The Top 5 transfers that nearly happened

The Top 5 transfers that nearly happened

22/05/24 07:10

It’s dizzying sometimes to look back at transfers which nearly happened, and imagine how different the footballing world could be if they materialised. From agent troubles, failed medicals, tight chairpeople, and even natural disasters, there are a whole host of reasons why a transfer can fall through.

As we look ahead to the summer transfer window and rumours start to swirl, I think it's about time to look at some of the craziest transfer moves that fell through at the last minute. Without further ado, here are my top five transfers that nearly happened.

Robert Lewandowski to Blackburn Rovers

As far as extenuating circumstances go for a transfer falling through, I’d say a volcanic eruption is definitely up there for me.

Robert Lewandowski was 22 years old, playing his football for Polish side Lech Poznan, when Sam Allardyce came to watch him. Blackburn sat mid-table without many goals in their side, but after seeing Lewandowski play Rovers knew they were dealing with a gem.

As the Pole prepared himself for a trip to Lancashire, to meet with Big Sam and visit the club, an ash cloud that came from the eruption of Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland called off the majority of flights around northern Europe.

All of a sudden, Borussia Dortmund came in for the striker and Rovers missed out. Lewandowski thrived in the Bundesliga and earned a move to Bayern Munich. The Polish international has won, pretty much, everything he could’ve won at club level.

But it could’ve been so different, Lewandowski has admitted himself that Ewood Park may have been his first choice if he’d seen it. It’s crazy to think that the club that helped Alan Shearer’s career flourish, could’ve been involved in the development of yet another elite striker in England’s top flight.

If not for a natural disaster, would Blackburn Rovers still be in the Premier League today?

Antonee Robinson to AC Milan

This doesn’t sound like an unbelievable story now, given that Robinson was one of the best performing left-backs in the Premier League this season. However, this happened in January of 2020, six months after he signed for Wigan Athletic.

Antonee Robinson, or “Jedi”, spent the 2019/20 season in the Championship with Wigan. It was his second season at the club, following a loan spell made permanent. It shocked fans of the second tier to learn that AC Milan, with personal involvement from Maldini, had made a move for Jedi.

However, at his deadline day medical, Robinson’s heart showed an irregularity. Milan didn’t have time to run further testing, and Jedi’s dream move to Italy collapsed in front of him.

He sat in a room with Paulo Maldini, thinking he’d secured a move to a European powerhouse. Instead, due to a heart issue he wasn’t even aware of, he headed back to Lancashire to play with Chey Dunkley. Robinson was scheduled for surgery to fix the issue with his heart, but after deciding to stop drinking coffee, the issue ended up fixing itself.

So Robinson’s dream move from a Championship side destined for relegation, to one of Europe’s most successful teams, fell through thanks to a couple of cappuccinos.

In all fairness to Robinson, he’s now garnering the interest of Manchester City and Liverpool, so it may work out for him in the end.

David De Gea to Real Madrid

There was a period where David De Gea was one of the best goalkeepers on the planet.

Now without a club, De Gea once thrived at Manchester United. In 2015 was named their player of the year, and appeared in the Premier League team of the year for a second year running.

In this rich vein of form, De Gea attracted the interest of Spanish giants Real Madrid. Madrid had just sold an ageing Iker Casillas to Porto, and were looking for a long term replacement. The 24 year-old wanted the move to Spain, and the clubs agreed a deal to allow the move to take place.

The transfer would have seen Keylor Navas head to Old Trafford as part of the deal, as well as a cash sum. However, as the spanish window slammed shut, a paperwork discrepancy appeared, and the move couldn’t be completed. United claimed they had faxed all the correct paperwork in time, and Madrid said the opposite.

Either way, the deal never materialised in time, and De Gea remained at Old Trafford. As the Red Devils declined, Real Madrid only grew stronger. As a result of a dodgy fax machine, Keylor Navas won three successive Champions Leagues and established himself as one of the best ‘keepers in the world.

De Gea must feel his career would’ve turned out differently if this move had happened. Still only 33, De Gea’s form declined, and he left Old Trafford when his contract expired. The Spaniard received a fair amount of criticism from fans and pundits alike towards the end of his tenure, and to this day remains a free agent.

Nabil Fekir to Liverpool

For me, this is one of the most memorable transfer sagas of recent times.

Following a remarkable 2017/18 season for Lyon, where he netted 18 goals in 30 appearances, the Frenchman was a key target for Jurgen Klopp as he rebuilt his Liverpool side.

Fekir also won the 2018 World Cup in Russia with France, only increasing his value over the summer. Still, Liverpool were willing to part with the rumoured £53 million to bring Fekir to Anfield.

Roberto Firmino, Mohammed Salah and Sadio Mane were the attacking talents boasted by Liverpool at the time, and slotting Nabil Fekir in behind them would’ve made them even more deadly. However, despite leaked images of Fekir in a Liverpool shirt, the transfer fell through at the final moments.

There is plenty of speculation as to why the lucrative deal collapsed, including rumours of a failed medical, but Fekir has dismissed these claims. What we do know is that the attacking midfielder terminated his contract with his at-the-time agent, swiftly after the failed move to Merseyside.

Liverpool won the Champions League that season, and the Premier League the next. Fekir however, moved to Real Betis for a relatively small fee just a year later. He still plays at the Seville club, and his form has never really been the same.

Zinedine Zidane to Blackburn Rovers

Blackburn Rovers must be kicking themselves.

They’ve already appeared on this list, but this time they can’t blame a volcanic eruption. Back in 1995, when Rovers were one of the biggest teams in the country, they had the opportunity to sign Zinedine Zidane. Yes, it's that Zinedine Zidane.

Blackburn had just won the Premier League title, and had spent big in the summer as they looked to defend it. One player they targeted was Zidane, a 23 year-old Frenchman who played for Bordeaux. Knowing what Zidane went on to achieve, you would think anyone would jump at this opportunity to sign a player who was clearly destined for huge things.

However, after Zidane flew to Lancashire for a tour of Rovers’ facilities, Blackburn’s owner cancelled the move. What a mistake that proved to be.

It’s since been reported that the reason behind this was that he felt Tim Sherwood was better. Sherwood had captained the Rovers side that won the league in the last campaign, but that is a ridiculous reason not to pick up the rising star. Imagine if Zidane was creating chances for Alan Shearer, I don’t think Blackburn would’ve ever lost a game.

Tim Sherwood left Ewood park four years later, and earned three England caps across his career.

Zidane went on to join Juventus and then Real Madrid, he picked up a Ballon d’Or, won the Champions League (and scored one of the competitions most iconic goals) and the World Cup. He is widely regarded as one of the best players ever.

It’s not even fathomable the impact this transfer would’ve had on football, would Blackburn go on and dominate England and Europe for years? I cannot believe this move nearly happened, and I cannot believe Blackburn Rovers are the ones that said no.


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