Five of football’s biggest missed transfer opportunities
But for a few sliding doors moments, the football landscape could look incredibly different today, especially with the news this week that St Mirren nearly signed Riyad Mahrez.
The Leicester City star – and this season’s PFA Player of the Year – went on trial with the Buddies many years ago, but he was destined for other things when he found it far too cold up north.
In fact Mahrez detested it so much he left in secret, stealing a bike in the middle of the night and heading to the train station.
Of course that’s got us all harking back to some of football’s best ‘what ifs’?
Let’s begin in Lancashire…
Robert Lewandowski / Blackburn
Possibly the most bizarre tale of all on our list.
Blackburn had all but agreed a deal to sign Lewandowski from Lech Poznan for around £4m, but then-boss Sam Allardyce would be thwarted by something even he couldn’t prepare for.
The volcanic eruptions from this Icelandic range caused global disruption to flights.
Commonly known as the Ash Cloud, Lewandowski’s flight to Blackburn was cancelled, and he signed for Borussia Dortmund instead.
Lionel Messi & Andreas Iniesta / Rangers
Ok, it was only on loan, but under Alex McLeish – and assistant Jan Wouters, who had Barca connections – in 2004-05 Rangers entered lengthy negotiations about taking Barcelona’s up-and-coming duo Lionel Messi and Andreas Iniesta on loan.
Barca weren’t against the idea, per se, but feared the rough and tumble of Scottish football may have been a tad much for a 17-year-old Messi.
The pair were also on the cusp of the first team at the Nou Camp, and the deal never quite came together.
But in a parallel world, somewhere, it happened.
Andriy Shevchenko to West Ham – 1994
This one has achieved somewhat of an ‘urban-myth’ status with the striker denying it happened, but if Harry Redknapp says it happened, then we believe him.
An 18-year-old Shevchenko was reportedly taken on trial at the Hammers in 1994, getting on the scoresheet in a reserve fixture against Barnet.
But with the fee determined to be too high for ‘Arry to splash out, the move was scrapped.
Michael Essien / Burnley
What is it with Lancashire teams missing out on great players?
Back in 1999, midfield man Michael Essien spent a few days on trial with the Clarets, but a club ruling meant Burnley wouldn’t sign him up on £60-a-week youth terms.
Essien – for a time perhaps the best central midfielder in the game – would go on to win two Premier Leagues, four FA Cups and the Champions League.
Zinedine Zidane / Blackburn
We began with Blackburn,and unfortunately for Rovers fans, we end at Ewood Park.
Kenny Dalglish was looking to bring some French flair to his title-challenging side in 1995, and he earmarked Zidane and Christophe Dugarry as his top two targets.
Now, nobody could ever question Jack Walker’s love for Rovers, but responding to Dalglish’s request with ‘Why do you want to sign Zidane when we have Tim Sherwood?’ may have been an error in hindsight.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.