The purchase of Chelsea Football Club by Russian Billionaire Roman Abramovich in the early 2000s completely transformed a consistently decent team into one of the world’s best by injecting a huge amount of money into the club and giving newly-installed manager Jose Mourinho free-reign to bring in some of the world’s top stars.
Under the stewardship of Mourinho Chelsea used its seemingly infinite war chest to bring in players like Didier Drogba and Petr Cech to guide the club to their first league title in more than half a century.
While Chelsea’s dominance has varied in the years that followed, their propensity for spending big cash to bring in star players has never waned. After all, the club broke the world record for a goalkeeper when they made the ill-fated signing of mutinous Spanish international Kepa Arrizabalaga. Of course, hindsight is 20-20 and a good goalkeeper is worth their weight in gold but the £70million fee should be more than enough evidence that the team have become notorious for paying whatever it takes to bring a transfer target in.
However, despite having seemingly endless resources available when it comes to getting the player they want, not every transfer target has decided to pack their bags for West London when Ambramovich’s millions came calling.
These guys decided to turn down a move to Stamford Bridge…
The most recent example of a transfer target deciding not to make the move to Stamford Bridge, Belgian striker Dries Mertens was reportedly set to join Chelsea this summer upon the conclusion of his contract with Napoli.
Chelsea boss Frank Lampard had met with the Partenopei’s all-time top scorer in an attempt to lure him away from Italy but it was to no avail, with Mertens instead likely choosing to remain at the club with all signs pointing towards him inking a new deal in the coming weeks.
Despite the interest possibly signifying the last time that the 33-year-old would have the opportunity to make his mark in another country, Mertens reportedly explained that his decision to stay in Italy was based on not wanting to have to establish himself with a new fanbase.
In an interview with BBC Radio 5 Live Belgian football journalist Kristof Terreur explained:
“In January when Chelsea knocked on the door, he was quite convinced. But once you are in the south of Italy, with good money and you are a god, why would you change that?”
You can’t really argue with that…
Martin Rickett/PA Archive
Though it’s probably fair to say that his career has not exactly panned out the way many expected it to, it’s hard to deny just how much hype surrounded Brazilian prospect Robinho when he was first linked with a move to the Premier League.
After Real Madrid made clear that the starlet was for sale providing their £32million valuation was met it seemed that all that was left to do to bring the Brazilian to Stamford Bridge was the paperwork.
However, recently-minted Man City threw their hat in the ring with the new ownership believing that signing Robinho represented something of a statement of intent with where the club was headed going forward.
With the move to West London seemingly complete, the Chelsea marketing team got ahead of themselves by allowing fans to purchase replica shirts adorning the Brazilian’s name before the deal had been finalised.
Robinho would later explain in an interview that the mistake irked Madrid, and played a large role in him ultimately instead making the move to Manchester.
© Ivan Arlandis Ivars/Demotix/Corbis
Another world-class centre back eyed as a potential successor to the ageing John Terry, speculation was rife that Real Madrid legend Sergio Ramos had reportedly become unsettled at Los Blancos after a contract dispute, and was considering a move to England.
Ramos had long been linked with Manchester United during Sir Alex Ferguson’s tenure as manager, but by the time 2015 came around it was Chelsea who emerged as the preferred destination of the World Cup-winning defender.
Despite a tumultuous period in charge of the Spanish giants, Jose Mourinho had reportedly enjoyed a good relationship with Ramos, and hoped that he could capitalise on the Spaniard’s discontent by bringing him to West London.
Ultimately though, the signing proved to be a bridge too far, with Ramos quickly resolving his issue with then Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti after being made captain, and offered a bumper new contract, with Chelsea going on to make a decidedly less glamorous move by signing robust but unspectacular centre back Michael Hector from Reading.
Nick Potts/EMPICS Sport
Though Germany would be denied a fourth World Cup win in 2010 after bowing out in the semi-finals to eventual winners Spain, the country had shown off a wealth of young talent with none more coveted than the eventual young player of the tournament winner Thomas Muller.
At just 21, Muller went from a fringe squad player to a bonafide national hero over the course of the tournament, bagging five goals and three assists.
After his impressive performances, Europe’s elite clubs were practically lining up attempting to sign the forward following the tournament, with Chelsea tipped by many to be the team to secure the German’s signature.
Despite the interest, Muller opted not to leave his native country, later explaining that he felt like he was too young to make such a momentous move, while also noting that he wanted to continue to develop on the pitch and was unsure if he would be guaranteed a place in the starting XI at Stamford Bridge.
Virgil Van Dijk
Ailura, CC BY-SA 3.0 AT [CC BY-SA 3.0 at (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/at/deed.en)], from Wikimedia Commons
Dutch international Virgil Van Dijk has proved something of a revelation on Merseyside since signing for Liverpool in January 2018, shoring up a previously porous defence and playing an integral part in the Reds capturing the Champions League last year, and looking set on claiming their first league title in nearly 30 years.
However, everything could’ve been different if Chelsea had managed to get their hands on the elite centre back during the previous summer.
After Liverpool’s initial bid for the then Southampton star had been nixed, Antonio Conte swooped in looking for a long-term successor to the recently departed John Terry, hoping a £60 million bid would be enough to unsettle the Dutchman. Ultimately though, Van Dijk would opt not to make the move to Stamford Bridge with reports at the time suggesting that he already had his heart set on joining Liverpool and was prepared to wait to make the deal happen.
© Steve Harris
As he enters the twilight years of his distinguished career, it appears exceedingly less likely that fans will ever get the opportunity to see Luka Modric grace the Premier League again. The Croatian had initially struggled at Tottenham Hotspur but eventually established himself as an elite talent before going on to even greater success after being signed by Jose Mourinho at Real Madrid in 2012.
Modric had initially been a transfer target at Stamford Bridge before moving to Spain, but Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy’s insistence that they would not sell to a rival club quickly nixed the possibility of a move.
However, after Mourinho made his return to the Blues in 2013, the Portuguese boss attempted to convince Modric to join him in England, but unfortunately for Chelsea fans, to no avail.
After picking up a further three Champions League medals following his decision to stay in Spain, we doubt that Modric is plagued by regret…
Peter Byrne/PA Wire
Any Premier League fan in the mid-2000s will likely remember the ‘will he, won’t he’ saga of Chelsea’s persistent attempts to lure Steven Gerrard away from his native Merseyside to Stamford Bridge.
In fact, arguably the closest the potential transfer ever came to actually taking place was in the summer of 2005, just weeks after Gerrard had led Liverpool to the most improbable of Champions League wins. After contract negotiations had gone awry Gerrard handed in a transfer request at his boyhood club, and the footballing world held its breath when it was announced that Chelsea had tabled a £32million bid for the midfielder.
The prospect of losing their star player forced Liverpool to offer Gerrard a new contract, who ultimately decided to stay put and play out the remainder of his English footballing careers with the Reds.
Then again, with successive England managers failing to find a system to best utilise the immense talents of Gerrard and Frank Lampard together it was perhaps a blessing in disguise that the current Rangers boss didn’t make the switch.
Sergio Aguero is a bonafide Manchester City legend. The club’s highest Premier League goalscorer by some distance, Aguero has been one of the most consistently clinical finishers in world football since signing for The Citizens in 2011.
However, Aguero very nearly wore a different shade of blue back in 2009.
Fresh off a successful season at Atletico Madrid, Aguero was earmarked as a potential successor to Didier Drogba at the forefront of Chelsea’s attack. Then-boss Carlo Ancelotti moved quickly to sign the young Argentinian, and a fee was even agreed between the two clubs before the deal came grinding to a halt while negotiating personal terms.
The move eventually broke down when Aguero reportedly claimed that he intended on fulfilling his contract in Madrid, only to seemingly change his mind and instead make the move to Manchester less than two years later.
With a sum the size of a small country’s GDP being required to sign Neymar these days, it’s easy to forget that Chelsea came agonisingly close to bringing the Brazilian in before he had ever made footballing headlines worldwide.
As a teenager with an impressive goal record in his debut season as a professional for Santos, Neymar caught the eye of the then-Blues boss Carlo Ancelotti who tabled an impressive bid in the hopes of bringing the Brazilian to the UK.
Though the deal would eventually fall through, Neymar would later detail the experience in his autobiography, explaining that Brazilian football icon Pele got in touch and implored him to stay in his native country and build up his legacy before making a big-money move abroad.
Much to the chagrin of the Stamford Bridge faithful, Neymar would take Pele’s advice staying at Santos for a further three years before moving to Barcelona in 2013.
PSG teammate, Kylian Mbappe had once came close to signing for Chelsea before going on to be one of the world’s best players. Unlike Neymar however, Mbappe even played for the club, though admittedly it was in a youth team game against Charlton Athletic, during a short trial spell in West London.
Despite the club’s interest, with Mbappe aged just 11 at the time of the trial, his parents feared that a move to a different country at such a young age would disrupt his schooling. Despite his protestations at the time, Kylian would later comment in an interview with The Players’ Tribune about how his parents were right to prevent him