The Famous 'What if' Transfers of Years Gone By

Gareth Bale Toni Kroos Real Madrid
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Luis Suarez to Arsenal (2011)

One of the most infamous ‘what could have been’ transfer stories in Premier League history as Arsene Wenger tried to prize Luis Suarez away from Liverpool in 2013.

Suarez had a clause in his contract stating that he must be made aware of any bid made for him over £40m. With this in mind, Arsenal submitted an offer of £40,000,001 for the Uruguayan, and this £1 extra over the transfer clause seemed to anger both club and player.

The bid was rejected, as you could expect, and the striker would swap Anfield for Barcelona a year later anyway for a much more sensible and appropriate £75m.

Wesley Sneijder to Man United (2010)

Off the back of a historic treble-winning campaign with Inter Milan, Wesley Sneijder was seen as one of the finest attacking midfielders in world football and he had a serious argument in testing Xavi and Andres Iniesta as the best man in the world in his position.

Departing Inter boss, Jose Mourinho, described him as the “perfect number 10”, as Sneijder attracted interest from Europe’s elites, but most notably, from Manchester United. Sir Alex Ferguson’s side reportedly bid £30m for the Dutchman, but Inter wouldn’t budge, as they had already lost Mourinho that summer.

United would be linked to Sneijder for every summer for years until he eventually left Italy to join Galatasaray after a slight downfall with Inter after winning the treble.

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Toni Kroos to Man United (2013)

David Moyes’ time in Manchester will not be looked back on fondly by United fans, as the Scot was relieved of his duties before the season had even ended, as they eventually finished seventh in the immediate aftermath of Sir Alex Ferguson's departure.

The biggest missed opportunity of his time at the club will be the failure to bring in the gargantuan names of world football like his predecessor did, with the biggest one arguably being German midfielder Toni Kroos. Moyes has since revealed that he thought Kroos was going to sign for them back in 2013, after reaching a verbal agreement with the then Bayern Munich man, who was still just 23 and had his best years ahead of him.

Kroos would have been a sensational signing for United and no doubt helped steady the post-Fergie ship. To make matters even worse, Moyes would have to settle for Marouane Fellaini instead.

Jadon Sancho to Man United (2020)

It's hard not to stick with United in this type of list, as last year’s dominant transfer saga involved Borussia Dortmund winger Jadon Sancho to the club, as they attempted to bring the wonderkid back to England.

Dortmund were adamant that Sancho would not be sold, unless their £120m valuation was met, despite the fact the winger had agreed personal terms with the Red Devils. In typical Ed Woodward style, United would try and prize him away for less (a reported £90m), and all this would do is turn a once healthy relationship between two clubs into a toxic one.

The England international’s form has, once again, gripped the headlines, as he became the youngest player in Bundesliga history to reach 50 goals. This one might not have completely passed us by, and United are expected to go in for him again this summer.

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Robert Lewandowski to Blackburn (2010)

This transfer is perhaps the most bizarre on this list with hindsight in mind. In 2010, Robert Lewandowski was plying his trade in his native Poland, for Lech Poznan, and rapidly becoming one of the hottest prospects on the continent.

But following an accepted bid in the region of £8m, Sam Allardyce’s Blackburn Rovers were getting ready to welcome the 21-year-old Lewandowski to Lancashire. Unfortunately for them, the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull had erupted, leaving many flights cancelled due to the volcanic ash and to this day, this is looked at as the deciding factor in how now Championship Blackburn didn't sign arguably today's world's best player

A few weeks later, the Polish striker signed for Jurgen Klopp's Borussia Dortmund and as he closes in on Gerd Muller's record of 40 goals in one season this Bundesliga campaign at Bayern, Lewandowski has been perhaps the best player on earth for the past two seasons now.

David De Gea to Real Madrid (2015)

In 2015, David De Gea was widely regarded as one the best goalkeeper in Europe the season following Ferguson's retirement at United, as the focus on attack at the club went downhill, forcing the Spaniard between the sticks into constant action.

That is why Real Madrid tried so hard to bring the De Gea back to his home city in exchange for Keylor Navas and around £30m. It was a saga that lasted an entire year and more, but on transfer deadline day, the deal was finalised, but could not be done in time.

The reason? A broken fax machine at Old Trafford. United claim they did everything in their power to get the move over the line, which the Spanish giants refute in what ended up becoming a very public saga as both clubs released statements on how things went down.

De Gea remains a United player to this day, signing a new contract in 2019.


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Zlatan Ibrahimovic to Arsenal (2001)

“Zlatan doesn’t do auditions” is reportedly the reason a 17-year-old Zlatan Ibrahimovic didn’t sign for Arsenal back in 2001, and despite how great he has become, it took some nerve to say that.

Wenger had offered the young Swede a trial after being impressed by the striker’s time at Malmo. Never one to lack in self-belief, Ibrahimovic told the Arsenal manager that he would not be going on trial and that he could either sign him, or he would join another club.

Ibrahimovic would instead join Ajax for a fee of around £7.5m, but with the likes of Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp already at the club, who knows what Ibrahimovic could have achieved - a Premier League title would have been one of them for sure.

Ibrahimovic joins a list with the likes of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo on transfers Wenger states could have happened. For some reason or another, none of them did, though.

Luka Modric to Chelsea (2011)

As one of Europe’s elite midfielders, Luka Modric has enjoyed a stellar career at Real Madrid since joining in 2012. However, a year prior to this, Tottenham Hotspur rejected multiple bids from their London rivals Chelsea, as they attempted to lure the Croatian to Stamford Bridge. Spurs’ owner Daniel Levy reportedly turned down three bids of up to £40m for Modric, despite the midfielder stating that he wanted to move to west London.

The move never materialised though and Modric moved to Madrid a year later, where he has won four Champions Leagues and a Ballon d’Or after initially being regarded as one of the worst La Liga signings of all-time after a disastrous first season in Spain.

In the short term, things worked out fine for Chelsea, as they won the Champions League and the FA Cup that season. Longer-term, however, they could've done with him.

By Luke Feather

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