Football Features

Six times a player was bought and sold in the same transfer window

By Ben Green

Published: 13:00, 6 October 2021 | Updated: 18:11, 24 November 2022

They often say ‘try before you buy’, but these clubs went straight for the jugular without considering their options; they liked what they saw online, hit the ‘add to basket’ icon and realised what they purchased wasn’t what they thought.

It’s a strange but not uncommon phenomenon in football, the ‘ol buy and sell in one window, straight from the wheeler-dealer’s playbook. It’s almost the equivalent of a substitute being substituted. At the time you thought they were right, then five minutes later you realised a mistake was made.

Here we look back at some iconic incidents of players being purchased in one transfer window, only to be sold in that exact same window. Some lasted at least a few months before being shipped out, while others stuck around less than Marcelo Bielsa at Lazio (which was just two days by the way).

Emerson Royal

Betis → Barcelona → Tottenham

For much of the season Sergino Dest has been shoehorned in at left-back because Jordi Alba has been injured. Thankfully, Ronald Koeman brought in an expert right-back in Emerson Royal over the summer, so there have been few issues in the No. 2 position. Wait. Wrong script. This is 2021 Barcelona, not 2011. No, it’s actually been chaos. Non-right-backs Sergi Roberto and Oscar Mingueza have shared dual responsibility as Koeman’s No. 2 because someone thought it would be a good idea to sell Emerson to Tottenham.

The Blaugrana are not winning awards anytime soon for their savvy business in the market, but this one really takes the biscuit. Signed from Atletico Mineiro in one of those joint financial operations quite common away from the Premier League with Betis, the Brazilian shone in Andalusia, and as such, Barca exercised an option to bring him to the Camp Nou this summer. He would, however, stick around for just two months before Spurs brought him to London. A mindbogglingly outrageous move by Barca, exacerbated by their current plight.

Martin Demichelis

Malaga → Atletico Madrid → Manchester City

Martin Demichelis has quite the CV, with the likes of Bayern Munich and Manchester City padding out an impressive career path, but somewhere between those stints in Bavaria and the north east of England is Atletico Madrid, whom the Argentine did not make a single appearance for. You can probably guess why.

Yep, the hard-nosed centre-back was another who moved twice in one window. Having signed for Atleti from Malaga on a free transfer in 2013 after Diego Simeone convinced him not to join River Plate, Demichelis then moved to Manchester City to reunite with former coach Manuel Pellegrini just two months later.

Reflecting after retirement, Demichelis says an ambition to test his luck in a new division and make the 2014 World Cup squad ultimately spurred him into moving to City. “I didn’t miss a single training session and Cholo was very happy with me,” Demichelis said in 2018.

“I began as the reserve for Diego Godin and Miranda, if I went to the Premier League I would have more chances of starting and going to the World Cup.

“In the end I won the Premier League, I started and I went to the World Cup.”

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Marc Cucurella

Barcelona → Eibar → Barcelona → Getafe

Brighton’s latest gem had quite the summer in 2019, taking the expression ‘bird of passage’ to a whole new level. A La Masia graduate, the mop-haired full-back enjoyed a highly-fruitful loan spell at Eibar in 2018/19, prompting the club to activate a clause in his contract to make his deal a permanent one.

However, just a fortnight later, like a petulant child throwing a toy out of their pram only to want it back when they see another kid playing with it, Barca decided they wanted Cucurella again, and activated their own clause to re-sign him. If that wasn’t barmy enough, Barca then U-turned a second time and loaned him to Getafe, once again including an option to buy. Getafe did just that midway through the season, then sold him for a profit to Brighton.

It’s a saga that had more twists and turns than a Marrakesh bazaar.


Estrela da Amadora → Vitoria de Guimaraes → Manchester United

Perhaps desperate to unearth the next Cristiano Ronaldo after the Portuguese superstar traded Manchester United for Real Madrid, Sir Alex Ferguson heeded the advice of assistant Carlos Queiroz, who recommended relative unknown Bebe in 2010, who he believed had world-class potential.

The mercurial winger had just come off the back of a season in the Portuguese third tier, which prompted Primeira Liga side Vitoria de Guimaraes to secure his services. However, United didn’t want to wait around for his price to skyrocket and have other covetous eyes looming, so they snapped him up straight away.

Without playing a single game for Vitoria, Bebe made a head-scratching move to Old Trafford. ‘Fergie’ had only met him the day before the transfer, and was encouraged to move for the attacking enigma after it emerged Real Madrid and Benfica were keeping tabs on him. A rush of blood that ended with a whimper.

Benik Afobe

Bournemouth → Wolves → Stoke City

There was a time when Benik Afobe was tipped to break into the Arsenal first team and was thought of as the next big thing to emerge from Hale End. However, the DR Congo international never quite made it in north London, but he enjoyed some very productive stints post-Arsenal at the very beginning.

Afobe moved to Wolves on loan from Bournemouth for Nuno Espirito Santo’s Championship-winning campaign in 2017/18, and having impressed in the second half of the season, the West Midlands club began their Premier League preparations by making the prolific forward’s move a permanent one for £10m.

However, in a sudden twist, Stoke City lodged a £12m bid for the recently-signed forward. Did it work? You bet it did. Wolves made a tidy £2m profit on the marksman and spent the summer signing the likes of Raul Jimenez, Adama Traore and Diogo Jota instead. Not bad alternatives.

Dietmar Hamann

Liverpool → Bolton Wanderers → Manchester City

Following his esteemed stint on Merseyside with Liverpool, Dietmar Hamann joined Sam Allardyce’s Bolton Wanderers in a move he described as ‘the best for my career’. As it happens, ‘the best move for his career’ didn’t turn out to be working under ‘Big Sam’ at the Reebok, getting itchy feet after just 24 hours.

Instead he moved to Manchester City after the Trotters sanctioned his departure, collecting a nifty little £400,000 in compensation. Naturally, Allardyce wasn’t too happy with the German’s change of heart. He said at the time: “Hamann didn’t tell the full story when he tried to get out of the agreement he had with us.

“I am the only manager to get £400,000 for a player who never kicked a ball for the club.”