Every club has that one player that got away.
As a matter of fact, most clubs will have more than just one. In a world with big ambitions and even bigger pay-packets, it’s not unusual for players to reach the double figure mark in terms of clubs they have represented by the time their careers come to an end.
Which often leaves fans wondering what could have been when a former player goes on to achieve greatness in another clubs’ colours.
So, whether leaving by mutual consent, forcing their way out the door kicking and screaming or being told they don’t quite have what it takes – let’s take a look at one player every Premier League club wish they had never let go (2012 onwards).
The ones that got away
Arsenal – Serge Gnabry
The German winger has blossomed into one of Bayern Munich’s main stars in recent years, so it’s difficult to contemplate that the Gunners let him go to Werder Bremen in 2016 for just five million.
A failed loan spell at West Bromwich Albion, followed by an injury setback and sporadic first team cameos in Arsene Wenger’s team was enough to convince Gnabry to call time on his career in north London.
Aston Villa – Jack Grealish
‘He’s one our own’ was a tune that so often ringed around Villa Park whilst the Solihull born Grealish played the role of talisman at his boyhood club.
But an exceptional season in the Premier League, followed by an impactful Euros last summer was enough to convince Manchester City to smash the British transfer record to bring him in.
Brentford – Said Benrahma
The Bees pulled off a worldie bringing Benrahma in from Nice for a mere £1.5 million in 2018. The Algerian international spearheaded the clubs charge towards the Premier League and was later poached by West Ham in 2020, earning Brentford a tidy £19 million pound profit.
Talk about being business savvy… although, there can be no denying that his presence on the pitch would have been handy in their first top-flight season for 74 years.
Brighton – Ben White
Still aged just 24, who knows how good White will go on to become. Many clubs attempted to snatch the young centre-back away from Brighton, but it took a stomping £50 million pound offer from Arsenal to eventually claw him away from their grasp.
His first season with the Gunners has been up and down to say the least and the price tag certainly weighed heavy on his shoulders for a while; however, with Arsenal now sitting in pole position to secure a top four spot, White will be hoping he can push on and establish himself as a leading English player.
Burnley – Danny Ings
A 22-year-old Ings left Burnley for Liverpool in 2015/2016. The Englishman had been on fire for the Clarets in the two years prior and so the £7.5 million fee seemed a bargain at the time.
Injuries plagued his time at Anfield and he struggled for first team appearances, but you can bet any Burnley fan would have loved to have kept a striker of his calibre at the club.
Chelsea – Mohamed Salah
There were two obvious choices here: Salah or De Bruyne, and we’ve opted for the Egyptian King.
He was recently awarded the PFA Player of the Year award for the second time since returning to the Premier League yesterday and his impact on Liverpool has been truly staggering, having racked up numbers that rival even the greatest Premier League forwards.
So, why on earth did Chelsea not see that potential? First team appearances were hard to come by for Salah in his spell with the Blues and he soon found himself being sent out on loan to Fiorentina and then Roma – the latter of which purchased him for £15 million in 2015.
Crystal Palace – Yannick Bolasie
The streets will never forget this man and neither will the countless Premier League defenders that he terrorised on a weekly basis.
Bolasie was a serious problem for any right-back with his pace, power and ludicrous trickery. Fans at Selhurst Park adored him until he broke their hearts and left in a big money move to Everton in 2016.
Everton – Romelu Lukaku
The Toffees sold Lukaku to Manchester United in 2017 and given they got a fee of £75 million, plus £15 million in add-ones, we would say they got the better half of the deal.
However, whilst the club have Dominic Calvert-Lewin skillfully filling that role now, it would be fair to say that they’ve never quite had the same fear factor since ‘Big Rom’ left.
Leeds – Chris Wood
Wood has been in the news this season because of his intriguing switch to Newcastle United. However, he earns a spot on this list after ditching Leeds for Burnley in 2017 after netting 27 goals in his final season at Elland Road.
Leicester – N’Golo Kante
Everyone knew Kante had outgrown Leicester when he left the club for Chelsea in 2015. The Foxes had just miraculously clinched the league title and Kante played no small part in that success.
The fee was £30 million, which, when you look at what the Frenchman has gone on to achieve in the game since was an absolute steal.
Liverpool – Luis Suarez
This pick was easy. One could only imagine what would have materialised should Suarez have waited another 18 months for Klopp to take the reigns at Liverpool.
Sadly, it wasn’t to be as Barcelona had always been the dream for the Uruguayan and he got his move in 2014 for a fee of £75 million.
Manchester City – Jadon Sancho
Shocking from City to let such a bright young spark leave the club, but that’s exactly what happened. Sancho went to Germany in pursuit of more first-team opportunities and grew into one of Europe’s hottest prospects.
He has since returned to play in the UK, crossing city lines and donning the red jersey of Manchester United. Although as of yet, he hasn’t managed to emulate the purple patch of form he was mustering in Germany.
Manchester United – Paul Pogba
Pogba did eventually return to Old Trafford after he was allowed to leave the club for Juventus as a youngster, but letting him go on a free and then signing the Frenchman back for £89 million is hardly stellar business from United.
Not forgetting that his big money return to the club is now widely regarded to have been a bit of a flop and you could make the argument this represents the worst value of all on this list.
Newcastle – Florian Thauvin
The £15 million pound signature of Thauvin was met with lofty expectations around St. James’ park. However, the Frenchman flattered to deceive and was sent back to Marseille after just 16 appearances.
Since returning, he has enjoyed spells of exceptional form marred by inconsistency.
Norwich – James Maddison
Maddison began his career at Coventry City before making the move to Norwich in 2016. After spending two years with the Canaries, Leicester came in with a big money £20 million pound bid for the youngster and it was simply too good to be turned down.
Maddison has gone from strength to strength under Claude Puel and now Brendan Rodgers, even forcing his way into the England set up.
Southampton – Virgil van Dijk
The Saints had several options for us to choose from – Sadio Mane and Dusan Tadic also instantly come to mind – but VVD is the world’s best defender, which can’t be overlooked.
The £75 million fee forked out by Liverpool seems an absolute steal given the impact he has gone on to have at the heart of their defence and while he was clearly too good for Southampton, he still counts.
Tottenham – Gareth Bale
One of two high profile players that Spurs sold to Real Madrid, both of which have gone on to enjoy very different careers at Bernabeu, we have opted for Bale solely because of the level he was performing at when he left the club.
The Welshman scored an impressive 21 goals in 33 Premier League games in 2012/2013 and was awarded the Player of the Year award for a second time to boot.
Watford – Etienne Capoue
Capoue spent five and a half years with the Hornets before making the switch to Villarreal in 2021. He has gone on to achieve big things with the Spanish outfit under Unai Emery, reaching the Champions League semi-final this season.
West Ham – Dimitri Payet
A dead ball specialist and able to whip up a magical piece of play from nowhere, it’s no surprise that Payet was adored by the West Ham faithful.
Unfortunately, it all ended in heartbreak when the Frenchman went on strike to force a move back to his native country via Marseille.
The £25 million fee seems a bit measly when you look back at how good he actually was.
Wolves – Diogo Jota
This transfer raised more than a few eyebrows when Liverpool agreed to sign the Portuguese international for a fee that could rise up to as much as £45 million.
However, it seems Klopp and his recruitment team have pulled off another masterstroke.
Jota has elevated his game to another level since arriving at Anfield, scoring 21 goals in all competitions and sits second only to Salah in their goal scoring chart for the year.
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