While a few summer transfers arguably raised an eyebrow or two, we can’t imagine any club having made a stranger signing than Czech third division side FK Usti nad Labem.
Rather than strengthening their back four or splashing the cash on a new striker, FK Usti instead opted to sign a 22-year-old who has never played football before.
The deal came about when the father of law student Martin Podhajsky paid the club 500,000 Czech koruna (around $22,000, £17,500) to secure his son a place in the senior squad and guarantee him at least 10 minutes of first-team football this season.
“He [Martin] didn’t play football … only FIFA on the computer,” said Usti owner Premysl Kuban, whose company Viagem took over the club in June. “On the other hand, I don’t usually see half a million koruna rolling around on the ground.
“If someone gives it to me, I’ll let anyone join.”
Kuban has made it his business to bring a little razzmatazz to FK Usti since taking charge, tantalising fans with ideas for a new club crest, giving away thousands of free season tickets and producing a glut of entertaining viral videos for social media.
However, in a further twist, it turned out that Podhajsky actually works for Viagem.
“Martin is a law student and an employee of Viagem, who deals with things related to hostesses for the company,” revealed Matej Svojse, commercial director of Viagem. “He said himself that he would like to play, then his dad called and things started to move.”
Of course, a clip teasing the terms of the Podhajsky caper soon appeared on the Usti channels, asking fans what they thought of the “exclusive offer” and to respond using emojis.
Kuban’s latest stunt has captured the attention of media around the globe with the bizarre decision to allow a young and entirely unexperienced rookie to join the Usti squad hitting headlines.
The precise terms of the deal agreed by his father mean the youngster will be allowed to play 10 minutes as a substitute, replacing club captain Jakub Mares during a game — with the 500,000 korunas then being donated to the Usti sponsorship fund.
“We will lead 3-0, we will put him in the attack for 10 minutes, he will replace Mares,” Kuban explained. “If his dad he will give us 500,000 for 10 minutes … sorry, we don’t have any sponsors.”
Podhajsky is now officially registered with the Czech Football Association, according to reports in the Czech media, which allows him to begin training with his new teammates.
“He will go to training sessions, he will prepare,” Svojs said. “It is planned that he will start training in the fall. And in the spring, when we play seven games in a row at home, he will really play.
“We are now finalising the contract with Martin, and the fans will see him already at our first home game, so far only on the substitutes’ bench.”
FK Usti have made a decent start to the 2023-24 Bohemian Football League B campaign, winning three of their opening six fixtures to find themselves in sixth place in the table with 10 points to their credit.
Whether the addition of a plucky, FIFA-playing law student will help boost them toward the promotion places remains to be seen.