8 times Chelsea hijacked 'done' deals
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.
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