With the astronomical transfer fees associated with player moves in the modern game it is hardly noteworthy when a player makes a move for a mere £1m but that was the case on this day (February 9) in soccer history in 1979 when England forward Trevor Francis transferred from Birmingham City to Nottingham Forest for £1,180, 000 marking the first time a player made a move for over 1 million pounds.
OK, the actual fee was only £999,999 and set at that mark by manager Brian Clough to make sure the milestone mark did not go the player’s head, although after taxes the total fee was £1,1M.
The fee still follows the player.
“I played professional football for 23 years until I was 39, I won European Cups with Nottingham Forest, I played 52 times over nine years for England, but whenever I go to a sporting occasion I’m always introduced as the first £1m footballer, as if that’s the only thing I achieved in my career,” Trevor Francis told the Guardian for an article celebrating the 40th anniversary in 2019.
The previous record transfer fee of £500,000 was paid by West Bromwich Albion to Middlesbrough for David Mills in 1978.
Assistant manager of Nottingham Forest Peter Taylor told the BBC at the time: “We can afford to pay prices like this because of good management in the past.”
The large price was paid off when he scored the game winner in the 1979 European Cup final.
One detail that almost resulted in the transfer being quashed was Francis’ desire to play in the North American Soccer League during the off season with the Detroit Express.
Eventually Clough allowed him to go on loan and he scored 36 goals in 33 regular season matches and had 18 assists, placing him one spot ahead of Pele on the all time scoring list, despite playing 23 fewer games.
1928 – Rinus Michels, Dutch football coach (d. 2005)
1931 – Josef Masopust, Czech footballer
1971 – Johan Mjällby, Swedish footballer
1972 – Darren Ferguson, Scottish footballer
1976 – Georgios Korakakis, Greek footballer
1980 – Angelos Charisteas, Greek footballer
1983 – Mikel Arruabarrena, Spanish footballer
1987 – Joe O’Cearuill, Irish footballer