Ronaldo, Kane, Tevez: A Premier League XI of players who tried to force a move

An XI of players who famously tried to force a move as Ronaldo prepares for Europa League debut

Cristiano Ronaldo looks set to make his Europa League debut on Thursday evening as Manchester United host Real Sociedad at Old Trafford.

Throughout the summer, 37-year-old Ronaldo was adamant that wanted to continue playing in the Champions League – a competition in which he reigns as its greatest ever goalscorer – this season.

Instructing his agent, Jorge Mendes, to seek a move to a Champions League team, the five-time Ballon d’Or winner had absolutely no interest in representing United in the Europa League.

Confident he would get his wish, Ronaldo initially removed himself from United’s pre-season preparations under new boss Erik ten Hag, skipping the club’s tour of Thailand and Australia for what were termed ‘personal reasons’.

However, efforts from Mendes to drum up interest in the Portuguese superstar from other top clubs in Europe were generally met with flat rejection.

In fact, the only concrete offer that Mendes was able to secure for his client was reportedly from Saudi Arabian outfit Al Hilal.

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Cristiano Ronaldo re-joined Man United in 2021

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While that offer is believed to have been highly lucrative, Ronaldo opted against leaving Europe for financial reasons.

Ultimately, Ronaldo was unable to force his desired move and remained a United player after the summer transfer window closed on September 2. His first-team opportunities under Ten Hag, though, have been limited mainly to cameos from the bench.

The former Real Madrid and Juventus man isn’t the first major Premier League name to isolate themselves from first-team activities in the hope of finding a new club.

We’ve named a full XI of Premier League players who famously tried to force a transfer. Ronaldo wasn’t able to negotiate the Champions League switch he was hoping for, but most of this line-up were eventually granted the move they wanted.

A Premier League XI of players who tried to force a move

GK: Aaron Ramsdale (Sheffield United)

After relegation from the Premier League in 2021, the Blades seemingly promised Ramsdale that he could leave if a significant bid for him came in from a Premier League club.

“There were bids coming in and they (United) were turning them down and I was like ‘you said this…’,” Ramsdale told Ben Foster during an interview for his YouTube channel last December.

“Normally if you don’t get your move, you’re rewarded with a new contract. It’s not set in stone but that’s normal.

“So we said that and someone at the club, I won’t name names, said: ‘We didn’t ask him to take less money when he was conceding goals at the start of last year.’”

Aaron Ramsdale at Sheffield United
SHEFFIELD, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 14: Aaron Ramsdale of Sheffield United looks on during the Premier League match between Sheffield United and Wolverhampton Wanderers at Bramall Lane on September 14, 2020 in Sheffield, England. (Photo by Peter Powell/Pool via Getty Images)

Ramsdale was fuming at this response and refused to play for the club until the matter was resolved.

“That’s when I basically went: ‘I won’t play against West Brom, do what you want.’ I didn’t train for the first two days of the week, the Monday and Tuesday and the manager was like: ‘He’ll be alright, he’ll play.’

“Tuesday came and I was like: ‘No, I’m not playing.’ On the Wednesday I wasn’t in the squad and then 10 minutes before kick off I was on my way down [to Arsenal].”

Did the player get their move? Ramsdale was an Arsenal player within days.

CB: William Gallas (Chelsea)

When one of your defenders allegedly starts threatening to score own goals if you don’t grant them a move, it’s probably best for all concerned that you part company.

Gallas has since denied making any such statement, but he never played for the Blues again after the claim went public.

Did the player get their move? Gallas signed for Arsenal on summer deadline day in 2006, with Ashley Cole moving in the other direction.

William Gallas at
LONDON – DECEMBER 26: William Gallas of Chelsea celebrates scoring the first goal during the Barclays Premiership match between Chelsea and Fulham at Stamford Bridge on December 26, 2005 in London, England. (Photo by Ben Radford/Getty Images)

CB: Marcos Rojo (Sporting CP)

After initially being denied a move to Man United in 2014, Rojo was adamant he wouldn’t pull a Sporting shirt on again.

“It was a huge surprise when I was told United wanted to buy me,” Rojo later told The Mirror.

“I could not think of anything else… when it seemed the transfer would not happen then I refused to work with Sporting.”

Ironically, it was former United midfielder Juan Sebastian Veron who stepped in to reassure Rojo that things would work out and convince him to go back to work.

“That was when Veron played his part in the process. He was like a strict father to me, scolding me,” admitted the defender.

“Veron called me one day when I had refused to train with Sporting and said ‘Do not be stubborn. If Manchester United wants a player then they will not let you escape.”

Did the player get their move? Veron was spot on and Rojo became a United player in August 2014.

Marcos Rojo at Man Utd
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – MARCH 16: United player Marcos Rojo reacts during the UEFA Europa League Round of 16 second leg match between Manchester United and FK Rostov at Old Trafford on March 16, 2017 in Manchester, United Kingdom. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

CB: Javier Mascherano (Liverpool)

Best known for his work as a defensive midfielder, Mascherano played in the heart of defence towards the end of his career – and that’s where we’ve slotted him in here.

After being denied a promised switch to Barcelona in August 2010, the Argentine felt justified in refusing to play for the Reds against Manchester City.

Speaking about the situation with FourFourTwo some 11 years later, Mascherano recalled:

“There was an agreement between us that if Liverpool received a decent offer for me, I’d be permitted to leave. We’d spoken about extending my contract, but it seemed like the directors didn’t care about me. In the pre-season after Rafa [Benitez] left, Roy Hodgson arrived. We had a meeting with the managing director, Christian Purslow, who told me I could go if a good offer came in. Then there was an offer on the table, but Liverpool were looking the other way.

“I was quite angry that they weren’t keeping their word. Refusing to play at City was the way I found to show my annoyance. I’d told the club I wanted to leave for family reasons, so I was very upset to have to act the way I did. There was no other option – otherwise, Liverpool wouldn’t keep their promise.”

Did the player get their move? Mascherano completed an £18 million move to Barcelona before the month was out.

Javier Mascherano at Liverpool
LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND – NOVEMBER 29: Javier Mascherano of Liverpool celebrates after the opening goal was scored via a deflection from Joseph Yobo of Everton during the Barclays Premier League match between Everton and Liverpool at Goodison Park on November 29, 2009 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)

LM: Raheem Sterling (Liverpool)

Prior to the start of the 2015/16 season, Sterling was so determined to depart Anfield that – similar to Ronaldo this summer – he refused to go on a pre-season tour of the Far East and Australia.

Liverpool weren’t willing to let the England winger go cheaply, though. Luckily for Sterling, Man City eventually agreed to stump up in excess of £50m for his services.

Did the player get their move? Sterling moved to the Etihad, spending seven highly successful seasons with the club before signing with Chelsea earlier this summer.

Raheem Sterling at Liverpool
LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND – JANUARY 31: Raheem Sterling of Liverpool celebrates scoring the opening goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and West Ham United at Anfield on January 31, 2015 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Morgan Schneiderlin (Southampton)

The Saints have long held a deserved reputation as a selling club. Over the last two decades, pretty much any of their players have been available for transfer, so long as the price is right.

That wasn’t the case for Schneiderlin in 2014, however, when he sought to link up once again with former boss Mauricio Pochettino at Tottenham.

Having just sold Calum Chambers to Arsenal 24 hours earlier, the French midfielder suggested at the time that club chiefs were forced to reject Spurs’ £10m bid for him because of how their fans might react.

“The club started to see the fans were getting mad. They thought: ‘If Morgan will leave, the stadium will be burnt.’ So they guaranteed us: ‘Morgan is not for sale. We won’t listen to anything. Morgan will stay. That is the project. There is nothing more to say.'”

The strain of being denied a move caused the player to declare himself “not mentally or physically ready” to play in a pre-season friendly against Bayer Leverkusen shortly afterwards.

His ‘strike’ lasted just that single game, though, as he returned to the Saints’ ranks for the start of the Premier League season.

Did the player get their move? No. Schneiderlin was on the move 12 months later, but signed for Man United rather than Spurs.

Morgan Schneiderlin at Southampton
SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND – AUGUST 23: Morgan Schneiderlin of Southampton on the ball during the Barclays Premier League match between Southampton and West Bromwich Albion at St Mary’s Stadium on August 23, 2014 in Southampton, England. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

Dimitri Payet (West Ham)

Payet signed a five-year deal with the Hammers in 2016, committing his future to the club until 2021.

Less than a year into his new contract, though, Payet decided life in east London wasn’t for him, indicating that he didn’t want to play for West Ham again.

After Marseille had a bid for the midfielder rejected, then-West Ham boss Slaven Bilic confirmed Payet’s stance:

“He is refusing to play for us. I have a team to manage. He’s probably been tapped up. Until he changes his attitude and shows the commitment the club have shown him, he is out of the team.”.

Did the player get their move? Payet returned to Marseille in January 2017 and remains at the club to this day.

Dimitri Payet at West Ham
LONDON, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 25: Bubbles float past Dimitri Payet of West Ham United prior to the Premier League match between West Ham United and Southampton at London Stadium on September 25, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

RW: Cristiano Ronaldo (Man United)

Any time you can justify including a five-time Ballon d’Or winner in an XI, you should probably take the opportunity.

Ronaldo has been included in Ten Hag’s squad to face Sociedad and will play in Europe’s secondary competition for the very first time in his legendary career after failing to secure his desired transfer.

Did the player get their move? No.

Cristiano Ronaldo at Man Utd in 2021
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 11: Cristiano Ronaldo of Manchester United looks on during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Newcastle United at Old Trafford on September 11, 2021 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

LW: Dimitar Berbatov (Tottenham)

Spurs didn’t want to lose their star man when United came calling for the majestic Bulgarian in 2008.

Berbatov, though, was desperate to make the switch to Old Trafford and eventually resorted to refusing to play for Tottenham as the summer transfer window drew ever closer to shutting.

Did the player get their move? United finally bagged their number one transfer target on deadline day for a fee of around £30m, but Spurs pushed them all the way to maximise the transfer fee.

Berbatov at Spurs
LONDON – FEBRUARY 02: Dimitar Berbatov of Tottenham celebrates his opening goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United at White Hart Lane on February 02, 2008 in London, England. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

RW: Carlos Tevez (Man City)

Having fallen out with City manager Roberto Mancini in 2011, Tevez legged it back to his native Argentina rather than trying to sort things out with his boss.

While enjoying his impromptu vacation, the forward tried to engineer a transfer to AC Milan. When that didn’t pan out, he was ultimately forced to return to Lancashire with his tail between his legs.

Did the player get their move? No.

Tevez at Man City
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – DECEMBER 05: Carlos Tevez of Manchester City celebrates scoring his team’s second goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Chelsea at the City of Manchester Stadium on December 5, 2009 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

ST: Harry Kane (Tottenham)

The future of England captain Kane was last summer’s longest-running transfer saga.

Pep Guardiola’s Man City side were in desperate need of a striker to lead the line – and prolific Tottenham frontman Kane certainly fit that bill.

The player himself – frustrated by Spurs’ ability to challenge for top honours – wanted the challenge too.

However, the north London outfit knew they were in no position to be bullied. Kane had three seasons to run on his current deal and they wanted to be compensated to the tune of £150m to let their talisman.

City reportedly placed four bids of less than that figure, but none were enough to tempt Spurs.

In what seemed to be a last-ditch attempt at securing a switch, Kane reported back late for pre-season training with Tottenham. Ultimately, he was forced to accept that his immediate future lay with his current employers.

Did the player get their move? No. Kane remained a Spurs player, hitting 17 goals last season.

Premier League players who wanted out XI

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