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Six of the biggest transfer U-turns in Premier League history

The saga of the summer has seemingly reached its conclusion with Lionel Messi announcing he will stay at Barcelona for the coming campaign, the forward having completed a U-turn on his future after publicly declaring his intention to quit the Camp Nou.

Messi seemed destined for the exit door after expressing his dissatisfaction with life at Barcelona and the club’s hierarchy, though Manchester City’s hopes of signing the six-time Ballon d’Or winner were subsequently dashed following a reversal of his decision.


The Argentine is not the first famous footballer to have a drastic and sudden change of heart when it comes to transfers, however, and we’ve decided to look back at some of the most notable the Premier League has seen.

Here are six of the biggest transfer U-turns in Premier League history:

Steven Gerrard

Steven Gerrard will forever be associated as a Liverpool legend for his long and illustrious Anfield career, but it could all have been so different had the midfielder swapped the Reds for Chelsea blue earlier in his career.

The billionaire-backed west London outfit had held a long-standing interest in the Liverpool captain and twice made attempts to take Gerrard to the capital, with their second in the summer of 2005 coming ever so close.

Gerrard had just inspired a rather mediocre Liverpool side to Champions League success under Rafael Benitez, but unhappy with the club’s prospects and attempts to secure his future with a new deal, had his head almost irreversibly turned by the Premier League champions.

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Chelsea had submitted a £32m offer for the midfielder and anger soon swept the city upon the news of a transfer request by their homegrown hero, the born-and-bred red on the verge of leaving Liverpool for a much disliked Premier League rival.

Angry fan protests prompted Gerrard – who later claimed he never really wanted to leave – to reconsider and change his mind in dramatic circumstances, later penning a new deal with his boyhood side and spending a further decade of dedicated service on Merseyside.

His decision meant a Premier League title ultimately proved elusive, but his legacy at Liverpool remained forever assured.

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John Obi Mikel

John Obi Mikel was subject of a transfer tug-of-war between Manchester United and Chelsea back in 2005, the teenage midfielder centre of a row after the former secured his signing from Norwegian side Lyn Oslo.

Mikel was pictured in a United shirt and unveiled after signing professional terms at Old Trafford, however, Chelsea were not prepared to allow the prospect to slip from their grasp and launched a move to bring the Nigerian to the capital.

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The west London side insisted they had a prior agreement in place to sign Mikel, with the youngster claiming he was pressured into signing for United – with no agents present when the paperwork was signed.

It resulted in a legal battle with Chelsea eventually prevailing as Mikel’s new club, much to the frustration of Sir Alex Ferguson’s side who pushed for the Blues to be handed a transfer ban if found guilty of any wrongdoing.

The issue was finally settled in court with Chelsea ordered to pay £16m for his services, £12m of which went to United and just £4m to Lyn Oslo.

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Wayne Rooney

Wayne Rooney won every major trophy available and cemented himself as the greatest goalscorer in Manchester United history during a glittering career at Old Trafford, though his route to history was almost altered after announcing his decision to leave the club in 2010.

Rooney had formed part of a United side that had conquered both at home and in Europe, winning three consecutive league titles and the Champions League during a trophy-laden era under Sir Alex Ferguson.

The departures of Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez had seen Chelsea reclaim domestic dominance and left Rooney questioning the ambitions of the Red Devils, with a lack of major signings convincing the England international his future lay away from the club.

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Rooney informed the United hierarchy he would not be extending his contract and of his desire to leave, with Manchester City amongst the clubs circling the reigning PFA Player of the Year.

Two days later, however, Rooney remarkably reversed his decision and signed a new – and significantly improved – contract at United, playing an influential role as Ferguson’s side secured a record 19th league title.

Rooney left seven years later having eclipsed Sir Bobby Charlton’s goalscoring record, though his perceived holding of the club to ransom left a bitter taste in the mouths of many United supporters.

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Chelsea fans spent seven seasons gleefully singing about the club’s capture of Willian, the Blues having hijacked the winger’s move to London rivals Tottenham in memorable fashion.

The Brazilian international had attracted attention from Premier League sides following his performances for Shakhtar Donetsk and Anzhi Makhachkala, with the player travelling to England for a medical after Spurs had agreed a deal with the latter in 2013.

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Willian completed a medical at the club’s training centre only to be informed of a late bid from Chelsea, an offer which saw the winger head across the capital to finalise terms on a move to Stamford Bridge.

Spurs were left enraged by the late move of their rivals, outrage that will surely have increased following the success of Willian at Chelsea, the star winning two Premier League titles amongst his major honours during a successful seven season spell.

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Fabian Delph

The double U-turn that left Aston Villa fans branding their former captain a ‘snake’, Fabian Delph seemed set to join Manchester City, only to reaffirm his commitment to Villa, before joining the Cityzens.

Manuel Pellegrini’s side had expressed an interest in the England midfielder who had impressed with his performances in a struggling Villa side, Delph’s dynamism and versatility prompting City to make an approach for the star.

Delph, however, initially rejected the club’s approach to the surprise of many and outlined his commitment to Villa in a statement on the club’s website.

“I’m aware there has been intense media speculation surrounding my future in the last 24 hours and I want to set the record straight. I’m not leaving. I’m staying at the football club and I can’t wait for the start of the season and captaining this great football club.”

Less than a week later, Delph completed an £8m move to the Etihad after City activated his release clause, describing his choice as the ‘hardest decision’ he’s ever had to make.

Delph’s jumping off a sinking ship was vindicated on a personal basis after winning two league titles with City, whilst Villa dropped out of the Premier League that season after winning a paltry three league fixtures to finish bottom of the division.

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Moussa Sissoko

Newcastle’s relegation to the Championship saw Premier League sides begin to circle for their top talent, with Moussa Sissoko attracting significant interest from top-flight clubs.

The France international had impressed during that summer’s European Championships and seemed set for a deadline day move to Everton, with transport reportedly set up for Sissoko to travel to Merseyside and complete the formalities on a move to Goodison Park.

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Sissoko, however, had a change of heart upon hearing of interest from Tottenham and allegedly turned his phone off to instead head towards north London, completing a £30m move and signing a five-year deal with Spurs.

Sissoko has since recovered from an indifferent start to life at the club to establish himself as an important figure, playing an influential role in Spurs’ run to a maiden Champions League final during the 2018/19 campaign.

Read – Ranking the five most expensive transfers by newly promoted Premier League teams

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