While jaw-dropping goals, incredible comeback victories, the tension and the drama of title races often make up a large part of what we love about the beautiful game, the transfer window has become a source of great interest, lately.
Which so much money flowing into football through commercial deals and TV broadcasting rights, every team is within its rights to pull off a coup in terms of transfer dealings, with seemingly big names often on the move. Thus transfers have come to occupy a special part of footballing folklore, with each having an intriguing backstory of its own.
There have been numerous instances where it was reported that a player had definitely made the move to another club, with both sets of fans getting ready to celebrate and burn jerseys respectively, only for the player to take a complete U-turn and staying or signing for a completely different club altogether.
With the winter transfer window looming in little over a month, we thought we would reminisce about some transfers that could have possibly changed the history of football as we know it.
#5 Luis Suarez to Arsenal
After joining Liverpool in a £22.8 million deal from Ajax in January 2011, he won over Reds’ fans while absolutely incensing every rival one. Constantly involved in braindead moments such as racially abusing Patrice Evra or biting Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic, he almost always made up for such mishaps by single-handedly winning numerous games and saving the Reds from sure embarrassment.
During the summer of 2013, after the infamous biting incident which saw him banned for 10 matches by the FA, he tried to engineer a move to Arsenal, citing that he was receiving too much negative media attention at Liverpool. When Arsene Wenger came to know of a £40 million release clause in Suarez’s contract, he made a cheeky bid of £40 million + £1. This obviously irked the Liverpool hierarchy, who doubled down and refused to do any sort of deal with the North London club.
Suarez stayed and went on to have one of the best individual seasons of his career, coming close to dragging Liverpool over the line in the title race. His 31 goals that season was the joint-highest in a 38 game season and saw him take numerous personal accolades home at the end of the season.
His form also saw him earn a £64.98 million move to Barcelona, where he was a key component in their treble wining side in his first ever season.
If he had made his move to Arsenal, he would have probably helped cement their first league title in nearly a decade, probably changing the entire landscape of English football, in the process, denying the Blaugrana the opportunity of signing him in the first place.
#4 Ronaldinho to Manchester United
Ronaldinho was probably one of the most naturally gifted footballer to ever grace the beautiful game.
Though his career teetered off after Barcelona, in his heyday, he was unstoppable. Immaculate balance and astounding trickery saw him flummox every opposition defence he faced, scoring goals at will. He was at his prime during his days with the Blaugrana and one of the hottest properties on the planet.
In 2003, before Barcelona signed him, it was widely reported that the Red Devils were in the hunt too. Despite widely impressing at PSG, the playmaker was available after falling out with pretty much everyone in Paris. Ronaldinho even made his intentions quite clear by claiming, “I’d love to be at a great club like United.” He almost got his wish too, and at one point in time, he was just 48 hours from signing for United.
His friend, however, persuaded him to go to the Camp Nou instead, where his impressive form saw him win a Ballon d’Or.
Alex Ferguson had managed to build one of the most impressive sides on the continent and while a move to Old Trafford may have yielded similar results for his career, he might not have been allowed the same expressiveness and freedom due to the physicality of the Premier League.
#3 Steven Gerrard to Chelsea
Steven Gerrard called quits to a stellar career recently, while he would have loved to probably have done it while he was at Liverpool, one got the sense that he was thoroughly satisfied with a career that spanned nearly 2 decades. He had long since cemented his place as a legend in Liverpool folklore and will go down as one of their greatest ever players.
Back in 2004, Mourinho and Chelsea were hell-bent on establishing a partnership of Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard in midfield and lodged a £20 million offer for the Liverpool captain. Gerrard was apparently keen on the move, texting Mourinho that he was moving to Stamford Bridge. Only an intervention from his dad saw the deal fall through and the Liverpudlian famously went on to win the Champions League that season, at the expense of Chelsea in the semi-finals.
A year later, Chelsea were back with a £32 million bid, Gerrard had agreed terms, only to change his mind at the last moment and sign a new deal at Liverpool. The rest, as they say, is history.
While it is difficult to envisage how a career at Chelsea could have panned out, the England national team has shown that shoehorning both Lampard and Gerrard into midfield may not be the best idea, with both of them being too similar to one another.
He may have been able to claim the elusive Premier League medal he’s always pined for, but Chelsea would probably have never gone on to sign Michael Ballack, who had some success with the Blues.
#2 Diego Maradona to Sheffield United
According to many, the greatest ever footballer to have lived, Diego Maradona, came remarkably close to signing for Sheffield United, who are currently in England’s third divison.
Then manager Harry Haslam spotted a 17-year-old Maradona during a scouting trip to Argentina in 1978. However, he was unable to put together the £200,000 required to sign him to the Blades. Instead, they signed Alejandro Sabella for £160,000 from River Plate. While he wasn’t an underwhelming signing by any standard, he was unable to prevent the Blades from relegation into the third division. Sabella was then sold to Leeds United for £400,000.
Maradona went on to have incredible success with Boca Juniors, Barcelona and Napoli, winning numerous personal accolades and developing into arguably the greatest footballer to have ever lived.
While it is difficult to predict how his career may have panned out if he had ended up signing for Sheffield United, playing in the lower leagues may not have catapulted him to the stardom he managed to achieve with those other clubs.
#1 Zinedine Zidane to Newcastle United
It’s hard to imagine a time when Zidane wasn’t one of the finest and silkiest midfielders around.
But while he was initially making his name in the French league with Bordeaux, he got the chance to move to Tyneside and sign for Newcastle United. The Toons, however, rejected the chance to sign him in 1996 for a measly sum of £1.2 million. Newcastle had apparently scouted him previously and decided he wasn’t good enough for the club.
However, Newcastle weren’t the first English team who had rejected a chance to sign the French maestro. Blackburn owner Jack Walker famously claiming back in 1995, “Why do you want to sign Zidane when we have Tim Sherwood?” Ouch.
Zidane ended up signing for Juventus, where he went on to be a resounding success, winning a FIFA Ballon d’Or in 1998 and also the FIFA World Cup and European Championships with the French national team in 1998 and 2000 respectively.
His performances turned the heads of Real Madrid, who forked a then world record €77.5 million in 2001. His tenure with the Los Blancos was very successful as well, winning numerous trophies including the Champions League.
He then went on to pursue a managerial career within the Real Madrid ranks, starting out with coaching the youth teams before finally taking the reins of the first team in January. He managed to guide them to their 2nd Champions League crown in 2 years and has had an incredible start to his life as a manager.
It’s hard to imagine how different things may have been if he had ended up signing for either of Newcastle or Blackburn.