Dybala, Kaka, Lewandowski: 11 biggest transfer collapses in football

Believe it or not, signing and selling players in real life is not as straightforward as FIFA makes it out to be.

Clubs can be fixed in a matter of clicks within the popular video game, but in real life, negotiating a transfer is an entirely different beast.

That sounds obvious, but with the way people suggest fantasy transfer windows these days and expect clubs to sign player after player so mercilessly, it quite clearly isn’t.

With so much pressure on clubs to get deals done, and players always desperate for the next step in their career, the transfer window is all consuming.

Add to that an unrelenting desire from fans to see new faces and now endless media coverage surrounding rumours, leaks and signings, it’s very difficult for these very delicate deals to be struck cleanly.

It’s wrenching for fans, who can only sit and watch as a potential favourite player misses the chance to become a hero at their new club. It hurts for players, too, who have often been waiting for a long time for their big move go through, only to lose out and – in some cases – return to their current employers with their tails between their legs.

So, with the summer transfer window now in full swing – and in honour of Peter Odemwingie’s infamous car park nightmare of 2013 – we at GIVEMESPORT thought it would be a good idea to look back on some of the biggest moves that fell through in football.

11. Loic Remy to Liverpool (2013)

In the summer of 2013, Liverpool were moments away from bolstering their front line with a then highly sought after Remy from QPR, who had agreed terms on a move to Anfield that July in an £8.5 million transfer.

However, the Reds pulled the plug at the death with the Frenchman supposedly failing his medical. Remy has since spoke on the matter, citing they found an issue with his heart, but were rather ambiguous about the matter. He signed for Chelsea the following month, winning the Premier League and League Cup in his debut season.

Remy in action for Chelsea
BANGKOK, THAILAND – MAY 30: Loic Remy #18 of Chelsea FC looks the ball during the international friendly match between Thailand All-Stars and Chelsea FC at Rajamangala Stadium on May 30, 2015 in Bangkok, Thailand. (Photo by Thananuwat Srirasant/Getty Images)

10. Robert Lewandowski to Blackburn (2010)

We’ve heard it all before, but it’s a story that admittedly never gets old. Imagine how ridiculously different football would’ve looked if that ash cloud didn’t stop Lewandowski from flying to England in 2010, seriously.

The Poland legend had emerged as a prolific young forward at Lech Poznan and was due to meet with Sam Allardyce and view Blackburn’s facilities, with a transfer waiting to be completed. It’s a great shame we never got to see just the duo of big Sam and Lewandowski ripping up the Premier League.

9. Daniel James to Leeds United (2019)

It was extraordinary seeing this unfold in Leeds’ Amazon Prime documentary series. James was sat around at Leeds’ training ground until the eleventh hour, having posed with the shirt and completed all formalities, but the January 2019 move fell through at the very death.

A change of heart from Swansea’s chairman saw him pull the plug on the deal, leaving James stranded in west Yorkshire with no idea of what had gone on. A move to Manchester United would instead come the following summer, who did eventually sell the Welshman to Leeds in 2021. Surreal.

James celebrates for Leeds United
LEEDS, ENGLAND – JANUARY 02: Daniel James of Leeds United celebrates after scoring their sides third goal during the Premier League match between Leeds United and Burnley at Elland Road on January 02, 2022 in Leeds, England. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

8. Paulo Dybala to Tottenham (2019)

A man who is seemingly linked to top clubs every summer without genuine reason, Dybala did actually come very close to joining Tottenham in 2019. However, a move what was set to pocket Juventus a £69m fee fell through as Tottenham couldn’t find an affordable work around regarding his image rights.

Dybala is available on a free transfer this summer, though, which might prove more appealing to Spurs and other previously interested parties.

7. Emannuel Adebayor to Aston Villa (2015)

One of the more bizarre entries in this list, Adebayor, like James at Leeds, had completed all formalities and posed with the Aston Villa shirt after agreeing to leave Tottenham for free in the summer of 2015.

However, his bid to reunite with Tim Sherwood on a wage that made him Villa’s highest-paid player fell through at the death, as Adebayor had a change of heart after he apparently needed God’s approval to sign for the club. Really. He signed for Crystal Palace the following summer.

The latest on Gabriel Jesus to Arsenal (Football Terrace)

6. Nabil Fekir to Liverpool (2018)

Fekir was regularly regarded as a top class footballer throughout the 2010s, but one that couldn’t catch a break with injuries. His performances for Lyon tempted Liverpool to sign him for £53m in 2018, but the deal fell through.

It was pure heartbreak for the creative Frenchman, who revealed later on that it wasn’t a medical issue with his knee that scuppered the deal, but a hiccup with his agent. He signed for Real Betis the following summer.

Fekir holds his head while at Lyon in 2018
LYON, FRANCE – NOVEMBER 07: Nabil Fekir of Lyon reacts during the Group F match of the UEFA Champions League between Olympique Lyonnais and TSG 1899 Hoffenheim at Groupama Stadium on November 7, 2018 in Lyon, France. (Photo by Alex Grimm/Getty Images)

5. Willian to Tottenham (2013)

One that isn’t talked about all that often, Tottenham were actually the ones on the brink of signing Willian in 2013, before Chelsea swooped in and hijacked the deal, according to former Anzhi Mackhachkala director Herman Tkachenko.

Per Tribal Football, Tkachenko revealed that Willian was at Tottenham’s training ground ready to sign, but Daniel Levy had been stalling over various payments. The Brazilian then got a call from Jose Mourinho, while Roman Abramovich showed a desire to wrap up the deal quicker than Levy. And that was that.

Willian in action for Chelsea in 2013
WillLONDON, ENGLAND – OCTOBER 19: Willian of Chelsea in action during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Cardiff City at Stamford Bridge on October 19, 2013 in London, England. (Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images)

4. Roy Keane to Blackburn (1993)

Blackburn missed out on the signing of Keane in the summer of 1993 because Kenny Dalglish had gathered the wrong forms and, with it being a Friday afternoon, had to wait until the following Monday to finalise the deal.

In that time, Sir Alex Ferguson swooped in and signed Keane for United after meeting with him and telling him to hold out for the Red Devils to come in and find an agreement with Nottingham Forest. Just imagine how different United’s fortunes would’ve been if Keane opted for Blackburn instead.

3. Kaka to Manchester City (2009)

Fresh on the scene and suddenly wadded with cash, Manchester City didn’t hesitate to go straight for the best in January 2009, tabling Milan a reported £88m which the Rossoneri told Kaka they would accept.

At first, Kaka was set to green light the move and head to Manchester. But, after hearing the opposition from passionate Milan fans, he got cold feet and changed his mind, staying with the club to a rabid response. City lost out, and Real Madrid swooped in to sign him that summer.

Milan fans holding up a banner to convince Kaka to stay at the club
MILAN, ITALY – JANUARY 17: Banners held up in support for Kaka during the Serie A match between Milan and Fiorentina at the Stadio Meazza on January 17, 2009 in Milan, Italy. (Photo by New Press/Getty Images)

2. Paul Gascoigne to Manchester United (1988)

Ferguson was desperate to get Gascoigne to the Theatre of Dreams and playing in a United shirt from the late 1980s. He almost got his man in 1988 when ‘Gazza’ left Newcastle, but was ultimately pipped at the death by Tottenham.

Gascoigne has since opened up on the ordeal, explaining that doubts over playing time, combined with an offer from Tottenham that dwarfed United’s ultimately saw him go back on the word he had given to Ferguson that year.

1. David de Gea to Real Madrid (2015)

Come on, it had to be, didn’t it? Perhaps the most public transfer collapse we will ever see, Real Madrid lost out on signing a truly world class goalkeeper on deadline day in the summer of 2015, due to paperwork formalities.

Real’s chase for De Gea had long been known and dragged on all summer. When they finally reached an agreement, that involved a transfer fee plus Keylor Navas heading to United, it looked to be done. That was until documents weren’t sent through in time, and the deal could not be completed. Since then, Real have won four Champions Leagues and three La Liga titles. Hard luck, David.

De Gea remained at Manchester United
LEICESTER, ENGLAND – NOVEMBER 28: David De Gea of Manchester United looks on during the Barclays Premier League match between Leicester City and Manchester United at The King Power Stadium on November 28, 2015 in Leicester, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

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