Nine players West Ham missed out on – and who they signed instead

Quick Reads

As with any team which once had Harry Redknapp at the helm, West Ham have reportedly found themselves close to signing all manner of players over the years.

Of course, we tend not to hear about the ones who never amounted to anything. That matters not, though, as there are plenty of big names who have been linked with West Ham before, with all due respect to the London club, going on to bigger and better things.

Here are just a few of those who came close to ending up at Upton Park in the years before the club moved to the London Stadium, and who West Ham signed in their stead.

Didier Drogba

During his time at Galatasaray, Drogba revealed that he could have ended up a West Ham player before he moved from Marseille to Chelsea.

If we’re getting even more specific, West Ham were interested before he left Guingamp for Marseille, but West Ham decided they were fine with Paolo Di Canio and Fredi Kanouté leading the line and decided instead to invest in younger prospect Youssef Sofiane.

Of course, Kanouté suffered a long-term injury a few months later, Di Canio fell out with manager Glenn Roeder, and Sofiane wasn’t ready to step up.

This meant West Ham threw defender Ian Pearce up front for half a season and a 36-year-old Les Ferdinand for the other half, leading to relegation from the Premier League.

Neymar

Back in 2010, when West Ham had secured their Premier League status for another year and hired Avram Grant as their new manager, the club were reportedly ready to break their transfer record for Neymar.

The Brazilian was just 18 at the time but had already impressed for Santos and was just weeks away from a first senior international call-up – consider it not too dissimilar to Richarlison’s move to Watford in 2017.

West Ham were ultimately priced out of a move, though, and instead opted to bring in Victor Obinna from Inter. The Nigerian had his moments, but not enough of them to keep the team from finishing bottom of the league.

Ruud van Nistelrooy

A few months before the Neymar bid, West Ham owners David Gold and David Sullivan attempted to make a statement signing in their first January transfer window.

Ruud van Nistelrooy was made available on a free transfer by Real Madrid – after all, they’d signed Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema the previous summer, so didn’t exactly need the Dutchman – and West Ham were ready to swoop with a £100,000 per week contract offer.

The former Manchester United man chose Hamburg instead, and West Ham’s response saw them bring in three strikers for a fraction of that £100k.

Sadly, Ilan, Mido and Benni McCarthy fell one short of Van Nistelrooy’s five-goal total from his first 11 games in the Bundesliga. That’s the three of them combined, not individually.

Petr Čech

When Petr Čech was closing in on a move to Chelsea in 2004, the goalkeeper’s compatriot and former West Ham No.1 Luděk Mikloško shed some light on how things could have been very different.

“I was interested in bringing Petr over to England when he was 19, but I eventually decided that it would be a mistake. He was not yet ready for English football and needed to continue his development back in the Czech Republic,” Mikloško revealed.

Čech would end up joining Rennes shortly after his 20th birthday, spending two years at the French club before completing a move to Stamford Bridge.

West Ham decided to go with experience instead – Raimond van der Gouw was almost double the Czech stopper’s age when he joined from Manchester United in the summer of 2002.

Álvaro Negredo

In the summer of 2013, when it looked as though West Ham would have no chance of making Andy Carroll’s loan move from Liverpool permanent, another transfer target emerged.

Sam Allardyce’s side had a £14.5million bid rejected for Negredo, just 12 months after the Sevilla striker had played his part in Spain’s Euro 2012 triumph. By the time the Hammers realised Carroll was indeed available for a comparable price, it didn’t seem to matter that the Spaniard wouldn’t have cost a whole lot more.

Negredo scored 23 goals in his one and only City season, including a hat-trick against West Ham in the League Cup semi-finals, as the Manchester club ended the campaign with two trophies.

Carroll scored 23 over the course of the next four seasons combined.

Edinson Cavani

West Ham were in pursuit of Cavani back in 2009, with the Daily Telegraph reporting at the time that the Uruguayan was regarded as a replacement for Craig Bellamy after the Welshman’s move to Manchester City.

Cavani, then 22 years old, had enjoyed a breakthrough season with Palermo after reportedly being on the verge of an exit 12 months earlier, and West Ham had renewed their interest in the light of his 15-goal season.

Palermo opted to hold on to the striker, though, eventually holding out for a €17million fee from Napoli at the end of that season.

West Ham, unwilling to wait, signed Alessandro Diamanti and Luis Jiménez. Neither reached double-figures for the club.

N’Golo Kanté

West Ham’s 2015-16 season was one of their best in the Premier League era, but it might have been even better if Kanté had joined from Caen instead of moving to eventual champions Leicester City.

Slaven Bilić revealed the Frenchman, who made his second Foxes appearance in a win at Upton Park, was on West Ham’s shortlist earlier that summer, only for the club to decide they were all set for defensive midfielders by the time Kanté moved to the East Midlands.

The man who West Ham plumped for instead? Alex Song, who made eight league starts after extending his loan from Barcelona.

Pep Guardiola

When Pep Guardiola left Barcelona in 2001, West Ham were one of a number of English clubs who considered a move for the Barcelona man.

The reason why he didn’t move to East London? The presence of a young talent by the name of Michael Carrick, with manager Glenn Roeder determined not to hamper the academy product’s development.

Instead of snapping up Guardiola on a free, West Ham opted to bring in the more attack-minded Don Hutchison and persist with Carrick at the base of their midfield.

Juan Román Riquelme

In the summer of 2010 – yes, the one when West Ham bid for Neymar – the London club were one of several Premier League teams to express an interest in the out-of-contract Riquelme. Indeed, they were thought to be the Argentine’s “best option”.

Riquelme decided to sign a new deal with Boca Juniors instead, though, and it was back to the drawing board for West Ham.

Their only midfield signing that summer, Thomas Hitzlsperger, picked up an injury on international duty and had to wait until February for his debut, and was unable to save the team from relegation.


More West Ham

Ranking the 45 forwards signed in West Ham’s Gold & Sullivan era

Can you name West Ham’s top 25 goalscorers in Premier League history?

A celebration of peak Joe Cole: ‘A special player, full of fantasy’

Ranking West Ham’s 32 weirdest Premier League signings