11 of the biggest hijacked transfers in football

It’s becoming a thing again, this hijacking transfers chaos, isn’t it? Crack on, we say. Let the drama unfold.

Football transfers are already a much more complicated and careful situation than many people realise. To ensure they actually go through without interruptions is one thing, but to avoid another club swooping in completely and stealing the deal is an entirely different beast.

In general, it doesn’t happen all that regularly. Certainly not at the top level. Well, that was until this summer, where clubs have gotten a bit giddy and all seem to be hijacking one another in a round robin format.

Transfers are endlessly fun because of their unpredictability. From the constant rumour mill to the completion of deals and seeing how a player will perform at their new club, that uncertainty is what makes them such a risk, but also so rewarding.

When you add in the concept of loyalty being shattered and clubs going toe to toe to swoop in and steal a signing from another’s eyes at the eleventh hour, you’ve got to hold your hands up and call it for what it is – football heritage.

They appear to be like volcanoes, do hijacked transfer deals. The biggest ones will behave for a while, laying dormant and not kicking up much fuss, before suddenly coming to life on occasion and causing a chain reaction of hellish events.

So, in honour of the chaos ensuing in the 2022 summer window, that involves Arsenal, Chelsea and Barcelona each hijacking each other’s deal to sign Raphinha, we at GIVEMESPORT have pulled together a list of the most high profile transfer hijackings.

Arsenal advance in Martinez pursuit (Football Terrace)

11. Cristiano Ronaldo – Juventus to Man City – hijacked by Man Utd (2021)

Ronaldo had been expected to leave Juventus virtually all summer long in 2021, having failed to help them lift the Champions League after three years.

Late on in the summer, it emerged that Manchester City were in talks to sign Ronaldo, with the player reportedly keen on the move. The moment Manchester United caught wind, they swooped in. Rio Ferdinand was on the phone, Sir Alex Ferguson got up to his tricks, and Ronaldo was convinced to head back to Old Trafford instead, at the very death.

Ronaldo celebrates a goal for Manchester United in his return season
NORWICH, ENGLAND – DECEMBER 11: Cristiano Ronaldo of Manchester United celebrates after scoring his sides first goal from the penalty spot during the Premier League match between Norwich City and Manchester United at Carrow Road on December 11, 2021 in Norwich, England. (Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images)

10. Jorginho – Napoli to Man City – hijacked by Chelsea (2018)

Another man that City lost out on, Pep Guardiola’s side thought they had a deal in place to bring Jorginho to the Etihad Stadium in the summer of 2018, with a transfer fee and personal terms both agreed.

However, following Maurizio Sarri’s arrival as Chelsea manager that summer, the Italian’s head was turned and he opted to head to London instead, reuniting with his former boss at Stamford Bridge. He’s since won the Champions League, Europa League, and placed third in the Ballon d’Or rankings. A tough miss for City.

9. Fred – Shakhtar Donetsk to Man City – hijacked by Man Utd (2018)

A hat-trick of hijackings against City to kick off the list. Earlier on in the same summer they were pursuing Jorginho, it was reported that City were closing in on a deal to sign Fred.

However, United had caught wind of this and gazumped their noisy neighbours’ offer, paying £50m for the Brazilian midfielder who instead headed to Old Trafford. This is probably a good way of learning that City’s strict policy with transfers is a good thing, even if it sometimes leads to disappointment.

Fred in possession for Manchester United during his debut season
CARDIFF, WALES – DECEMBER 22: Manchester United player Fred in action during the Premier League match between Cardiff City and Manchester United at Cardiff City Stadium on December 22, 2018 in Cardiff, United Kingdom. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

8. Alfredo Di Stefano – Millonarios to Barcelona – hijacked by Real Madrid (1953)

Hijackings even took place in an era where transfers in football were nowhere near the scale they are now. And Real Madrid’s hijacking of Di Stefano in 1953 proved to be one of their greatest ever pieces of business.

The 27-year-old Argentine was plying his trade in Colombia when Europe came calling, in the form of Barcelona, whom he was adjudged to have signed with by FIFA, but not the Spanish Football Federation, who would not recognise the move after being consulted by FIFA. An agreement was found to let Di Stefano play in Spain for four years, spending two with each club, but this didn’t happen, and he went on to become one of Real’s greatest ever players.

7. Ronaldinho – PSG to Man Utd – hijacked by Barcelona (2003)

A 23-year-old Ronaldinho was whiskers away from signing for United in 2003, but they essentially shot themselves in the foot, losing out on the majestic Brazilian legend.

United pursued Ronaldinho in an attempt to replace David Beckham, who signed for Real in a £30m deal that summer. Had they sold to Barcelona and nudged Beckham into agreeing personal terms with La Blaugrana, they’d have snapped up Ronaldinho. They didn’t, though, and Real stole Barcelona’s top target, which consequently saw United miss out on theirs at the eleventh hour.

Ronaldinho is presented to Barcelona fans
BARCELONA – JULY 21: Ronaldinho of Brazil waves to the fans during the Barcelona FC Press Conference for the signing of new player Ronaldinho on July 21, 2003 at the Nou Camp in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo By Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

6. Paul Gascoigne – Newcastle to Man Utd – hijacked by Tottenham (1988)

Ferguson did not hide his interest in Gascoigne, nor did he need to; of course United were interested. And when signing him became a real possibility in 1988, they were about to make it happen, before Tottenham swooped in at the death.

Gascoigne had doubts over his playing time at the Theatre of Dreams with Bryan Robson and Neil Webb ahead of him in the pecking order, but was still headed to sign for the club. That was until Tottenham turned his head, offering to buy his family housing, which sealed the deal. Ferguson came back from holiday and ‘Gazza’ had gone back on his word.

5. Luis Diaz – Porto to Tottenham – hijacked by Liverpool (2022)

Perhaps the move that reignited the hijacking madness, Liverpool had eyes on Diaz with a view to completing a deal to sign him this summer. But when Tottenham approached Porto over a deal in January – and came close to closing a move – the Reds had to swoop in.

Believing in Diaz’s abilities, they deemed him important enough to the future to sign in January for a more premium fee, and jumped in late to hijack a deal that Spurs had come close to sealing. He’s been electric for Liverpool ever since signing; the correct decision was absolutely made.

Diaz celebrates a goal for Liverpool
LISBON, PORTUGAL – APRIL 05: Luis Diaz of Liverpool celebrates after scoring their side’s third goal during the UEFA Champions League Quarter Final Leg One match between SL Benfica and Liverpool FC at Estadio da Luz on April 05, 2022 in Lisbon, Portugal. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

4. Alexis Sanchez – Arsenal to Man City – hijacked by Man Utd (2018)

If jumping the queue for Fred by dwarfing City’s financial offerings wasn’t proof enough of the gap between the two Manchester clubs these days, that Sanchez transfer certainly is.

City had been in pursuit of Arsenal’s main man for a number of months and were poised to sign him halfway through the 2018/19 season, but were pipped at the very death when United – again – gazumped their financial offerings, paying the Chilean around £500k per week, and offered Arsenal Henrikh Mkhitaryan in exchange. United fans will despise pianos for the rest of their lives.

3. Willian – Anzhi Mackhachkala to Tottenham – hijacked by Chelsea (2013)

Willian was one of the prized assets in the strange Anzhi fire sale in the early 2010s, which Tottenham almost benefited from. Spurs looked set to sign the Brazilian for £32m before Roman Abramovich stepped in and turned the deal on its head, after Willian had already completed a medical.

Abramovich had connections with Anzhi owner and fellow Russian oligarch Suleyman Kerimov, and when Willian had caught wind of Jose Mourinho’s desire to sign him, his mind was changed. He reportedly spent hours locked up at Tottenham’s training ground before Daniel Levy conceded defeat, believing that Chelsea signed him merely to get one over on their London rivals. A truly wild saga.

Willian and Samuel Eto'o both at Chelsea following their Anzhi departure
LONDON, ENGLAND – DECEMBER 29: Samuel Eto’o (R) of Chelsea celebrates with teammate Willian after scoring his team’s second goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Liverpool at Stamford Bridge on December 29, 2013 in London, England. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

2. Emmanuel Petit – Monaco to Tottenham – hijacked by Arsenal (1997)

Poor Tottenham. Petit was in London to finalise his move to Spurs, speaking with then chairman Alan Sugar before leaving in a taxi that had been funded by his almost future employers.

Arsene Wenger – who had managed the Frenchman at Monaco – heard about the move, and got in touch at the eleventh hour urging him not to sign anything. Petit obliged, asking Sugar for more time to mull over the move as he left the meeting, but used the taxi paid for by Spurs to visit Wenger’s house and instead sign for the Gunners. Tottenham paid to fund Petit’s move to their bitter rivals. Outrageous.

1. John Obi Mikel – Lyn to Man Utd – hijacked by Chelsea (2006)

A hijack that went on for over a year, Mikel’s eventual move to Chelsea is still wild. Upon turning 18, United announced they had agreed to sign the midfielder in April 2005 for a January 2006 arrival, with Mikel signing a deal without the representation of agents.

Chelsea then piped up, stating they had found an agreement with Mikel and his agents, which current employers Lyn denied, having agreed a fee with United. United then organised a strange press conference where Mikel held up their shirt and kept in a hotel with security for safety reasons.

Mikel then went missing in May 2005, skipping a Norwegian Cup game, and later United’s assistant manager Carlos Quieroz accused Chelsea of ‘kidnapping’ the Nigerian teenager. The matter was finally resolved in the summer of 2006, with Chelsea paying United £12m and Lyn £4m, and United agreeing with Lyn to transfer his registration to the Blues. It’s still insane to think Chelsea pulled off such a heist.

Mikel in a Chelsea press conference
LONDON – SEPTEMBER 29: John Obi Mikel of Chelsea speaks during the Chelsea press conference at Stamford Bridge on September 29, 2006 in London, England. (Photo by Ben Radford/Getty Images)

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