Have Football Players Ever Been Signed By Clubs By Accident?

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Every year, a lot of work goes into the design and production of a football team’s home, away and third kits, and twice a year just as much work goes into finding the best possible players to proudly wear those shirts for their team.

It is, therefore, rather astonishing that on multiple occasions, players have been signed by complete accident.

This is not just a case of players who underperformed or did not fit a team but were genuinely not wanted but ended up in the team regardless. Here are some of the most astonishing examples.


Ricky Alverez To Sunderland

In one of the most ludicrous examples of “suffering from success” seen in football, an unlikely great escape ended up costing Sunderland millions of pounds and their spot in the Premier League.

On Deadline Day 2014, attacking midfielder Ricky Alverez was signed on loan from Inter Milan, with the requirement to sign him for €10.5m if they managed to avoid relegation. 

This seemed astonishingly unlikely as early as week seven of the season as Mr Alverez only played 13 games before his chronic tendonitis took him out for the season.

However, quite astonishingly, and despite not winning a single one of their last three games, Sunderland were three points clear of the drop zone.

By this point, Sunderland believed that due to his injury and disputes over his fitness in general, they should not be obligated to sign him.

This went to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, who ruled in favour of Inter Milan. Sunderland then lost Mr Alverez for free since he was effectively a free agent, lost another €4.77m in compensation to the player himself and also dropped a legal case against the doctor who performed his medical.

This sorry saga went on beyond the end of Mr Alverez’s career, Sunderland were relegated in 2017 and have not returned to the top flight since.


Jean-Kevin Augustin To Leeds United

An even more dramatic and unintentional example of an accidental signing is also extremely recent, with a player described as a wonderkid by Lionel Messi ultimately finding himself in footballing limbo between the letter and the spirit of the game.

A skilled player in the wrong place at the wrong time, Mr Augustin was signed on loan from RB Leipzig by Leeds United, cutting short his existing run in Monaco in the process.

Whilst he was looking forward to working with Marcelo Bielsa, the manager’s ruthless attitude to training proved to be a terrible fit for the 23-year-old player, and he ended up only playing for a total of 48 minutes over three substitute appearances before a muscle injury stopped him from playing.

Then a global health crisis stopped the season itself.

The wording on the loan deal said that Leeds United were obliged to buy him for £17.7m should they acquire promotion by 30th June 2020, over a month before the season actually finished. Leeds secured promotion by 17th July but in practice were all-but-guaranteed promotion.

However, RB Leipzig took Leeds to court, claiming that the “spirit of the rules” was the end of the season, since in a normal year every game has been played by 30th June.

Ultimately, CAS ended up involved again, and between an £18.4m court order to Leipzig and a £24.5m order by FIFA to pay Augustin, Leeds paid over £40m for 48 minutes of play. 

Amazingly, they still finished ninth in their first Premier League season but were relegated in 2023 despite the best efforts of Sam Allardyce, due to the knock-on effect of the deal on their finances.