After an Isco goal helped Real Madrid beat United in the UEFA Super Cup earlier this week, an ESPN report claimed that the Red Devils rejected the chance to sign the Spain international when he was still a Malaga player.
A senior club scout was sent to monitor the midfielder before eventually concluding: “He’s good but not quite quick enough, and his head is too big for his body.”
We’ve looked back at six more potential transfers which fell through for rather unusual reasons.
“We looked at Jordan Henderson a lot and Steve Bruce was unfailingly enthusiastic about him,” Sir Alex Ferguson wrote in his 2013 autobiography. “Against that we noticed that Henderson runs from his knees, with a straight back, while the modern footballer runs from his hips.
“We thought his gait might cause him problems later in his career.”
Having played an average of 35 Premier League games per season in his first four years at Anfield having joined Liverpool instead, many laughed off Ferguson’s claim. But heel and foot injuries have limited Henderson’s participation in the last two seasons. Coincidence?
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The Spain goalkeeper looked set in 2015 to complete the move he always appeared destined to make, with Manchester United and Real Madrid leaving it until the final day of the summer transfer window to find common ground over the goalkeeper. De Gea would join Real, with Keylor Navas heading in the opposite direction to Old Trafford.
But it never happened. Contrary to legend, a fax machine was not to blame, but Real were adamant over who was. They claim they sent the relevant documentation to United at 14:39 BST, over eight hours before the 11pm deadline. United returned to them four hours later, with “some small modifications” that were agreed to by Real Madrid.
The Spanish club at 22:32 sent contracts with the signatures of both players to United to be returned, with the Red Devils finally reaching agreement with Navas’ agent seven minutes before the deadline.
In Real’s words, the saga concluded like this: “Manchester United put the data regarding the David De Gea transfer into the TMS (FIFA’s Transfer Matching System) but not that of Keylor Navas at 00:00 Spanish time, while remitting to Real Madrid the signed transfer contracts at the same time. Real Madrid received that complete documentation at 00:02 and tried to access TMS but it was already shut down.
“Definitely, Real Madrid did everything that was necessary at all times to get these two transfers completed.”
United offered their own version of events, claiming “Real Madrid didn’t upload David’s documents onto TMS in time (Manchester United did)”… and “Real Madrid didn’t upload David’s documents to the Spanish league in time, per reports it seems some 28 minutes after the deadline.”
United wrapped up their statement with a wonderfully barbed pay-off: “Manchester United acts appropriately and efficiently in its transfer dealings. The club is delighted that its fan-favourite double player of the year, David de Gea, remains a Manchester United player.”
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Alex McLeish had been working for weeks to get Boyd to Forest in 2013. On deadline day during the winter window, the Scottish manager looked set to finally get his way when the midfielder underwent a medical.
However, “12 hours after his medical”, according to Barry Fry, Forest pulled out of the deal, citing an “inconclusive eye test”.
“Total disgrace, the whole thing,” Posh chairman Darragh MacAnthony tweeted. “He’s played 300 games and scored from the halfway line the other month, but Forest say he has an eyesight problem. The whole thing stinks.”
Posh director of football Fry pinned the blame on Forest owners, the Al-Hasawi family: ”I don’t know how they can call themselves fit and proper.
“Alex has been a gentleman over this, it was the owners who pulled out and they are a disgrace to the game.”
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Leeds United have lurched from shambles to crisis and back again more often than anyone can accurately pinpoint in recent years. In January 2014, the club was in a state of both.
Owners Gulf Finance House were trying to sell the Whites to Massimo Cellino, all while the team was being knocked out of the FA Cup by Rochdale and losing 6-0 at Sheffield Wednesday, a game during which GFH reportedly tried to sack manager Brian McDermott at half-time.
McDermott was asking for the club to sign Ashley Barnes from Brighton. The Yorkshire Evening Post’s Leeds United reporter Phil Hay tells the story like this: “When David Haigh put the terms of the transfer into Bahrain, one of the messages that came back (perhaps in jest, though who can be sure?) was that Barnes had a lower rating on Football Manager than Luke Varney. That is Prozone analysis Toy-Story style.”
Later that same month, Varney refused to play for Leeds before being loaned to Blackburn, while Cellino, upon completing his takeover, was barricaded inside Elland Road by fans angry at the Italian’s attempt to fire the beleaguered McDermott. Barnes instead joined Burnley, for whom he continues to impress in the Premier League.
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Brian Clough needed a midfielder for Forest in 1990, and though that was the summer Roy Keane was signed for £10,000, “the Irishman”, as Clough constantly referred to him, was signed with the future rather than the present in mind.
Clough targeted McAllister and Forest agreed a £1.15million fee with Leicester for the Scotland international. However, when the then-25-year-old turned up at Forest’s training ground, he did so wearing cowboy boots.
“Who do you think you are young man? Bloody John Wayne?” asked Clough, who was a late arrival to the meeting. The footwear prompted Clough to ask a series of questions about McAllister’s private life during an episode the player described as “pretty bizarre”.
Forest pulled out of the deal and McAllister went to Leeds instead, where he became a title winner two seasons later, one year before Forest were relegated in Clough’s final campaign.
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The former playboy forward looked all set to join Liverpool in 1972 after a deal had been agreed with Huddersfield. The story goes that Worthington failed his medical at Anfield due to a sexually transmitted infection. The official line, though, cites high blood pressure.
Either way, Bill Shankly told Worthington to disappear off to Majorca to relax and come back in a week for another test.
Subsequently, according to the Huddersfield Examiner: ‘A week later – after seven days of carousing, which involved two Swedish blondes, a night with Miss Great Britain, a casual encounter at the airport with a woman whose name he didn’t catch and a night with a young Belgian beauty – he retook the medical.
‘His blood pressure was even higher. A bemused Bill Shankly cancelled the deal and sent his mother some flowers.’
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