Sheffield United: Didier Drogba, Diego Maradona… who else have the Blades nearly signed?

Every football fan loves to hate ‘the one that got away’ from their club.

From Pep Guardiola nearly joining Wigan Athletic, to Ronaldinho flirting with a move to Blackburn Rovers and Ivan Rakitic nearly signing for Sunderland, every team has one world class player that they missed the chance to sign.

Diego Maradona lifts the World Cup in 1986.

Diego Maradona lifts the World Cup in 1986.

With former Sheffield United manager Neil Warnock recently revealing that he had the chance to sign Didier Drogba for a bargain £100,000, we thought we’d take a look at a handful of the big name stars that almost moved to Bramall Lane over the years.

Didier Drogba

In case you missed it, ex-Blades boss Warnock revealed in a press conference last week that he could have signed Ivory Coast striker Drogba for £100,000 but couldn’t afford the deal.

Warnock, who was in charge at Bramall Lane from 1999 to 2007, said his friend and French scout Laurent D’Jaffo identified Drogba as aggressive, big and no slouch – apparently just his type of player.

“I said, ‘Laurent, I can’t sign anyone from the second division in France.’ He says, ‘gaffer, I’m telling you he’s a good player’,” Warnock said. “‘How much do they want? Hundred grand.’ I said, ‘I can’t be spending hundred grand, chairman will go bloody daft here.”

Drogba later joined Guingamp and Marseille before securing his big money move to Chelsea for £24million. The rest, as they say, is history.

Sheffield United: Neil Warnock reveals he turned down the chance to sign Didier Drogba for £100,000 when he was Blades boss

Diego Maradona

It’s a story all Blades fans will know – the Argentinian nearly joined the Bramall Lane club in the late 1970s but his price tag was the sticking point for the United board. 

A 17-year-old Maradona was identified by manager Harry Haslam in 1978 as a star in the making, but the £200,000 fee proved too much to persuade club chiefs to sign the future World Cup winner.

Other reports put Argentinos Juniors’ desired fee at nearer to £600,000, but in the end it was Maradona’s compatriot Alejandro Sabella who came to the Steel City for a snip of the price at £160,000.

Paul Gascoigne

Back in November 1996 Blades boss Howard Kendall played it coy with the media when speaking about a potential move to bring controversial England international Paul Gascoigne back south of the border.

Gazza, then playing for Rangers, was reportedly a target as United looked to make a major signing before flotation on the Stock Exchange.

The midfielder had joined the Scottish giants from Lazio for £4.3million in 1995, but at the time the club said it was unlikely they would sell.

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Georgi Kinkladze

Former Manchester City midfielder Kinkladze was wanted by then-Blades manager Adrian Heath after the Georgian’s impressive spell at Maine Road.

Kinkladze had joined Ajax from City, but was struggling to find form when United came knocking for a potential loan deal. 

Instead the dribbling dynamo went on loan to Derby County, where he would later sign a permanent contract in 2000.