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Flip the script: The most memorable transfer swerves

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When it comes to transfers in football, there’s simply one golden rule – ‘It isn’t official till it is official.’

Last minute highjacks and change of hearts are a commonplace when it comes to transfer. Often we see players and clubs ditching moves that they previously agreed upon owing to a better offer from another club or simply not feeling quite right about the transfer.

Perhaps the most memorable one in recent times was Willian’s failed move to Tottenham Hotspur. The winger was flown in to capital by the North Londoners and was undergoing medical ahead of his move from Anzhi Makhachkala, but Chelsea swooped in late and secured his signature, much to the ire of their cross-town rivals. 

The transfer window is replete with such tales and below, we take a look at some of the more memorable ones from recent times:

Cristiano Ronaldo - From Arsenal to Manchester United

No fanbase can dwell more about ‘what-ifs’ than Arsenal’s. 

Arsene Wenger always had a keen eye for talent, however, Arsenal’s finances or a better offer from a rival club have led the club into missing out some of the finest talents in the game. Perhaps none must hurt more than missing out on signing Portuguese superstar, Cristiano Ronaldo.

The five-time Ballon D’Or winner was making headways as a scrawny 18-year-old at Sporting Club De Portugal and Wenger spotted the talent in the kid before anyone else did, and Arsenal agreed a deal with Ronaldo and the club to bring him to North London. But as luck would have it, Manchester United played Sporting in a pre-season friendly where Ronaldo went berserk, skinning the United defence in a brief cameo and giving them a glimpse of his talent.

That is all it took for manager Sir Alex Ferguson to initiate contact with Sporting CP and sign the young winger and the rest, as they say, is history.

Timo Werner – From Liverpool to Chelsea

Timo Werner’s move to Liverpool was football’s worst kept secret for the longest time. The German striker openly talked about being interested in a move to Merseyside and manager Jurgen Klopp was also keen on bringing in his countryman to bolster an already stacked Liverpool attack.

Liverpool kept negotiating with RB Leipzig in an effort to pay a lower transfer fee than his 60 million euros release clause, however, the German club stood firm on their valuation of their star. With talks at an impasse, Chelsea swooped in and agreed to pay Werner’s clause, leaving it on the German to decide his future. Liverpool failed to convince the striker that they would be able to negotiate a deal for him and thus, the 24-year-old decided to move to London and join Chelsea. 

Romelu Lukaku – From Chelsea to Manchester United

After a public spat with striker Diego Costa, then-Chelsea coach Antonio Conte exiled the Spanish star from the team and zeroed in on Everton striker Romelu Lukaku to lead his attack in the 2017-18 campaign. Chelsea, who had sold Lukaku to Everton in 2014, were negotiating with the Merseyside team for weeks to re-sign the Belgian star but were put off by their 100m valuation of the striker.

Manchester United, who were deep in negotiations with Real Madrid for the transfer of Alvaro Morata, surprised everyone by striking a deal with Everton for Lukaku. United not only met Everton’s valuation but also sweetened the deal by allowing the club’s record goal-scorer Wayne Rooney join his boyhood club on a free transfer.

Chelsea, who missed out on their primary target, were forced to sign Morata, who left the club just 18 months later, while Lukaku, who had a good debut season with United, left in the summer of 2019 to join Inter Milan, where he would finally play under manager Antonio Conte.

Aaron Ramsey – Manchester United to Arsenal

In June 2008, Manchester United, the reigning European champions, released a statement on their website saying they had struck a deal to sign Cardiff City’s teenage sensation Aaron Ramsey, subject to the player passing a medical.

“Manchester United is delighted to announce it has agreed terms with Cardiff City for the transfer of Aaron Ramsey subject to contract terms being agreed and the player passing a medical,” read the statement

United were under the impression that they had unearthed a long-term replacement for the legendary Paul Scholes at the heart of their midfield. However, little did they know that Arsenal too had an agreement with Cardiff to sign Ramsey and it was up to the player to decide whether he wanted to move to London or Manchester. The Welsh midfielder, surprisingly, opted for Arsenal and spent 11 years at the club before leaving at the end of last season to join Italian giants Juventus on a free. 

John Obi Mikel – Manchester United to Chelsea

Perhaps the most bizarre transfer saga in Premier League history, Nigerian midfielder John Obi Mikel signed for Manchester United from Norwegian club Lyn Oslo, but later disappeared from training only to be found in London.

Mikel, who was earlier spotted sporting a Manchester United jersey, claimed that he was pressured into the signing for the English giants by Lyn Oslo and wasn’t allowed to gauge his option. United, miffed by the unprecedented circumstances, sold the player to Chelsea just a few days later, ending this strange saga. Mikel spent 11 years at Chelsea and won all major titles with the Blues. 

Feature image courtesy: AFP / Ben Stansall

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