If today’s reports are to be believed, Derk Boerrigter will finally leave Celtic. The Dutchman has spent the last 19 months out of the first team, and despite efforts from the club to free themselves of the player, he’s stubbornly resisted their persuasions.
It’s meant that Celtic have been paying the player thousands of pounds every week to watch the occasional football game.
Of course, Boerrigter is hardly unique in this regard. Football is littered with tales of players who were paid to live the life of a fan. Here are just a select few to have done so within the confines of our great nation.
Daniel Prodan (Rangers)
The granddaddy of them all. This is the “wage thief” by which all others are judged. Two-and-a-half years as a Rangers player and not a single appearance. Injured when they signed him for £2.2m - a fact they didn’t know until after the deal was done due to a rushed medical - he remained unavailable for most of his time at Ibrox. Rumour has it he was once injured stepping off the team bus. In all likelihood, that particular tale is complete nonsense, but I think we can all agree the world would be a better place if it wasn’t.
READ MORE - Prodan looks back in anger and amusement
Mauricio Pinilla (Hearts)
A hero to many, Pinilla regularly scores goals in Serie A and has 39 appearances for the Chile national team. Unfortunately for Hearts, and the fans who still doted on him despite his prolonged absences, his time in Gorgie came at the nadir of his career and life in general. Injuries and mental health concerns kept him on the sidelines for the most part. Then, just when it looked like things were going to get sorted out, he was abruptly released shortly after signing a new three-year-deal.
Paul Fenwick (Hibernian)
The Canadian defender spent four years at Hibs and made 84 league appearances during that time. However, due to the deterioration of the financial landscape in Scottish football, and a pretty hefty appearance fee written into his contract, Fenwick sat out his final year at Easter Road. Darren Jackson went through something similar at Hearts when further appearances would trigger an automatic one-year contract extension. Imagine hearing that as a player? “You’re good, just not next-season-as-well good.”
Andy Webster (Rangers)
This was a truly bizarre case. Rangers wanted Webster while he was a Hearts player but couldn’t get their wish as Hearts refused to sell him to their SPL rivals. Instead, they waited until the player had made his exit from Tynecastle then snapped him up from Wigan Athletic. A sponsorship connection between both clubs had Hearts fans claiming foul, though they needn’t have bothered as Webster became nothing more than another name on the books at Ibrox. Constantly his body broke down despite having avoided injury troubles both before and since his stay in Govan. It got to the point where manager Walter Smith publicly questioned whether his defender had the mental toughness to be a Rangers player. He was eventually released and rejoined Hearts.
Thomas Gravesen (Celtic)
The scariest looking man to ever play for Real Madrid, his capture seemed quite the coup when he initially arrived from the Spanish giants. He may not have lit up the Bernabeu, though there’s a big difference between performing for a side with ambitions of winning the Champions League and excelling against SPL journeymen. Surely he would prove to be an excellent buy? Unfortunately for Celtic that would not be the case. While he started in some fondly remembered games - the 1-0 win over Manchester United being the prime example - he underwhelmed for the most part. At the end of his first season in Glasgow, manager Gordon Strachan challenged him to fight for a first-team place. Gravesen took this advice so seriously that he never played at all the following year.
Bobo Balde (Celtic)
There are two distinctly different periods from Balde’s Celtic career. The first saw him as a fan favourite and integral part of the team. The second was a protracted game of cat-and-mouse as Celtic tried all manner of things to force him out as Balde stubbornly sat on his backside. After a couple of serious injuries it was clear his powers were diminishing and he was no longer worth the £28,000-a-week contract, if he ever was. Sadly for Celtic, every other team also realised this fact and no-one was willing to meet his wage demands. Even when they did find a willing buyer, Birmingham City, Balde refused to go, reportedly because he wouldn’t sign a confidentiality agreement. “You are the chief executive of Celtic. I am the chief executive of Bobo Balde,” he reportedly told Peter Lawwell. Again, this tale is probably nonsense, but it’s a lot more fun to pretend it’s true.
READ MORE - Strachan baffled by Balde saga
Arnas Lekevicius (Hearts)
“Who?” I hear you ask. At the height of the powers instilled in Vladimir Romanov’s fax machine by its tyrannical owner, Hearts signed a goalkeeper by the name of Arnas Lekevicius. No-one had ever heard of him, which is a sensation that still applies to 95 per cent of the Gorgie faithful since poor Arnie never got even a sniff of the Hearts’ first team. He spent one season playing the role of the back-up’s back-up’s back-up, being trusted only with the occasional reserve match. It’s not known how bad he was, but remember this was a time when Eduardas Kurskis was at the club. If you’re three places below Kurskis on the depth chart, then you must be all sorts of rotten.
Billy Berntsson (Kilmarnock)
Berntsson has taken on almost mythical status since his January signing in 2011 with many fans wondering if he wasn’t just a figment of their imagination. He stayed a whole year at Rugby Park after being snapped up by Mixu Paatelainen. The Finnish boss made a number of excellent additions to the Killie squad in his one year at the club. This was not one of them. Berntsson made four brief substitute appearances before quickly disappearing from view. He was allowed to leave the following January window to join Hammarby.
Christopher Wreh (St Mirren)
57 minutes. That’s all St Mirren got out of their “big name” signing in the 2001-02 season. A man who previously played an important role in Arsenal winning the league and cup double under Arsene Wenger in 1998, he arrived at St Mirren with little more than an over-inflated waistband. Aside from being an answer to a decent trivia question, he made little other impact in Paisley.
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