10 Big Transfers That Could Have Happened but Never Did
In football, like life, the victors write the history. Sometimes, though, there's more to the story.
That's especially true in the world football transfer market, where players and clubs perpetually engage in a never-ending dance of rumors, speculation, innuendo and almost-deals.
Today we're talking big transfers that almost happened but didn't. For one reason or something other, these deals just weren't quite completed.
Here are 10 of the biggest. Have another? Leave it in the comments.
Cristiano Ronaldo to Arsenal
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A pre-superstar Cristiano Ronaldo nearly joined Arsenal as a teenager in 2003. Instead, he joined Manchester United.
According to Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, it came down to money—as in, how much money Arsenal would pay Sporting Lisbon for the as-yet-unproven midfielder.
“I had Ronald at the training ground,” said Wenger. “I showed him around and I gave him a shirt. It had got his name on the back.
“But in the end it was a question of the amount of transfer fee between the two clubs. Of course, he has proved to be a bargain [at £12.25 million]. But the price that we discussed was in fact much lower, it was divided by three.
Of course, the transfer price Manchester United paid was nothing compared to the £80 million that Real Madrid dished out for Ronaldo in 2009.
Alan Shearer to Manchester United
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Before he moved to Blackburn for £3.3 million in 1992 (that was big money then), English forward Alan Shearer flirted with Manchester United.
With Blackburn, Shearer went on to win a Premiership title, but with Manchester United, he almost certainly would have won several.
It wasn't meant to be, though. As Shearer later told FourFourTwo.com, United took too long to sort out their finances.
“There was interest from Manchester United, but I was told I had to wait three or four weeks for them to get the money together. I felt if they really wanted me then they would come and get me immediately,” Shearer said.
"I had already spoken to Blackburn and told Kenny Dalglish, Ray Harford and Jack Walker that I would give them an answer in three of four days—and my answer was yes.”
Steven Gerrard to Chelsea
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Before there was Manchester City, there was Chelsea.
After being bought by Russian oil tycoon Roman Abramovich in 2003, Chelsea transformed themselves with big-money signings from around the world.
One of them could have come from close to home. In 2005, Gerrard was linked heavily to a big-money move from Liverpool to Chelsea. But the deal fell apart at an advanced stage.
According to the Daily Mail, Gerrard and his family reportedly received threats while the saga played out in the papers. But was that the reason he stayed at Liverpool, or was it loyalty?
Sergio Aguero to Chelsea
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Another high-profile Chelsea miss was Argentine forward Sergio Aguero.
Had he gone to Chelsea, the title might have gone to the other side of Manchester in 2012.
Alfredo Di Stefano to Barcelona
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Legendary forward Alfredo Di Stefano joined Real Madrid in 1953, and European football was forever changed.
Real won the first five European Cups and became a true giant of the game, and Di Stefano became a symbol of the club.
Imagine what would have happened if Di Stefano had opted for Barcelona instead.
Diego Maradona to Sheffield United
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Imagine the wild, uncontrollable antics of Diego Maradona in a northern industrial town like Sheffield. It almost happened.
United manager Harry Haslam agreed to sign the young Maradona for £600,000 in 1978, but he eventually signed another player after learning that money was tight (via the Daily Mirror).
The player? Alex Sabella.
Johan Cruyff to Leicester City
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According to ThisisLeicestershire.co.uk, Leicester City manager Jock Wallace reportedly held "secret talks" with Dutch legend Johan Cruyff over a potential move to England in 1981.
Cruyff was 33 then, and Leicester sat in the relegation zone of the old First Division. As the story goes, Leicester offered the then-astronomical sum of £4,000 per game, but the move never happened.
Zinedine Zidane to Blackburn Rovers
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Believe it or not, Blackburn Rovers make this list twice. In the early and mid 1990s, the Lancashire club competed to sign elite players and promising up-and-comers alike.
One of those promising up-and-comers was a French midfielder named Zinedine Zidane. In 1995, the 23-year-old Zidane had not yet become a legend.
Blackburn had a chance to sign Zidane then, but according to the Lancashire Telegraph, club financier Jack Walker said, “Why do you want to sign Zidane when we have Tim Sherwood?”
Matt Le Tissier to Tottenham Hotspur
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English striker Matt Le Tissier played for only one club as a professional. But he almost left Southampton for Tottenham Hotspur in 1990.
Transfer folklore (via The Guardian) says that Le Tissier, a Spurs fan growing up, signed a contract with Tottenham but tore it to pieces with the blessing of Tottenham's chairman.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic to Arsenal
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In 2000, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger nearly signed a teenaged Zlatan Ibrahimovic from Malmo.
The deal fell apart because Ibrahimovic refused to accept a trial run with the North London club, according to the Daily Mail.
Instead, he joined Ajax in 2001 before moving on to Juventus, Inter, Barcelona, AC Milan and most recently PSG.