Manchester United forwent the opportunity to sign James Rodriguez for only £5 million, and instead secured the acquisition of unknown entity Bebe, who Sir Alex Ferguson conceded he had never watched play.
Rodriguez has established himself as one of the most coveted talents in the game thanks to his exquisite performances at the World Cup, with the 22-year-old Colombian registering five goals and two assists on a march to the quarter-finals.
Manchester United rejected deal
The Monaco forward, though, could have become a Manchester United player four years before his rise to prominence on the global stage, but the club were not interested in signing him.
As reported by The Guardian, Manchester United were approached by intermediaries while Rodriguez was a teenage star at Argentine club Club Atlético Banfield, and were told the player could be theirs for £5 million.
Manchester United, however, did not even offer a response. Later that same summer the club moved to sign Bebe, who had been with Vitória Guimarães for little over a month, in a deal worth £7.4 million.
It was clearly a decision Manchester United were left to rue, with Bebe proving a disastrous signing during his initial stint at Old Trafford, and Rodriguez flourishing in Europe having been recruited by Porto.
An eventual approach
After the club had passed on the deal in 2010, Rodriguez secured his move to the Estádio do Dragão, and the player’s performances over the two and a bit seasons that followed led Manchester United to finally register an interest.
Porto, though, held tight in that January transfer window and, in the summer that followed, it was too late for Manchester United as Monaco outlaid an enormous £38 million to bring Rodriguez to Ligue 1.
There were two chances for Ferguson, but he uncharacteristically missed both. Those who have watched Rodriguez closely knew early on that the then Manchester United manager had made a glaring error, but only now is the gravity of this failure becoming more apparent.
Rodriguez was an excellent player for Porto and has performed to distinction for Monaco. But his World Cup performances have been far more notable. Rodriguez has been able to inspire a team and a nation, bereft of their figurehead, on the grandest and most intensely pressurised stage of them all. And that takes some doing.
Of course, when the failure to move for Rodriguez is aligned with the acquisition of Bebe just weeks later, then it is a decision made to look even more inexplicable.
Watch: The best of James Rodriguez at Monaco
There is the benefit of hindsight, naturally, and a £5 million deal for an unproven 18-year-old would certainly have been a risky one. But Rodriguez has emphatically proved it would have been one worth taking.
Is it the biggest transfer regret of the illustrious career of Sir Alex Ferguson? He’d have to answer that, but one suspects that as that Rodriguez volley crashed in off the underside of the crossbar on Saturday, Ferguson may have felt compelled to crash his head into the nearest available object.