Football Features

Six players who spent their whole careers being linked to the PL but never came

By CJ Smith

Published: 11:37, 16 July 2019

There’s nothing quite like a transfer rumour.

A simple report can send fans into overdrive, dreaming of adding a Ballon d’Or winner to their ranks as they seek total domination.

However, others can surface year after year with no realistic prospect of the move actually going through, leaving supporters pulling their hair out at the mere mention of a certain name.

At Squawka, we’ve rounded up six players who were constantly linked to Premier League clubs but never made the move.

1. Juan Roman Riquelme

To this day, the rumour of Juan Roman Riquelme joining Everton leaves Toffees fans both amused and bemused, with apparent sightings of the Argentine playmaker being reported even to this day, although at 41 years old, they’re a little more tongue-in-cheek nowadays.

Although the links had been around for some time, they reached fever pitch in 2007 when some clever soul in charge of the Everton website posted a ‘news’ story that Riquelme was on his way to join the club, sparking pandemonium among fans. The post was later removed and chalked up to a mistake, while the Liverpool Echo announced Riquelme’s retirement from football in January 2015 with the headline: “Argentinian playmaker Juan Roman Riquelme will now NEVER play for Everton”.

2. Ronaldinho

Remember that ridiculous goal Ronaldinho scored against Chelsea in 2005? Well, it turns out that wasn’t the only source of heartache the Samba magician inflicted upon Blues fans.

Back then, Ronaldinho was the undisputed king of football. The ultimate entertainer, capable of jaw-dropping moments on an almost minute-to-minute basis, Ronaldinho spent much of the mid-00s being linked with a move to Stamford Bridge, with Chelsea looking to mop up world-class talent following the investment of Roman Abramovich.

Ronaldinho was also reportedly top of the list of David Beckham replacements for Manchester United following his sale to Real Madrid, although he admitted in 2017 that he came very close to joining Chelsea.

“Chelsea tried to take me there once, and some other teams were interested in signing me, too,” he said. “The league there is so fast and so intense all of the time – it’s great to watch and not boring at all.

“I don’t tend to watch all 90 minutes of Premier League games, but I will see more of the highlights and the goals in the Premier League than I see of other leagues around the world.”

3. David Villa

Back in 2008, when Rafa Benitez was just a few players away from having a Premier League-winning side with Liverpool, the Reds were heavily linked with then-Valencia striker, David Villa.

The all-Spanish partnership of Villa and Fernando Torres may have been the tipping point for Rafa’s title charge and the man himself even admitted his interest in the move.

“Liverpool have a Spanish coach and I also have a lot of friends there,” he told reporters at the time. “When Rafa was coach at Valencia and I was at Zaragoza there was contact about me joining Valencia but I couldn’t arrive until the year after he left there.”

Instead, Liverpool signed David N’Gog, whose prolific career at Anfield consisted of 19 goals in 94 games across all competitions. Liverpool finished second to Manchester United in 2009 and slowly but surely, Benitez, Torres, Xabi Alonso and Javier Mascherano all left the club in search of title success.

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4. Wesley Sneijder

Things were pretty sweet for Wesley Sneijder back in 2010. The Dutch playmaker had just helped Inter Milan to Champions League glory and reached the World Cup final with the Netherlands. Less than a year later, reports linking him to Manchester United – who were still England’s all-conquering side back then — started to surface.

Asked if he was keen to move, Sneijder said: “Yes, but United haven’t made an official approach yet.

“There have been unofficial talks and there have been contacts.”

He added: “I have contacts with everybody.”

Year after year, from Sir Alex Ferguson to Louis van Gaal, with David Moyes in-between, Sneijder’s move to Old Trafford looked to be edging ever closer but, eventually, he just became too old. When he finally left Inter in 2013, it was to join Galatasaray, while the 35-year-old now turns out for Qatar Stars League team, Al-Gharafa SC.

5. Burak Yilmaz

2013 saw another failed title challenge from Liverpool, this time spearheaded by Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge. However, Suarez was constantly linked with a move away from Anfield, while Sturridge has always been rather injury prone.

Brendan Rodgers reportedly sought to ease the worries surrounding his unreliable forwards by targeting Galatasaray’s Burak Yilmaz, who was fresh off the back of a 32-goal season with the Istanbul giants. But Liverpool weren’t the only ones in for the Turkish international, with Chelsea also said to be looking at Yilmaz to strengthen their frontline which already contained Torres, Demba Ba and Romelu Lukaku.

Even Arsenal’s name were thrown into the hat in the chase for Yilmaz but in the end, he remained with Galatasaray until 2016 before joining Chinese Super League club Beijing Guoan.

6. Kevin Strootman

Constantly linked with Man Utd during the reigns of Moyes and Van Gaal, Kevin Strootman is once again being talked up with a move to Old Trafford.

The midfielder joined Marseille last summer and made 33 appearances in all competitions for the French side. However, Les Phocéens are said to be in financial difficulty and as a result, are looking to offload Strootman to Man Utd on loan in order to ease their wage bill.

Last year, Strootman insisted he never came close to joining United at all and pledged his allegiance to Roma before, well, leaving.

“I never talked with anybody,” Strootman told the Independent. “No, no. There was a lot of speculation but to be honest I only spoke with Roma.

“There were some clubs who showed interest but it’s always like that. They always say they are interested but at the end, they don’t do anything so it’s nothing and I’m really happy that I chose Rome.

“Even during my time with Rome before my injury they talked about other clubs but I never talked about leaving Rome. They said some club was really close to signing me and they want me really bad but I’m good here.”

The whole thing has left Red Devils supporters wondering what year it is…