There are moments in football that haunt players and managers for years to come.
Take Steven Gerrard’s slip against Chelsea, for example.For all his goals and honours, it’s become one of the most memorable junctures in his career.
1996 | Blackburn Rovers sign Zinedine Zidane
Kenny Dalglish spotted a young Zizou tearing it up at Bordeaux but was unable to convince owner Jack Walker – his response?
“Why do we need Zidane when we have Tim Sherwood?”
1996 | Kevin Keegan and Newcastle win the league
It’s impossible to know how the Magpies would be faring now, but a league title could have elevated them to new heights. Although that didn’t work out for Blackburn, there’s a good chance they wouldn’t have ended up labouring under Mike Ashley and suffering two relegations.
1999 | Zlatan Ibrahimovic accepts that trial at Arsenal
Zlatan doesn’t do auditions. It’s a pity, though, because by his own admission Arsene Wenger nearly took him to Highbury. How many of those 500+ career goals could have been in an Arsenal shirt?
2001 | Leeds win the Champions League
Leeds dreamed big, but paid the price for it . They reached the semi-finals of the Champions League with players like Rio Ferdinand, Mark Viduka, and Harry Kewell. A 3-0 defeat to Valencia in the last four put paid to their aspirations of bringing back Don Revie’s glory days under David O’Leary. Financial strife hit and within three years, they ended up with a points deduction, subsequent relegation and are yet to make it back.
2002 | Sven-Goran Eriksson replaces Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United
Sir Alex Ferguson originally planned to retire from Manchester United in 2002 before staying for another 11 years. Then England-boss Sven even claimed to have signed a contract to take over. What if Fergie hadn’t made that u-turn? England might have appointed Steve McClaren even sooner. United might have been in their current state throughout the noughties.
2003 | Roman Abramovich bought Tottenham instead of Chelsea
The Russian billionaire wanted to buy a London club and initially visited Tottenham. He was reportedly put off because he thought the area was “worse than parts of Siberia”. Spurs would probably still have their shiny new stadium, but it might pain them to wonder if they’d also have the 18 trophies Chelsea have lifted under Abramovich’s stewardship.
2004 | Jose Mourinho convinced Liverpool to appoint him
As he made a name for himself at Porto, the Special One already had eyes for the Premier League. Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier was under pressure and, according to Joe, Mourinho’s representative went on a clandestine mission to Anfield to convince the board to take a punt on his precocious young client. The Portuguese’s style of football wouldn’t have been popular, but Kopites would have bitten his hand off if he’d have offered them back-to-back titles.
2010 | Liverpool go into administration
Speaking of Liverpool being unlucky…Their takeover ended in disaster when Americans Tom Hicks and George Gillett reversed hundreds of millions of pounds of debt into the club. The Reds were genuinely threatened with administration.
The thought of the current European champions ending up ‘doing a Leeds’ – or worse, like Bury – is unthinkable. Had that happened, they’d be nowhere near in the position they are now, signing £75million centre-backs without a thought.
2013 | Wayne Rooney signed for Chelsea in 2013
Rooney and Ferguson’s falling out culminated in the striker deciding he wanted to join Chelsea. The Blues made a series of bids, though even their second offer was as low as £25million.
United’s all-time leading goalscorer would never have earned that record, would have become a hate figure at Old Trafford, and worst of all, Stipe Perica might never have got his big chance at Stamford Bridge. Steven Gerrard also came famously close to signing for Chelsea. Bizarre.
2015 | Leicester keep Nigel Pearson
It wasn’t out of the question. Pearson kept the Foxes up after all, back when that was the height of their ambition. And then came that pre-season tour. The manager’s son, defender James Pearson, was sacked for filming a racist sex tape during a ‘goodwill’ tour of Thailand. His Dad was then sacked too. Enter Claudio Ranieri, the mastermind of the greatest upset in football history, Leicester’s 5000/1 title win.