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John Brewin profile picture  By John Brewin

Transfer near misses: Vieira to United, Kaka to City, Ronaldo to Arsenal

The ESPN FC crew bring you comprehensive coverage of all the latest rumours and action in the transfer window.
The ESPN FC crew bring you comprehensive coverage of all the latest rumours and action in the transfer window.
The ESPN FC crew bring you comprehensive coverage of all the latest rumours and action in the transfer window.

So far, it has been a summer of near misses in the transfer market.

Manchester City could only look on as Dani Alves joined Paris Saint-Germain, while Chelsea are scrambling around for a striker after Romelu Lukaku headed to Manchester United instead of Stamford Bridge.

Meanwhile, Liverpool hope their lengthy chase for RB Leipzig's Naby Keita does not go the same way as the move for Southampton's Virgil van Dijk that they hurriedly had to abandon, although missing out on targets is all part of the transfer game.

Each of the Premier League's top clubs has had previous experience in failing to get their man. Here's a look back at some notable near misses:

Patrick Vieira -- Arsenal to Manchester United, 2001

United were champions three years in succession, but failed to defend or repeat their 1999 Champions League title, exiting at the hands of Real Madrid in 2000 and Bayern Munich the following season. Sir Alex Ferguson sought to bolster his midfield and create a dream central midfield pairing of Roy Keane and Vieira, Arsenal's captain-in-waiting. But Arsenal blocked the move despite Vieira asking to leave.

Ferguson turned his attentions instead to Lazio's Juan Sebastian Veron, eventually paying £28.1 million for the Argentinian. The following May saw Vieira celebrate a Premier League and FA Cup double with Arsenal, while United ended up with nothing. Vieira, though, never did win the Champions League.

Roy Keane and Patrick Vieira were great rivals -- and almost became teammates at Manchester United.

Rivaldo -- Barcelona to Tottenham, 2002

During a period when they were in Arsenal's shadow, Tottenham sought a new identity and became involved in a number of transfer chases that appeared too good to be true. Real Madrid striker Fernando Morientes was on the cards, according to Tottenham, though not so according to his agent. 

Rivaldo, fresh from starring in Brazil's World Cup triumph, was another target. "We were close to getting him," said manager Glenn Hoddle. "This illustrates the high nature of our ambition." 

Spurs signed Robbie Keane from Leeds instead, and Rivaldo headed to AC Milan.

Cristiano Ronaldo -- Sporting Lisbon to Arsenal, 2003

The list of players Arsene Wenger has supposedly been close to signing would probably fill two World XI teams, and Ronaldo is one he has claimed whom he could have signed, with a £4m fee agreed with Sporting Lisbon.

"He was very close to coming here," Wenger later said. "He had a No. 9 shirt with Ronaldo on the back from Arsenal Football Club." 

Ronaldo was not snapped up quickly enough, and allowed to play in a friendly against Manchester United. Ferguson signed him up on sight, for an inflated yet eventually cheap price of £12.24m.

Cristiano Ronaldo playing for Sporting Lisbon in 2002
Cristiano Ronaldo slipped through Arsenal's grasp while at Sporting and went on to become a Manchester United legend.

Dani Alves -- Sevilla to Liverpool, 2006

Eleven years before Alves almost joined City, he nearly joined up with Rafa Benitez at Anfield, with a fee of £8m set by Sevilla, only for Liverpool to decide it was too much to pay. Their summer kitty instead went to signing Dirk Kuyt from Feyenoord for £9m and Craig Bellamy from Blackburn for £6m.

It was a signpost to the parsimony that would eventually exasperate Benitez. In January, he made the astute £2.5m purchase of Alvaro Arbeloa after Alves stayed in Seville to collect a second successive UEFA Cup, before becoming the ideal right-back for Pep Guardiola at Barcelona.

Gareth Barry -- Aston Villa to Liverpool, 2008

Another near-miss for Benitez, this time for a player he thought could dovetail perfectly with captain Steven Gerrard. Barry and Gerrard had been midfield partners for at youth level for England.

"I'm good friends with Gareth off the pitch, and I'm desperate for us to sign him," said Gerrard. 

But Aston Villa steadfastly would not budge, setting a price of £18m that Liverpool refused to pay. Benitez had been prepared to shunt out Xabi Alonso to accommodate Barry.

"He told me the situation and that he wanted to sign other players, and I could be one of the replacements," Alonso later said.

Disaffected, he joined Real Madrid the following year, around the same time Barry joined Manchester City instead.

Gareth Barry moved to Manchester City instead of Liverpool, before joining the Reds' bitter rivals Everton.

Kaka -- AC Milan to Manchester City, 2009

In the early days of City's newfound wealth, they appeared desperate to make the statement of signing a world star. A January 2009 bid of £91m to Milan, with wages of £500,000 per week, would be a world record on both counts even now, had the deal been sealed.

City's brash confidence was dashed when Kaka decided he preferred to stay in Italy rather than join the Blue revolution. "They bottled it," City CEO Garry Cook said of Milan, while not sparing the Brazilian's advisors. "The agenda we thought we were on was about Kaka coming on a journey with this club, but at the end the only journey they were on was a fiscal one." 

Wesley Sneijder -- Inter Milan to Manchester United, 2011

Only in the last couple of transfer windows has the Dutchman stopped being linked with a move to Old Trafford. Ferguson was on the hunt for a playmaker replacement for Paul Scholes, who retired, albeit briefly, in the summer of 2011 (only to reappear in January of the 2011-12 campaign).

That summer window ahead of the 2011-12 season was dominated by United's links with Sneijder, first confirmed by the player, then denied by Ferguson in a merry-go-round of speculation. The deal collapsed because United refused to meet Sneijder's heavy wage demands. "He's a fantastic player, but he was not who we were looking for to replace Scholes," said Ferguson after the transfer window had closed. Sneijder stayed in Milan for two more years before joining Galatasaray. 

Cesc Fabregas -- Barcelona to Manchester United, 2013

The frustration of the Sneijder saga was nothing compared to the frenzy of United's doomed chase for Fabregas in the summer of 2013. United, with Ferguson retired and chief executive David Gill departing with him, were suddenly novices in the transfer market.

New manager David Moyes was not accustomed to big-ticket continental moves, and neither was Gill's replacement, Ed Woodward. United fans tied themselves in knots before Fabregas declared he had "never thought about leaving," going against the signals United felt they had received. 

United's midfield signing ended up being Marouane Fellaini, and Fabregas joined Chelsea the next summer.

Alexis Sanchez's desire to live in London meant Liverpool missed out on another top target.

Alexis Sanchez -- Barcelona to Liverpool, 2014

Liverpool knew they were losing Luis Suarez, now how to replace him? Sanchez was surplus to requirements at Barcelona, and the Chilean's combination of power, skill and drive could represent a decent enough replacement for the soon-departing Uruguayan.

The problem was that Sanchez did not want to live in Liverpool, preferring London instead.

"We couldn't move the football club to London unfortunately," Liverpool chief executive Ian Ayre said later. On July 10, Sanchez's move to Arsenal was announced, a day ahead of Suarez's departure to Catalonia being confirmed. 

John Stones -- Everton to Chelsea, 2015

Chelsea's failure to land the players whom Mourinho wanted in the summer of 2015 was a major cause for the schism that opened between him and the club. Stones was the player he wanted to replace John Terry in central defence, but he never made the move to London, despite putting in a transfer request.

That was turned down by Everton, as were three bids from Chelsea. "Money can't buy you Stones," sang the Beatles-paraphrasing Goodison faithful in September when Mourinho came to Merseyside and Everton beat Chelsea 3-1. Stones was outstanding as Mourinho grimaced on the sidelines. By December, Mourinho had left Chelsea, and the following summer, Manchester City paid £47.5m for Stones.

John Brewin is a staff writer for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JohnBrewinESPN.

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