The summer transfer window is a frenzy of rumours and speculation, with endless discussion on who will moving where, as clubs bid to strengthen their squads.
Throughout Premier League history we have seen our fair share of protracted transfer sagas, with Jadon Sancho’s move to Manchester United from Borussia Dortmund the latest completed deal after being drawn out across several months.
With some transfers sagas likely to follow once again this summer, here are five of the most drawn-out transfer stories in Premier League history.
Steven Gerrard to Chelsea, 2004 & 2005
With Liverpool having finished 30 points behind champions Arsenal, Steven Gerrard considered leaving Anfield in 2004 amid interest from Chelsea, fearful his boyhood side would not be able to realise his ambitions of winning major silverware.
Talks with new manager Rafael Benitez convinced the midfielder to stay, but a year later Chelsea returned with renewed interest.
The circumstances had changed with Liverpool’s home-grown hero having led the Reds to a fifth European Cup during Benitez’s maiden season, inspiring the side from 3-0 down in one of the most memorable Champions League finals in history against AC Milan.
Having captained his side to glory, Gerrard proclaimed post-match: “How can I leave after a night like this?”.
However, Chelsea had emerged as the Premier League’s new major force after winning the title and Liverpool’s failure to offer Gerrard a new contract saw his head turned, with the England international’s decision to hand in a transfer request amid a £32m bid from west London rocking English football.
Liverpool supporters were left outraged by the perceived betrayal of one of their own, fans protesting outside Anfield and burning shirts bearing Gerrard’s name upon hearing the news.
Despite the temptation of Chelsea’s millions, Gerrard remarkably performed a U-turn on his decision to leave and signed a new contract at Liverpool.
He remained with the club for another ten years, leaving as one of the greatest players in the Anfield outfits history.
Ashley Cole to Chelsea, 2006
Ashley Cole rose through the Arsenal academy system to establish himself as one of the Premier League’s finest full-backs, winning two Premier League titles and three FA Cup winners’ medals in a trophy-laden spell under Arsene Wenger in north London.
Despite exclaiming his happiness at the club following their title success in 2004, talks over a new deal stalled and Cole’s relationship with his boyhood club soon began to unravel.
A secret meeting between Cole, his agent, and Chelsea representatives Jose Mourinho, Peter Kenyon and Pini Zahavi in January 2005 saw Cole, Mourinho and Chelsea fined, whilst his reputation amongst the Arsenal support was irreversibly damaged.
Cole maintains that a move was not discussed during the meeting, however, revelations in his autobiography soon led to further problems.
In his book My Defence, Cole revealed he ‘nearly swerved off the road’ in anger at Arsenal’s proposed £55,000-a-week contact offer, leading to the nickname ‘Cashley Cole’ and further souring his relationship with the Gunners.
By summer of 2006, the England international’s exit from Arsenal seem inevitable and Chelsea approached their London rivals over a proposed transfer.
The bitter nature of Cole’s contract talks with Arsenal saw the deal drag-out across the summer, before being concluded on deadline day for £5m plus William Gallas.
Cole enjoyed a successful stay at Stamford Bridge, winning eight major honours including the 2012 Champions League.
Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid, 2009
Having moved to Manchester United as a teenager, Cristiano Ronaldo became one of the world’s finest players at Old Trafford, leading the club to a Premier League and Champions League double in 2008 before winning his first Ballon d’Or.
That summer, speculation had emerged that Ronaldo had signed a pre-contract agreement to join Spanish giants Real Madrid, reports that were instantly dismissed by United manager Sir Alex Ferguson.
“You don’t think we’d get into a contract with that mob, do you? Jesus Christ. I wouldn’t sell them a virus. So that’s a no – there is no agreement between the clubs.”
– Sir Alex Ferguson, 2008
The following season saw transfer speculation continue to surround Ronaldo and Real Madrid, with the La Liga side renewing their interest after watching the winger lead the Red Devils to a third consecutive league title.
After six seasons, Ronaldo was keen to leave United and pursue his boyhood ambition of playing at the Bernabeu.
Real finally captured their man in an £80m deal in 2009, breaking the world-record for the second time that summer after the earlier arrival of Kaka from AC Milan.
Ronaldo spent nine seasons with Real Madrid to become arguably the greatest player in the club’s history, winning four Champions League trophies, four Ballon d’Or accolades and scoring a record-breaking 450 goals in just 438 appearances.
Cesc Fabregas to Barcelona, 2011
Plucked from Barcelona’s academy as a teenager, Cesc Fabregas joined Arsenal in search of first-team opportunities and soon became one of the most exciting young talents in English football.
The Spaniard was handed his debut aged just 16, before going to to cement his position under Arsene Wenger and eventually being named as club captain in 2008.
The lure of home was always apparent however, with boyhood club Barcelona establishing themselves as Europe’s finest team under Pep Guardiola.
Speculation soon began to emerge that Barcelona wanted to take Fabregas back to the Camp Nou and the rumours only intensified.
Following Spain’s 2010 World Cup success, Arsenal fans were outraged after Pepe Reina and Carles Puyol coerced Fabregas into a Barcelona shirt during the celebrations, with the midfielder looking distinctively uncomfortable.
That incident proved to be an omen however, as just one year later Fabregas returned to Spain in a £34m deal, with the midfielder proclaiming he had ‘waited a long time for this moment’.
Fabregas spent three seasons with Barcelona and won one league title and the Copa del Rey, before returning to the Premier League after signing for Chelsea.
Jadon Sancho to Manchester United, 2021
Manchester United have finally secured their man following a protracted chase, the Red Devils confirming the capture of Jadon Sancho in a deal worth £72.9m.
The announcement has been a long time coming for the club’s supporters who have endured tedious media reports regarding the deal, having initially seen United attempt to broker a deal with Borussia Dortmund in 2020.
Dortmund’s demands for a British transfer record fee of around £108m saw the Premier League side fail to make tangible progress, despite spending much of the summer attempting to play a cat and mouse game with one of Europe’s best-ran football clubs.
Fast forward 12 months and a deal has finally been secured, for a greatly reduced fee amid Dortmund’s need for funds amid the ongoing financial impact of the global pandemic.
This is his home.
This is where he belongs.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) July 23, 2021
Sancho returns to English football four seasons after leaving Manchester City for the Westfalenstadion, his determination to secure first-team football vindicated following a meteoric rise at Dortmund.
The 21-year-old scored 50 goals and provided 64 assists in just 137 appearances for Dortmund and the Red Devils will hope the winger can replicate that productivity following a transfer saga that has finally reached its conclusion.