Sol Campbell created a furore when he left Tottenham for Arsenal in 2001. Effigies of him were hung outside White Hart Lane and he was forced to endure homophobic and racist taunts from those that once worshipped him. The laughter will stick in the throats of the Spurs fans queuing up to sneer at his drop into League Two football with Notts County when they discover that the defender's remuneration for down-grading to Meadow Lane is a staggering £10m.
Campbell once said he likes to be "like a tiger roaming the jungle" and he will certainly be the biggest of fat cats in the bottom rung of the professional game in this country after Munto Finance, the Middle East-based company that is funding the incredible developments at the oldest Football League club, awarded him a five-year playing contract worth an estimated £40,000-a-week, in a dressing room where manager Ian McParland admits some of his players earn a "basic £500-a-week."
Only a couple of months ago, Campbell's contract ran out with Portsmouth and he was talking about finding another Premier League club. He was even still harbouring ambitions of getting into Fabio Capello's plans for nest year's World Cup finals and extending his run of major tournaments for his country to seven. Not surprising for a defender who former manager Harry Redknapp rates as "one of the top six in the country."
Redknapp would even have re-signed him for Spurs, but for the political problems it would have caused, and Campbell was aware of the possibility, while Aston Villa, Everton and Hull City have all expressed an interest this summer, along with Newcastle United. None of them could match the incredible offer placed before him by Sven Goran Eriksson's wealthy employers. Over the same five-year period the defender, who will be 35 next month, can match the Swede's earnings.
Despite claiming Eriksson had to perform three weeks of "hard sell," Campbell had little alternative but to turn his back on England and the Premier League. "I know that this will probably mean the end of my England career, but that is something I have to get on with. There was a chance of England if I had gone to a Premier League side and had a good season, but I have to look to the long-term," he said.
When he first received Sven's call he thought he was being set up as the victim of some radio "prank," but when what was on offer became apparent he felt he would have been a fool to turn down the terms. "The length of contract at Notts County was a big trade off. The other stuff was short and prestigious, but I am looking to the future and for my career."
At the start of the Munto Finance era at Meadow Lane, chief executive Peter Trembling insisted there would be no "big-name" signings to follow that of Eriksson, who last month became the expensively appointed new director of football. Even when the first fanciful suggestions that Campbell was on the club's radar emerged three weeks ago, they were dismissed out of hand. The fact that the free transfer has been completed was a surprise to his former manager Arsène Wenger, who said: "That shows how much financial potential Notts County has suddenly."
In a two-week period Campbell will earn what manager McParland earns in a year. It is a clear indication of the changing times for County.
For the time being, County insist there is no coaching slant on Campbell's contract, but the player is certainly looking to further his ambitions in that department too, under the tutelage of Eriksson. "Sven was a big influence in my decision. I am looking to the future and I would love to be a manager. This gives me the opportunity. I can play for three or four years and then maybe look at the coaching side. I can learn a lot from Sven. The ultimate is for me to manage in the Premier League."
If McParland's head was in a whirl after the arrival of Eriksson it will be spinning furiously now. He has confessed to close friends of fears for his position and Campbell's arrival and managerial desires will hardly make him feel any less secure. For now his main objective is to integrate the defender who won 73 England caps into a dressing room way below the level Campbell has ever occupied. That will be the most difficult task he has performed in two seasons in charge.
Life and Sol: The unexpected twists in Campbell's career
Born 18 September 1974, in Plaistow, east London
Height 6ft 2 in
Campbell is engaged to Fiona Barratt, heiress to the Barratt Homes property empire.
Hons: League Cup winner 1999
Apps (goals): 315 (15)
Campbell left Tottenham Hotspur for London rivals Arsenal in a shock move. That he moved on a free transfer after running his contract down made the blow even harder to swallow for Spurs fans, who barracked him repeatedly afterwards.
Hons: Premiership winner 2002, 2004, runner-up 2003, 2005; FA Cup winner 2002, 2003, 2005; Community Shield winner 2002, 2004; Champions League runner-up 2006
Apps (goals): 195 (11)
Had a difficult final season at Arsenal culminating in a half-time walkout against West Ham in February 2006. The transfer from Arsenal to Portsmouth was another surprise as Campbell had previously told Arsène Wenger he would not join another Premier League team.
Hons: FA Cup winner 2008; Community Shield runner-up 2008.
Apps (goals): 106 (2)
App (goals) 73 (1)Reuse content