The best transfer windows ever #3: Rooney, Drogba, Deco, Woodgate…

Quick Reads

We have celebrated the summers of 2013, 2014, 2003 and 2016 in our countdown of the greatest transfer windows of all time, but none of them can compare to 2004.

Even if you hate a never-ending stream of rumours, awkward Twitter announcements and flashy headlines splashed across newspapers, the summer transfer window is still one of the best parts of the year.

It’s exciting. It’s life-changing. It’s history-making. Simply put, it’s everything we love about sport, and even more.

The only question remains: what was the most intense, entertaining and I Can’t Believe It Actually Happened transfer window over the last 17 years? The one that made us jump all over the place, shake our heads, question everything, then ask for more?

We’ve remembered four great windows already, but now we’re onto the serious business of the top three. And taking bronze is 2004…

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READ: The best transfer windows ever #4: Pogba, Luiz, Stones, Mane, Gotze…

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Best Transfer Window Ever #3: 2004

The Transfer That Shook The World

Wayne Rooney from Everton to Manchester United for €37.5million.

For the first time in this series I’m choosing something other than the most expensive transfer of a summer for the Shook The World section.

Why? Because while Didier Drogba’s €38.5million move to Chelsea definitely was one of the most important things ever happened to the Premier League, it just can’t compete with Rooney’s blockbuster arrival in Manchester.

He had actually rejected a chance to move to Old Trafford twice before accepting the offer in 2004 and becoming the most expensive teenager in world football.

In 1999, when United reserve team manager Jim Ryan spotted him during one of the academy games, Rooney opted to stay at Everton since he’d been a fan of the club and didn’t want to change anything. Two years later, Sir Alex Ferguson tried to sign him again, but Rooney refused.

Eventually, the Red Devils got him a few months after beating Everton in a 4-3 thriller at Goodison Park in February, 2004.

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Thirteen years later, it’s kind of hard to fully appreciate just how big this move was for the Premier League. Over the last decade, Rooney went from being one of the most gifted – and certainly the most hyped – teenagers in Europe to being one of the most opinion-splitting figures in English football.

He’s the national team’s record goalscorer, but never won anything with the Three Lions. He’s a United legend fans wanted to get rid of way before he turned 30. He’s been the most prolific English striker for over a decade but never won the Premier League Golden Boot.

He scored 183 goals for United – more than anyone else in club’s history – but had to play number ten, number eight, number six and on the wing while all of his managers kept buying one striker after another.

He’s been brilliant, awful and average, underrated and overrated at the same time, good but not great, great but not GREAT, never an undeniable leader, never an elite superstar, never on Real Madrid or Barcelona’s radars, never on the Ballon d’Or podium.

Still, back in 2004, we didn’t know any of that. And if there was a more exciting signing in Premier League history, well, I’ve just never heard of it.

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READ: Wayne Rooney at Manchester United: The highs of a record-breaking career

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Top Transfers

Didier Drogba from Marseille to Chelsea (€37.5m), Ricardo Carvalho from Porto to Chelsea (€30m), Emerson from AS Roma to Juventus (€28m), Samuel Eto’o from Mallorca to Barcelona (€27m), Walter Samuel from AS Roma to Real Madrid (€23m), Deco from Porto to Barcelona (€21m), Djibril Cisse from Auxerre to Liverpool (€20m), Paul Ferreira from Porto to Chelsea (€20m), Jonathan Woodgate from Newcastle to Real Madrid (€18.3m).

Two thoughts

1) Alright, I know what you’re thinking. “Did you just seriously declare the Jonathan Woodgate summer one of the top three greatest transfer windows ever?” Well… guess I did.

While Woodgate and Walter Samuel obviously failed to live up to their transfer fees, it was the summer that also saw Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Fabio Cannavaro sign for Juventus, Xabi Alonso land in Liverpool, Arjen Robben join Chelsea, and Miroslav Klose quietly pen a contract with Werder.

But it didn’t stop there. Because in the first weeks of June…

2) The Premier League welcomed two new managers – Jose Mourinho and Rafael Benitez – who would not just build two brilliant teams, but start one of the coolest mid-2000’s rivalries and revolutionise English football, helping the league become the most entertaining, competitive and multicultural division in the world along the way.

And yes, it was during that summer when Mourinho first proclaimed himself the Special One while Benitez convinced Steven Gerrard to turn down Chelsea’s offer, then proceeded to win the most remarkable Champions League final ever.

You know what… give me a couple of seconds to wipe away my nostalgia tears.

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READ: How Liverpool v Chelsea became one of the fiercest rivalries of the 2000s

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The Ultimate Bargain

Petr Cech from Stade Rennais to Chelsea for €13m.

As the old Czech saying goes, five years later, you would have failed to buy his helmet for this money.

In his first season in London, Petr quickly established himself as one of the best young goalkeepers in the game having replaced Carlo Cudicini as Chelsea’s No.1 when the Italian suffered an elbow injury in pre-season.

Eight months later, Cech set a new Premier League record of 1025 minutes without conceding a goal, then heroically returned after a horrendous head injury to win pretty much everything for the club, both domestically and in Europe.

 

Honourable mention: Robin van Persie from Feyenoord to Arsenal for €4.5m.

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Top Manager Transfers

Jose Mourinho from Porto to Chelsea, Rafael Benitez from Valencia to Liverpool, Claudio Ranieri from Chelsea to Valencia, Fabio Capello from AS Roma to Juventus, Felix Magath from Stuttgart to Bayern Munich, Roberto Mancini from Lazio to Inter Milan.

Peak 2000’s, no less.

Epic Transfer Fail

In an extremely weird turn of events, Florentino Perez decided that ruining just one Englishman’s career wasn’t enough, and, after signing Michael Own from Liverpool, laid out a ludicrous €18m for Newcastle defender Jonathan Woodgate, who was injured even at the time of the transfer.

Fast forward 13 months: Woody finally makes his La Liga debut, coming on against Athletic Bilbao, only to score an own goal and receive a red card after awkwardly punching one of the Bilbao players in the face.

 

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The Ultimate Burning Shirt Transfer

Again, Rooney. As a nameless graffiti guy put it: ‘He could have been god, but chose to be a devil.’ I wonder if it’s been updated since then.

Entertaining Sublot

Jose Mourinho desperately trying to yank Stevie G out of Liverpool in order to build potentially the deadliest midfield trio in Premier League history – Makelele, Gerrard, Lampard.

Somehow, the whole thing died in the Royal Birkdale Golf Club in Southport. Scared of the potential Burning Shirt move, Liverpool bosses held an emergency meeting as Gerrard’s dad Paul convinced the Reds skipper to give the club at least one more year before reconsidering the Chelsea deal. Note, that all happened after Stevie had already agreed the transfer with Jose via text messages while training with England prior to Euro 2004.

Undoubtedly, one of the all-time biggest moves in world football that never actually happened.

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Hilarious Moment

Ajax selling Zlatan Ibrahimovic to Juventus after he had injured his team-mate Rafael van Der Vaart in an international friendly, then replied to the midfielder’s you-did-it-on-purpose accusations by saying: “I didn’t injure you on purpose, and you know that. If you accuse me again, I’ll break both your legs, and that time it will be on purpose.”

Classic.

The Club That Went Completely Nuts

€163m… I’m starting to think Chelsea have had plenty of money during the last 14 years.

Iconic Transfer Campaign That Changed Everything

Wasn’t it the best €163million ever spent, though?

In just two months, Abramovic signed Chelsea’s most successful manager ever as well as two future Premier League hall of famers (Didier Drogba and Petr Cech), then paid €50million to get two crucial parts of Chelsea’s insanely solid back four (Ricardo Carvalho and Paulo Ferreira), then spent another €30million to bring in Benfica midfielder Tiago and a talented Dutch youngster named Arjen Robben.

Looking back, it was almost too good to be true. Then again, they signed Jiri Jarosik for €12million later that season.

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READ: Jiri Jarosik at Chelsea: Jose’s genius, Terry’s ripped jeans, Duff’s lost passport

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Meanwhile, Barca landed Deco, Eto’o, Giuly, Belletti, Edmilson and Larsson that summer, then promoted a 17-year-old Leo Messi to the first team. That’s six out of fourteen guys who played in the 2006 UCL final against Arsenal for ya. And f*cking Leo Messi.

To Sum It Up

Hands down, the most important transfer window for the Premier League in the 21st century. Mourinho and Benitez coming to England, Rooney signing for United, Alonso landing, and Gerrard staying, in Liverpool, Owen fleeing to Madrid, Van Persie joining Arsenal, and Chelsea putting together their strongest side in 50 years.

History was literally being made in front of our eyes… only we never truly appreciated it until a few years later.

By Vitaly Suvorov


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