A lot of missed opportunities over the course of history, recent and from way back. Alex Ferguson, despite all of his success  has had a few slip away from his fingers during his time with Manchester United; Arsene Wenger with Arsenal as well. And where would have European football gone if Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Zinedine Zidane and Diego Maradona wouldn’t have landed where they have?

Blackburn NOT Signing Zinedine Zidane

One of the most famous lines in the history of the game, and certainly in Blackburn’s history, came from its (then) owner, Jack Walker. Kenny Dalglish wanted to sign both Zidane and Christophe Dugarry from Bordeaux. Walker told him these exact words: Why do you want to sign Zidane when we have Tim Sherwood?

Ronaldinho Going to Barcelona, not Manchester United

The last time Brazil had not just the best player in the world but an actual global sensation was Ronaldinho during his Barcelona years. After two so-so seasons with Paris Saint-Germain and not qualifying into any European competition, the 23 year old declared he was leaving the French club.

Both Manchester United and Barcelona (Nike clubs) fought for his services, but the rumor says that Sandro Rossell used his connection to Ronaldinho and Nike (a former Nike executive in Brazil) to sign the player. David Beckham was the player Barcelona initially wanted, but he preferred to sign with Real Madrid.

Johan Cryuff Changing Football History

What if Cryuff never signed for Barcelona in the 60s? –Likely not coach of the dream team in the 90s. –Guardiola would not have become his philosophical disciple. –No Barcelona obsession with Dutch coaching and players (Van Gaal, Rijkaard) –No Pep team in the later 00s –No Spain or Barcelona becoming the living embodiment of Rinnus Michael Total Football. (Credit)

Diego Maradona and Sheffield United?!

Whilst playing for Argentinos Juniors, English club Sheffield United put in an offer of £180,000 for his services but the bid was rejected. Maradona was 17 at the time (1978). Some say that United’s manager, Harry Haslam, actually struck a deal with the Argentinian club for £600,000, but his board didn’t approve it.

Alfredo Di Stefano Going to Real Madrid and not Barcelona

A complicated issue this one, with half-truths and misinformation clouding the story because of so many years that have gone by, and also no one actually knowing what went down at that time. Barcelona were the team that was supposed to sign the Argentinian  playing for Millonarios at the time.

Too many middle man got in the way, making the deal go sour on the Colombian side. Di Stefano was also owned by River Plate, but only from 1955 and onwards. So Barcelona signed him from River Plate and FIFA authorized the deal. The Spanish FA did not. On 13 May 1953, he arrived in Spain to conclude his contract with Barcelona but during the discussions with the Federation, Real Madrid’s president Santiago Bernabéu, acting upon the apparent division within the Barcelona management, convinced him to sign for them instead.

During the negotiations with Millonarios (by both clubs), he Spanish Federation issued a ban on foreign players in the Spanish league. Then the Spanish FA announced that the player will stay in Spain for 4 years, playing two for each team, agreed upon by the presidents of the club.

A huge uproar from the Barcelona side of the table, and their president had to resign a week later under huge fan pressure. It’s disputed whether Barcelona simply gave up on him (as Real Madrid claim they did after the decision) or more shady dealings were involved, meaning Franco.

River Plate Not accepting the Medical Bills for Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi would have reached a big European club anyway. I mean, I’m pretty sure he would. But a lot of things would have been different if it wasn’t Barcelona that decided to pick up the tab and finance his growth hormone deficiency treatment. Messi played with Newell’s until the age of 13, and River Plate were interested in him, but the club wouldn’t pay the $900 a month. So Barcelona came in through Carles Rexach and made the grab.

Arsenal not Signing Cristiano Ronaldo

Again Arsene Wenger needing time. In November 2002, Ronaldo was invited to Arsenal’s training ground to meet manager Arsène Wenger and his coaching staff. Wenger, who was interested in signing the midfielder had arranged to meet Ronaldo’s representatives in the coming months to discuss a potential transfer. Liverpool were also in the mix of meeting with his representatives. Alex Ferguson was interested, but after the famous friendly in which Ronaldo dazzled his way against Manchester United, the Scottish manager wasted no time and signed him for £12.24 million.

Liverpool and Sheffield Wednesday Missing on Eric Cantona

Eric Cantona was a talented and problematic player at the turn of the decade, and at the age of 25, after an unsuccessful time with Marseille, was playing for Nimes, a very small club considering his talents. On 6 November 1991, after Liverpool played Auxerre, Graemme Souness, the manager of the club back then, met with Michel Platini, who told Souness that Cantona was available. Souness declined the offer because he feared the Frenchman’s effect on the dressing room. Later, Cantona participated in a one-week trial for Wednesday. Trevor Francis wasn’t impressed. Leeds came and swooped for the find.

Newcastle Lads Don’t go to Manchester United

According to Alex Ferguson, after the end of the 1987-1988 season, with Paul Gascoigne winning the league’s young player of the year award, Gazza promised him he would sign for Manchester United. Gascoigne wanted Liverpool to buy him, but no offer was coming. Ferguson went on holiday, and Spurs swooped in, purchasing the young midfielder for a British record fee of £2 million. Spurs persuaded him by buying a house for his family.

Alan Shearer was born in Newcastle but at the age of 16 joined Southampton. Ten years later, after three incredible seasons with Blackburn, including winning the title in 1995, Shearer was on the verge of becoming the most expensive footballer in the world, at least for a short while. Both Newcastle and United agreed upon terms with Blackburn in 1996, but it seemed a last ditch effort by Kevin Keegan, in a private meeting with Shearer, convinced him to return to the North East. United still won plenty of titles, that Shearer could have been part of.

Bayern Munich instead of Werder Bremen

Bayern Munich’s rise began in 1969, leading to their European domination in the 1970’s and becoming the biggest club in Germany, one of the biggest and most successful in Europe. Udo Lattek, Uli Hoeneß and Paul Breitner to Werder Bremen instead of Bayern Munich in 1969 is one of the biggest if not the biggest what if in the history of German football, seeing as those three names have shaped Bayern Munich into the club it is today. Werder had the chance to get all of them as a packaged deal and passed on it. (credit)

Zlatan Ibrahimovic to Arsenal?

One of Arsene Wenger’s biggest mistakes. Signing Francis Jeffers for £8 million instead of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, one of the more accomplished strikers over the last decade for £3 million. The 19-year old Malmo player thought he was getting an Arsenal contract. Ibrahimovic got the number nine shirt from Wenger and was pretty much sure he’s on his way to become a Gunner. But Wenger gives shirts to everyone, and wanted Ibrahimovic to participate in a trial. Zlatan himself said years later: No way, Zlatan doesn’t do auditions. He signed for Ajax a bit later.