Friday, September 29, 2023

From Lionel Messi to Ronaldo and Zinedine Zidane – the greatest players to never play in the Premier League

The Premier League is often widely regarded as the best in club football, but some of the greatest players to play the game have never played there.

There are many reasons why the Premier League is regarded as the best, from its global exposure, quality of football and fans creating electric atmospheres.

Messi wanted to reunite with Guardiola at Man CityGetty

Unlike many of the other top European leagues, it’s often far more competitive and open.

This also means it attracts some of the best players in world football, but not all of them.

Here, looks at some of those who have missed out and reasons why they never moved.

Lionel Messi

Messi always looked like he was going to be a one-club man at Barcelona, then their financial problems changed that.

They could no longer afford to keep him and he ended up going to Paris Saint-Germain in 2021 in a tearful exit.

Messi was linked with a move to Man City at the time and that made a lot of sense, seeing as they were coached by his old manager Pep Guardiola.

The year before that, Messi even called Guardiola to say he wanted to join City as he tried desperately to get out of his Barca contract.

Messi will likely see out his career in the MLSGetty

Chelsea also reportedly nearly pulled off an audacious swoop for him in 2014, when his transfer release clause was €250million.

However, that never materialised and sadly the Premier League never got to see one of the greatest players of its generation.

Andrea Pirlo

Pirlo is widely regarded as one of the best midfielders ever to play the game, but spent most of his career playing in Italy.

He won six Serie A titles playing for AC Milan and Juventus, while also winning the Champions League twice with Milan.

Pirlo was twice targeted by Premier League clubs

The 2006 World Cup winner had the opportunity to join both Chelsea and Man City during his career, but they never came to fruition.

In 2009, Chelsea expressed an interest in signing him before deciding against the move because of his age.

Two years later, Man City were interested but Pirlo rejected them to join Juve.

The only other league he played in outside Italy was a brief spell in Major League Soccer with New York City FC.

GettyPirlo is now coaching Sampdoria in Serie B[/caption]


The Brazil legend was one of the most entertaining footballers ever, but sadly he never graced the Premier League.

In 2003, Manchester United came within 48 hours of landing Ronaldinho from Paris Saint-Germain.

Then Barcleona came calling and United missed out on the superstar World Cup winner.

Man United missed out on Ronaldinho to BarcelonaCorbis – Getty

The Brazilian once recalled: “It almost happened with United. It was a matter of 48 hours, but Rosell had told me way before I got the offer: ‘If I become Barca president, will you come?’ I said yes.

“It was only a matter of details with United when Rosell called to say he was going to win the election there. And I had promised to him that I’d play for Barca.”

At €30million, huge money 20 years ago, Ronaldinho is still one of the greatest bargains in transfer history.

But just imagine what could have been at the Theatre of Dreams.

Ronaldinho helped mentor Messi at Barcelona after failing to sign for Manchester UnitedGetty


Ronaldo was one of the most devastating strikers of the last 30 years and would have been perfect for the Premier League.

He spent large spells of his career in Italy and Spain with Inter Milan, AC Milan, Barcelona and Real Madrid.

Ronaldo amassed an incredible club record of 352 goals in just 518 games, plus 62 in 98 matches for Brazil.

Ronaldo has had one of the most remarkable careers in footballGetty

After retiring, he spent plenty of time living, and studying, in London.

And Ronaldo actually encouraged young Brazilians to move to the Premier League.

“It’s definitely the right thing to do (Brazilians coming to the Premier League),” he said in 2014.

“Because of the nature of the football here, which is a lot of tackles, a lot of attacking and forward play, it’s definitely a good decision for young Brazilians to come to the Premier League.”

Two-time World Cup winner Ronaldo would have dazzled in the Premier LeagueGetty

Zinedine Zidane

Zidane twice nearly got a move to the Premier League… no, it wasn’t to Manchester United or Liverpool. It was Blackburn and Newcastle who missed out.

In 1995, Blackburn had beaten Manchester United to the Premier League title and were looking to build on that success.

Kenny Dalglish wanted to sign Zidane, who was impressing with Bordeaux at the time, but owner Jack Walker had other ideas.

Zidane was playing for Bordeaux when he was offered to Newcastle and BlackburnGetty

“Why do you want to sign Zidane when we have Tim Sherwood?”, was what Walker reportedly said about the transfer.

A year later in 1996, Newcastle had Zizou within their grasp and could have signed him for just £1.2million.

Then boss Kevin Keegan was offered the chance to land the future World Cup and Ballon d’Or winner… but said no because their scout in France didn’t rate him.

What a mistake that turned out to be.

The new talkSPORT match centre

Keep up-to-date with all the latest football fixtures, results and standings in our new match centre.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *