Transfer windows are often defined by the transfers that don’t happen. It is galling for clubs and players alike when long transfer sagas fail to resolve successfully.

It may be too early to gauge the effects on Liverpool and Spurs of missing out on Nabil Fekir and Jack Grealish respectively, but they are unlikely to have the same consequences as when Sheffield United missed out on a certain legendary Argentine forward.

Here are eight transfers that failed, but whose success could have reshaped the global footballing landscape.

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Alfredo Di Stefano to Barcelona

One of the greatest players of all-time, Alfredo Di Stefano's name is near synonymous with that of Real Madrid. That is what propelling the club to five European Cups and scoring in each final will do for a player.

Yet it was nearly so very different. Barcelona were in pole position to bring Di Stefano to Spain, but mishandled the complex negotiation process.

Real Madrid swooped in to strike a suitable deal when realising that Barcelona were stuck in a bureaucratic quagmire. Barcelona remained convinced that they had done enough to formalise the transfer of Di Stefano.

The Spanish Football Federation was required to determine Di Stefano's destination. Somewhat diplomatically, it was ruled that Di Stefano should play for alternate clubs over four years.

Luis Figo has since gone on to prove that such a strategy does not go down too well. Barcelona refused the deal and ripped up their contract for Di Stefano.

That may have been a bit hasty; a month into his Real Madrid career, Di Stefano smashed four goals past Barcelona in his first El Clasico.


David de Gea to Real Madrid

It’s not inconceivable that most modern footballers wouldn't recognise a fax machine, preferring to use wacky concepts like email instead.

That’s good news for the temperamental fax machine that prevented De Gea sealing his much-desired transfer from Manchester United to Real Madrid. The world-class goalkeeper could have been forgiven for wanting to take a baseball bat to the fax machine.

This was the summer of 2015. Real Madrid have won the Champions League in every season since. Manchester United have made it past the group stage of the Champions League once in those three seasons.

Madrid are odds of 9/1 to win another Champions League, compared with United's 35/1; for De Gea, Real Madrid is the one that got away.


Garrincha to Juventus

Garrincha's silky skills made him one of the greatest dribblers of all-time.

He came close to making the jump to Europe in a novel transfer; Juventus, AC Milan and Inter each bid one million dollars to take Garrincha for a year in a unique act of sharing among football clubs that now seems bizarre.

Alas, a curious set of circumstances derailed what was already a curious transfer. Juventus' manager at the time was Paulo Amaral, a former Botafogo manager aware of Garrincha's long-running battle with a knee injury.

Juventus scouted Garrincha in two friendlies to convince them the signing was worth the risk. Garrincha's poor performances encouraged Juventus to reduce their bid to $700,000, which Botafogo rejected.

What Juventus didn't know was that between the two friendlies, Garrincha honoured an agreement to play two more friendlies that left him fatigued and unable to show Juventus his dazzling best.


Zinedine Zidane to Blackburn Rovers

Blackburn Rovers haven't had the best luck when it comes to snapping up future world-beaters. Robert Lewandowski almost joined in 2010, the Polish striker set to fly to the UK to seal the deal.

However, Borussia Dortmund took the chance to snap him up when the ash cloud created by the Eyjafjallajokull volcano grounded Lewandowski's flight, making the news as difficult to take as it was to say for Blackburn fans.

Lewandowski is not the most illustrious player to have eluded Rovers' grasp though.

Zinedine Zidane, who would later go on to break the transfer world record, nearly swapped Bordeaux for the Premier League champions in 1995, but Rovers chairman Jack Walker had other ideas.

Walker blocked the transfer, allegedly stating that Zidane was an unnecessary signing when Blackburn already had Tim Sherwood.

If Jose Mourinho is to be the next manager to be sacked in the Premier League, Manchester United fans will be hoping they don't tread a similar path to Blackburn by choosing Sherwood over Zidane.


Eusebio to Sporting Lisbon

As a teenager, the forward played for Sporting’s feeder team in Mozambique. Benfica’s own feeder side had rejected the chance to snap up Eusebio. As his huge talent became increasingly evident, Eusebio began to seek a move to Portugal.

The nature of feeder clubs placed Sporting in pole position, but by this time Benfica had realised their fallacy in missing out on Eusebio. They would not miss out again.

Benfica offered a financial package that Sporting couldn’t match, with the ramifications proving defining for both Lisbon clubs. In his fifteen years at Benfica, Eusebio drove his team to win eleven titles and a European Cup.

The effects of missing out on Eusebio outlasted the striker’s career. When Eusebio joined, Benfica and Sporting had each won 10 league titles. The score now reads 36-18 in Benfica’s favour.


Rivaldo To Bolton Wanderers

Sam Allardyce hasn't always been a figure of derision in English football. There was a time where he was even linked with the Real Madrid job, although that link was propagated exclusively by Big Sam himself.

England's greatest ever manager enjoyed great success at Bolton, assembling an impressive side.

The big names went way beyond Stelios Giannakopoulos; Youri Djorkaeff, Jay-Jay Okocha and Ivan Campo all arrived in Bolton under Allardyce's watch, but there was almost a star to outshine them all.

In 2004, The Guardian reported that World Cup winner Rivaldo was on the verge of sealing a move to Bolton. Allardyce had allegedly been integral to persuading the former Barcelona star that Bolton was the place to be.

Kevin Davies sent out a warning message to one of the best players of his generation: 'we will see how good he is at tracking back!', said Davies of Rivaldo. Perhaps Davies scared him off, with Rivaldo tracking back all the way to Olympiakos instead.


Jean-Marc Bosman to Dunkerque

Jean-Marc Bosman may have had the most inauspicious footballing career out of the players listed here, but his failed transfer is the most significant of all.

Bosman was playing for RFC Liege until his contract expired in 1990. The midfielder fancied a switch to Dunkerque, but Dunkerque weren't sufficiently invested to pay Liege the demanded transfer fee.

Liege took this to mean that Bosman was theirs indefinitely, not that they really wanted him. Bosman saw his wages reduced because he was no longer considered a first-team player. Bosman sued Liege for restraint of trade, and won.

His legacy is the ability for players to sign pre-contracts to facilitate a free transfer. Bosman even gave his name to the type of transfer that has since been completed by much more fashionable footballers.


Diego Maradona to Sheffield United

Diego Maradona is one of the most influential players to have ever kicked a ball/punched a ball into the net at a World Cup. How would that influence have been affected if Maradona had joined Sheffield United as a 17-year-old?

Perhaps Maradona would now be mentioned in the same breath as Ade Akinbiyi when discussing strikers who failed at Sheffield United. In all likelihood, Maradona's prodigious talent would have become evident no matter where he played. 

Sheffield United's board baulked at the £200,000 fee to sign Maradona from Argentinos Juniors in 1978, despite manager Harry Haslam's enthusiasm to snap up the promising talent.

Instead, the Blades saved £40,000 by signing Maradona's compatriot Alex Sabella instead. Sabella was good, but he was no Maradona.

Sheffield United are currently flying in the Championship, with odds of 6/1 to lift the title, but maybe they'd be a Premier League fixture if Maradona had become a club legend.

Of course, the benefit of hindsight is a wonderful thing in football. So many players are touted as the next Maradona or the next Zidane but prove to be the next Stracqualursi or the next Guivarc’h.

No wonder Jim White is getting so excited on transfer deadline day; perhaps one of those signings could define the next decade for a club.


*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*

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