Black Players On the Move in International Soccer

By Andrew Dixon, III
Updated: October 5, 2006

As the season got underway for the European leagues and the MLS playoffs rapidly approached, several clubs moved to secure the services of some of the worlds top Black players. Here’s a look at some of them.

England

Ashley Cole, now with Chelsea (eurosport)

Ashley Cole, now with Chelsea (eurosport)

Arsenal's William Gallas (rubrique-football)

Arsenal's William Gallas (rubrique-football)

The most heralded transfer featured a straight up trade between the last two Premiereship champions, Chelsea (2005, 2006) and Arsenal (2004). England international Ashley Cole traded Arsenal red for a west London work address while France’s William Gallas left the Blues and headed to the new Emirates Stadium. Gallas felt that he was not developing as quickly as he should have and refused to show for any practices or Chelsea’s pre-season tour of the US. Chelsea alleged that Gallas forced their hand by threatening to score own goals when the season started if he was not transferred. Meanwhile long time Arsenal standout, Ashley Cole had long sought a move away from the North London side and was seen meeting with Chelsea officials at a restaurant a couple of years ago. The so-called “tapping up affair” led to record fines for Cole, Chelsea and their manager Jose Mourniho. Cole finally got his transfer wish granted, questioning Arsenal’s motivation to win and feeling scapegoated by the club over the tampering affair.

Joining Gallas at Arsenal is Brazillian Julio Baptista who is on a season long loan from Real Madrid. Leaving Arsenal is longtime stand out Sol Campbell who’s time had apparently run in North London. He suffered through injuries, a loss of form and one memorable breakdown where he was so distraught at his bad play that he left the team at halftime and went home. Yes, you read that right. Sol has moved to Portsmouth where he will be joined by former Manchester United standout and most recently Manchester City player, Andy Cole as well as former Nigerian international Nwankwo Kanu.

Speaking of Man. City, they’ve signed American DaMarcus Beasley for a season’s loan. DMB, coming off a disappointing World Cup campaign and finding himself on the bench more often than not at PSV, will link up with fellow American Claudio Reyna. Another American, Tim Howard, who watched more matches than I did at Manchester United last season has been loaned to Everton FC for the 06-07 season as well. He’ll hope to regain the form that made him the unquestioned starter at Old Trafford in the 2003-04 season.

Other key transfers in England include: Nigeria’s Obafemi Martins to Newcastle, South African Benni McCarthy moving to Blackburn Rovers, USA’s Cory Gibbs to Charlton and the return of Nicholas Anelka to English football with Bolton.

Italy The biggest offseason news in Italian football, aside from the National team winning the World Cup, was the punishments handed down in the match-fixing scandal. Juventus were stripped of their last two championships, demoted to the 2nd division and would have been docked 30 points had they not appealed. As a result they lost some big name players. Longtime standout Lilliam Thuram, coming off a brilliant World Cup campaign for France signed with current European champions FC Barcelona while his compatriot Patrick Vieira who only joined the club at the start of the 2005-06 season signed for Serie A rivals, Inter Milan. Joining Vieira at Inter is Brazillian Douglas Maicon from AS Monaco and compatriot Oliver Dacourt from AS Roma.

Patrick Vieira after signing with Inter Milan (BBC)

Patrick Vieira after signing with Inter Milan (BBC)

Fabio Liverani, the first Black player to represent Italy has moved from SS Lazio to Fiorentina where he hopes his form will allow him a return to the Azzurri. Other transfers include Ghana’s Samuel Kuffour moving from AS Roma to Livorno and his international teammate Asamoah Gyan to Udinese from Modena.

Spain

While welcoming Thuram, FC Barcelona said goodbye to Swedish star Henrik Larsson, whose two assists were the difference in their Champions League Final victory over Arsenal last spring. Their biggest rivals, Real Madrid, signed Mahamadou Diarra from 5 time French champions Olympique Lyon, hoping he will fill the void left when they foolishly let Claude Makalele move to Chelsea.

Mahamadou Diarra of Real Madrid (english.aljazeera.net)

Mahamadou Diarra of Real Madrid (english.aljazeera.net)

Real Betis has signed Germany’s David Odonkor from Borussia Dortmund off the heels of his terrific displays off the bench for the World Cup 3rd place finishers. Levante has welcomed Peggy Luyindula on a season long loan from Olympique Marseille while Florent Sinama-Pongolle has signed a permanent deal with Recreativo Huelva after leaving Liverpool.

France

Djibril Cisse is back in French Football (permanent.nouvelobs.com)

Djibril Cisse is back in French Football (permanent.nouvelobs.com)

A competition that usually features some of the best Black talent in Europe, Ligue 1 in France will welcome back unlucky French international Djbril Cisse, on loan to Marseille after failing to impress Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez. However Cisse is still recovering from a broken leg sustained just before the start of the World Cup.

Among some of the bigger names to be changing teams, is Midfielder Alou Diarra to 5-time defending champions Olympique Lyon from Lens, promsing midfielder Modest M’Bami leaving Paris St-Germain for Marseille, the return of Mohammad Kalon to AS Monaco from a loan spell in Saudi Arabia and David Bellion to Nice after failing to impress at Manchester United.

Germany

With David Odonkor leaving Dortmund, the most profile transfer of Black players in Germany’s Bundesliga is probably Ghana striker Isaac Boakye going to Wolfsburg from Arminia Bielefeld. South African midfielder Steven Pienaar is now at Borussia Dortmund arriving from Ajax Amsterdam in Holland.

Holland

Holland's all time leading goal scorer, Patrick Kluivert (lasprovincias.)

Holland's all time leading goal scorer, Patrick Kluivert (lasprovincias.)

Speaking of Holland, there is no doubt of the biggest transfer news in the Dutch Eredivisie: All-time leading scorer, Patrick Kluivert is back in Dutch football with PSV Eindhoven. The former Ajax man will look to jump start a career that has been stalled by injuries and love of the night life in England and Spain the last few seasons. Arouna Kone has completed his move to PSV as well.

MLS

***image7***Finally some MLS sides snuck some signings in before the playoff run. DC United signed a local product, defender Stephen DeRoux until the end of the season. They also brought in Ugandan International Robert Ssejjemba to aid their depleted front line. Red Bull New York sent Haitian international Jean Phillippe Peguero to Danish club Brondby after acquiring him just a few months earlier. Trini World Cup hero and Howard University graduate Shaka Hislop has signed with FC Dallas and has already started a few games in goal for the Western Conference’s top team.

With a host of talent at many of Europe and America’s top flight squads, you can be sure that many Black players will play a major role in determining the outcome of these coutries’ respective championships as well as international club competitions.