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Five of the Premier League’s most drawn out transfer sagas

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, drawn out across several months.

And with some transfers sagas already underway this summer, here’s five of the most drawn-out transfer stories in Premier League history…

Sol Campbell to Arsenal, 2001

One of the most shocking and memorable transfers in Premier League history.

Tottenham academy graduate Campbell had risen through the ranks to establish himself as one of English football’s finest defenders at White Hart Lane, culminating in his appointment as club captain.

The Bosman ruling, introduced in 1995, had given players greater power over their playing futures and in 2000 Campbell refused to sign a new deal at Spurs amid reported interest from several of Europe’s leading clubs.

Speculation surrounded Campbell’s future, with his contract running down. Despite the England international insisting he had no desire to leave the club, secret meetings had been held regarding a move.

Those meetings, of course, were with arch-rivals Arsenal.

In July 2001, Campbell was revealed as an Arsenal player, crossing the bitter North London divide on a free transfer and becoming a hated figure amongst the Tottenham faithful.

He would go on to enjoy much success with the Gunners, winning two Premier League titles, including being a vital part of the club’s famed ‘Invincibles’ season in 2003/04.

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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 the club would not be able to realise his ambitions of winning major silverware.

Talks with new manager Rafael Benitez convinced the midfielder to stay, however, a year later Chelsea would return.

Liverpool’s home-grown hero had just led his boyhood club to a fifth European Cup, inspiring Benitez’s 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 just won their first Premier League 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 rocking English football.

Liverpool’s supporters were 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 would remain with the club for another ten years, leaving as one of the greatest players in the Anfield outfits history.


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Ashley Cole to Chelsea, 2006

The Arsenal full-back was one of the Premier League’s finest, winning two Premier League titles and three FA Cups in a trophy-laden spell under Arsene Wenger in North London.

Despite exclaiming his happiness at the club 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 Arsenal’s supporters 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 club.

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 would enjoy a successful stay at Stamford Bridge, winning eight major honours including the 2012 Champions League.

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Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid, 2009

Having moved to Manchester United as a teenager, Cristiano Ronaldo would go on to become 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 talk of Ronaldo moving to Madrid failed to disappear though, and after leading United to a third consecutive title the La Liga side renewed their interest.

After six seasons, Ronaldo was keen to leave United and pursue his boyhood ambition of playing at the Bernabeu.

In typically aggressive pursuit, Real finally captured their man in an £80m deal in 2009, breaking the world-record for the second time that summer after their earlier arrival of Kaka from AC Milan.

Ronaldo would go on to become one of Real’s greatest ever players, winning a further four Ballon d’Or’s and leaving as the club’s highest ever goal scorer with 450 goals in 438 appearances.

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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 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 began to emerge that Barcelona wanted to take Fabregas back to the Nou Camp, and the rumours only began to intensify.

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 has ‘waited a long time for this moment’.

After three trophy-laden years in Spain he would return to the Premier League, joining Chelsea in 2014.

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