As this January transfer window comes to a close tonight, I thought it would be fun to look at some superb deals that very nearly happened!
I say nearly, how close I don’t actually know but they have now gone down in footballing folklore.
RONALDO TO RANGERS 1997
In 1997 Ronaldo was football’s hottest property and had just had a wonderful season with Barcelona.
At that time Rangers were actually a big financial force not just in Scotland but also in Europe. Winning the Champions League had became their owner’s main burning ambition.
Then we had the ‘Golden Fax!’ story.
It goes something like this…
Barca were looking to cash in on their star player and teams in Italy were the main suitors. But then Rangers supposedly faxed in an offer, which was reported at the time as being £35m for the player. His agent would later say that the fee involved was £20m, but still a record for the time.
The contract offer on the table stated that Ronaldo could pick and choose his games as long as he played in all the European encounters. It was also noted at the time that he could miss the whole of January to return to Brazil for the Rio carnival.
His agent would state:
“The offer from Glasgow Rangers was incredible. They told us he didn’t have to play on a Saturday in the Scottish League.”
“They were desperate to win the Champions League and were going to allow him to play in the European matches only.”
Many speculated that Nike, who were Rangers kit suppliers at the time, were willing to help pay his wage should he have joined the Glasgow side.
In the end Ronaldo decided to give Scotland a miss and sign for Inter Milan instead. He’d go on an become a World Cup winner and record goalscorer (until Klose beat his tally) and win more medals at Real Madrid.
If it wasn’t gauling enough to miss out on the signing, Gers fans heard from the man a year later who suggested he may have joined had Dick Advocaat been in charge of Rangers (Advocaat joined a year later):
“Yes, I almost joined Rangers last summer but decided on Inter Milan and the Serie A.”
“However, if Dick Advocaat had been in charge at that time it would have greatly increased my chances of signing for Rangers.”
ZINEDINE ZIDANE TO BLACKBURN ROVERS 1995
The French maestro was already a French internationalist by 1995 and a star performer for Bordeaux.
The story goes…
Blackburn boss Kenny Dalglish had been approached regarding not just Zidane but Christophe Dugarry. The Scotsman liked the look of the pair and wanted to bring them to Ewood Park to bolster his side for their first tilt at the Champions League.
But veteran Rovers owner Jack Warner, who had just bankrolled his side to the Premier League title, didn’t see much point in the deals and vetoed the moves.
Supposedly Mr Warner would ask Kenny:
“Why do you want to sign Zidane when we have Tim Sherwood?“
Well history clearly shows that Blackburn would have signed a genius and their decline might have been halted. Instead Zidane joined Juventus a year later for £3m and would win league titles in Italy and Spain. Plus he’d score a brace in the 1998 World Cup final as France won their home World Cup (With Dugarry).
ZLATAN IBRAHIMOVIC TO ARSENAL 2000
To be fair it has happened a few times at Arsenal. They decided against signing the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Yaya Toure whilst Arsene Wenger has been in charge. Instead they’ve snapped up players like Francis Jeffers and Denilson.
Now for the story…
So Zlatan was an exciting teenage prospect who was doing well in his homeland with Malmo. His performances had seen scouts all over Europe flocking to Sweden to take a look at him.
The young Ibrahimovic travelled to London and expected to receive an offer to join the Gunners. He had thought that Wenger would sit him down and explained to him what was going to happened and how he’s going to become a star for Arsenal.
It started well as Zlatan was handed an Arsenal jersey with his name and the number nine emblazoned on it.
But then it all went wrong when Arsene asked the striker to go out and train with the first team, so the manager could have a look at the prospect.
According to the now legendary Swede he told Wenger:
‘No way, Zlatan doesn’t do auditions.’
So Zlatan Ibrahimovic would then go on and join Ajax. He would win league titles in Holland, Italy, Spain and Italy. This season saw the thirty-five year old join Manchester United, to finally have a crack at the Premier League.
RONALDINHO TO ST MIRREN 2001
St Mirren have also got a wee bit of history when it comes to nearly signing gifted talent. Leicester City’s player of the year Riyad Mahrez once disappeared from training with the Buddies because it was too cold and physical.
Brazilian World Cup winner Bebeto was also linked with a move to Love Street.
But with Ronaldinho the story goes…
In the winter of 2001, the Brazilian boy wonder had just agreed to join PSG from Gremio and that deal would go through in the summer transfer window.
It’s thought that either Ronaldinho’s advisors or PSG felt it would be smart for the youngster to join another European side on loan for the rest of the 2000-01 season.
He had already won the Copa America by this time, so you would have thought that the list of clubs interested would’ve been endless. But it appeared that struggling SPL side St Mirren were front runners for his signature. Maybe people in Brazil confused St Mirren with Saint-Etienne.
According to then St Mirren boss Tom Hendrie his club were just waiting for the paperwork to go through to rubber stamp the deal but then the Brazilian FA stalled and the window shut:
“We spoke about Ronaldinho but there was a legal problem at the club he was at,”
“Because of the problem, the Brazilian FA would not release the player’s international clearance in time for us to register him ahead of the deadline.”
The skilful Brazilian never mentioned St Mirren but he did admit that various teams wanted him during that period:
“It was a long time ago and I can’t exactly remember what was happening then but there were a lot of clubs interested in taking me on loan.”
Instead of getting Ronaldinho, St Mirren had to make do with signing Stephen McPhee on loan from Coventry City. The Paisley club would suffer relegation that season.
Ronaldinho would go on to become one of the best players of his generation and this week he returned to PSG to watch the side train.
ALFREDO DI STEFANO TO BARCELONA 1953
It’s hard to think of legendary forward Di Stefano playing for Barcelona instead of Real Madrid but it so nearly happened.
The story goes like this…
So Alfredo was always a goalscoring machine and banged them in, originally for Argentine giants River Plate. There was then a players strike in Argentina and he’d end up at Colombian side Millionarios.
After playing a friendly in Spain with Millionarios, Di Stefano was wanted by both Barcelona and Real Madrid. The transfer was full of complications, mainly the fact that no-one knew who actually owned the player as both River Plate and Millionarios claimed to have his registration papers.
Barca initially tried to do a deal with both clubs and thought negotiations were going well. But then things started to turn sour with the Colombian side. Barca’s chief negotiators decided that River Plate lay true claim to Di Stefano’s registration and so struck a deal with the Argentine side.
Things progressed so much that Alfredo arrived in Catalunya in the summer of 1953. He had a preseason with the Catalan giants and even played at least one friendly fixture.
Then Real Madrid made their claim for the player, as they had just concluded a deal with Millionarios. FIFA were called in to mediate, along with the Spanish FA and came up with the decision that the player should play an alternate season with each club for the next four years. Then surprisingly Barca’s president resigned because of the issue and their board then inexplicably ripped up their contract with the player, allowing him to sign for rivals Real.
Many conspiracy theories still surround the transfer including that General Franco got involved and made sure Real would be the forward’s next destination.
The facts that we know are that Di Stefano became a legend at the Bernabeu winning five European Cups, eight La Liga titles and scoring over three hundred goals for the Blancos.
DIMITAR BERBATOV TO MANCHESTER CITY 2008
Man United’s neighbours started making a big noise in the summer of 2008.
The story goes a little something like this..
So it’s transfer deadline day on the first of September 2008. In the morning Sky Sports News had a new headline, Manchester City have been bought over with the Abu Dhabi United Group the club’s new owners.
Suddenly the blue side of Manchester were being linked with every star in the footballing world. They suddenly had unimaginable cash, that hadn’t been since since Roman Abramovich’s arrival at Chelsea in 2003.
Then it became clear that their main target was Spurs striker Dimitar Berbatov, who had been linked with a move to Man United all summer. Sir Alex Ferguson and his United board had been arguing with Tottenham’s Daniel Levy over the fee. Man City then stepped in and made a £34m bid, which was accepted!
Bulgarian superstar Berbatov then travelled up to Manchester. Now City probably believed that he was going to leave the airport and head to their training ground or their stadium.
But Sir Alex had other ideas and he drove to the airport himself to pick up Dimitar, without Tottenham’s permission. Shadowy footage then appeared on Sky Sports News of the striker walking down the Old Trafford hallways.
Berbatov obviously appreciated the lengths the Man Utd boss went to:
‘I am flattered that he (Sir Alex) gave me so much of his time. He personally came to pick me up at the airport. It was a shock to me, but it was a pleasure to get to know him.’
Initially Levy was fuming and was ready to report Fergie and United to the Premier League but then decided to cash in and agree a £30.75m deal. Manchester City would end the day buy splashing out £32.5m for Robinho.
It was this deal that really made transfer deadline day the spectacle that Sky crow on about to this day.
EDINSON CAVANI TO WEST HAM UTD 2010
West Ham United have a history of signing and missing out on top strikers. On this occasion it was all a case of what could have been for the Hammers.
Let me tell you the story…
Avram Grant arrived at the Boleyn Ground in the summer of 2010 and wanted a hitman to partner Carlton Cole up-front.
They were alerted to Uruguayan attacker Edinson Cavani, who had just enjoyed a few decent seasons with Palermo in Serie A. It seemed the player wanted to try his luck in the English Premier League and the international’s agent issued a ‘come and get me plea’.
It’s said that Palermo owner Maurizio Zamparini wanted around £14m but West Ham’s owners baulked at that price and offered a bit less.
According to the notorious Palermo owner, his manager was happy to sell to the Hammers. He told Football Italia:
“When Cavani was here, I had coaches who were knuckleheads!,”
“Colantuono, for example, wanted me to send him to West Ham. I told him, ‘you can go to West Ham’.”
The coach in question, Stefano Colantuono, has since came out and said that Cavani had requested a move to London.
Instead of London, Cavani would leave for Naples and sign for Napoli on a €20m deal. He’d score bags of goals for them before a big move to PSG, where he leads the Ligue 1 scoring charts this season.
That year West Ham would finish bottom of the Premier League and suffer relegation after new striking signings Freddie Piquionne and Victor Obinna failed to find the net regularly enough!
STEVEN GERRARD TO CHELSEA 2005
Steven Gerrard always seemed to be the main man at Liverpool. So was he really interested in leaving Anfield for Chelsea?
Well here’s the story…
After captaining Liverpool to their fifth Champions League/European Cup in Istanbul Gerrard stated:
“How can I leave after a night like this?”
But then contract talks between the two parties stalled and Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea entered the fray with a £32m bid. Liverpool rejected the offer but the press speculated that Gerrard was interested in speaking to Chelsea as he wanted to challenge for the Premier League title and work under Jose.
The Reds then offered Steven a whopping £100k a week to stay but the midfielder rejected the offer and instead he handed in a transfer request. Half of Merseyside went into meltdown at the thought of losing their main hero, a player that they identified with on the pitch.
Liverpool released a statement and it seemed just a matter of time before the England star would be wearing a Chelsea jersey:
“Steven has told us he will not accept our offer of an improved and extended contract because he wants to leave.”
But just as Chelsea’s moneymen were readying an improved offer for Steven Gerrard it was announced by Liverpool that their captain was staying after all.
Within a week Gerrarrd signed the contract offer that he initially rejected and would stay on for another ten years before ending his playing career in America with LA Galaxy. Earlier this month Stevie returned to Anfield, taking a coaching job at their academy.
WILLIAN TO TOTTENHAM 2013
Brazilian Willian had long been linked with a move to the Premier League and it seemed that White Hart Lane was going to be his destination.
But the story changed…
Due to Russian side Anzhi Makhachkala’s decision to restructure the club’s business model, they decided to place every player in their squad on the transfer list.
Willian was certainly one of the main attractions.
Liverpool wanted to bring him to Merseyside but it seemed that the forward was attracted by the bright lights of London. Tottenham then moved quickly with Andre Villas-Boas (the then Spurs boss) a big admirer, he had even tried to bring in the Brazilian when he managing at Chelsea.
Spurs thought they had done the deal with a £30m fee agreed and Willian arrived in the English capital to undergo his medical. It seemed a move was imminent and he’d replace Gareth Bale in the Spurs side.
Unfortunately for Tottenham, they didn’t keep their intentions out of the press and Willian was photographed in London on the day of his medical. Terms between the player and the club hadn’t been ironed out by this time and Chelsea decided to swoop for the attacker.
Owner Roman Abramovich picked up the phone and called fellow Russian Oligarch Suleyman Kerimov and agreed to do a £32m deal. Willian then flew back into London but this time completed a move to Chelsea and not Spurs.
Always one to have a pop, Jose Mourinho blamed Tottenham for their own failure by saying:
“the best thing to do is have the medical in secret”
Willian has recently spoken about the saga:
“Yes, it was difficult. But I didn’t sign. When at the last moment Chelsea call me I say I’m sorry but I go to Chelsea, that’s my dream.”
The Brazilian has since became an integral part of the Chelsea team and helped them to the Premier League title in 2015.
JOHAN CRUYFF TO DUMBARTON 1980
So this one wasn’t as close to being over the line but I like this story because I was told about it from the manager who tried to do the deal.
This is how the story ends…
Sean Fallon was a Celtic legend and he was also Jock Stein’s assistant manager during the Lisbon Lions era. He was the man that convinced Kenny Dalglish (and many others) to sign for the Hoops.
Well in 1980, Fallon was announced as lowly Dumbarton’s new manager. Fallon knew that he had to make people sit up and take notice of ‘The Sons’.
So Fallon decided to fly out to the Netherlands and approach legendary forward Johan Cruyff about joining Dumbarton. Fallon was hoping that he could convince a hard-up ageing Cruyff to sign a lucrative deal to star at Boghead.
Sean and ‘The Sons’ chairman did manage to meet the great number fourteen but it was one player who Fallon couldn’t convince to join him. But at least Johan was nice enough to hear them out.
You can view my interview with Sean Fallon HERE and see him discuss his time at Celtic and that Cruyff deal.
Posted on January 31st, 2017 by scott
Filed under: Article