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Five biggest football transfer U-turns

Following Fabian Delph's switch to Manchester City, Sports Mole picks out five other football transfer U-turns that have taken place in the past.

England international Fabian Delph was the subject of ridicule this week when seemingly performing a surprise U-turn by leaving Aston Villa for Manchester City.

The 25-year-old signed a five-year deal at the Etihad Stadium, just six days after revealing that he had no intention of leaving the Villans.

Delph is not the first player to find himself in such a situation, though, in a sport littered with players either forcing through moves or seeing deals break down at the last minute.

Here, Sports Mole looks at five of football's biggest transfer U-turns.

5. Robinho

Robinho of Manchester City in action during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Chelsea at The City of Manchester Stadium on September 13, 2008© Getty Images

"Chelsea seal Robinho deal" read the Daily Mail's back-page splash on August 21, 2007. The article went on to explain how Blues chief executive Peter Kenyon had flown to Madrid in order to land the Brazilian star's signature.

History tells us that was far from the case, however, as the forward eventually made a shock £32.5m move to Premier League rivals Manchester City. The high-profile signing certainly propelled the Citizens' profile, while perhaps also leaving Chelsea a little red-faced for a short time.

It was Robinho himself who was the most embarrassed of them all, though, when telling reporters upon his unveiling that "Chelsea made a great proposal and I accepted", before quickly correcting himself. Having spoken openly about his "desperation" to join the Blues in the past, this transfer still remains one of the biggest surprises of the lot.

4. John Obi Mikel

John Obi Mikel of Chelsea in action during the UEFA Europa League Round of 32 second leg match between Chelsea and Sparta Praha at Stamford Bridge on February 21, 2013© Getty Images

Chelsea have themselves benefited from a U-turn of sorts, as long-serving midfielder Mikel completed arguably the Premier League's strangest transfer back in 2006.

A few days after turning 18, Manchester United announced that they had agreed a deal to sign Mikel. A press conference was held, the player expressed his delight - "it's totally fantastic to come to a club like Manchester United" - and everything seemed normal enough. That was, at least, until the Blues issued a counter-claim suggesting that they already had an agreement with Mikel and his agents.

Mikel instead saw out the remaining few months of the season at Lyn Oslo, before Chelsea paid £4m to the player's bemused parent club and a further £12m to Manchester United. The bitter dispute was finally at an end, and the Nigerian will feel it was all worthwhile following much success in West London.

3. Paul Gascoigne

Paul Gascoigne, then of Tottenham Hotspur, celebrates scoring against Arsenal on April 14, 1991.© Getty Images

The biggest transfer that never was? Gascoigne, one of English football's finest natural talents, looked all set to join Man United in 1988 following a stellar personal campaign at Newcastle United that saw him win the PFA Player of the Year award.

Sir Alex Ferguson, who later admitted that missing out on the star talent was one of the biggest regrets of his managerial career, was certain that a move was on the cards. After going away for a few days, Fergie returned and the wheels were in motion.

Gazza, too, was anticipating a switch to the Theatre of Dreams, until Tottenham Hotspur chairman Irving Scholar made him an offer he could not refuse. "As I was driving to Manchester I get a phone call from Irving: 'Paul, we'll give you £2,500 a week. Not only that, we'll buy your dad a house,' he later told the Radio Times. "So I said 'Ma and dad, Spurs are gonna buy us a house, what do you think?' 'Sounds good, son.' So I said, 'All right then, yes.'" The rest, as they say, is history.

2. Matt Le Tissier

Matthew Le Tissier of Southampton acknowledges the Southampton fans at the end of the last ever League game at The Dell on May 19, 2001© Getty Images

The most famous one-club man of them all on these shores very nearly jumped ship before it had all begun at Southampton. Back in 1990, the then-PFA Young Player of the Year was the subject of a bid by Spurs, who were looking to strengthen their attacking options.

Le Tiss, who would later go on to make 540 appearances for the Saints in all competitions, revealed in an interview with FourFourTwo in 2010 just how close he had come to making a move to the capital club.

"It was pretty much a done deal; I'd agreed terms on the contract and everything," he said. "But I pulled out of it because I was about to get married and my fiancée at the time didn't fancy living in London." A move to his boyhood side never did transpire, but his success at Southampton certainly earns him a place in top-flight folklore regardless.

1. Alfredo Di Stefano

Alfredo di Stefano poses with a football on June 12, 1956.© Getty Images

It cannot be overstated just how close Real Madrid's greatest ever player was to joining rivals Barcelona instead. In 1953, after reaching an agreement with River Plate, Barca 'signed' the magic Argentine forward.

While many claims and denials have been made in the years since, the Catalan club themselves state on their official website that the player was later relinquished when it emerged Real had been carrying out negotiations of their own.

It was declared that Di Stefano, who died last July at the age of 88, should play alternate seasons for the La Liga duo. That move, unsurprisingly, did not transpire, with the two-time European Player of the Year later scoring 418 goals in 510 appearances for Los Blancos to earn his place in Bernabeu history. It could have all been very different.

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