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8 times Chelsea hijacked 'done' deals

Arjen Robben
(Image credit: Getty)

Chelsea are not particular enjoying this transfer window. And it's all Barcelona's fault.

First, it looked like Raphinha could be heading down south to Stamford Bridge, only for Barça to muscle in and tempt the Brazilian to the Camp Nou. Never mind, thought the Blues, we can always land Ousmane Dembele in that case… only for the World Cup winner to extend his time with Catalonia.

It's third time unlucky with long-term target Jules Kounde, who despite being metaphorically wined and dined by Thomas Tuchel, has seen his deal hijacked once more by the pesky Blaugrana. And to think, it used to be Chelsea themselves that would do the swooping…

1. Gianluca Vialli (1996)

Even before Roman Abramovich's arrival at Chelsea, the Blues were capable of hijacking a deal on the odd occasion. Vialli was part of an influx of top overseas talent at Stamford Bridge, later going on to become the club's manager. But it was Rangers who looked set to bring the Italian to the UK in the summer of 1996, once his contract at Juventus had expired.

Gers boss Walter Smith and chairman David Murray flew to Italy for talks with Vialli's representatives before the end of the 1995/96 campaign, believing that the only competition they faced was from Parma.

"It is now not a monetary decision, it is purely a footballing matter on whether he wants to play out his career with us or Parma," Murray said.

But things changed dramatically when the Juve striker did his good turn for the year and helped the Old Lady across the road to European glory, securing victory over Ajax on penalties in Rome.

And while the Scottish edition of one national newspaper was announcing Vialli's move to Rangers, the English editions were reporting that Chelsea had taken over the deal.

"Vialli has sent me a personal letter to say he will not be signing for Rangers," Murray said. "He says he is very sorry but that he will be joining Chelsea instead. He feels he achieved everything there is for him to achieve in football when he lifted the Champions League. That victory made it easier for him to decide to move to London for lifestyle reasons. It's disappointing for us but it's not the end of the world.

"There are around 10 top strikers in Europe and we will be signing one of them." As it turned out, they didn't – not that it mattered. Even without Vialli, Rangers won a ninth successive league title in 1996/97.

2. Arjen Robben (2004)

"Old Trafford is the only place he wants to play and if he can't play there he would rather stay at PSV. In fact, he would rather play in their reserves than go to Chelsea. My son will not go to Chelsea. Over my dead body will he go there." 

The words of Arjen Robben's father, who is still very much alive. Robben flew to London to meet Sir Alex Ferguson in 2004 and, like his father, was impressed by what he heard. 

"It would be fantastic if I could play for Manchester," said the winger, then only 19. It's probably fair to assume in those days that he meant United rather than City. Unfortunately, PSV were a bit miffed by Robben's meeting with United, as Chelsea's late interest had changed things somewhat. The Blues' offer blew United's out of the water and, lo and behold, Robben signed for Chelsea, where the Dutchman helped them to successive two league titles before joining Real Madrid. 

"He won't go to Real," said Robben's father, a few years earlier. "He never liked Real anyway. When we were on holiday in Spain, he only liked Barcelona.” Quite the Nostradamus.

3. John Obi Mikel (2006)

Quite possibly the mother of all transfer disputes between Chelsea and Manchester United. This time United believed they had a deal in writing, and chief executive David Gill even went on MUTV holding up a contract. As it transpired, they had agreed terms with Mikel and his Norwegian club Lyn Oslo, but Chelsea had simultaneously agreed a deal with Mikel and his representatives.

Naturally neither United and Lyn were too happy, but Chelsea claimed they had previously helped the midfielder move to Europe from Nigeria with a view to signing him at a later date. Mikel had even trained with the Blues two years earlier, although he'd also had a trial with United.

Just as Sir Alex Ferguson was considering travelling to Norway to try to sort things out, Mikel mysteriously disappeared and travelled to London, before telling the media that he wanted to sign for Chelsea.

And, after what became three-club negotiations, United eventually relented and accepted £12m from Chelsea to terminate their option on Mikel and allow him to move to Stamford Bridge. The Blues also paid poor Lyn £4m, but at least they got their man. 

4. Florent Malouda (2007)

Liverpool looked on course to take Malouda to Anfield in 2007, but for one crucial issue: the Frenchman didn't want to sign for them. "Benitez called me several times and he is a good man, a good trainer, but we didn't manage to find a way to make me join," Malouda said.

No, instead the club Malouda really wanted to sign for was Chelsea, they of his former Guingamp team-mate Didier Drogba. "He has been badgering me to join from the first time he played at Chelsea," Malouda added. All very well, but the Blues hadn't actually agreed a fee with Lyon.

Malouda was prepared to wait, though. Weeks later Chelsea finally offered the £13.5m that sealed his move to Stamford Bridge, and the pleading voicemail messages from Rafa ceased. Benitez later became Malouda's last manager at Chelsea and never played him once – although in fairness the winger had already dropped well out of the first-team picture by then. 

5. Nicolas Anelka (2008)

Manchester United have seen a number of potential deals scuppered by late Chelsea interest, and one saw Anelka move to Stamford Bridge in January 2008. The Frenchman was in demand as he made his exit from Bolton Wanderers, and looked set to join United. Anelka told staff members at Bolton that he expected to move to Old Trafford within a couple of days, only for those staff members to be rather surprised when Chelsea announced his capture for £15m.

United had the last laugh, though. Anelka faced them in the Champions League final in Moscow months later, missing the decisive seventh Chelsea spot-kick in the penalty shootout. The striker blamed Avram Grant for bringing him on in a wide role. "I was asked to take one of the first five kicks. But I said, 'That is out of the question, I have come on as a right back'."

6. Juan Mata (2011)

Juan Mata

(Image credit: PA)

On this occasion it was Arsenal who were pretty hopeful of landing a major signing, only for Chelsea to throw their weight around and secure the deal.

The Gunners first offered Valencia £13m for Mata in 2011, reportedly upping their offer to £18m a month later which would have seen the Spaniard surpass £12m Andrey Arshavin as Arsenal's record signing. Valencia rejected their offer, however, before selling Mata to Chelsea for a massive £23.5m three weeks later. It was money well spent: Mata helped the Blues win the Champions League in 2012 and was twice named player of the year before he was sold to Manchester United for a profit in a £37.1m deal.

7. Willian (2013)

Tottenham were supposedly hours away from announcing their new £30m record signing in August 2013 after Willian underwent a medical. The Brazilian had agreed a four-year contract worth £85,000 a week and looked set to become Spurs' key man, with Gareth Bale's move to Real Madrid days away from completion.

That was until Roman Abramovich stepped in at the last minute. Chelsea swiftly struck a deal with Willian's club, the Russian side Anzhi Makhachkala, and the forward hotfooted it across London to sign for the Blues.

"That's the danger of medicals before contracts, the best thing is to do the medical in secret," said Jose Mourinho with just a hint of mischief, after pipping his former colleague Andre Villas-Boas to the signing.

The hijacked deal inspired a terrace chant among Chelsea fans: "They bought his flight, but Willian he saw the light, he got the call from Abramovich, and off he went to Stamford Bridge."

8. Mohamed Salah (2014)

It probably seemed like a good idea when Chelsea stepped in to snatch pacy winger Salah out of Liverpool's grasp in January 2014. The Anfield side had been negotiating with Salah's club Basel for weeks and looked certain to eventually get a deal done.

"It was a long and fair negotiation with Liverpool, but it lasted two-and-a-half months - too long," explained the Egyptian's superbly named agent Sascha Empacher, about the dasher whose skills couldn't be flasher. "Both clubs could not agree on terms. When Chelsea contacted Basel, he was happy and took his chance. It was no financial matter."

Pretty quickly, though, Chelsea must have wondered why they bothered. Salah made only 19 appearances before being loaned out to Fiorentina… still, he's done alright since. 

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