I find it somewhat amusing when I hear the story about how when in 1995, Blackburn Rovers were close to signing French legend Zinedine Zidane. The hugely-gifted future World Cup winner never made it to Ewood Park after manager Jack Walker famously said “Why would I want to sign Zidane when I have Tim Sherwood?”. I’m sure it made sense in ’95. At least, I hope so.
There are some other “almosts”. Like when in recent times when Steven Gerrard was almost set to join Chelsea only to pull the deal at the last minute. And even more recently when Brazilian maestro Kaka was almost lured to the sunshine of Manchester to play for the sky-blue half of the city. After much media attention, he announced he would stay with Milan. Fans flocked to his Milanese apartment, chanting his name on the streets below in sheer joy that their genius was staying. He left for Madrid some months later.
Gerard Houlier spotted a 16-year old Cristiano Ronaldo and could have signed the talented Portugese winger. He didn’t and “CR7” soon joined rivals United and the rest, as they say, is history. Another United hero is Eric Cantona who, like Ronaldo, also nearly went to Anfield. Then Liverpool manager Graeme Souness was offered the fiery striker but the Scot declined admitting he didn’t want to unsettle the dressing room. Cantona went to Leeds United and then ultimately to Old Trafford where his time in Manchester will be long remembered in the club’s history.
But I must give it up to the Arsenal faithful who, despite signing some great ones like Henry, Bergkamp, Brady, Wright etc., missed out on one Diego Armando Maradona. The Agentine nearly went to Highbury when he was 19. “I sometimes wonder what might have happened” the former Boca Juniors, Barcelona and Napoli striker commented. I’m sure every Arsenal fan does also. This is what they missed out on.
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He's no Francis Jeffers, thats for sure.