10 of the Most Successful Short Spells in Club Football

Odion Ighalo
Manchester United v Manchester City – Premier League | Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/Getty Images

To the surprise of many, Odion Ighalo’s loan spell at Manchester United has proven to be a bit of a masterstroke from the much-maligned Red Devils recruitment team.

With Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side in desperate need of attacking reinforcements, the club brought the former Watford man in on a short-term loan deal in January.

Many scoffed at the acquisition – and with good reason – despite a stellar debut season in the Premier League with the Hornets back in 2015/16. After that, Ighalo mustered just a single goal the following season, before being shipped off to the Chinese Super League.

Odion IghaloOdion Ighalo
Odion Ighalo after Manchester United’s clash with Club Brugge. | Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Having spent three seasons in a league of distinctly poor standard, the 30-year-old must have been as surprised as anyone to hear one of the biggest clubs in the world had come knocking. But, low and behold, his time at Old Trafford has been a relative success.

Ighalo is said to be desperate to extend his loan spell at the club – with United said to be unwilling to pay the £20m required to secure a permanent deal – but irrespective of whether the deal is extended or not, four goals in eight appearances for Solskjaer’s men represents a fruitful return from his English football renaissance.

The former Nigeria international’s ability to make an impression in such a short period of time at Old Trafford should not be downplayed; having spent little over three months in the north west so far.

And this got us at 90min to thinking – which other short stints at clubs have turned out to be a resounding success? We’ve compiled a list of players who have proven to be a big success at clubs, despite making just a handful of appearances.

David BeckhamDavid Beckham
AC Milan v AC Chievo Verona – Serie A | Claudio Villa/Getty Images

Former Manchester United man Beckham took advantage of the scheduling in MLS to return to European football in the off season.  

The midfielder enjoyed two loans spells at Milan, the first of which proved to be particularly successful. Beckham made twenty appearances for the Rossoneri, scoring two goals.

Such was the impact of the former England captain, Milan were keen to secure a permanent move. However, with LA Galaxy unwilling the let their prised possession go, Beckham returned to MLS after less than seven months in Serie A.

Robbie KeaneRobbie Keane
Robbie Keane Joins Celtic From Tottenham Hotspur | Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Keane’s playing career saw him become no stranger to a change of scenery. Republic of Ireland’s all-time leading goalscorer represented no fewer than 11 clubs in his 21-year career, notching 325 goals in the process.

Of those 325 strikes, 16 of them came in Scottish football with Celtic.

Citing the Hoops as his boyhood club, Keane moved to Celtic Park from Tottenham Hotspur (another of his boyhood clubs funnily enough) in February 2010 until the end of the season.

His 16 goals – 12 of them in the league – weren’t enough to secure SPL glory as Celltic missed out at the hands of rivals Rangers, though they certainly left an impression on the Bhoys faithful.

Dani Alves, Edgar DavidsDani Alves, Edgar Davids
La Liga: Sevilla v Barcelona | Firo Foto/Getty Images

Davids arrived at Camp Nou with the club languishing in mid-table and manager Frank Rijkaard coming under increasing pressure as to why the Catalan giants continued to underperform.

The tough-tackling, tenacious midfielder had a colossal impact at the club and was the driving force in the club’s resurgence as they finished the season in second place.

Despite spending just five months in La Liga, many Barcelona fans cite the arrival of Davids as the catalyst for Blaugrana’s dominance in the years following his spell.

Perhaps not a household name to most, but a massively influential one in the north east of England.

Fuchs was signed by manager Bryan Robson in 1995, with the club looking to achieve promotion back to the Premier League having suffered relegation the season prior.

The towering German forward would make just 15 appearances for the club, but his nine goals clinched promotion for Boro, edging out Reading by just three points

Though Robson declined the opportunity to sign Fuchs permanently, the forward remains a cult hero on Teesside to this day.

Manchester United's Swedish forward Henr...Manchester United's Swedish forward Henr...
Manchester United’s Swedish forward Henr… | ANDREW YATES/Getty Images

When Larsson moved back to Swedish football with Helsingborg in 2006, you could be forgiven for thinking the former Celtic hitman was looking to bow out with little fuss – not a chance.

The Swede made his English football debut at the age of 35, and while his spell at Old Trafford gleaned just three goals, he is said to have been a key mentor for youngsters Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney.

After five months with the Red Devils, he returned to Helsingborg with a Premier League medal in his back pocket and the undying respect of the Old Trafford faithful.

Leicester v WycombeLeicester v Wycombe
Leicester v Wycombe | Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

One for all the pub quizzers.

What makes Essandoh stand out from the crowd is that he was a permanent signing rather than a loan deal. With Division 2 (nowadays known as League One) Wycombe Wanderers struggling for a fit striker, fable has it manager Lawrie Sanchez signed Essandoh after finding him on Ceefax.

The new recruit was summoned from the bench in their FA Cup quarter-final with Premier League Leicester City. With the score tied at 1-1, Essandoh leapt like a salmon above the Foxes defence and powered a header past the helpless Simon Royce, sending Wycombe through to the semi-finals.

The goal is etched into FA Cup and Wycombe Wanderers folklore. It was the only time the Ceefax signing found the net in his time at Adams Park, but it’s enough to see his time at the club crowned a resounding success.

Landon Donovan, Morten Gamst-PedersenLandon Donovan, Morten Gamst-Pedersen
Everton v Blackburn Rovers – Premier League | Chris Brunskill/Getty Images

Another beneficiary of MLS scheduling. Donovan arrived at Goodison Park in the off season and his impact on the Toffees’ season was huge.

The American scored twice in his brief spell on Merseyside and was even named their Player of the Month for January.

Such was his impact, David Moyes was keen to extend Donovan’s deal at the club, though LA Galaxy refused to co-operate and recalled him for the start of the season.

Daniel SturridgeDaniel Sturridge
Bolton Wanderers v Arsenal – Premier League | Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Surprisingly the only loan spell of Sturridge’s early career, despite spending a lot his fledgling years sat on the bench at Manchester City and Chelsea.

Sturridge was signed by Owen Coyle in January with Wanderers looking set for a nervy second half to the season. The forward bagged eight times in 12 games at the Reebok Stadium, seeing the Trotters finish 14th – seven points above the drop.

The impressive spell launched Sturridge’s Chelsea career, going on to make 30 Premier League appearances the following season before a move to Liverpool.                     

As far as impacts go, this man is surely near the top of the tree?

Glass was signed on an emergency loan from Swindon Town by relegation-threatened Carlisle in 1999.

On the final day of the season, Carlisle found themselves level with Plymouth Argyle in the last of four added minutes – the Blues had to win to avoid relegation from the Football League. Up came goalkeeper Glass for a corner as Carlisle had one last desperate roll of the dice. And he produced the goods.

Glass reacted like a number nine to pounce on the loose ball and drill home a volley into the bottom corner and send the home fans into raptures. The win was enough to secure survival and relegate Scarborough.

His time at the club was certainly short, but what an impact he had.

Paul JonesPaul Jones
Liverpool v Aston Villa | Gary M. Prior/Getty Images

When you think of Liverpool goalkeepers there are many names which spring to mind – but Paul Jones isn’t one of them.

The former Southampton man signed on an emergency loan deal at Anfield in 2004 after Chris Kirkland and Jerzy Dudek were both sidelined through injury.

The oldest player to make his Liverpool debut since World War Two did himself no shame on one of the grandest stages in the Premier League, keeping a clean sheet in the first of his two games for the club.

The Welsh international got the opportunity to play for his boyhood club and helped them out in their hour of need. A successful spell for all concerned.

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