The top 10 transfers that never happened
Harry Howes | 8 April 2020
How different would football have been if these had gone through?
We all dream of going back in time to change things in football.
Whether it’s to see how things would have turned out if a certain manager had been sacked earlier or later.
Or how a season could have turned out differently if a player hadn’t picked up an injury.
Or even how different football would look if VAR had been introduced earlier or had never been invented at all.
And transfers are no different. Transfer deadline day is one of the most exciting, busiest days in the footballing calendar, with players travelling all over Europe to undergo medicals, sign contracts and finalise multi-million pound deals.
Some transfers turn out to be masterstrokes. Some turn out to be disasters. But what about the big transfers that could have happened but didn’t end up materialising?
We’ve taken a look at 10 deals that could have completely changed football as we know it.
Liverpool to Chelsea
It seems ridiculous even suggesting it now, doesn’t it? Steven Gerrard. Mr Liverpool. The boyhood fan who spent his entire English career at Anfield, captaining them to arguably the most historic Champions League win in history.
But when Roman Abramovich and Jose Mourinho teamed up and looked to build a title-winning squad at Chelsea, Gerrard was top of their list. A £20 million bid was submitted and Gerrard has since admitted he wasn’t happy with Liverpool’s progress and genuinely considered a move to west London.
Yet the move ultimately didn’t happen and the rest is history. Who knows, perhaps Mourinho could have been the man to find a way of pairing Gerrard with Frank Lampard, solving all of England’s problems.
Blackburn Rovers to Manchester United
The Premier League’s all-time leading goalscorer. A title winner with Blackburn. And the only player Sir Alex Ferguson has admitted to trying to sign twice.
Shearer is best known for his stints at Blackburn and Newcastle, but he started his career at Southampton, where he was linked with a switch to Old Trafford. However, he chose instead to join Kenny Dalglish at Blackburn where he helped them to the Premier League title.
In 1996, Shearer was again linked with United but ended up joining boyhood club Newcastle, where he stayed for 10 seasons. With a strikeforce of Andy Cole, Dwight Yorke, Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in the late ‘90s, it’s probably best for the rest of English football that United didn’t add Shearer to their ranks.
Bordeaux to Blackburn Rovers
After securing the title, Dalglish wanted to bolster his squad and establish his side among the Premier League elite. Zidane is regarded as one of the most talented midfielders of all time and he boasts a medal haul most players can only dream of.
Yet in 1995 he was an unknown quantity at Bordeaux, looking for a big move in order to make his way in the game. Rumour has it that Blackburn owner Jack Walker rebuffed the idea of signing Zidane, claiming they already had a better player in Tim Sherwood. Zidane ended up playing for Juventus and Real Madrid and winning the World Cup with France. Oh, what could have been.
LIONEL MESSI AND ANDRES INIESTA
Barcelona to Rangers
Yes, you did just read that right. In a parallel universe, arguably the greatest player of all time ditched Barcelona for Rangers.
In 2002, Alex McLeish was desperate to upgrade his squad and enquired about a 15-year-old Messi, based on his son’s recommendation from Championship Manager. McLeish claims he was knocked back immediately, but was offered Iniesta instead.
Rangers were keen but a matter of days later the Spaniard was brought into the Barca first team, played a blinder and never looked back.
Manchester United to Manchester City
Gerrard to Chelsea would have been weird. Rooney to Man City would have been ridiculous.
United dominated Manchester for years but an influx of money has seen City surpass them and in 2010 they were linked with a shocking swoop for Rooney. The England international reportedly fell out with Ferguson and was keen to follow former team-mate Carlos Tevez, likely tempted by the extortionate wages they were now able to afford.
But United convinced Rooney to sign a new deal and he went on to surpass Sir Bobby Charlton as the club’s record goalscorer.
Lech Poznan to Blackburn Rovers
Look away, Blackburn fans. First Zidane, now Lewandowski. Arguably Europe’s deadliest striker in recent years, the Poland international was linked with a switch to Blackburn in 2010.
With Sam Allardyce at the helm, Rovers needed firepower up top and invited Lewandowski to watch their game with Everton. Unfortunately, his flight was cancelled due to the volcanic ash cloud from Iceland.
Lewandowski stayed at Poznan and continued to bang in the goals and was eventually picked up by Borussia Dortmund in the summer.
Sporting Lisbon to Arsenal
We’ve had Messi, now we’ve got his long-term rival. Ronaldo was famously signed up by Sir Alex after impressing against United in a pre-season friendly.
The Portuguese enjoyed an outstanding six years at Old Trafford, winning three Premier League titles and a Champions League to earn a record-breaking move to Real Madrid. But the landscape of English football could have been so different had he joined Arsenal instead of United.
The Juventus star has previously said he was very close to moving to the Gunners and has shown his appreciation to Arsene Wenger. It’s almost beyond comprehension how good Ronaldo would have been alongside the Invincibles.
Argentinos Juniors to Sheffield United
Eight years before dumping England out of the 1986 World Cup, Maradona was plying his trade in his homeland, where Blades manager Harry Haslam was on a scouting trip.
Maradona was so impressive that Haslam immediately agreed a £200,000 deal to bring him to Sheffield. But when Maradona’s club wanted extra cash to seal the move, Haslam pulled the plug and instead snapped up Alex Sabella from River Plate.
Maradona went on to become one of the greatest players of all time and, despite Sabella’s best efforts, Sheffield United were relegated to the third division.
World Cup winner Rivaldo was without a club after leaving AC Milan in 2004 and he could have joined the Allardyce revolution at Bolton.
The Trotters had brought in a wealth of exciting stars, with Jay-Jay Okocha, Youri Djorkaeff and Ivan Campo brought in to add some flair to the side. Ahead of a potential move, Bolton striker Kevin Davies came out and insisted Rivaldo would have to work hard and track back for the team if he joined.
Whether he was scared of Davies’ warning or he simply preferred the idea of enjoying some Greek sun in the twilight of his career, Rivaldo ended up joining Olympiakos and Bolton signed a 37-year-old Les Ferdinand.
Malmo to Arsenal
Ibrahimovic has enjoyed a remarkable career, playing alongside the world’s best and winning 13 league title across Europe.
But would he have had the same success, or even more so, if he’d been lining up alongside Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp at Arsenal?
The Swede met Arsene Wenger in London in 2001, who invited him for a trial session. But Ibrahimovic refused, famously saying: “Zlatan doesn’t do auditions.”
He challenged Wenger to either sign him or leave him. Ibrahimovic ended up joining Ajax and while Arsenal fans may rue the missed opportunity, they won the double that season so perhaps Wenger made the right call.
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