Transfers that shook the world – Part 1

by Dexy Longshot

Thursday, February 5th, 2009


Trevor Francis

As it turns out, Kaka isn’t on his way to Manchester. He’s staying loyal to the Milan faithful after his agent let slip that it was City who had made the offer, not United.

It’s a significant time for such a credit-busting bid to be scuppered, knowing it would easily have become the world record transfer, knocking Zidane’s move to Madrid off the top spot. The reason for such a landmark occasion is we’re nearly 30 years to the day since the original big-bucks deal was first struck.

It was spring of ‘79 when Liverpool, West Brom and Nottingham Forest were contending the First Division title. Back in the day, the likes of Reading, Portsmouth and Wimbledon were slugging it out to escape from the Fourth Division.

One of the top flight teams, Forest, were under the rock-steady guidance of Brian Clough, the original 70s Mourinho without the stylish coats, and the City Ground was starting to enjoy its golden age of football. Just when things were really looking up for the Nottingham faithful, a bid for Birmingham City and England centre forward Trevor Francis was duly accepted. It was the first million-pound transfer in British football.

Well, not quite. Clough, the master tactician and ultimate man-manager, made sure the actual bid was £999,999 simply so that the transfer wasn’t a million and thus didn’t go to Francis’ head. Very clever, that. What Clough overlooked was that fees and taxes hiked the transfer well past the £1.1m mark in the end. Francis’ transfer wasn’t a world exclusive – Guiseppe Savoldi’s transfer to Napoli four years earlier was subject to a £1.2m fee (which sounds impressive, but even more impressive when you consider that it was actually two billion Lira in Italy at the time). That didn’t matter though; for the first time, money was doing the talking in the English leagues. The precedent had been set and it was the ultimate realisation that finances in the game were increasing exponentially. There was money to be had, in this funny old game. Liverpool soon became the first team to figure out that sticking a brand name (Hitachi, in their case) on the front of their kits earned a very nice quick buck.

And what about Forest? Well, they won the League Cup that year, but Francis was cup-tied, so no credit is due his way there sadly. Even worse was that Forest eventually succumbed to a rampant Liverpool in the race for the First Division. Francis did, however, become eligible to play in the European Cup final (back then, new players had to wait 3 months before playing in Europe). Francis took his chance and managed to guide a header deep into first-half injury time, which proved to be the winner. Forest were champions of Europe.

From there, things weren’t as fairytale as they should have been. They defended their European crown the following year with a win against Hamburg, but Franics failed to feature due to injury. From there, his recovery kept his form off the boil. He saw through a string of clubs including stints in Italy and Scotland, before making the transition from player to manager in his twilight years at Queens Park Rangers. He dabbled fairly unsuccessfully at management for nigh on 15 years. Today, Francis is living a modest life as an ex-footballer, featuring as a pundit for Al-Jazeera.

And as for Forest? Don’t ask.


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  • Darren

    i remember it well, he was the first 1 million pound player! How times have changed when players like Darren Bent got for 16 million!!

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