Northern Ireland international Kyle Lafferty has completed the unusual transfer of leaving the Scottish Premier League for FC Sion of Switzerland’s top flight. The move comes following the forward’s belief that he is available for a free transfer due to Rangers’ severe financial woes.
Having joined the Gers from Burnley in 2008, Lafferty achieved a goalscoring rate of almost one goal in every three league games during his 4-year stay at Ibrox. He has also won 31 caps for Northern Ireland, scoring against the likes of Sweden and Poland, and it is clear that Sion are looking to bolster a threadbare forward line which contains just two other strikers over the age of 23.
Ironically, in leaving penniless Rangers, Lafferty is joining a club that has been similarly scandal-ridden in recent years. Convicted of fielding ineligible players on 12 occasions last season, Sion were deducted 36 points – a figure that turned them from Swiss Super League championship contenders to a team desperately battling against relegation.
In the end, the Stade Tourbillon side only escaped the clutches of the Swiss second division thanks to fellow SSL club Neuchatel Xamax being expelled after going bankrupt in January. Sion still had to overcome a relegation play-off with Challenge League runners-up FC Aarau, which was won 3-1, but Lafferty is by no means joining a club free from controversy.
Having declined to stay at Rangers under Charles Green’s newco, Lafferty and Sion considered the Enniskillen-born forward a free man – something the Glasweigan giants unsurprisingly disagree with. However, Sion chairman Christian Constantin has refused to stump up for Lafferty’s services, saying “I am not surprised to hear that Rangers want some money [for Lafferty]. I’m aware of the problems facing them but there are no problems for me with these players – they are free. There is no contract for the players, there will be no problem with FIFA.”
Although Lafferty is currently the only British player on Sion’s books, he could well be joined by Northern Ireland and ex-Rangers team-mate Steven Davis, who has similarly opted to leave Ibrox. Reports suggest a transfer to Sion is on the cards, but with Premier League side Liverpool also thought to be interested in the midfielder, it is far from a done deal: indeed, as Davis himself has said, ““I am 27 and need to be playing at the highest possible level.” That appears to imply a move to Anfield is the more likely scenario, as the Swiss Super League’s decline in recent years means it is ranked thirteenth in Europe by UEFA, below the likes of Ukraine and Denmark’s top flights.
Having spent all of his previous career at British clubs, it will be interesting to see how Lafferty fares for Sion in the 2012-13 Swiss Super League, set to begin next season. Unusual transfers such as this inevitably transpire to be a huge success or a colossal mistake.