Zlatan Ibrahimovic to Arsenal
Arsenal had the opportunity to sign the PSG superstar when he arrived at the club’s training ground as a 16-year-old. The only stipulation to the deal was that Ibrahimovic would take part in a training session with the first team before putting pen to paper. The young Swede’s reply to Arsene Wenger’s request? “Zlatan doesn’t do trials.”
Wenger also, reportedly, had Cristiano Ronaldo at the Gunners training facilities when he was a youngster, but was unable to finalise his signature after two months of negotiations.
Ronaldinho to Manchester United
In 2003, Manchester United came very close to landing the two-time FIFA World Player of the Year. Barcelona president Joan Laporta had promised fans he would sign David Beckham, but after his move to rivals Real Madrid, Laporta targeted Ronaldinho. United refused to match PSG’s valuation of the playmaker, and he joined the Catalans for a reported €30 million. In hindsight, missing out on the Brazilian may be seen by many as a blessing in disguise, as United turned their attentions to a certain Portuguese teenager by the name of Cristiano Ronaldo.
Johan Cruyff to Leicester City
In January 1981, Leicester City made an audacious attempt to sign Johan Cruyff. A young and inexperienced Leicester side, then managed by Jock Wallace, were struggling in the English First Division and faced relegation. At 33, Cruyff felt he still had something to offer at international level and with the World Cup in Spain just 18 months away, he was keen to player regular football in Europe in order to remain in contention. Despite Wallace’s best efforts, and the Dutch master expressing his desire to play for Leicester, Cruyff opted to join Levante of the Spanish Segunda Division. His time in Valencia was short-lived, however, as he returned to former club Ajax later that year.
Diego Maradona to Sheffield United
In 1978, Harry Haslam almost pulled off what would have been an enormous coup for the northern industrial town of Sheffield. His Sheffield United side had agreed a fee of £600,000 with Argentinos Juniors for 17-year-old Diego Maradona. Haslam later learned that money was tight at Bramall Lane and the deal for Maradona fell through. The Blades had to make do with Maradona’s fellow Argentine, and current manager of the Argentinian national team, Alejandro Sabella.
Zinedine Zidane to Blackburn Rovers
In 1995, newly crowned Premier Division champions Blackburn Rovers had the opportunity to sign French legend Zinedine Zidane. The 23-year-old was plying his trade in Bordeaux, but was already an established member of the national team and attracting interest from Europe’s elite. Rovers manager Kenny Dalglish had publicly expressed his desire to bring Zidane to Ewood Park, to which chairman Jack Walker replied, “Why do you want to sign Zidane when we have Tim Sherwood?”