Top-10: Failed Transfers that could have happened

The modern day football is very much dependent on a team’s performance in the transfer window. If a team is able to find that player who can inspire them to victories they succeed otherwise they may remain mediocre. In recent times we have seen how de Gea’s move to Real fell through on the deadline day or how Griezmann couldn’t move because of the transfer ban on Atletico. In the past, there have been failed transfers that NEARLY happened but didn’t really go through. 

Here is our list of the Top-10 failed football transfers.

1. Di Stefano to Barcelona

Yes, the greatest Real Madrid player Alfredo Di Stefano almost joined Barcelona. This move could have changed the narrative of the two clubs and that is why it is on #1 of our list of the failed football transfers. 

di Stefano Barcelona failed transfer

Di Stefano was the spearhead as Los Blancos won the first FIVE European Cups. He was the pioneer who transformed the club into the first super-club. But, the story could have been different.

In 1952, the Argentina-born 25-year-old was in Spain for a friendly tournament while playing for Colombian side, Millonarios. Di Stefano’s rights were also claimed by River Plate but was playing for Millonarios. 

Barca saw River Plate as the only club they needed to do business with and proceeded with negotiations as they could not agree with Millonarios. The Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) were forced to intervene on that grounds that Millonarios had not sanctioned the deal. 

In the meantime, Real president Santiago Bernabeu stepped in to take advantage of the uncertainty — and reached an agreement with Millonarios. And the rest, as they say, is history.

2. Maradona to Sheffield United

The #2 on our list is Maradona’s failed transfer to Sheffield United. Yes, Maradona could have played in England but was not to be. 


Diego Maradona was close to signing with English clubs.Diego Maradona actually came closest to signing for Sheffield United, for whom the Argentinian would have played in the late 1970s had it not been for the stinginess of the Blades’ board.

In 1978, the United manager Harry Haslam watched the 17-year-old Maradona in action on a scouting trip to Argentina and was so impressed he immediately arranged a £200,000 deal. But the transfer fell through when the Second Division club failed to stump up extra cash on top of the fee, so Haslam instead signed Maradona’s countryman, the River Plate midfielder Alex Sabella, for £160,000. 

3. Zidane to Blackburn

The #3 on our list is Zinedine Zidane’s failed move to Blackburn Rovers. This is as shocking as they come. The story behind this failed transfer is a very short, and sad one for Blackburn fans.

Zidane Bordeaux

In 1995, Blackburn were on an absolute high. They had just won the Premier League and were preparing to compete in the Champions League. Manager, Kenny Dalglish was very ambitious and wanted to continue the successful regime. He had his eyes set on the 23-year-old Zinedine Zidane who was playing for Bordeaux. Dalglish went to club owner Jack Walker to pursue the signing of Zidane to which he replied, “Why do you want to sign Zidane when we have Tim Sherwood?”

Blackburn and Zidane had contrasting future since. ZZ went on to win the World Cup and Balon d’Or while Blackburn got relegated, in three years. 

4. Eric Cantona to Sheffield Wednesday

The #4 on our list of failed football transfers is Eric Cantona’s failed trial at Sheffield Wednesday. In hindsight, we can say that the fortunes of the Sheffield club could have been so different. 

The Yorkshire club, currently in League One, were the first English club to give a trial to French legend Eric Cantona in 1992.  Cantona even played one game for Wednesday, although it was an indoor game. 

Eric cantona

Sheffield Wednesday manager Trevor Francis insisted that Cantona extend his trial by one week so he could see how Cantona played on grass. Cantona had already played almost 200 league games in France by that point. So, not surprisingly, Cantona refused to extend his trial and joined Yorkshire neighbours Leeds United instead. 

5. Roberto Carlos to Aston Villa

The #5 on our list is Roberto Carlos’ failed move to Villa. The legendary Brazilian left back could have joined Aston Villa back in the day before he went on to join Inter Milan. 

Roberto carlos aston villa

He was looking for a move to Europe and met with the club when Brian Little was the manager. This was back in the 95-96 season.

The freekick master himself revealed in an interview with The Sun that he came to Villa but there was no deal. 

“I actually came close to joining Aston Villa early in my career,” Carlos, who never played in England, told the Sun .

“I met with the club, but nothing happened.”

“Birmingham were also interested, but it didn’t go anywhere and I later joined Inter Milan.”

6. Paul Gascoigne to Man Utd

Sir Alex Ferguson stated it as one of his “biggest regrets” to not have been able to sign Paul Gascoigne. That says a lot about the stature of Paul Gascoigne in football. He was one of the most talented players to have played for England. Paul Gascoigne’s failed move to United is on #6 of our list.


Gascoigne nearly joined Man United back in 1988 when he moved from Newcastle to Spurs. He had verbally agreed to sign for Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United when he got a call from Tottenham. Spurs offered him “better terms”. In an interview in 2015, he revealed why he snubbed United for Spurs.

“No not really,” Gascoigne answered when asked if he regretted snubbing United. “At that time we [Spurs] finished higher. When Spurs offered my family a house and they wouldn’t match it I wanted to look after my mum and dad.

“They offered my sister a sunbed, a sunbed in the contract, which she got,” Gascoigne added.

“It was probably my sister’s sunbed they [United] couldn’t afford. She should have got a spray tan and I would have a few more medals,” he joked.

7. Garrincha to Juventus

Widely regarded as the greatest dribbler of all time, Samba star Garrincha may not have the worldwide image of Pele, but he has the heart and minds of the Brazilian people and arguably even greater ability than his compatriot. 

Garrincha’s failed transfer to Juventus is at #7 of our list.


A member of the World Team of the Twentieth Century, Garrincha was Brazil’s stand-out player in their 1962 World Cup win and spent the vast majority of his career with Botafogo, but came close to more than doubling the then world record transfer fee when Juventus offered $1 million for him in 1963.

The deal ultimately fell through when Juventus lowered their offer to $700,000 having been disappointed with his performance in a tour game, little did they know Garrincha had played three games earlier that week, all while carrying an injury.

8. Falcao to Aston Villa

Aston Villa boss denied to sign Falcao in 2008 and that makes this failed transfer the #8 on our list.

Back in 2008 when Radamel Falcao was in Argentina playing for River Plate, he was offered to Aston Villa. His agent made contact with then manager Martin O’Neill. River Plate asked for 5m pounds for the young sensation but O’Neill backed out of the deal as he wanted to sign someone who had Premier League experience. 

Radamel falcao failed transfers

Needless to say, the two parties have had drastically different fortunes since. Falcao is one of the top strikers in the game now while Villa have been relegated to the Championship.

9. Lewandowski to Blackburn

The talismanic Bayern striker could well have played for Blackburn Rovers. His transfer to Blackburn fell through because the Polish forward couldn’t fly to London because of the eruption of Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajokull. Therefore, the Polish’s failed move to Blackburn is at #9 on our list of failed transfers.


Rovers had a £4.2m bid for Lewandowski accepted by Lech Poznan, and the Pole was due to fly out and visit Ewood Park. However, the ash cloud caused by the eruption of Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajokull stopped any deal. This pushed him to join Die Borussen from Lech Poznan for £4million.


Speaking in 2013, Sam Allardyce said: “I think about it every time I see him play.”

Lewandowski is the most destructive forward in the current time and it may have been very interesting to see how he would have fared in England and if he would have reached the same level had he came to England. 

10. Zlatan to Arsenal

Zlatan Ibrahimovic turned down the chance to move to Arsenal because manager Arsene Wenger wanted the Sweden striker to go through a trial. Ibrahimovic denying to join Arsenal is #10 on our list of failed transfers.

The charismatic striker was a teenager when he met up with Wenger in 2000 to discuss a possible move to north London. Arsene Wenger gave him the #9 jersey. In Zlatan’s own words, “It was a fantastic moment for me. Arsenal had a great team then and here was an Arsenal shirt made just for me.”

Zlatan arsenal ailed transfers

Zlatan posing with the Arsenal jersey

“So then I waited for him to convince me that I should join Arsenal. But he didn’t even try.”

Arsene Wenger asked Zlatan to give a trial because he had not seen him earlier, which annoyed him. He rejected Arsene Wenger saying, “No way, Zlatan doesn’t do auditions”.

Zlatan went on to join Ajax and has become one of the top strikers in world football. Interestingly, neither parties have any remorse or regret from the failed transfer. 

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