There is no greater risk in football than giving an individual, whether it is player or manager, a huge contract.
They are statements of trust, a promise of success, and an exchange of, often, enormous amounts of money for the promise of self-sacrifice and brilliance – until they go completely wrong.
At times, it appears the lunatics have taken over the asylum, whether it is in the Premier League,La Liga, or even League Two.
As broadcast deals and transfer fees continue to rise, so too does the size of the contracts and the very wages supplement them.
And in the wake of Sheffield United’s extremely bold decision to give former interim manager Paul Heckingbottom a five-year contract, Daily Star Sport considers ten of the most bizarre contract decisions in football.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United reign ended by death of a thousand cuts. The Norwegian was finally handed his marching orders at the club after United’s 4-1 defeat by Watford, yet the writing had been on the wall for some time.
However, it was completely different at the start of the season, when the Reds handed him a new three-year contract. While he undoubtedly raised morale and assembled a very good team, the fact United were yet to win a trophy during his reign, resulted in the new contract being greeted with bemusement.
He had one year left to spare on his original deal at the club, and many believed it would have been wiser if United had let that pan out before making a long term commitment.
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Former Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley was pragmatic with a capital P, but he shocked the footballing world when he afforded then-manager Alan Pardew an eight-year contract in 2012.
It is unknown as to whether he completely lost any bearing as to what year he was in at the time, or if a bogus crystal ball afforded mystical visions of Alan Pardew bringing the Champions League title to St James’ Park in 2020. Pardew had just come off the back of an excellent season which saw Demba Ba, Papiss Demba Cisse, Hatem Ben Arfa, Yohan Cabaye and co finish in fifth position.
However, things turned very sour with Newcastle fans even creating a ‘SackPardew.com’ website before he eventually leaving in 2014.
Pardew eventually left for Crystal Palace, and if you were to include interim managers, then the Magpies have had five managers in the duration of his deal – Pardew has also overseen four teams since during the same duration.
Current West Ham manager David Moyes was labelled ‘The Chosen One’ after Sir Alex Ferguson vouched for him to take over his illustrious reins at Manchester United.
Moyes arrived at Old Trafford after an eleven-year spell as Everton manager, and the Red Devils believed he could be the one to write his own long story at United. They showed immense belief in the Scotsman by handing him an enormous six-year contract.
Unfortunately, he was not allowed to see out his debut season as the club sacked him after only ten months in the Reds’ hot seat. He received a handsome severance package of £7m for his time in the red half of Manchester.
China began to inject fear into the rest of the footballing world when they made former Manchester City striker Carlos Tevez the most highly paid footballer on the planet.
The Argentine was paid a staggering £615,000 per week to join Chinese powerhouses Shanghai Shenhua. He was handed a two-year contract worth a staggering £65m.
However, the higher the pay does not necessarily mean the higher the quality and effort, as Tevez only scored four goals in 20 appearances. And to rub very expensive salt into the wounds, he even described his spell in the Far East as a “Seven month holiday”.
Well, at least he got his moneys worth.
Nope, not that one.
Antonio Donnarumma is the brother of Gianluigi Donnarumma, the Italy goalkeeper who broke English hearts in the Euro 2020 final. The Azzurri No.1 saved penalties from Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka to win the European Championships for Italy.
However, his former side, AC Milan were so keen on retaining him they signed his brother Antonio Donnarumma in a bid to convince his more talented brother to stay in Milan. They even tried to sweeten the deal by giving him £50,000 per week to play at the club.
Donnarumma, Antonio that is, made a grand total of three appearances in four seasons at the club. After his younger brother sealed a move to Paris Saint-Germain, Antonio was sent on his way to Serie C side Padova.
Phil Jones was once described as someone who could become “Manchester United’s greatest ever player” by Ferguson. Unfortunately, when praise of that magnitude is afforded to you, the only place is down.
Jones’ last few years at Old Trafford have been torn apart by injuries, with his last Premier League appearance coming in a 2-0 home defeat by Burnley in February 2020. However, despite only making a handful of appearances due to injuries and form, United doubled Jones’ wages to £120,000 per week and handed him a five year contract in 2019.
While he has desperately tried to overcome his injury nightmares, it was a baffling decision by the Red Devils to give him such a serious new deal.
Alexis Sanchez played the piano when he arrived at Old Trafford, yet the Chilean did not hit a single right note during his time. He was one of the best players in the league when United decided to swap the Arsenal forward for misfiring midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
And to ensure they were able to coerce Sanchez through into the red half of Manchester, they made him the highest paid player in the league by granting him a weekly salary of £391,000 per week.
And if you thought that was serious money, appearance and goal bonuses took that figure up to £500,000. He only contributed three goals and six assists in 32 appearances.
Now this was a truly bizarre move. Arsenal and England legend Sol Campbell was in the twilight years of his career, yet he raised eyebrows when he suddenly joined League Two side Notts County.
Unbelievably, he was given a contract worth £40,000, which would have seen him collect more money in a single week than the average League Two player made in a year. However, he began to see warning signs after being unimpressed by the facilities and some of the decisions made at the club.
But the final straw came after his league debut which saw the club lose 2-1 against Morecambe in front of 3,335 fans. Campbell then proceeded to tear up his contract at the club, after only four weeks at the side.
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