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The longest transfer sagas of all time

Mitchell Wilks
Neymar shocked the world
Neymar shocked the world / AFP Contributor/Getty Images
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Dragging out a juicy, high profile transfer story can be fun. Ramping up the rumours, creeping in a curveball, and ultimately making that magic, finalised moment even sweeter are all part of the fun.

There is a very fine line to tow, however, between a transfer saga being dramatic and high profile, and it going on for too long and simply becoming the worst kept secret that nobody cares about anymore.

For fans of the clubs involved, they're a nightmare more often than not. And for the social media admins of course. 90min recalls some of the most famous sagas that continued to rumble on.


30. Peter Odemwingie to QPR

Peter Odemwingie
Odemwingie returned to West Brom, tail between the legs / Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Alright, this one isn't long as in an entire summer situation, but Odemwingie's deadline day in January 2013 must have felt like a lifetime.

The Nigerian striker was convinced he was getting a move from West Brom to QPR, so much so that he drove to London and sat outside Loftus Road in an attempt to ensure the deal was done. It wasn't. Egg on his face, back to the Midlands.

29. Eden Hazard to Real Madrid

Eden Hazard, Florentino Perez
Huge money / Angel Martinez/Getty Images

Spoiler - there is a lot of Real Madrid in this list. You have been warned.

There was a point where Hazard was getting sickeningly good for Chelsea. Worryingly good. When a player shines in the Premier League a little too much, that inevitable move to La Liga comes calling. After tons of speculation, the Belgian caved after the Europa League final and teased everyone by suggesting it was his last game in blue.

28. John Stones to Manchester City

John Stones
City paid a big fee for Stones / Michael Regan/Getty Images

Having developed into a competent and modernised central defender with Everton, Stones was destined for a big money move by 2015.

After seeing Chelsea unsuccessfully chase him that summer, Manchester City became linked and talks rumbled on to a point where a deal looked destined to fall through. They finally got their man in August of 2016, making him the then-second most expensive defender in history.

27. David Beckham to Real Madrid

David Beckham
Beckham was keen to go abroad / Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

United should've known Beckham was up to something the minute he stopped cutting his hair and running blonde hits through it. The Spanish move was calling in the early 2000s.

A fallout with Sir Alex Ferguson and a football boot to the head only ramped up already obvious transfer speculation. Beckham was subject to endless rumours and whispers throughout 2003, but finally got a move to Madrid that July despite a deal being agreed initially with Barcelona.

26. Ander Herrera to Manchester United

Ander Herrera
Herrera was desperate to join United / Chris Brunskill/Getty Images

Signing in 2014 ahead of Louis van Gaal's first season in charge, the Spaniard had been linked to United throughout the season before.

United tried to sign Herrera in 2013 but failed, with rumours circulating that two suspicious agents were trying to get a deal done on United's behalf on the sly. He eventually signed a year later, above board and official.

25. Saido Berahino to Stoke

Saido Berahino
You can only wonder what Berahino's career would've looked like had he moved to Spurs / Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

After a shining breakthrough 2013/14 season with West Brom, Tottenham showed interest in Berahino in the following two years.

The forward tried to push through a move himself but was never allowed to leave the club, despite offers being made. Berahino never got the big move, his stock dropped, and he settled on a switch to Stoke in January 2017 which failed to work out.

24. Adrien Silva to Leicester

Adrien Silva
All hype, no action / Michael Regan/Getty Images

Similar vibes to Odemwingie, Adrien Silva's move to Leicester was more of a monumental deadline day calamity.

Leicester finally struck a £22m deal on the final day of the summer 2017 window for their man, but failure to register the deal in time meant he couldn't sign on or actually play a game for the club until January. Worst of all, he never even kicked on after all the build up.

23. Kylian Mbappe to Real Madrid

Kylian Mbappe
Mbappe won't be at PSG forever / Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

Those elite level, superstar moves from major club to major club take some doing to complete, but the transfer rumour mill does not rest until they're done.

Mbappe has been linked with a move to Los Blancos since he pulled on a Paris Saint-Germain shirt for the first time. It is inevitable that he ends up in Spain at some point in the future.

22. Paul Pogba to Real Madrid/Paris Saint-Germain

Paul Pogba
Speculation never ends / Matthias Hangst/Getty Images

Pogba's situation is incredibly similar to Mbappe's. Ever since he returned to United, he's been linked with a second exit.

It would be easy to rubbish it as nothing, but with Mino Raiola as his agent, talk of that move to Madrid or Paris never cools down and always feels somewhat realistic.

21. Carlos Tevez to Milan/Corinthians

Carlos Tevez
Tevez quickly became unsettled at City / Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

Despite only moving across Manchester to sign for City in 2009 on mega money, Tevez was stirring the pot by January 2010 and handed in a transfer request.

Although he withdrew the request, the relationship was never 100% again. The 2011/12 and 12/13 campaigns were marred with speculation of a move to Italy, time at home in Argentina and a return to the fold. His inevitable transfer finally came in the summer of 2013, ending a painful saga.

20. Marouane Fellaini to Manchester United

FBL-ENG-PR-MAN UTD-FELLAINI
United hit the panic button / ANDREW YATES/Getty Images

There was a joking sense in the air linking Fellaini to United the minute David Moyes was given the reigns at Old Trafford in 2013.

The only joke, though, was the Red Devils in the transfer window that summer. Deals dragged on and fizzled out as they missed out on star players, bringing them closer to Fellaini every time. They finally caved on deadline day and forked out £27.5m to bring him to United.

19. Diego Costa to Atletico Madrid

FBL-ESP-LIGA-ATLETICO-PRESSER
Costa got his return / PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU/Getty Images

For as good as Costa was at Chelsea, his explosive personality meant it was never ending on good terms.

In June 2017, he was deemed surplus to requirements by Antonio Conte, which started the Atleti return talks. Those same talks rumbled on all summer long but to no avail, despite him trying to push a move through. He eventually got his wish the following January, heading back to Atletico after months of push and shove.

18. Leroy Sane to Bayern Munich

Leroy Sane
Sane had to be patient / Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images

Having come into his own in Manchester as a young German winger with no ceiling, the inevitable Bayern Munich transfer links popped up for Sane in the summer of 2019.

As soon as they appeared, a deal looked inevitable that summer and he was close to signing. That was until he tore his ACL in the Community Shield and the talks were halted. Sane rejected a new City contract and finally got his move in July 2020 having recovered from injury, making for a strange year of sympathy tinged with anger for City fans.

17. Georges-Kevin Nkoudou to Tottenham

Georges-Kevin N'Koudou
Nkoudou never broke into the side / Catherine Ivill - AMA/Getty Images

It took Spurs the entire summer of 2016 to complete a deal for Nkoudou for £11m.

After putting fans through weeks of pain, surely it was worth it to watch their new French winger, right? No. Nkoudou never broke into the first team, always looked average and left for Turkey in 2019. Not even worth the saga.

16. Naby Keita to Liverpool

Naby Keita
Keita's move was agreed a year in advance / Michael Regan/Getty Images

Negotiations and rumblings between Liverpool and RB Leipzig regarding Naby Keita started in the summer of 2017.

From that June/July, fans thought they were getting one of Europe's exciting young midfielders. But in true transfer fashion, the deal dragged on endlessly. What came of the noise was an eventual agreement to sign Keita in July 2018, meaning they had to wait an entire season on top of the summer to finally get their man.

15. Cesc Fabregas to Barcelona

Cesc Fabregas
Inevitable / David Ramos/Getty Images

Poaching a La Masia graduate is always a coup, but there is always the risk of the inevitable desire to return to dreamland. Arsenal felt that with Cesc Fabregas.

After the Spaniard's rise in England, Barcelona started putting feelers out in the summer of 2010, having bids rejected. They continued to knock on the door, and despite initial resist, the Gunners ultimately caved and Fabregas returned to Barcelona in 2011 following a long pursuit.

14. Dimitar Berbatov to Manchester United

Manchester United's new player Dimitar B
Berbatov only wanted United / DIMITAR DILKOFF/Getty Images

Two years with Spurs was all it took for Berbatov to prove his worth as one of the best strikers in the Premier League, and a big move came calling.

Sir Alex Ferguson began planting the seed that he wanted Berbatov throughout 2008, unsettling the Bulgarian and forcing Spurs' hand, who initially resisted. The saga dragged on, and despite interest from City, United finally got their man in September 2008, with Spurs dropping Berbatov for the first month of the 2008/09 campaign.

13. Samir Nasri to Manchester City

Samir Nasri
City snapped up Arsenal's star man / Alex Livesey/Getty Images

While City lost out on Berbatov in 2009, it was them that won in 2011 in the race for Samir Nasri.

The electric Frenchman was running down his contract at Arsenal and had entered his final 12 months by that summer. United had long shown interest, as did City. Arsenal tried to play the long game and a transfer rumbled on, but City got the deal done at the end of August with things getting tight.

12. Luka Modric to Real Madrid

Luka Modric
Modric was denied a move to Chelsea / Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

By 2010 and 2011, it was becoming painfully clear that Luka Modric was at a level well beyond Tottenham.

Chelsea tried their luck through the summer of 2011, but Spurs wouldn't let him go despite several bids and a supposed 'gentleman's agreement', with a £40m deadline day bid rejected. Modric stayed put another year and the saga started again in 2012, but this time it was Real Madrid who called and completed a deal.

11. Matthijs de Ligt to Juventus

Matthijs de Ligt
De Ligt chose Italy / Marco Luzzani/Getty Images

The star of another golden generation at Ajax, captain De Ligt was destined for a move within Europe.

Linked with everyone throughout the summer of 2019, there was a race for the Dutchman's signature. Ultimately, Juventus edged beyond Manchester United, Barcelona and others to complete a deal in July, after months of trying to pin down who would be the side to snap him up.

10. Steven Gerrard to Chelsea

Steven Gerrard
Gerrard changed his mind at the death / Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

With contract negotiations stalled after the 2005 Champions League win, Chelsea swooped in to bring Gerrard to London.

Chelsea kept knocking, and when they turned Gerrard's head with a lucrative contract, he look set to leave Liverpool after all the speculation. Amazingly, the midfielder did a U-turn and elected to stay with Liverpool, putting a final spin on a wild summer saga.

9. Alexis Sanchez to Manchester United

Alexis Sanchez
Sanchez sparked a hard reset on United's transfer dealings / Clive Mason/Getty Images

Sorry to bring it up, United fans.

With Alexis Sanchez out of contract come the end of the 2017/18 season, January was a race to secure him at a cut price. And while it seemed nailed on for him to head to Manchester City for so long, the deal dragged and United swooped in at the death. Swap deal, stupid wages and a piano. One of their worst bits of business ever.

8. Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid

Real Madrid's new player Portuguese Cris
United had lost their boy / AFP/Getty Images

Cristiano Ronaldo had blossomed into the world's best player and a Champions League winner by the summer of 2008.

It was the worst kept secret in the world by that point that he wanted Real Madrid, who had done everything to tap him up, but he agreed to do one more season at Old Trafford. 2008/09 was the last hurrah, and he headed to Madrid a year later, bringing an end to a long and painful saga for United fans.

7. Antoine Griezmann to Barcelona

Antoine Griezmann
Griezmann's loyalty play wasn't all that believable / David Ramos/Getty Images

Having teased his own Atletico Madrid exit for months and continually hinted at a move to Manchester United in summer 2017, Griezmann looked destined to leave.

Atleti were hit with a transfer ban so Griezmann stayed put, announcing his loyalty and heroism with a weird mini-documentary. He played two more seasons with Atleti, before teasing a move yet again and jumping ship to Barcelona in 2019, who he had flirted with plenty of times before. An exit years in the making.

6. Ashley Cole to Chelsea

Ashley Cole
Chelsea eventually got Cole / Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

At the beginning of 2005, Cole was found out to have secretly tried to engineer his own move away from Arsenal by privately contacting Chelsea.

Himself, Chelsea and Jose Mourinho were all fined for the January window antics and Cole signed a one year extension at Arsenal in July 2005. A year later, however, he finally got his switch to Chelsea on doubled wages at the end of the window, following a few bids and some more meetings. Arsenal were furious.

5. Paul Pogba to Manchester United

Paul Pogba
Pogba came home / Michael Regan/Getty Images

Having blossomed into one of the best midfielders in the world at Juventus, United were keen to rectify a mistake by bringing Pogba back to Old Trafford.

Rumours had long been there, but they turned white hot in the spring and summer of 2016, rumbling on throughout the transfer window. After weeks of United fans checking their phone every few minutes for updates, an announcement finally came in early August, with Pogba returning for a world record fee.

4. John Obi Mikel to Chelsea

Nigerian soccer player John Obi Mikel sm
Mikel in a United shirt before being sold to Chelsea instead / AFP/Getty Images

Impressing as a youngster in Norway, Manchester United announced an agreement to sign Mikel in 2005, to a point where he had posed with the shirt in a press conference.

As things unfolded, United hadn't agreed a transfer fee with Lyn, leaving Chelsea to swoop in and nab Mikel above board, agreeing the fee and hijacking the move. Chelsea paid United £12m and Mikel headed to London in 2006.

3. Neymar to Paris Saint-Germain

Neymar
Neymar's move changed the transfer market forever / Pool/Getty Images

Nobody could quite believe what they were reading when a £200m transfer went through in 2017.

In his final years at Barcelona, there were rumblings that Neymar needed to move out of Lionel Messi's shadow to prove himself. After plenty of speculation, his £200m release clause was activated and an industry changing transfer was completed in August 2017. Everyone's got a price.

2. David de Gea to Real Madrid

David De Gea
De Gea's move collapsed at the death / Matthew Ashton - AMA/Getty Images

Weeks and months of rumours, doubt and dealings came down to the wire regarding De Gea's departure from United in 2015.

Going down to the very last wire on deadline day, a deal was finally agreed, but a slow fax meant that Real missed the deadline and were unable to sign the goalkeeper they had kept tabs on for years by this point. De Gea signed a new deal at United and the saga died a death.

1. Jadon Sancho to Manchester United

Jadon Sancho
United played the long game / Michael Regan/Getty Images

A transfer that was truthfully more than two years in the making.

The Red Devils showed their interest in Sancho the minute he wanted to leave City in 2017, but obviously had no chance. The winger blossomed with Borussia Dortmund and United made their move in 2020, with a saga dragging on all summer long to no avail. They returned in 2021 and finally got their man after two summers of painful negotiations and endless, pointless updates. Hype gone.

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