We’re living in an age of deceit and deviance – robbers, scamsters and baddies stand on every street corner and they’ve even infiltrated our computers, smartphones and probably our television sets and hairdryers as well. Don’t ask me – I’m not Crimewatch.
Even the great and the good of the world of football aren’t immune to the cyber pickpockets that are the curse of the 21st century. Lazio have reportedly been stitched right up by an email scam and paid €2 million of the final instalment for defender Stefan de Vrij’s transfer from Dutch club Feyenoord to fraudsters.
Oh no! And also ha ha ha ha!
But pulling a fast one over football clubs and high profile figures in the game is nothing new – like almost every other walk of life, no one in football has got a f***ing clue what they’re doing, surviving on bluff and bluster most of the time. Here’s some of the greatest scams to have blighted the beautiful (and stupid) game…
The Ali Dia fiasco
The absolute daddy of football scammery. Next time you see Graeme Souness giving it the gruff, authoritative pose on Sky Sports, just remember that while he was manager of Southampton, he fielded a player who had been recommended to him by someone pretending to George Weah’s cousin.
Ali Dia must have impressed enough in training (or no one was really paying that much attention) to have warranted a place on the bench against Leeds United, and he even got 53 minutes of game time before Souness realised he’d been sold a dud and hauled him off again before the match was over.
Fancy being a footballer? Just ring up your local club and ask – you never know…
The Standard Liege scouts scam
One of the best calls to Danny Baker and Danny Kelly’s long lost Talksport show from, oooh, a couple of decades ago, came from a fella who had come into possession of a couple of official Standard Liege ties.
Of course, him and his mate decided to try and hoodwink their way into matches for free under the guise of being scouts for the Belgian side.
And, because football clubs are ultimately ran by know-nothings, they got away with it.
The Ander Herrera prank
In June 2014, Manchester United signed Ander Herrera from Athletic Bilbao for a fee in excess of £29m, but it was their second attempt at the deal.
The first one collapsed in farcical, hilarious circumstances a year before when three blokes turned up at the Spanish club claiming to represent United and ready to pay the player’s buyout clause.
It later transpired that they were hoaxers, but as United’s manager at the time was David Moyes, it’s arguably hard to fathom out who was legit and who was in control of the situation.
The Sam Allardyce hamper con
If there’s one man in football who you’d suspect would be keen to get stuck into the contents of a Christmas hamper, it would be Sam Allardyce.
Back in December 2014, when Big Sam was in charge at West Ham, he and some of the Hammers squad were duped by Stephen Ackerman, a baddie who paid a visit to the training ground, purporting to be flogging luxury hampers and taking payments using a handheld chip-and-pin device.
The hampers weren’t real, Ackerman was arrested and eventually sentenced to four years in prison for his hopeless efforts.
The genius of Carlos Henrique
Imagine bluffing your way through a footballing career of over two decades while barely playing any actual football.
That’s what Carlos Henrique did, using high profile contacts and some faked injuries to seal contracts with top South American clubs such as Flamengo, Fluminense, Vasco da Gama and Independiente.
Lasting just a few months at each club, ‘Carlos Kaiser’ (as he was known) was able to forge a alleged 24-year playing career without kicking a ball in a single competitive match.
Now 53 and ‘retired’ he is arguably the greatest man who has ever lived.