Search icon


24th Jul 2019

Nicolas Gaitan to Manchester United and other great transfer sagas that never happened

Wayne Farry

Every team has one

Regardless of which football team we support, each of us has at least one player unconnected to the club that we look out for.

Sometimes it’s because we once saw the player rip our team apart and as a result we keep an eye out for them, and sometimes it’s because they did bits for us in FIFA or FM and we retain a lifelong bond with them.

Sometimes though it’s because the player in question came incredibly close to signing for your team, or at least you think they did because they were linked with them summer after summer.

Each summer you see that same name appear on Sky Sports News’ ticker – with sources saying that he is “in discussions” or “interested in a move” or “considering the deal”, only to remain at his club or fuck off somewhere else, leaving us to grasp at the remnants of what could have been.

So here, in this very body of text, we will chronicle the very best Premier League transfers that never quite happened, or the ones that go away, if you will.

William Carvalho to Arsenal/Manchester United/West Ham United

An absolute classic of the genre, this. William Carvalho to [insert Premier League team here] is essentially the Magna Carta of transfers that never happened; laying the groundwork for not-quite-there deals for years to come.

Carvalho was something of a wunderkind at Sporting Clube de Portugal (I’d simply write Sporting Lisbon but their fans fucking hate that) and as a result saw himself linked with most good teams around Europe.

The teams that kept being mentioned though were Arsenal and Manchester United, to the point that every second person you met was suddenly a Portuguese Primeira Liga expert, extolling the qualities of the central midfielder at any opportunity.

Unfortunately for Carvalho, his stock fell as the years passed despite success with Portugal, and he would see his options for a move to England dropping from top four teams (then, at least) to West Ham United, with whom he was linked for another few years before eventually signing for Real Betis in LaLiga.

Maybe he’ll be linked with another Premier League team in the future, but it feels like his best days as a transfer rumour are probably behind him.

Leandro Damião to Tottenham Hotspur

Now of Kawasaki Frontale in Japan, Leandro Damião was for a number of years linked with Spurs after a spell at Brazilian side Internacional which saw him score *checks notes* one goal every three games and hailed as the answer to the club’s striking problems.

He was constantly popping up in the rumour mill, to the point that it was either completely made up or perhaps Spurs just kept trying to sign him because they read somewhere that that’s what they were doing.

Sky Sports once claimed that he was flying to England for a transfer to Spurs, which unsurprisingly never materialised, and over time the prefix ‘Spurs target’ was wiped away from his name.

Nabil Fekir to Liverpool

A truly modern transfer that never happened, Fekir’s proposed move to Liverpool was so ingrained in the mind of the club’s supporters that it even reached the point where they believed the deal was just hours away after images leaked appearing to show the French World Cup winner in a Reds training top.

Alas, it emerged that the images were in fact photoshopped by a very normal person eager to get Liverpool fans excited about the move, and Fekir stayed in Ligue 1. According to reports, a knee injury had likely put Liverpool off the prospect of signing him.

None of this would stop Liverpool supporters from constantly believing nonsense reports that Fekir was “on the verge” of moving to Anfield, or that Jurgen Klopp retained an interest in him. At least not until he joined Real Betis this summer presumably for the sole reason of putting the rumour to bed.

Karim Benzema to Arsenal

Scroll through Google and you will see years worth of rumours linking Karim Benzema with Arsenal. Every summer without fail there are, like clockwork, “reports from Spain” stating that Arsenal have bid a certain amount of money.

This rumour has always been a bizarre one. Firstly, Arsenal – if the reports are to be believed – always bid a stupidly small amount of money. Secondly, he plays consistently for a team that actually competes for and wins trophies, so the link to Arsenal is just senseless.

Nonetheless, the French connection linking Benzema and Arsenal’s former manager Arsene Wenger convinced supporters that it was a possibility.

It was not.

Nicolas Gaitan to Manchester United

Here we go, here we go, here we fucking go. We’re getting into the big leagues here folks. This is really up there in terms of ‘what could have been’ transfers and Nicolas Gaitan is the greatest Manchester United player that never was.

For at least a century Nicolas Gaitan was being linked a move to Manchester United from Benfica. Every January, every summer, every weekend, every weekday – there was a new article stating that United scouts had once again been impressed by the ‘diminutive young Argentine’.

I believe I’m fairly safe in saying that no human alive has ever watched Gaitan actually play football, or even seen him in person. In fact, there is a case to be made that Gaitan never existed in the first place.

There is a case to be made that he was invented purely to be written about and purely to be linked with Manchester United.

This spectre of an actual footballer is now playing Chicago Fire in Major League Soccer, though that’s still not enough to convince me that he exists.

Wesley Sneijder to Manchester United

The GOAT transfer that never happened, you’d actually be forgiven for thinking that Wesley Sneijder played for Manchester United at some point in his career. Such was the consistency of the links between the player and a move to Old Trafford that they almost became a touch meta.

Between the years 2008 and 2013 there were roughly 2,000 articles stating that his move to the club was at one stage or another of negotiation, when in fact it appears that it was never actually off the ground in the first place.

This was probably the first truly mundane transfer rumour – getting increasingly banal and infuriating with each passing transfer window. The straw that broke the imaginary transfer camel’s back appeared to be the appointment of David Moyes as United manager, replacing Sir Alex Ferguson; an appointment that even the most persevering of rumours could not survive.

In the end Sneijder left Inter Milan for Galatasaray for four seasons, played five games for Nice and now plays for Qatar Stars League side Al-Gharafa SC, so that’s another one we can write off.