A footballer being bigger than the club he’s at will always be an issue to some fans while others just want to see superstars on their doorsteps.

talkSPORT understands Cardiff are confident of signing Gareth Bale this summer following the end of his nine-year stint at Real Madrid.

Bale is a transfer target for boyhood club, Cardiff City

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Bale is a transfer target for boyhood club, Cardiff City

The five-time Champions League winner and symbol of Wales football would be given a hero’s welcome if he joins his boyhood club.

Bale notched 11 goals and two assists in 20 Premier League appearances the season before last and can still cut it at the top level.

So dropping down to the Championship for the first time since he was a 17-year-old at Southampton would be a huge coup for Cardiff.

With that in mind, talkSPORT.com takes a look at some of the biggest footballers to have made surprising transfers…

Sol Campbell – Notts County

The former England international stunned the football world when he left Premier League Portsmouth to turn out in League Two after the Magpies were subject of a takeover by a Middle Eastern consortium.

Even his former Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger publicly shared his surprise by Campbell’s decision to drop down three divisions.

Mystic Arsene suggested at the time that the veteran defender might find it difficult ‘mentally’ to cope and he proved to be correct.

Campbell walked out just three days after making his debut for the club, which was a horror showing in a 2–1 defeat to Morecambe.

“I knew I would be the club’s first big signing but was told I would be the first of many. Names like Roberto Carlos and Benjani were mentioned. But nothing materialised,” he said to the News of the World.

“The only thing I’m guilty of is taking people at their word so I’m not embarrassed, not hurt or humbled or anything like that – I am just disappointed.”

Sol Campbell somehow returned to Arsenal after his one game in League Two

Sol Campbell somehow returned to Arsenal after his one game in League Two

Socrates – Garforth Town

The late former midfielder spent the majority of his career playing his homeland sporting his iconic headband and beard combo.

He captained Brazil during the 1982 World Cup before hanging up his boots in 1990 – yet a decade later he was back… in West Yorkshire!

Garforth owner Simon Clifford, who made his fortunes by setting up a worldwide network of Brazilian soccer schools, used his contacts to sign ‘Doctor Socrates’ on a one-month deal.

And the-then 50-year-old did indeed manage to make a one-off substitute appearance for the non-league side against Tadcaster.

“It was far too cold, the second I got out there I had an incredible headache. I’m just not used to it,” Socrates said after his uneventful 12-minute cameo in the 2-2 draw.

Brazilian football legend Socrates ended his 14-year retirement to play in Leeds

Getty

Brazilian football legend Socrates ended his 14-year retirement to play in Leeds

“It was much faster than the type of football I’m used to. It was a lot more competitive and keenly fought, but I really enjoyed it and it was an interesting experience.”

Following his passing in 2011, Garforth owner Clifford revealed his warm-up routines were the reason Socrates never managed another game.

He told BBC Radio Five Live. “We drew the game he played when he came on as a sub and I decided not to play him in the next game because his warm-up had consisted of drinking two bottles of Budweiser and three cigarettes which we had in the changing rooms.

“I didn’t think it was a good idea for him to carry on playing too much more though he was keen to.”

However, the club went on to secure promotion that season, and Clifford added: “He showed great grace in playing for me. He took no money for playing, and he will always be special to us.”

10. Socrates – philosophy footballer

Socrates stood out in an era of brilliant Brazilians and even delayed his international career to qualify as a doctor

David Beckham – LA Galaxy

Perhaps the most famous example and the only player on this list to be given a statue by the surprise club he joined.

Beckham became the first superstar name to join the MLS via its Designated Player Rule – allowing high-profile players to earn more than the standard salary cap.

‘Golden Balls’ moved to Los Angeles in 2007 from Real Madrid which paved the way for star-studded names including Thierry Henry, Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard to follow suit.

He won two MLS Cups as well as helping Galaxy claim Supporters Shield crowns in 122 appearances at the club.

Beckham completed his lucrative move to LA in July 2007

Getty

Beckham completed his lucrative move to LA in July 2007

George Best – Hibernian

The Northern Ireland legend will rightfully always be synonymous with Manchester United following his Ballon d’Or exploits at the club.

But the European Cup winner’s tenure at Old Trafford came to a pre-mature end at 27 years old following his battle with alcoholism.

From then on Best had a scattered career that took him from Fulham to America and then onto the Scottish top-flight.

The-then 33-year-old winger spent just a year at Hibs, scoring three times in 22 games, and failed to prevent their relegation.

Yet the club’s attendances rocketed to around 20,000 for every home game – which helped pay Best’s £2,000 per game salary at a time when his teammates were earning closer to £100.

Best forged a legacy in Scotish football despite just a year at Hibs

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Best forged a legacy in Scotish football despite just a year at Hibs

One of his greatest moments at Hibs was a man-of-the-match showing in a 1-1 draw with Celtic in January 1980.

Manager Eddie Turnbull said: “He can do anything with the ball and it is a sheer joy to watch him at work. If only he had joined us a month earlier. The man is worth the admission money on his own.”

Infamously, Best later missed a cup tie after a drinking session with the French rugby team, who were in Edinburgh to play Scotland.

“George was there, right enough. In bed with this dolly-bird, bottle of champagne,” John Lambie, part of the Hibs coaching staff, told The Scotsman. “‘George,’ I said, ‘you need to get downstairs for your pre-match meal!’

“He just smiled. ‘I’m having it here!’”

Gascoigne’s last game was a Carling Cup defeat for Boston against Fulham

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Gascoigne’s last game was a Carling Cup defeat for Boston against Fulham

Paul Gascoigne – Boston United

The former Newcastle, Tottenham, Lazio and Rangers star finished his illustrious career with a two-month stint at the York Street club.

After joining Boston as a player-coach, Gazza made five appearances, helping the club to ninth in League Two.

But he walked away from the professional game citing his desire to complete a coaching course at Lilleshall.

Davids at Barnet was never going to be dull

Getty Images – Getty

Davids at Barnet was never going to be dull

Edgard Davids – Barnet

When the Dutchman came out of retirement to become Barnet’s player-manager in 2012, you knew it was going to be a rollercoaster.

An enigmatic character as a player, midfielder Davids lifted the Champions League with Ajax and played for Juventus and Barcelona.

The final part of Davids’ journey, though, was with the Bees but he was unable to prevent them from dropping out of the Football League as they were relegated on the final day of the season.

He made nine appearances for the club in the Conference Premier in the 2013/14 campaign, before resigning as boss in January 2014.

Davids – who would arrive for training at Barnet in a £100,00 Bentley and then watch from his car – was sent off three times in his final season.

Rivaldo shone at the World Cup in 2002

Rivaldo shone at the World Cup in 2002

Rivaldo – Kabuscorp

The former Barcelona star and World Cup winner played in both Uzbekistan and Angola during the latter stages of his career.

Rivaldo admitted that Portuguese being the spoken language of Angola, as is the case in his native Brazil, played a factor in his decision.

The 1999 Ballon d’Or winner managed 11 goals and played in 21 league games for Kabuscorp in 10 months before departing as a 40-year-old.

“This was a positive year in my career and although we came fourth in the Angolan Girabola league, I was the third best scorer,” he told BBC.

Victor Valdes in a Middlesbrough shirt still looks weird

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Victor Valdes in a Middlesbrough shirt still looks weird

Victor Valdes – Middlesbrough

Eyebrows were raised when the serial LaLiga and Champions League winner opted for a Premier League relegation scrap on Teesside.

Valdes was No 1 at Barcelona for more than 11 years before making the move to Manchester United in 2015.

Yet the veteran Spaniard goalkeeper suffered a public fallout with then-Red Devils boss Louis van Gaal and jumped at the chance to join newly-promoted Boro the following year.

Valdes played 28 games for the club but couldn’t prevent their relegation and decided to retire after his deal was ended early.

talkSPORT LIVE – Don’t miss Brazil and Parlour!

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Hear from both legends as they recount tales from the dressing room, from the studio, from their playing days, travels on international duty… and of course Cheltenham!

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