These players filled gossip columns and Twitter timelines for years, but were never actually close to joining the Premier League.
Nicolas Gaitan to Manchester United
Manchester United supporters know the feeling: constantly trawling the #mufc hashtag to find out the latest news about the club’s apparent pursuit of one of the Portuguese top flight’s best players.
In lieu of actual real news, however, they are forced to make do with tweets from United fan accounts that have used Google translated dubious news reports from local publications such as O Jogo, A Bola and Record (whose names are attributed in square brackets at the end of the tweet to make the whole thing seem more credible).
In 2020, it’s Sporting’s Bruno Fernandes. For about three years from 2011, however, it was Benfica’s Nicolas Gaitan.
To be fair to those publications, after 18 months of saying he was on the verge of moving to United, Fernandes does, in fact, appear to finally be on the verge of joining United. And you don’t have to have been a regular viewer of the Primeira Liga to see why: Fernandes has scored 62 goals from midfield in the last two-and-a-half seasons. He is clearly a good player.
The same could never be said of Gaitan, who never scored more than four league goals in a season and was nowhere near the standard required of a United player. But that never stopped him being linked with them whenever the transfer window came around.
Gaitan finally did get his move to a big club, joining Atletico Madrid in 2016 for €25m, although he’d have been better off staying in Portugal. He was shipped out to Dalian Yifang in China less than two years later, before moving to MLS side Chicago Fire last year.
United will need Fernandes to fare significantly better than that should the deal go through this month.
Karim Benzema to Arsenal
Of the many, many protracted Arsenal transfers that never materialised, this is the most bizarre.
Benzema was linked to the Gunners throughout the summer of 2015, apparently just because they had poached Mesut Ozil from Real Madrid two years earlier and thought they could repeat the feat.
Never mind that there was no particular reason why Benzema would want to swap the Bernabeu for the Emirates, Arsenal supporters were convinced he was coming.
Over the course of the summer, Fox Deportes presenter Jeinny Lizarazo – adamant that Benzema was on his way to north London – became their most trusted transfer source.
Ultimately, though, Lizarazo was wrong. Benzema committed to Real Madrid, calling anyone who speculated otherwise “clowns” in the process.
Arsenal didn’t get their man, but at least their supporters took a valuable lesson from the saga: Don’t get a player’s name on your shirt until he’s actually signed.
Leandro Damiao to Tottenham
Another window, another Damiao rumour.
That was the life of a Spurs fan from 2011 to 2013, with transfer stories about the Brazil international emerging like clockwork every summer and every winter.
As is so often the case at Tottenham under Daniel Levy, a deal for Damiao never materialised.
This was not like missing out on Sadio Mane or Willian, though. In this case, Spurs fans should thank Levy for holding off on the Brazilian.
Damiao’s only European club to date is Real Betis, where he made three appearances in 2016 before returning to South America.
He currently plays in Japan for Kawasaki Frontale, where he scored just nine goals in 23 appearances, and has not won an international cap since 2013.
He has, however, become a somewhat legendary figure among Spurs fans, with his name still popping up on Twitter during transfer season.
Every cloud has a silver lining, right Leandro?
Juan Roman Riquelme to Everton
The invention of the internet, and with it fan sites and forums, quickly resulted in the rise of spurious online transfer ‘sources’.
The thirst from football fans for news regarding potential signings is non-exhaustive, opening up opportunities for chancers and lucky guessers to gain notoriety and money from publishing any tale that they’ve dreamt up.
For that trend to extend to Everton’s official website seemed far-fetched, though, even in a fake-news world.
Yet in the summer of 2007, Juan Roman Riquelme was linked with Everton so intensely that even employees of the club were duped.
A story appeared on their website announcing the signing of Riquelme, understandably causing a frenzy among Toffees fans.
Supporters were still presumably toasting the news when, inside an hour, the story was pulled, like a striker celebrating a goal despite the assistant referee standing with his flag raised on the other side of the field.
“During the process of uploading the new home page designs for the website some test data was displayed for a very short period of time,” an Everton statement explained. “Example data had been used during the testing process and was missed by our web development company during the final upload.”
That seems unlikely to appease supporters who just wanted to see a world-class player play for their team.
Javier Saviola to…everyone
Put Saviola’s name into Google along with any Premier League club from 2005 to 2013 and you’re almost guaranteed to find a transfer rumour.
Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, Tottenham and Newcastle are among the seemingly endless list of English sides linked to the former Argentina international, who also rejected Aston Villa in 2006 and Portsmouth three years later.
There’s no surprise Saviola was so regularly mooted for a Premier League move.
As a pacy South American striker who always seemed to be better on Championship Manager than he was in real life, he made for perfect transfer rumour fodder.
He also looked rather nondescript for a footballer, meaning it was easy for desperate supporters to convince themselves they had seen him at, say, Manchester Airport year after year.
The chances of Saviola ever coming to England are now slim, given that he’s 38, retired and exclusively plays futsal.
Still, with Spurs in need of a centre-forward after Harry Kane’s injury, perhaps he’ll have one last hurrah in the gossip column.
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