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Sheva at Upton Park? Six of the biggest transfers that never happened

Dave Burin | 30 January 2019

We look back on the deals that almost were

Football history is absolutely teeming with ‘what if?’ moments. Whether it’s avoiding relegation on the final day, or the penalty which denied you a cup final, every club has those moments.

And they’re not just on the pitch. More than a few seismic transfer moves have been lined up, only for the deal to fall through at the 11th hour.

As the January transfer window roars to a climax, we look back at six of the biggest and most surprising moves which almost happened.

Redknapp’s choice is a Hammer blow

Like every great story, this one involves Andriy Shevchenko playing a friendly against Barnet Reserves.

Then a largely unknown 18-year-old bursting onto the scene at boyhood club Dynamo Kiev, the Ukrainian joined West Ham United on trial in late 1994.

Despite scoring a goal in his trial outing against the Bees’ second-string, then-boss Harry Redknapp was supposedly dissuaded from the deal by his assistant Frank Lampard Snr.

‘Arry later recalled: “[Kiev] said they wanted a million quid for him, and Frank said it was too much”. What might have been…

Tino leaves Darlo hanging

Faustino Asprilla made many eyebrow-raising choices during his career, including turning up late for international duty having gone to an equine show instead.

One thing he never did was play in England’s fourth-tier. But it very nearly happened.

In 2002, Darlington’s controversial, ambitious (and later jailed) chairman George Reynolds splashed the cash to agree a contract with the then 32-year-old striker.

With the deal seemingly done, Asprilla was paraded on the pitch ahead of a Division Three (now League Two) game against Carlisle United.

However, a glittering future at the Chairman’s modestly-named Reynolds Arena didn’t follow. Asprilla performed a stunning – but perhaps usurping U-turn – and ended up joining Universidad de Chile shortly after. Ouch.

Kaka Sheikhs off Man City

Since the arrival of Sheikh Mansour in 2008, many of the game’s biggest names have put on the shirt of Manchester City – Yaya Toure, Sergio Aguero, Kevin De Bruyne and, er, Javier Garrido.

However, there have been a few high-profile ones that got away. And perhaps none more notable – or memorable – than Kaka.

In January 2009, the Brazilian wizard seemed to be on the cusp of a world-record move to the Etihad Stadium. However, while his then-club AC Milan seemed happy to sell, the midfielder apparently didn’t want to budge.

He went on to spend another six months at the San Siro before joining Real Madrid.

Man United’s (just about) one-club man

Regarded by many – not least in the red half of Manchester – as the ultimate one-club man, Ryan Giggs racked up a club record 963 appearances for Manchester United and scored 168 times.

But the Stretford End favourite could have left the club more than a decade before he eventually hung up his boots.

Inter Milan chairman Massimo Moratti made a very public bid to snap up the United ace in 2003, declaring his intent in February of that year to shore up a summer move.

However, it was not to be. While United were reportedly open to offers after Giggs’ comparatively poor 2001-02 campaign, the player only had eyes for Old Trafford.

Ash scuppers Allardyce’s plans

The usual reasons behind a transfer falling through are a player changing their mind, a boss (or assistant) balking at the transfer fee or a medical going pear-shaped.

However, Blackburn Rovers boss Sam Allardyce had to deal with a rather more unusual issue in 2010 – namely an ash cloud from Iceland’s catchily-named Eyjafjallajokull volcano.

The player whose flight to Ewood Park was grounded by the issue was a highly-rated Lech Poznan striker by the name of Robert Lewandowski.

While Rovers waited for the issue to sort itself out, the player instead decided to look into interest from another club – Borussia Dortmund. He promptly joined BVB, going on to score 103 goals in 187 games.

Cruyff turns away from Leicester

Already a three-time Ballon d’Or winner with a trio of European Cup medals and a La Liga title under his belt, Johan Cruyff had achieved everything by the age of 33. Except, of course, playing at Filbert Street.

In early 1981, with Leicester City struggling at the wrong end of England’s top-flight, the Foxes’ famously tough boss Jock Wallace felt his young squad needed experience.

So, he launched an ambitious attempt to sign the Netherlands legend, who had spent the previous season in America’s legendary NASL with Washington Diplomats.

For a brief period, the move seemed to be on. But Levante also registered an interest, and with Cruyff having excelled at Barcelona, a return to Spain proved too tempting to refuse.

It wasn’t a decision which worked out for anyone. Cruyff played just 10 games for the club, and Wallace’s Leicester eventually succumbed to relegation.

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