The top 5 Nearly signed
This must rank up there in one of the worst footballing decisions made by a single club. West Ham offered Kenny Dalglish a trial at the club in 1967. Aged just 16yrs old Dalglish had already been released by Liverpool having played one reserve match for Bill Shankly’s side. West Ham manager Ron Greenwood decided not to sign the young Scot as he was too ‘lightweight.’ The loss for West Ham was Celtic’s gain as they signed Dalglish. He went on to have an illustrious career at both Celtic and Liverpool where he is regarded as their greatest ever player. West Ham on the other hand struggled in mid-table as Dalglish went around hoarding trophies.
Long before Wayne Rooney was the prodigal son of English football, there was another. The former magician that was Paul Gascoigne. In 1988 having just been crowned Young Player of the Year Gazza was being chased by Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United for his signature from home town club Newcastle United. Sir Alex Ferguson after long negotiations with the player was about to embark on his family holiday but want an assurance from Gazza that he would sign for Manchester United before he left. Ferguson claims Gascoigne said ‘Go and enjoy yourself Mr. Ferguson, I’ll be signing for Manchester United’. Alas this never happened. Whilst Sir Alex was sunning himself Gazza joined Tottenham Hotspur after they placed a house for his parents as a sweetener in the deal. We all know what Manchester United’s trophy cabinet looks like compared to Paul Gascoigne’s.
Could there have been a bigger single mistake in football for these two clubs? Zidane was believed to have been offered to Blackburn Rovers in 1995 after assistant manager Ray Harford took a shine to the Frenchman. The infamous words by then owner Jack Walker ‘Why do you want to sign Zidane when we have Tim Sherwood?’ must send shudders down the spine of every Blackburn fan. Furthermore recently revelations have revealed Newcastle United turned down Zidane. Football agent Barry Silkman told Sport.co.uk ‘I offered him to Newcastle at the beginning of the 1996 season for £1.2million. They watched him and said that he wasn’t good enough to play in the First Division which is the Championship now. Three months later he went to Juventus for £1.2million and two years later he went for £48million. So I think the people at Newcastle got it slightly wrong.’ You can say that again Barry.
Yes this is not an old wives tale. Diego Maradona nearly joined Sheffield United. Back in 1978 before Maradona was humbling all those around him, he played for Argentinos Juniors and was highly coveted back in Argentina. The then United manager Harry Haslam agreed a deal in principle with Maradona and his club for £200,000. When it actually came to paying it, the club could not stump up the cash and instead made a move for River Plate’s Alex Sabella. Most upsetting for Blade’s fans is that Sabella himself cost £160,000. If only they had found the other £40,000 they could have had Maradona strutting his stuff at Bramall Lane. Sheffield United was relegated the following season whilst the diminutive Argentine was fast becoming the world’s best player.
When Manchester United signed Portuguese wonder kid Cristiano Ronaldo back in 2003, it was not as straight forward as some may seem. Arsenal actually nearly stole him underneath Sir Alex Ferguson’s nose. Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has said ‘I had Ronaldo at the training ground. I showed him around and I gave him a shirt. It had his name on the back. I wanted him to be here.’ Whilst Cristiano Ronaldo chose to joined United instead of Arsenal, the Gunners did enjoy the ‘invincibles’ season not losing one Premier League match that very year. Yet Ronaldo’s subsequent performances for Manchester United could have added much more silverware for the North London club.