The biggest names who came close to joining Real Madrid: Lewandowski, Gullit, Maradona…

22 Jun 2020

Robert Lewandowski’s agent recently admitted that the Polish international came close to joining Real Madrid in 2013 and 2014, but he is far from alone, with numerous other world stars almost signing for Los Blancos over the years.

Marc OvermarsAjax sporting director, also claimed that he was responsible for Donny van de Beek not joining Madrid.

Nevertheless, the Dutchman’s representatives are in contact with Los Blancos and want a move to happen.

So will Van de Beek eventually get his way, or end up like the following stars who came close to the Santiago Bernabeu?

Two attempts for Diego Maradona

When Alfredo Di Stefano was appointed as Real Madrid’s head coach in 1982, he wanted the great Maradona to lead his new side.

Madrid offered more money than Barcelona, after the player’s agent met with directors of both sides in the Spanish capital but Los Blancos ended up pulling out of the deal due to the economic complexity of the deal.

Even after Maradona played for Barcelona and was at Napoli, then Real Madrid president Ramon Mendoza tried his best to sign him

“[Maradona] was at my house, because I had the flu,” Ramon Mendoza told El Pais.

“He was at Napoli back then, and he wanted to come to Madrid. He came accompanied by Jorge Valdano. He offered me a deal that included commercial and image rights that I did not understand well.

“It was a complicated offer at that time, it was tough to accept it. It was an expensive signing,” the former president added.

Ruud Gullit deal scuppered by Milan

Gullit was another player that escaped Ramon Mendoza when he was president of Real Madrid.

An agreement with the player and PSV was reached but, at the last minute, Milan showed up with more money.

Gullit went to Milan where he became a world superstar and, among other achievements, defeated Madrid’s ‘Quinta del Buitre’ in the European Cup.

Years later, Silvio Berlusconi offered Gullit to Madrid but Mendoza declined due to the player’s age.

Jurgen Klinsmann had already packed his bags

The German even had his ticket to Madrid purchased in June 1992, before the deal fell through.

Then Madrid coach Leo Beenhakker wanted him desperately and an agreement with the player and Inter had been reached.

But suddenly, everything came to an end. Mendoza called Klinsmann on the eve of Madrid’s last league game of the season against Tenerife and told him not to travel, to wait for the season to end to complete the signing, yet the German would never hear from them again.

Madrid sacked Beenhakker and appointed Benito Floro, and Los Blancos opted for Ivan Zamorano as their new No.9 instead.

Matthaus offered himself before joining Bayern Munich

Lothar Matthaus did his best to sign for Real Madrid, to the point that he met with Los Blancos in Switzerland to discuss the transfer.

The agreement with the player had been reached, but neither Madrid nor the German player managed to convince the president of Inter.

“He did not want to sell me, he put a price tag that was impossible,” Matthaus recalled.

Matthaus ended up returning to Bayern Munich.

Henry was even registered in the LFP system

Thierry Henry was one of the most sought after youngsters in 1996 and 1997.

The Real Madrid president at that time was Lorenzo Sanz, who had his eyes set on a 17-year-old Frenchman who was emerging at Monaco.

Sanz sealed the deal with the player’s representative, Michel Basilevitch, and on June 30, 1997, Henry became a Madrid player with the president even making the operation public.

“He will sign for five or six seasons and will join Madrid when the season ends,” Sanz announced.

But soon after, problems began and the Spanish Association of Football Agents would denounce Madrid to FIFA for using Basilevich as an intermediary, and Monaco, angry with Los Blancos for their actions, joined those complaints.

Madrid were convinced that they had done everything by the book, and even went so far as to present Henry’s contract in the LFP system, but the player, fearful of the controversy, signed a renewal with Monaco and the deal fell apart.

Vieira was Camacho’s obsession

In the summer of 2004, with Jose Antonio Camacho in the dugout, Real Madrid made a move for then Arsenal star Patrick Vieira.

The deal with the player was done, but convincing Arsene Wenger was no easy task.

Some time after, Vieira acknowledged that not signing for Madrid was the great regret of his career, although he explained why he did not for a move.

“In the end I did not take the final step because everything seemed complicated to me in Madrid,” he stated.

“I was suspicious. The lack of recognition towards Makelele scared me.

“I was afraid that it would also work against me, but I should have gone.

“Today I do not regret the career that I’ve had, but if I could change one thing, it would surely be that, to go to Real Madrid.”

Joaquin blocked by Betis

Joaquin is one of those players that Real Madrid will always regret not having seen in white, just as the player will regret not having signed for the club.

Both the player and the club wanted the move to happen but former Betis president Manuel Ruiz de Lopera wouldn’t allow it between 2004 and 2006, leading Florentino Perez to eventually throw in the towel.

“It was a bit strange. At that time, Lopera knew what my intentions were from the first day – to be able to play for a team like Real Madrid,” Joaquin said.

“I always mentioned it to him because it was a very nice opportunity.

“Every time I spoke with Florentino he said that Don Manuel was not receptive when it came to transferring me and that he demanded many things that sincerely escaped me,” recalled Joaquin.

Although it is not known whether it was said jokingly or seriously, Joaquin mentioned that, in the negotiations, Lopera even asked Florentino to finish the repair works on the Estadio Benito Villamarin.

Totti was ’80 percent’ at Real Madrid

The Roma legend ended up rejecting the move to the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu and spent his whole career with his hometown club.

“Let’s say that I had an 80 percent intention of joining Real Madrid,” he said.

“The decision was from the heart. A decision thinking of the fans, thinking of friends, thinking of family.

“Doing something different from what other players had always done. Many went to Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern. I felt different to that.”

Cazorla and Villa

Two Asturians who were leaving Valencia and Villarreal, David Villa and Santi Cazorla, looked set to sign Real Madrid.

“Treat me well Iker, I’m going there, and I think Guaje [Villa] is also coming,” Cazorla was caught on camera saying in 2008.

Villa was set to sign for Los Blancos before Valencia asked for more money at the last minute, leaving Florentino fed up with negotiations and ended up signing Karim Benzema from Lyon.

Maicon’s dream

When Jose Mourinho left Inter for Real Madrid in 2010, he wanted Maicon to go with him, and the Brazilian was also desperate to follow his boss.

“Everyone knows where I want to play next season and how important Mourinho is to me,” Maicon said while at the World Cup in South Africa.

But Inter would not negotiate over a move.

Florentino’s approach for Lewandowski

Moments after Dortmund knocked Real Madrid out of the Champions League in 2013, Florentino Perez approached Lewandowski in the tunnel and tried to convince him to join Los Blancos, but it was too late

“The contract with Bayern was already sealed, but after the game against Madrid, in which he scored four goals, he wanted to give him a better one,” revealed Cezary Kucharski.

“In the end, Bayern had to give us 25 million euros more.”

The summer Cristiano Ronaldo left, it was the Polish striker who contacted Real Madrid to try to negotiate a move to the Bernabeu. It happened after Cristiano’s departure, a moment that the Pole saw as ideal to sign for Madrid, but Bayern flatly refused to let him go.

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