Manchester City's MAD deadline day revealed: Club made bids for 'every top player in the world', including Lionel Messi

Sheikh Mansour waves to the Manchester City crowd as Lionel Messi celebrates while scoring for Barcelona
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Manchester City attempted to sign the world's best players when Sheikh Mansour took over the club on transfer deadline day in September 2008.

Despite being a mid-table Premier League side, Manchester City's new owners were hugely ambitious and wanted to exacerbate the progress of the club, with even Lionel Messi within their crosshairs.

Mark Hughes, who managed the club at the time, recalls the craziest transfer deadline day of his life, with Robinho the most-high-profile signing to eventually take the bait from the nouveau riche side.

Manchester City's Brazilian Striker Robinho (L) shakes hands with manager Mark Hughes after winning their Premier League football match against Newcastle at the City Of Manchester Stadium in Manchester, north west England on January 28, 2009. AFP PHOTO/Glyn Kirk - FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY Additional licence required for any commercial/promotional use or use on TV or internet (except identical online version of newspaper) of Premier League/Football League photos. Tel DataCo +44 207 2981656. Do not alter/modify photo. (Photo credit should read GLYN KIRK/AFP via Getty Images)

Robinho was the high-profile arrival at City that day (Image credit: Getty Images)

“They just asked me, ‘who do you want?’," Hughes told William Hill and Footy Accumulators’ podcast, No Tippy Tappy Football. "They had a load of bids out for pretty much every top player in the world. 

"They had just put all of these bids out to see if anyone would actually come back, but people forget that at that time, Manchester City were a mid-table Premier League club – mid-table to bottom if we’re honest. There weren’t that many takers because players were thinking, ‘Man City, who?’.

“They had all these bids out and nothing was happening, then all of a sudden they had a little nibble from Robinho and Real Madrid. We had to try to make it happen and I knew the Real Madrid coach at the time, Bernd Schuster, so I was on the phone to him asking if there was any chance of letting Robinho speak to us."

Manchester City wanted Lionel Messi of Barcelona celebrates scoring the winning goal from a penatly during the La Liga match between Espanyol and Barcelona at the Montjuic Olympic Stadium on September 27, 2008 in Barcelona, Spain. Barcelona won the match 2-1. (Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)

Manchester City had bids out for the world's best players (Image credit: Getty Images)

Of course, the Brazilian ended up signing for a British record transfer fee of £32.5m - though it's unclear whether Robinho actually realised which Manchester-based side he was signing for.

“It was a crazy day, there were bids going out for Lionel Messi and all sorts," Hughes added. 

"We finally managed to get Robinho over the line which was a hell of a statement, and the rest is history. There’s probably a grain of truth in the rumour that Robinho thought he was actually signing for Manchester United

"He certainly didn’t recognise me when he turned up, he was probably expecting to see Sir Alex Ferguson at the airport! He was probably a bit disappointed to say the least.”

More Manchester City stories 

Rodri recently called for action to be taken to stop European football losing more stars to Saudi Arabia.

Pep Guardiola has discussed his future, teasing Juventus as a potential destination in the future.

Meanwhile, Shaun Wright-Phillips has told FFT that his former club could go on to win 10 Premier League titles in a row.

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