Lionel Messi to Paris Saint-Germain, Romelu Lukaku to Chelsea and Jack Grealish to Manchester City. This transfer window has already seen some of the biggest moves in football history take place but with every success there is a failure. We are now unlikely to ever see Messi play in the Premier League, Cristiano Ronaldo is never returning to Manchester United and as it turns out, history is littered with near misses when it comes to football transfers. Here are some of our favourites.
Robert Lewandowski to Blackburn Rovers - 2010
In 2010, with European clubs sniffing around Lech Poznan striker Robert Lewandowski, Sam Allardyce’s Blackburn made their move. Although there were many clubs interested, Lewandowski had booked his flight to visit Blackburn, see the training ground and meet the manager.
With his flight booked and time against him, only Mother Nature could stop Blackburn getting one of the best young strikers in Europe. Then an Icelandic volcano, Eyjafjallajökull, erupted and sent an ash cloud across Europe, halting all flights for a week.
"I think it would have been fine if I had gone to Blackburn, but I would have liked to go and see the training centre, the stadium. I couldn't go because of the cloud,” Lewandowski said.
“It was the volcano. The volcano with the ash cloud. It was one week and nobody could fly in Europe. The flight was booked, but we couldn't leave. It changed my life. If I had gone to Blackburn maybe I would have stayed there."
The Pole instead signed for Borussia Dortmund and as they say, the rest is history.
Diego Maradona to Sheffield United - 1978
Harry Haslam, then Sheffield United manager went on a scouting trip to Argentina and to his shock, saw a 17-year-old Diego Maradona playing in his homeland. Obviously impressed by his outrageous skill, Haslam thrashed out a deal worth £200,000 - which was a lot of money back in the day.
Unfortunately, we never got to see Maradona at Bramall Lane as the Second Division club would not pay the extra cash needed on top of the base fee, and instead they signed River Plate midfielder Alex Sabella for £160,000. The Blades were relegated to the third tier that season.
Gabriel Batistuta to Ipswich Town - 1994
One of the finest strikers to ever grace Serie A nearly played for Ipswich? Apparently. The Independent’s Trevor Haylett reported in the mid-90s that even though Argentina’s superstar Batistuta was beginning to tear things up in Italy with Fiorentina, Ipswich were in pole position to sign him.
Batistuta is thought to be unhappy at Fiorentina,” Haylett’s report read.
“A pre-contract agreement is said to exist between the Italians and Ipswich in advance of a £2.9million transfer, which would be a record for the Suffolk club.”
There is some discussion as to how real this story was, given Haylett was a Norwich fan and Batistuta had scored four at the 1994 World Cup, but perhaps he could have been tempted by the finances of the Premier League. Instead, the Tractor Boys signed Adrian Paz and were quickly relegated. Sigh.
Ronaldinho to Blackburn - 2011
Blackburn again?! In January 2011, the Venkys were looking to enamoure more themselves to the British public by bringing in one of the biggest superstars in world football, even if he was past his peak. Ronaldinho’s brother and agent, Roberto de Assis, even revealed that Blackburn and another unnamed Premier League club had been in contact with him about signing the Brazilian World Cup winner.
"Blackburn have contacted us. There is also other interest in England but this is confidential," said De Assis.
Although he was offered £130,000 by Rovers and he would leave Milan that summer, the 2005 Ballon d’Or winner instead chose to return to Flamengo in his homeland. He would never play again in Europe.
Denilson to Bolton Wanderers - 2009
In 1998, Real Betis signed 20-year-old Denilson for £21.5million in 1998 and made him the most expensive player in the world, tying him down to a ten-year contract. By 2009, his career was all but over.
Failed spells all over the world led him to a trial with Bolton Wanderers, then 30 years old, but unlike the others on this list, it was the club that turned down the chance to sign him permanently. Bolton manager Gary Megson said: “He is a fantastic person and didn’t come here as a big-time Charlie. He mixed in with everyone else, and if anyone rang me up about giving him a reference he’d get nothing but positives.”
Damningly, Bolton didn’t sign him for footballing reasons, questioning his ability in comparison to Matty Taylor and Ricardo Gardner. What a world.