One that got away

One that got away: Sheffield United and Diego Maradona

This article forms part of our The Ones That Got Away feature series, which is where Football Transfer Tavern take a look back at players linked with moves in the past, and see how they would have made an impact had they signed for the interested side.

When you ask football fans to name the best player in the history of the game, many will say the name, Diego Maradona. After all, FourFourTwo named him the greatest individual to ever step foot on a pitch back in 2017.

The Argentinian enjoyed a stellar career which was packed full of goals, assists and silverware. But did you know that this legend of the game almost signed for Sheffield United? Indeed, a club recently praised by top journalists such as Henry Winter as ‘well organised’ and a team Chris Wilder has rigorously whipped into shape these days almost signed perhaps the greatest maverick the beautiful game has ever seen.

Back in 1978, the Blades manager at the time Harry Haslam went on a scouting mission to Argentina and one of the players he watched was Maradona.

He was incredibly impressed with the then 17-year-old, and immediately arranged a transfer for him worth around £200,000 (via The Guardian).

However his club at the time, Argentinos Juniors, decided to add extra funds on top of the original deal, perhaps aware of the prodigious talent they had on their hands. The Sheffield United board refuse to finance such a deal and instead the South Yorkshire club went on to pay £160,000 for his fellow countryman Alex Sabella from River Plate (via Sheffield Star).

It is certainly a case of what might have been for the Blades. Sabella did well for the Blades but couldn’t stop them being relegated to the third division in 1979.

Meanwhile, Maradona went on to score 150 goals in 328 appearances for Napoli, Barcelona and Sevilla (via Transfermarkt), winning the Best Player in Europe award on two occasions (via Transfermarkt).

Added to that, he also won two Italian league titles, one Italian cup, one Spanish cup and the UEFA Cup in an illustrious career at club level (via Transfermarkt).

He also had an outstanding international career and scored five goals and won the Golden Ball award as Argentina won the 1986 FIFA World Cup in Mexico (via fifa.com). Widely regarded as a maverick, the organised Blades look a million miles away from that kind of thinking these days.

Sheffield United fans, what memories do you have of the time when your club nearly signed Diego Maradona? Did you even know who he was back then? Let us know in the comments below…

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One that got away: Sheffield United and Diego Maradona
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