Since Europe’s top leagues are only a few weeks away from the restart, the football calendar is full of friendly matches before the season.

The main reason for these games, of course, is to prepare players for the upcoming campaign. However, over the years, circumstances have resulted in some very strange contests being put together.

Saul Niguez to Liverpool ADVANCED (The Football Terrace)

Here, at fourfourtwo.com, has a look at some of the strangest friendlies in football history. Needless to say, you won’t see any of these games on the calendar during the regular season!

Plymouth v Real Madrid (2006)

When Fabio Capellos Real Madrid was unable to stay overnight in their dream hotel in Austria on a pre-season tour in 2006 because the then master club Plymouth Argyle was already booked in the complex, it took some negotiations to clarify the situation.

Ultimately, Plymouth agreed to leave the facility so the La Liga giants can proceed as planned. Real was so grateful for their English colleagues’ understanding that they agreed to play a friendly against them at short notice.

Unfortunately, at the last minute, the game’s character resulted in only 200 Argyle fans making it to see the action. The competition, which Real won 1-0 thanks to Julio Baptista, will not be forgotten by Plymouth supporters lucky enough to be part of it.

Bamber Bridge versus Czech Republic (1996)

As it turned out, the Czech Republic did quite well at 96 euros and narrowly missed Germany in the final. Their preparation for the tournament included a curious friendly against Bamber Bridge, a semi-professional team from Lancashire. However, it was a match in which they definitely found their shooting boots.

Former Liverpool duo Patrik Berger and Vladimir Smicer were among the Czechs who won 9-1 that night.

Aylesbury United v England (1988)

The Czech Republic was also not the first team to warm up to a major international tournament with non-league opponents. In the run-up to the European Championship in 1988, Bobby Robsons England competed against the conference team Aylesbury United.

More than 6,000 spectators crowded Buckingham Road in Aylesbury to watch the national team beat their overwhelmed opponents 7-0. The march through did not bring England in the following tournament, however, as they were eliminated in the group stage.

Deportivo La Coruna versus Pontypridd Town (2015)

When Welsh fourth division club Pontypridd took on a Valencia reserve team in 2014, they were jokingly promised a friendly against La Liga opponents if they could keep the score below 10-0.

Valencia B only managed a 3-0 win which meant Pontypridd’s manager Damien Broad was able to negotiate that 2015 game with La Liga’s Deportivo.

The Welsh side did again excellently against their far superior opponents and limited their defeat to just four goals.

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Juventus v Notts County (2011)

Another case of a European powerhouse playing against a team from the lower strata of English football. Juventus invited Notts County to the first game in their new stadium in Turin in 2011 to pay off a debt more than a century old.

The Serie A team is now synonymous with their black and white colors, but it hasn’t always been that way. Juventus switched stripes – which was previously pink – at the suggestion of player (and county fans) John Savage in 1903.

To recognize this contribution to their history, Juventus insisted that Martin Allen’s men come to a friendly. The game itself ended in a 1-1 draw with Lee Hughes to equalize for the Nottingham side.

Histon v Real Sociedad (2013)

The players on Conference North team Histon must have been overjoyed in 2013 when Tottenham’s U21 side finished a friendly to face La Liga side Sociedad in 2013.

However, the non-league career peak did not go down well with Sociedad’s former Arsenal striker Carlos Vela.

After an 8-1 win for the Spaniards, Vela tweeted: “With games like these it is difficult to prepare for an important season,” he complained.

Leeds United v Leeds United (2014)

Former Leeds United owner Massimo Cellino is not fondly remembered for his time on Elland Road. The eccentric Italian businessman made a number of questionable phone calls during his reign – one of the first was to take the then championship squad on a last-minute tour of Italy ahead of pre-season.

To be friendly, the quality of the opponent was not as good during the trip as the 16-0 victory of the Whites over the amateur FC Gherdeina shows. With that, at least Gherdeina appeared!

Later in the tour, Leeds’ planned opponents – Romanian Viitorul Constanta – didn’t show up at all for the game. This led to Cellino demanding that an impromptu match be played between the cadres. Leeds United defeated Leeds United 3-1 in the following game.


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Fluminense U23 versus Exeter City (2014)

Exeter City made its own piece of history in 1914 when they became the first opponents of the Brazilian national team during a tour promoting the sport in the South American country.

A century later, the Devon team were invited to return to Brazil to face the Fluminense U23 team. A goalless draw barely thwarted what was a great occasion for everyone involved with Exeter.

Barcelona versus Brazil (1999)

While Exeter undoubtedly enjoyed their involvement in the aforementioned anniversary celebrations, they weren’t a patch for Barcelona in 1999.

In connection with the preparation for this year’s Copa America, the Brazilian national team visited the Camp Nou for a one-off friendly match, which was to celebrate the 100th birthday of the Blaugrana.

On a star-studded occasion, the Selecao named greats like Roberto Carlos, Rivaldo, Romario and Ronaldo in their lineup. Louis van Gaal’s Barca side weren’t too shabby either, with Luis Figo, Luis Enrique, Pep Guardiola and Patrick Kluivert appearing from the start.

In terms of friendlies, this one was pretty special. Read more about the game that ended in a 2-2 draw here.

The usefulness of many of these games in preparing players for their upcoming competitions is questionable. That being said, unique games like this are part of the pre-season fun.

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