Five times Manchester City backed out of deals for players who went on to flop for rivals

Matt Stead
Man Utd players Cristiano Ronaldo and Rio Ferdinand

Manchester City might be hoping that Arsenal fall into the same transfer trap that has claimed Man Utd so often when it comes to the Declan Rice auction.

After ‘gazumping’ Arsenal with an almost identical and similarly rejected bid for Rice, it feels as though Manchester City might simply be trying to drive up the eventual fee. And it wouldn’t be the first time…


Harry Maguire
“We were interested but we could not afford it. United afforded it,” said Pep Guardiola in August 2019 after their usual penny-pinching prevented Manchester City from signing the planned successor to Vincent Kompany.

Harry Maguire had been identified as an individual of interest after a phenomenal debut season with Leicester culminated in a World Cup which affirmed his brilliance and cult icon status. The Foxes moved quickly to extend the centre-half’s contract, sealed with a gentleman’s agreement to let him leave the following summer if a satisfactory offer came in.

But as Leicester set out their stall by insisting that any bidding clubs would have to dislodge Virgil van Dijk as the world’s costliest defender, Manchester City withdrew their candidacy unless the price came down. They would go as high as £65m but no further.

Man Utd showed solidarity with their neighbours at first, balking at those demands and spending the entire summer dismissing any suggestion they would meet Leicester’s £80m valuation. After bids of £60m and £70m were almost instantly rejected, they agreed a knockdown fee of £80m as Guardiola focused on his midfield instead, using the money they had put aside for Maguire to sign Rodri.

READ MOREArsenal have played Rice game perfectly so far as rejected Manchester City bid underwhelms us all


Eighteen months before, Manchester City had a bid for Fred rejected. Shakhtar president Rinat Akhmetov confirmed “they offered us around €50m” in January 2018 for the Brazilian, who had impressed Guardiola in two games against the Premier League giants in the 2017/18 Champions League group stages.

But copying Etihad homework again, Man Utd swooped for a player in which Manchester City had long since lost interest. The returns from injury of Kevin de Bruyne and Ilkay Gundogan, as well as the rapid development of academy prodigy Phil Foden, reduced the immediate need for a midfielder. Man Utd, soon to lose Michael Carrick and Marouane Fellaini, flirted with the idea of trying to negotiate a £52.5m release clause down before saving everyone time and just paying it.

Man Utd midfielder Fred claps the supporters


Alexis Sanchez
After failing to extract Alexis Sanchez from the final year of his Arsenal contract with bids of £50m and £60m in the summer of 2017, as well as some sort of part-exchange which Raheem Sterling rejected, focus turned to the following January as Man Utd butted in on the conversation.

And as so often happened on Ed Woodward’s watch, the finances soon started to make absolutely no sense whatsoever.

City had reportedly agreed personal terms with Sanchez over a £230,000-a-week contract and retained their interest heading into the winter, even though they were ‘furious’ with how amateurishly Arsenal had handled the first situation.

But when the proposed costs started to spiral with Man Utd’s involvement, Manchester City walked away as Guardiola cited what was “good for the team and stability of the club”. Imagine thinking a £500,000-a-week wage, £6.7m signing-on fee and £5m in agent payments in a swap with Henrikh Mkhitaryan valued at £35m did not represent value for money. Fools.


Cristiano Ronaldo
Has an entire football club ever collectively exhibited such minuscule penis energy?

With Harry Kane long since deemed out of reach by a Manchester City side hoping to sign an actual striker, the Ronaldo option suddenly emerged as one to genuinely explore in the final week of the summer 2021 transfer window. The Portuguese forward desperately wanted out of a mutually weary Juventus, but wage demands restricted his field of suitors.

Manchester City could offer what Ronaldo wanted but their reluctance to come to terms or pay a substantial fee for a 36-year-old soon saw them move out of the picture as Man Utd tripped over their own shoelaces trying to distract him from the Etihad.

Sir Alex Ferguson was deployed. Rio Ferdinand, too. Patrice Evra, Bruno Fernandes and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer were all called in for a charm offensive to appeal to the ego of a returning hero and drag him away from Manchester City, who never seemed entirely convinced. And by the time he was back at Old Trafford, it was far too late to consider whether the potential Man Utd positives extended to anything beyond keeping him away from the enemy.

Hint: they didn’t.

READ MOREMan City have paid Arsenal an enormous compliment with their half-arsed entry to the Declan Rice Saga


Marc Cucurella
As fun as burning Man Utd must be, Manchester City have goaded other teams into making costly transfer mistakes less often but to equally amusing results.

Perhaps preying on the fragile self-esteem of a Chelsea side being victimised by Barcelona in the summer 2022 transfer window, Manchester City floated some offers around for Marc Cucurella without ever coming close to Brighton’s valuation.

A couple of bids, amounting to around £30m then £40m, were at least £10m short of what the Seagulls – experienced in the art of procuring their set fee – were demanding.

With Brighton in no mood to negotiate over a player they did not need to sell, Manchester City pulled out of a race Chelsea duly entered, waving a deal worth £63m in the direction of the Amex which, funnily enough, was not turned down.

READ MORE: Top 10 Premier League transfer overpays of all time includes two Man Utd players and Cucurella