A transfer isn’t complete until you hear an official announcement or see the player wearing his new kit, but even then the deal can be hijacked.
Manchester United and Chelsea have both stolen players from under the noses of their bitter rivals, but they’ve also been on the receiving end.
Here are some memorable examples of players who were all set to join one club, only to then sign for somebody else.
Danjuma was expected to join Everton this month, in something of a coup for the relegation-threatened club, but the winger decided to join Tottenham at the very last minute.
And this was despite Danjuma completing his medical and media duties ahead of his loan switch to Goodison Park. Ouch.
The transfer saga of the January 2023 window, it appeared as though Arsenal had earmarked the dynamic young Ukrainian as the man to come in and supercharge their surprise Premier League title push.
The Gunners were reportedly in constant dialogue with Shakhtar Donetsk, putting in three bids for the highly-rated 22-year-old. And Mudryk himself seemed to make it very clear on social media that he was desperate to join Mikel Arteta’s squad.
Then Chelsea appeared. Box office Boehly blew Arsenal’s offer out of the water and that was that.
“Overall, it was the same [offer]. Not approximately the same — it was the same figure. The fixed part, variable part, bonuses. But if you look inside the fixed part and bonuses, it was completely different,” Shakhtar Donetsk CEO Sergei Palkin told The Athletic.
“Different time (schedule) of the payments, different kinds of bonuses. Yes, we can talk about bonuses, but these bonuses should be somehow achievable and realistic, let’s say. Therefore, in this case, Chelsea was much more serious and fair in some points.
Lyon held talks with Feyenoord for Malacia in the summer of 2022 and negotiated a fee of €13million upfront plus €2million of add-ons.
The left-back agreed to a five-year contract with Lyon and transfer guru Fabrizio Romano even gave the deal his ‘Here We Go!’ treatment.
But Manchester United hijacked the deal at the 11th hour, offering Feyenoord a guaranteed €15million with a potential further €2million in add-ons.
The Ligue 1 side raised their offer by €1million, only for Malacia to inform them that he had chosen to join United.
“If we don’t have the means to recruit, we can’t bring in players of that level, generally speaking, whatever their love for Lyon might be,” Lyon general director Vincent Ponsot said. “So it’s not a case of having the means.
“But I’m going to be very clear: the institution is always stronger than any player. Sometimes there are demands – that’s how it is in the world of football – that can’t be made. It’s true that it can sometimes collapse deals. But we want a left-back, and we’ll find a good left-back.
“I think the president [Jean-Michel Aulas] is happy to be able to sleep soundly at night and not see the police show up in the morning. Likewise for me. I can’t say everything. It should have been signed on Tuesday – it’s still not been completed, ask yourself that question.
“He still hasn’t signed, but for us it’s over. Because the club’s integrity is more important. We’re proud to be working for a club like this.”
After 10 successful years at Manchester City, Silva looked set to sign for Lazio on a free transfer in 2020 after a medical was scheduled in Rome.
But the Spain international reportedly ignored phone calls from the Serie A club before signing a two-year contract with Real Sociedad instead.
“I learned about David Silva’s transfer to Real Sociedad,” Lazio sporting director Igli Tare said in a statement on their official website. “I have great respect for the player, but not for the man.”
Malcom was ready to join Roma in 2018 after the Italian side confirmed that an agreement had been reached with Bordeaux.
Roma fans were waiting for his arrival at the airport, but they were left disappointed when the winger failed to turn up.
Barcelona had intervened in the eleventh hour and made the Ligue 1 side a bigger offer, prompting them to pull out of their deal with Roma.
Roma sporting director Monchi threatened legal action against Bordeaux, while Malcom’s agent said the U-turn was “revenge” after the Italian club used a different agent to sign one of his other clients, goalkeeper Daniel Fuzato.
— Get French Football News (@GFFN) July 23, 2018
In 1988, Gascoigne was regarded as the most exciting prospect in the country and Manchester United were keen on bringing him to Old Trafford.
“We spoke to him the night before I went on holiday,” Ferguson said. “He said, ‘Go and enjoy yourself, Mr Ferguson, I’ll be signing for Manchester United.’
“So I went on my holidays but Martin Edwards [then chairman] rang and said I’ve got some bad news – he signed for Tottenham.”
Spurs chairman Irving Scholar had managed to change Gascoigne’s mind by offering to buy a £120,000 house for his parents and, crucially, a sunbed for his sister.
This is often considered a sliding doors moment in Gazza’s life amid a school of thought that Fergie would have been able to straighten out his off-field problems. Gazza is less than convinced…
🗣| Paul Gascoigne:
“Alex Ferguson says it would have been different if I had signed for United. Well, Rio did a runner from a drug test. Cantona two-footed some c*nt. Rooney shagged a fuc*king granny. And Giggs shagged his brother’s fuc*ing wife.”
What A LEGEND 😂 pic.twitter.com/K6RHVyrwcR
— City Chief (@City_Chief) May 15, 2020
John Obi Mikel
Mikel was presented as a Manchester United player in a press conference back in 2005, only for Chelsea to claim that they already had an agreement with the player’s agent.
United asked the Premier League to launch an investigation into the matter and a year-long legal battle ensued between the English giants.
The Red Devils eventually agreed to terminate their agreement and the Blues got their man, though they had to pay their rivals £12million in compensation.
Petit travelled to north London ahead of a potential transfer to Tottenham in 1997, meeting with chairman Alan Sugar.
Spurs even paid for the taxi to drive him back to the hotel, but the midfielder decided to take a detour after hearing about Arsenal’s interest.
“Tottenham put the contract on the table for me, I needed a couple of days to think about it but they didn’t expect what happened after that,” Petit told the Daily Mirror in 2018.
“When the cab came, he took me straight to Arsene Wenger’s house, it was the first time I met David Dein and Tottenham paid for the cab to help me sign for Arsenal. It’s part of the legend now.”
Alfredo Di Stefano
Di Stefano won eight league titles and five European Cups at Real Madrid, but things could have been very different.
The forward had agreed to join Barcelona in 1953 and even played in a pre-season friendly, but the Spanish Football Association blocked the transfer due to issues over his registration rights.
With the transfer on hold, Madrid took advantage of the uncertainty and agreed a deal with Colombian side Millonarios.
Di Stefano would be allowed to play four years in the country, two seasons with Real and two campaigns with Barcelona on an alternating basis.
The humiliated Barca president was forced to resign and the interim board ripped up the contract, freeing Di Stefano to join Real for a small fee.
Keane announced that he would leave Nottingham Forest after their relegation in 1993, agreeing personal terms with Blackburn Rovers.
Kenny Dalglish tried to get the paperwork through late on a Friday afternoon, but the Ewood Park office had closed for the weekend and they agreed to finalise the contract on the following Monday.
Hearing of this delay, Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson called Keane and convinced him to renege on his gentleman’s agreement with Dalglish.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Great story from Roy Keane about Kenny Dalglish.. A man who DOES NOT appreciate someone going back on their word! 👊 😂
— Empire of the Kop (@empireofthekop) August 11, 2017
Tottenham thought that they had won the race to sign Willian from Anzhi Makhachkala in 2013 and the winger even completed his medical.
But Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich used his contacts in Russia to hijack the deal while Willian was still at Tottenham’s training ground.
“Then we’re going in the van, on the way, get to the training centre, Kia [Joorabchian], my agent, is already down there, waiting. I thought it was weird, he was already at the door,” Willian told Brazilian TV shown Resenha in 2018.
“Then I got out of the van, he said, ‘We have problems.’ I said, ‘Oh, what happened?’ Then he said, ‘Chelsea made an offer.’ I said, ‘So make do, I’ll get back in the van, you’ll make do and I’ll go to Chelsea, I will not sign with Tottenham.’
“I stayed there for eight hours in the training centre. Tottenham’s director said, ‘I’m going to report you to FIFA, this and that, fans here in England will boo you, this and that.’
“They made up a lot of things. I got stuck there for eight hours. Then I left and I went straight to meet the Chelsea people to sort the details and sign.”
Everton looked set to sign Sissoko after matching Newcastle United’s £30million valuation in 2016 and had a private jet ready to take him to Merseyside.
But Tottenham swooped in and lured the midfielder away from Goodison Park with a sensational last-minute bid on deadline day.
Sissoko reportedly switched his phone off to avoid calls from Ronald Koeman while completing his move to White Hart Lane.
Chelsea started selling replica shirts with Robinho’s name on them before the deal was done, but they were left with egg on their faces.
Manchester City wanted to make a marquee signing after Sheikh Mansour’s takeover in 2008 and managed to sign the attacker for £32.5million.
The move came out of nowhere; it was so shocking that even Robinho didn’t seem to know who he had signed for.
“On the last day of transfers, Chelsea made a good offer for me personally, and good for Real Madrid, and it was accepted,” Robinho said, before someone pointed out his mistake.
‘Chelsea? No, Manchester. Sorry.”
It was reported that Robinho to Chelsea in 2008 was almost a done deal until Real Madrid were unhappy with Chelsea selling Robinho shirts on their website before the sale had been announced.
Man City made a late bid and bought the Brazilian for £32.5M on deadline day. pic.twitter.com/fN8uIxsukZ
— Classic Football Shirts (@classicshirts) July 23, 2019
Hamann spent seven years at Liverpool, but his spell at Bolton didn’t last as long.
Only a day after signing for the Trotters in July 2006, the club released a statement that the Germany international “had since had a change of heart” and would be joining a different club.
Speaking to Hamann in the talkSPORT studios years later, former Bolton chairman Phil Gartside said: “What you never realised was that we never actually countersigned the papers and just put them in the drawer.
“The next thing we know, you came along and told us you’d got this opportunity to go to Manchester City – so we actually sold you without actually signing you; did you know that? We got £400,000 from Manchester City for a player we never actually signed – and that’s the truth.”