What Happened Next for the Players Liverpool Almost Signed?

    Timo Werner is the latest in a rich history of ones that got away for Liverpool | Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images

    Chelsea’s £54m-deal to sign Timo Werner from under the noses of Liverpool has brought back unpleasant memories for Reds fans.

    In recent years, there has been a clear and efficient strategy of: identify target, sign target, no fuss, no muss. However, it used to be a much trickier business to get deals done at Anfield.

    Here ‘s what happened next for nine transfer targets who, like Werner, seemed destined for Liverpool only to leave the t’s uncrossed and i’s undotted…

    Sabrosa Simao, Djimi Traore
    Simao showing Liverpool what they missed out on in the Champions League | Alex Livesey/Getty Images

    In the summer of 2005, Liverpool were in the very odd position of being both European champions and desperately needing much better players in order to compete for titles. I know, different times.

    Rafa Benitez brought in Pepe Reina, Boudewijn Zenden, Mohamed Sissoko and Peter Crouch in the summer to help with depth and quality but the Reds needed more oomph.

    22-goal Benfica attacking midfielder Simao was identified and even flown in for a medical, with his agent calling the deal ‘very advanced’.

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    However, at the eleventh hour, Benfica upped their asking price to £13.6m – a £1m higher than Liverpool were prepared to go (seems like spare change in 2020).

    Simao stayed put and Liverpool, despite winning the FA Cup, continued to lack that creative spark under Benitez, who valued function over flair.

    What happened next? Who knocked the Reds out of the Champions League in 2005/06? Benfica. Who scored the opener? Simao.

    While his best seasons were his ones at Benfica, the Portuguese winger continued to prove a quality operator at Atletico Madrid after a €20m move in 2007 and won the Europa League in 2010 – again, knocking Liverpool out along the way.

    Who did Liverpool sign instead? No-one
    Missed opportunity rating: 7/10

    Daniel Alves
    Liverpool backed out of an £8m Dani Alves deal in 2006 | Bagu Blanco/Getty Images

    Liverpool had ‘done’ the deal with Sevilla in the summer of 2006 for promising right back-cum-winger Dani Alves at a price of just £8m, according to The Athletic.

    However, before the transfer was made official Rafa Benitez was told there would be no further funds for a striker – a position that also need strengthening – and lo Alves was left in Andalusia as a deal for Feyenoord front man Dirk Kuyt was prioritised.

    There was some logic to Benitez’s decision making, and Kuyt did become a fan favourite, but the ownership’s reluctance to make funds available for what would be one of the world’s top players really stings.

    What happened next? Alves, of course, joined Barcelona in 2008 (at a fee of around £25m) and as of 2020 is by some estimates the active player with the most trophy wins in world football.

    These include three Champions Leagues with Barça, nine league titles in three countries and two Copa America wins with Brazil.

    He was, pretty unquestionably, the best full back of his generation – certainly going forward.

    Who did Liverpool sign instead? Dirk Kuyt
    Missed opportunity rating: 10/10

    Sylvain Marveaux
    Sylvain Marveaux was not a success at Newcastle | Julian Finney/Getty Images

    The tail-end Benitez years up until about 2013 was a fairly bleak time to be a Liverpool fan.

    Upper-mid table finishes were compounded by all-too-frequent transfer cock-ups.

    The summer of 2011 is particularly infamous among Reds fans, who watched Charlie Adam and Stewart Downing arrive, while Andy Carroll was still fresh from a £35m January deal.

    Exciting(?), young(ish) French winger Sylvain Marveaux was as good as signed too, before rumours of a failed medical (later disputed) scuppered the move.

    He went on to sign for Newcastle for around €7.5m, while £20m Downing rocked up at Anfield…

    What happened next? Marveaux made 57 appearances for Newcastle over three seasons, which is more than you might think for such an utterly forgettable player.

    Injuries punctuated his time in England and he returned to France in 2014, enjoying solid – if not world-beating – spells in Ligue 1 and 2 with Guingamp, Lorient and Nancy.

    Who did Liverpool sign instead? Stewart Downing
    Missed opportunity rating: 1/10

    KAA Gent v AS Roma - UEFA Europa League Round of 32: Second Leg
    Henrikh Mkhitaryan in action for Roma this season | Isosport/MB Media/Getty Images

    In 2013, Henrikh Mkhitaryan was one of the best players in the world playing outside of Europe’s big leagues.

    The Armenian finished the season with 29 goals (25 in the league) in 42 appearances from attacking midfield and seemed destined for a big move.

    That move looked for all the world like it would be Liverpool. However, (ironically) it seems like it was actually Jurgen Klopp who stopped Mkhi from making a £25m move to Anfield.

    A meeting with then-Dortmund boss Klopp – who broke off a summer holiday to see the prospective signing – convinced the playmaker to choose Westpahalia over Merseyside, with the help of Mino Raiola.

    The Reds came close to the title that season and Brendan Rodgers’ side didn’t lack firepower. However, who knows what might’ve been…

    What happened next? Mkhitaryan impressed at Dortmund, though the club’s golden period was fading out, and he was Kicker’s Bundesliga Player of the Year in 2016, as well as the competition’s top assist maker.

    He joined Man Utd that year but struggled to recreate his Dortmund/Shakhtar form on a regular basis (scorpion kicking aside).

    He was then the makeweight swap in the doomed Alexis Sanchez deal and is now on loan at Roma.

    Who did Liverpool sign instead? No-one
    Missed opportunity rating: 7/10

    Yevhen Konoplyanka
    Yehven Konoplyanka was close to being a deadline day deal for Liverpool in 2014 | Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/Getty Images

    Then-managing director Ian Ayre flew out to civil-war torn Ukraine to desperately try to get a £16m deadline day deal done for Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk winger Yehven Konoplyanka, in January 2014.

    With the Reds pushing for the title, a little more depth was needed and the Ukrainian landed on as the preferred target… but no-one bargained for Dnipro’s impossible-to-deal-with chairman.

    While Konoplyanka’s signing might’ve somehow got Liverpool over the line for the 2014 title, in all likelihood, Kolo Toure would’ve still done that madness against West Brom, Gerrard would’ve slipped and blah blah blah.

    Still, imagine how much cash he might’ve earned the club in pay-per-letter shirt printing?

    What happened next? Konoplyanka eventually moved to Sevilla in 2015, winning the Europa League in his one season in Spain. Now 30, he’s spent time at Schalke and Shakhtar but rarely bothered the headlines as ‘one that got away’.

    Who did Liverpool sign instead? No-one
    Missed opportunity rating: 3/10

    Loic Remy
    Loic Remy joined Chelsea after failing his medical at Liverpool | Clive Mason/Getty Images

    2014 was quite the year for signings that never were. After Konoplyanka in January, there was Loic Remy in the summer.

    After an impressive spell on loan at Newcastle in 2013/14, during which the French striker scored 14 Premier League goals, Liverpool activated Remy’s £8.5m release clause.

    However, things came undone at a medical in America (where a possible heart ‘anomaly’ was detected) and the move was called off, with Remy eventually joining Chelsea.

    Liverpool still desperate for a striker in the wake of Luis Suarez’s departure turned to Mario Balotelli…

    What happened next? Remy played backup to Diego Costa (still managing seven goals) as Chelsea romped to the title in 2015, while Liverpool struggled into sixth.

    The former Marseille man (now 33) was given fewer chances the following year as it all collapsed at the Bridge and became something of a latter career journeyman, featuring for Crystal Palace, Las Palmas, Getafe and is now at Lille – where bagged Ligue 1’s Goal of the Year award in 2019.

    Who did Liverpool sign instead? Mario Balotelli
    Missed opportunity rating: 4/10

    Alex Teixeira
    Alex Teixeira joined CSL side Jiangsu Suning in February of 2016 | Fred Lee/Getty Images

    In Klopp’s first season with the club desperate for extra fire firepower, Liverpool bid €32m for Shakhtar Dontesk goal machine Alex Texeira, who had 26 in as many games in the first half of 2015/16.

    While the Brazilian striker was keen on a move, his club held out for move and the Reds just wouldn’t pay up.

    Without an extra striker, Klopp’s side still made two cup finals, while they were bolstered by the summer arrival of Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino moving into a central role.

    What happened next? Shakhtar didn’t have to wait long for their payday, with Jiangsu Suning splashing €50m on Teixeira that same winter, during the Chinese Super League’s first big spending spree.

    Teixeira, now 30, has continued to score goals for fun in China (50 in 105 league games) and seems more settled than many of the foreign imports. However, his career choice has not helped his international chances and he remains uncapped.

    Who did Liverpool sign instead? No-one
    Missed opportunity rating: 3/10

    Nabil Fekir
    Nabil Fekir’s failed Liverpool move was the sage of the summer in 2018 | Quality Sport Images/Getty Images


    So close to becoming a Liverpool player was Fekir that he had already done his first interview as a Reds player (in full club garm) before someone from the club’s medical team – like that scientist that no-one listens to at first in a disaster movie – came running down the corridor clutching an x-ray of what used to be a human knee.

    The £50m+ deal was called off at the last second and Fekir was sent back to Lyon. The tabloid press refused to believe the summer’s biggest saga was over though and kept running Liverpool-Fekir stories for another year.

    Despite the kerfuffle, Liverpool still won the Champions League with the help of the summer’s other arrivals like Fabinho and Alisson Becker.

    What happened next? While still linked with Liverpool (and Chelsea) after the deal fell apart, Fekir stayed for another season at Lyon but struggled to put up the same numbers.

    With the whole world now aware of his dodgy knee, Fekir had to settle for a somewhat sideways move to Real Betis in 2019 (for just €20m), where he has been quietly impressive.

    Who did Liverpool sign instead? No-one
    Missed opportunity rating: 4/10

    Philippe Coutinho, Mohamed Salah
    Mohamed Salah in action against Liverpool back in 2014 | Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

    Quiz question: who was the only current Liverpool player on the pitch as Chelsea beat the Reds in 2014, in the infamous title-race ending slip game?

    Mohamed Salah.

    A January signing by Chelsea in the 2013/14 season, the young winger from Basel had been coveted by Liverpool for some time and, by his own account (though he would say that now) was ‘keen to join them’.

    However, Chelsea gazumped Liverpool’s offer (just as they had for Willian the summer before) and Jose Mourinho convinced the 21-year-old Egyptian that London and not Merseyside was the place to be…

    What happened next? Salah like Kevin de Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku struggled to break into the Chelsea first-team under Mourinho and made just 19 appearances all told before being loaned out to Italy.

    He shone at Fiorentina and Roma, developing from promising winger to prolific inside forward. Liverpool bid again for the improved player in the summer of 2017 and the rest is history…

    Who did Liverpool sign instead? No-one
    Missed opportunity rating: N/A

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