Top five 'nearly' transfers


Arsene Wenger revealed on Friday that Yaya Toure almost joined Arsenal as a teenager, but the deal was never completed due to work permit issues.

Toure instead opted to sign for Metalurh Donetsk in Ukraine before moving to Barcelona, where he won the Champions League, and then onto Manchester City in a big-money deal.

Things, however, could have been so different for the 28-year-old, as Wenger explained at his weekly press conference.

"I have known him since he was 15," said the Frenchman. "We had an agreement with him to come here but the problem was that he was at Beveren and we had to wait long enough for a European passport.

"Therefore he was impatient and went, at the time, to Metalurh Donetsk."

He added: "Incidentally he played in a pre-season game at Barnet [on July 19, 2003] as a second striker - and he was completely average on the day!"

With this near miss in mind, GMF takes a look at some other high-profile deals that failed to materialise...

Paul Gascoigne to Manchester United (1988)

Having been named Barclays Young Player of the Year for the 1987/88 season, Newcastle United's Paul Gascoigne was the hottest young property in English football.

Manchester United and Tottenham entered into a bidding war for the 21-year-old that summer, and Sir Alex Ferguson thought he had got his man.

However, some last ditch tactics from Spurs saw Gazza move to White Hart Lane.

"We spoke to him the night before I went on holiday," said Ferguson years later.

"He says 'Go and enjoy yourself Mr Ferguson, I'll be signing for Manchester United'.

"So I went on my holidays but Martin Edwards (then chairman) rang and said 'I've got some bad news - he signed for Tottenham. They bought a house for his mother and father in the north east and that swung it.

"I think it was a bad mistake, and Paul admits it."

Matthew Le Tissier to Tottenham (1990)

Reports at the time claimed Southampton's Matthew Le Tissier even went as far as signing a contract with Tottenham during the summer of 1990.

Then aged only 19, Le Tissier had also been attracting interest from Chelsea, but remained on the south coast for the rest of his career.

"I enjoyed being a big fish in a medium-sized pond, the person in the team that most fans were coming to watch, just to see if I could do something," Le Tissier said of the proposed move to White Hart Lane.

Eric Cantona to Liverpool (1991)

Graeme Souness' relatively unsuccessful spell as Liverpool manager will also be remembered for his decision to pass up the opportunity to sign Eric Cantona.

After the Reds beat Auxerre in the UEFA Cup, Souness was approached by French legend Michel Platini, who proposed that the Liverpool boss made a move for Marseille star Cantona.

Souness, though, did not believe the young forward had the right temperament to succeed at Anfield, and Cantona eventually went on to win four league titles with Manchester United.

"After the game I was in my office and there was a French guy waiting to see me. It was Michel Platini," said Souness.

"He said he had a player for me. A player who'd had problems but would love to play for Liverpool. That player was Eric Cantona. At that time we didn't need any more problems so that was the one that get away."

Steven Gerrard to Chelsea (2005)

Despite having just lifted the Champions League with Liverpool after a sensational victory over AC Milan, Reds captain Steven Gerrard decided that his time at Anfield was over.

Chelsea had been sniffing around the midfielder all summer as he struggled to reach an agreement with regards to a new Liverpool contract.

Liverpool then rejected a bid of £32 million from Chelsea on July 5, which caused Gerrard to inform the club of his desire to leave for Stamford Bridge.

"The club has to be bigger than any individual," said chief-executive Rick Parry at the time. "It's the ups and downs of football.

"Now we have to move on. We have done our best, but he has made it clear he wants to go and I think it looks pretty final."

The next day, Gerrard signed a new four-year deal as Parry blamed the earlier breakdown of talks on miscommunication between the two sides.

Chris Smalling to Arsenal (2010)

Arsenal appeared to have won the race to sign Chris Smalling from Fulham, before a personal intervention from Sir Alex Ferguson changed the defender's destination.

Smalling completed a £10 million move to Old Trafford in January 2010, before being loaned back to Fulham for the remainder of the season.

But, were it not for the persistence of the United boss, the 22-year-old could be currently plying his trade at the Emirates Stadium.

''Arsenal had agreed to sign Smalling from Fulham and Smalling had agreed to go to Arsenal," a source close to the deal told ESPN Soccernet. "Then Sir Alex stepped in.

"He came down to the Tottenham v Fulham FA Cup replay and, in the car park, it was agreed that Smalling would first talk to Sir Alex.

"He was in no mood to let Smalling out of his sights until he had agreed to go to United, and that is what happened.''

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