.

A routine phone call from Leeds manager Howard Wilkinson, enquiring over the availability of Dennis Irwin, somehow led to the enigmatic Frenchman’s move to Ferguson’s side.

The rest is now history, as Cantona inspired the Red Devils to four Premier League titles in the next five seasons, and Leeds fans were left with nothing but regret.

3. Mo Johnston: Celtic-Rangers (via Nantes) (1989)

In 1989, Johnston became only the second player since World War II to have played for both side’s of football’s fiercest rivalry: Celtic and Rangers.

In three seasons, from 1984-87, he scored 52 goals in 140 games for Celtic, before moving to French side Nantes.

In 1989 he was planning to return to Scotland, with Celtic being the obvious destination, Johnston had even appeared at a press conference at Celtic Park where he declared that “Celtic are the only club that I want to play for.”

However, in a financially motivated change of mind, he opted instead to join Rangers. The move stirred sectarian violence on both sides of the divide.

Some protestant Rangers fans burned scarves in protest at the signing of a Catholic and even demanded money-back for their season tickets. Celtic fans referred to Johnston as Judas and le petite merde, and even hit him with a pie in the face after he scored against them in an Old Firm derby.

Spurs fans let their feelings known on Sol Campbell's move

2. Sol Campbell: Tottenham Hotspur-Arsenal (2001)

Campbell started his career with Spurs, and played over 250 games for them, but the club never finished any higher than seventh in the Premiership and couldn’t fulfil Campbell’s ambition of playing in the Champions League.

With his career running out, Spurs offered him a contract that would have made him the highest paid player in their history, but after months of negotiations and several public assurances that he would stay at Spurs, Campbell stated his need to leave the club.

Several top continental clubs expressed interest in signing him, but he elected to join North-London rivals Arsenal on a free transfer instead and started a new market for “Judas” t-shirts outside White Hart Lane at the same time.

1. Luis Figo Barcelona-Real Madrid (2000)

When they start throwing heads you know you've pissed someone off!

While there are several players who have “crossed the divide” in what is arguably football’s greatest rivalry, few have done so with the controversy of Luis Figo.

Figo was adored by Barca fans, having helped them to two La Liga titles and was their star player. However, in 2000, he joined bitter rivals Real Madrid for a then world-record fee of £37m.

When he returned three seasons later in a league match (2002), he got a heated reception from the crowd and many started throwing objects at him as he took corners and throw-ins, including a pig’s head.

Let us know what you think of Tom’s top 10 on twitter: @brightonlite

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