10. Cesc Fabregas (Arsenal)
As soon as it became clear that Cesc Fabregas was destined to become one of Europe’s finest midfielders, Arsenal must have feared that the Catalan would look to return to Barcelona.
Fabregas remained quiet through two years of speculation, but his silence said enough; Arsene Wenger eked another year out of his captain after rejecting an offer from Barca in June 2010, but the Spaniards’ persistence paid off in August 2011.
“We have lost a world-class player,” said Wenger. “We are sad about it because we tried to keep him.” Fabregas was so keen to go, he agreed to sacrifice €1million a year from his salary that would be paid to the Gunners. Arsenal fans – partly out of weariness – accepted Fabregas’s exit, though his return to London with Chelsea three years later left a much more bitter taste.
9. Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United)
Ronaldo was clearly keen to leave United for Real Madrid in 2008 after they had won the Premier League and Champions League. Job done. Let’s move on. His approach was certainly more subtle than the likes of Raheem Sterling, but going on the record to agree with Sepp Blatter’s comments that not being allowed to move was similar to “modern slavery” certainly won’t have helped his situation.
Sir Alex Ferguson certainly didn’t want to sell his prized asset, especially to Real Madrid, who United reported to FIFA over their pursuit of Ronaldo, with Ferguson famously remarking: “Do you think I would enter into a contract with that mob? Absolutely no chance. I would not sell them a virus.”
That comment came after Ferguson and Ronaldo had reached an understanding that the Portuguese could leave, but only after he gave United one more season. His form didn’t quite match his heroics of the previous campaign, but he still helped United win their third consecutive title before he left for Madrid with Ferguson’s blessing.
8. Dwight Yorke (Aston Villa)
After nine years at Villa Park, Yorke’s agitation left manager John Gregory with homicidal thoughts.
Villa were adamant that Yorke would not be sold to Manchester United in 1998, but the Trinidad and Tobago striker was equally determined. He made his desire clear to Gregory, who didn’t take it well: “If I had a gun, I would have shot him.”
After Yorke appeared less than enthused to be in the Villa side on the opening day of the season, the club eventually accepted a £12.8m bid from United. By the end of the season, Yorke had won the Treble.
7. Luis Suarez (Liverpool)
“What do you think they’re smoking over there at Emirates?” John W. Henry’s bizarre response to an equally bizarre £40million plus £1 bid from Arsenal for Suarez must have angered the Uruguayan. A desire to leave Liverpool after two-and-a-half years was likely to go unfulfilled.
“My reason for leaving is my family and my image, I don’t feel comfortable here any more,” said Suarez in May 2013. “It is a difficult moment for me, my coach and my colleagues know that they [the British media] didn’t treat me well.”
It was that same British media that Suarez sought out to engineer his move come August. “Last year I had the opportunity to move to a big European club and I stayed on the understanding that if we failed to qualify for the Champions League the following season I’d be allowed to go,” he pleaded. Suarez was told to train alone after showing “total disrespect” for the club, according to Brendan Rodgers.
Less than a week later, the striker had revised his stance “due to all of the people’s affection”. A beautiful U-turn, with Liverpool’s dramatic Premier League near-miss the salvo.
Until, of course, he decided to bite Georgio Chiellini the following summer. Reports of interest from Barcelona and Real Madrid had been rife when Suarez sunk his teeth into the Italian during a World Cup game. “It was obvious I got concerned,” the Uruguayan later admitted, believing the incident would cost him a move.
Then Barcelona vice-president Jordi Mestre revealed that the controversy had bumped Suarez’s price down from £75m to £65m, although no-one at the club confirmed the existence of a supposed ‘bite clause’ in his Nou Camp contract. Still, Suarez had secured a move he had coveted for two summers, and went on to claim the Treble in his first season.
6. Pascal Chimbonda (Wigan)
Chimbonda was named in the 2005/06 PFA Team of the Year and the right-back wasted no time in looking to further his career.
After Wigan’s final game of the season – a 4-2 defeat at Arsenal in the Gunners’ final game at Highbury – Chimbonda, still dressed in his kit, handed manager Paul Jewell a written transfer request, along with a note to thank him and the club for all their help.
Jewell did not welcome the delivery: “To say I was livid was an understatement. To then be treated this way shows a quite spectacular level of disrespect to myself, the chairman, to all his team-mates and to the Wigan Athletic supporters who have supported him this year.”
Wigan took a hard line with Chimbonda, insisting he would not be sold for less than £6m. Tottenham had proposals of £2m and £3m rejected, while West Ham saw a £4m offer rebuffed. Dave Whelan made the France international sweat until just before midnight on deadline day, when Spurs eventually succeeded with a bid of £4.5m.
5. Dejan Lovren (Southampton)
Liverpool fans criticising Sterling for his actions in trying to seal a move to Manchester City will do well to remember the tale of Dejan Lovren.
Ambitious to join team-mates Adam Lallana and Rickie Lambert at Anfield, Lovren e-mailed a transfer request to the Southampton hierarchy in June of last year. Fresh off the back of starring for the Saints in the 2013/14 season, the Croatian was desperate for a bigger club, and disillusioned with the departure of Mauricio Pochettino.
“Frankly, my head is already at Liverpool,” said the central defender the following month, endearing himself to fans and players alike. Predictably enough, the Liverpool offer came, but Southampton’s rejection left Lovren in purgatory.
“I found out about the bid from other people which disappointed me and I realised I’ve got no business staying at Southampton. Liverpool sent a £20m offer. They are now looking for £25m, but I don’t think they’ll get it. At this point, I don’t know what I’ll do and I don’t like it.”
What he eventually decided to do is threaten to boycott training; Southampton settled for the initial £20m bid.
4. Gabriel Heinze (Manchester United)
The Argentina defender failed to get his desired move, but it certainly wasn’t for the lack of trying.
In response to losing his United place to Patrice Evra, Heinze tried to engineer a move to Liverpool in 2007. The left-back’s legal team claimed he had a written agreement with United that he could be sold to any club that matched their valuation of £6.8million.
Rafael Benitez’s side submitted an offer of that amount, which United rejected. The matter went to a Premier League tribunal, which ruled in United’s favour, leaving Heinze further out in the cold. His consolation was a move to Real Madrid two months later.
Heinze, a terrace hero prior to his flirtation with Liverpool, admitted he regretted the manner of his United exit: “I don’t have many regrets from my career as a footballer, but that episode with Ferguson [has] to be one of them.”
Ferguson did not pin all the blame on Heinze: “I thought he had a bad agent who engineered the situation and tried to trick David Gill. I have no issues with Gabby. He was a fantastic player for us, a warrior. He just took bad advice. From day one after we signed him his agent was trying to get him another move and, of course, that’s how they make their money these days.”
3. Pierre van Hooijdonk (Nottingham Forest)
The Netherlands striker’s 34 goals helped Nottingham Forest achieve promotion to the Premier League in 1998 and took him to the World Cup. When he returned for the new season, the club’s promises to strengthen the squad failed to materialise. On the contrary, they sold his strike partner Kevin Campbell, dropped Scott Gemmill and allowed captain Colin Cooper to leave.
Disillusioned, Van Hooijdonk asked for a transfer – a request that was denied by Forest’s owners. The forward refused to take no for an answer and went on strike.
He trained with former club NAC Breda in Holland as the stand-off went on until early November, by which time Van Hooijdonk accepted that he would have to go back. He scored six goals – his Forest team-mates refused to celebrate his first with him against rivals Derby – but Forest were relegated again and Van Hooijdonk was eventually sold to Vitesse Arnhem.
2. Robbie Savage (Birmingham)
Savage was a hero at St Andrew’s until he tried to engineer an exit from Birmingham by claiming Blackburn was closer to his family in Wales. It wasn’t, and the Blues weren’t having any of it.
So Savage just stopped trying. He said at the launch of his autobiography: “It was a preconceived thing. To go onto a football pitch and not try – I’m ashamed of it, really. I was thinking that I’ve got to do something different to get away as I’d put a transfer request in, but nothing was happening. I thought if I went on the pitch and performed badly, Birmingham would think they’d lose me. It worked, but it was not a nice thing. To not try, for your team mates – which is more important – wasn’t good. But there was no other way.” Ever the professional.
1. William Gallas (Chelsea)
The Frenchman’s “issue was purely one of money”, said Chelsea when they went on the record after Gallas finally fulfilled his wish of leaving Stamford Bridge.
According to the club, the defender was so desperate to go, he threatened to sabotage his depleted side’s hopes of victory in the first game of the 2006-07 season. A Chelsea statement read: “He refused to play. He went on to threaten that if he was forced to play, or if he was disciplined and financially punished for his breach of the rules, that he could score an own goal or get himself sent off, or make deliberate mistakes.”
Gallas was eventually granted a deadline-day move to Arsenal but the bitterness remained. He continued to attack Chelsea, its owners and Jose Mourinho, which forced the Blues to defend themselves against “a player whose only league title prior to that had been in the French second division”.
10. Cesc Fabregas (Arsenal)