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3 Surprising Football Transfers that very nearly happened

September 08, 2015

- Grant Whittington

When Leeds United phoned Manchester United chairman to enquire about the availability of full-back Denis Irwin in 1992, a series of events were triggered that led to one of the most surprising and successful transfer deals of all time.

When Leeds United phoned Manchester United chairman to enquire about the availability of full-back Denis Irwin in 1992, a series of events were triggered that led to one of the most surprising and successful transfer deals of all time. The eventual move saw controversial French forward Eric Cantona join Manchester United from Leeds for just £1.2 million, with the Red’s subsequently going on to win four titles in five years and two League and Cup doubles.

For every deal of this type, however, there are hundreds that never quite manage to reach completion. It is interesting to think how the football landscape may have changed if they had done so, however, so here are three of the most fascinating deals that nearly made it!

Thee ‘And O’ T’ God: Maradona Yorkshire Bound?

How would you feel if Sheffield United signed Lionel Messi today? This would arguably have been the equivalent in 1978, and it was a transfer deal that came incredibly close to fruition. United boss Harry Haslam had spotted the then 17 year old Maradona during a scouting trip to South America, and was quick to agree a £200,000 deal with his club. The deal broke down when the club demanded more money, however, and United opted to sign Alejandro Sabella instead. Given that Maradona went on to play for Barcelona, win two World Cups and achieve acclamation as the world’s greatest player, one can only imagine what he would have achieved at Bramall Lane!

Shev Forever Blowing Bubbles: From Kyiv to the East End

Harry Redknapp is renowned for his skill in the transfer market, although he has enjoyed mixed fortunes when signing international players (Marco Boogers, anyone?). He incredibly passed up the chance to sign the exciting Kiev forward Andriy Shevchenko in 1995, after being approached by two Ukrainian businessmen and asked to watch two young players. It was the asking price of £1 million that caused any potential deal to break down, however, allowing Shevchenko to star in the Champions League for Kiev before moving to Milan and becoming one of Europe’s most feared strikers.

Ewood Have Moved If It Wasn’t For Sherwood: Zizou in Lancashire

Honestly, this is not a joke. Back in 1996, French club Bordeaux were keen to cash in on their talented midfielder Zinedine Zidane, who had reported been offered previously to Tottenham and Newcastle United. It was then that Blackburn Rovers, fresh from winning the Premier League title in 1995, were strongly encouraged to make a move for the star and embellish their successful squad. Chairman Jack Walker apparently declined, uttering the now immortal line ‘why would we want Zinedine Zidane when we have Tim Sherwood?’, and the Frenchman instead secured a move to Juventus. The rest is history, although it is tempting to believe that Zidane may have served as a catalyst for Rovers in the same way that Eric Cantona did for Manchester United.

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