Papy Djilobodji’s chances of success at Chelsea were ill-fated from the offing.
Upon arriving at Stamford Bridge on deadline day in 2015 for a scant £2.7 million as cover for a failed move for John Stones, then-Blues boss Jose Mourinho was candid about his lack of familiarity with the towering center-half from Nantes.
“It was not my choice. It was the choice of somebody I trust completely,” Mourinho offered. “I don’t know every player. My job doesn’t allow me to travel, doesn’t allow me to spend hours and hours watching players.”
Well, if that doesn’t inspire a newcomer, nothing will. Djilobodji’s short-lived switch to the English capital (the Senegalese international did not make a single first-team league appearance) is among the innumerable collection of befuddling transfers that border on the bizarre throughout football history.
In that spirit, here’s a look at seven offbeat signings that took place during this summer transfer window.
Paulinho to Guangzhou Evergrande
In the blink of an eye, the nouveau-riche Chinese top flight became a high-profile destination for players chasing a handsome payday. Former Tottenham afterthought Paulinho was one of many to head east, penning a four-year deal with Guangzhou Evergrande in 2015.
Surprisingly, Barcelona plucked the Brazilian for €40 million in August 2017. Almost right away, the 55-time capped international became an integral part of Ernesto Valverde’s regime, bagging nine goals in 55 appearances for La Blaugrana. As quickly as he arrived, he was off, returning to Evergrande on a one-year loan with an obligation to buy, with Barcelona somehow turning a €8.5-million profit on the 30-year-old. Something smells fishy.
Gervinho to Parma
Ivorian winger and wearer of hairline-shielding scarves Gervinho joined Serie A returnee Parma following three largely ineffective seasons at Hebei Fortune.
A quartet of goals over two-and-a-half years in China hardly suggests a player at the top of his game, though the 31-year-old hit the ground running, making his debut as a substitute against SPAL before scoring the lone goal on his first start for the Crociati in a 2-1 defeat to Juventus on the weekend. For those keeping score, that’s one Serie A goal for Gervinho and zero for Cristiano Ronaldo.
William Carvalho to Real Betis
The one constant of recent summer transfer windows was a reported big-money move away from Sporting CP for mustachioed Portuguese midfielder William Carvalho. This year, a crisis with the Lisbon lot saw ex-president Bruno de Carvalho publicly feud with his charges before an angry mob disrupted training and assaulted players and staff in May.
Months later, Carvalho was finally on the way out – not to a club like Liverpool or Arsenal, but to Seville side Real Betis, who’ve quietly enjoyed a stellar summer of recruits coinciding with a return to continental competition. A reported €20-million fee is almost a bargain-basement price for a robust 26-year-old defensive midfielder with an eye for an incisive pass. Bit unexpected, that.
Kevin-Prince Boateng to Sassuolo
Few players have put together as diverse a career as Kevin-Prince Boateng, who’s gone from Hertha Berlin to Portsmouth to AC Milan and Schalke and back to Milan before a brief stop at Las Palmas and a DFB-Pokal-winning spell at Eintracht Frankfurt.
Boateng, 31, has returned to Italy in an attempt to repeat the successes of his first spell at the San Siro, joining a Sassuolo side that has started the season in fine form under Roberto De Zerbi. Boateng’s two goals in three matches are joint-best with a back-in-form Domenico Berardi as I Neroverdi sit second in the Serie A table heading into the international break. Is there anything KPB can’t do?
Joel Campbell to Frosinone
Work-permit fumblings and a wealth of attacking options turned Joel Campbell’s Arsenal career into a string of seemingly endless loan spells. Since signing for the north London side in 2011, the 79-time capped Costa Rica international went on loan six times.
Finally, Campbell has broken ties with Arsenal, moving to a Frosinone side that returns to the top flight two seasons removed from a maiden Serie A spell. Though a sampling of Gunners faithful rued his exit online, there’s a reason he struggled to get into a team desperate for wingers. Joel, if you’re reading this, best of luck.
Eric Choupo-Moting to Paris Saint-Germain
Eric Choupo-Moting tripped face-first exiting his flat and landed on an unlikely treasure. Imagine being the versatile Cameroonian attacker: You’ve joined Stoke City and banged in five goals to go with five assists at the Potters, only to drop to the second tier following a decade-long stretch in the top flight.
Fear not, Eric, because you’ve got fortune on your side. Paris Saint-Germain came calling, signing the angular 29-year-old on a free transfer to join a decorated world-class attack. Doubters will say this makes no sense, while those aware of the capital city club’s fears of violating Financial Fair Play rules under Nasser Al-Khelaifi’s opulent reign will nod along in approval.
Marco Borriello to Ibiza
As bizarre as this one may appear on the surface, no transfer in the summer window makes more sense. The clubhouse leader for appearances with models in Italian paparazzi beach photos, Marco Borriello and Ibiza go together like Panettone and your aunt Angela.
The 36-year-old striker’s career denouement takes him to the Spanish island known for electronic music and sunburned British tourists sporting Oldham Athletic chest tats to enlist with second-tier UD Ibiza. The former Italy international retweeted a link to the club’s online store Tuesday, and the queue of Borriello fans that fancied his kit crashed the site. This is going to be a lot of fun.
(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)