Aston Villa's 'what could have been' transfer history

With the transfer window and rumours in full swing, we take a look back at some of Villa's 'nearly men' of the past. Some, as you will see, are big names and some were simply names and rumours that just wouldn't go away!
River Plate v Gimnasia de Jujuy
River Plate v Gimnasia de Jujuy / Julian Finney/GettyImages

1. Radamel Falcao

A player that has scored nearly 250 career goals and played in the biggest competitions throughout his career was almost a Villa man back in 2008. The former Manchester United and Chelsea forward attracted great interest from Villa boss Martin O'Neil when Falcao was banging in the goals for Argentine giants River Plate at the age of 22. It is believed that talks between the two clubs over a £5 million transfer to Villa Park had taken place but those discussions obviously resulted in Falcao staying at River Plate. Villa were again rumoured to be interested in the forward a few years later before the player made his move to Atletico Madrid. As one of the best goalscorer's in world football it was certainly a 'what could have been' transfer. Instead, Villa fans were treated to watching the likes of Emile Heskey (way past his prime) and Marlon Harewood (championship striker at best) lead the line.

2. Juninho

Juninho of Atletico Madrid
Juninho of Atletico Madrid / Ben Radford/GettyImages

Juninho was much closer than Falcao to wearing the Claret and Blue after Villa had agreed a £10 million fee with Atletico Madrid for the skilful midfielder. It was reported that manager John Gregory had flown to Spain in order to seal the deal, which was reportedly a four-year contract worth over £25,000 a week, but it fell through as the player decided he wanted to re-join Middlesbrough instead. The player had previously been a star on Teeside and once he had fallen out of favour in Spain, Boro was his preferred destination. Nearly, Mr Gregory!

3. Frank Lampard

Frank Lampard
Aston Villa v Chelsea - Premier League / Gareth Copley/GettyImages

Another big name that got away from Gregory's grasp was England star Frank Lampard. Towards the end of Lampard's time at West Ham it was Chelsea who made an £11 million bid to take on his services, which as we know is what happened. However, Villa also chipped in with a bid of their own and actually offered more money for a double deal involving Lampard and his West Ham teammate Frederic Kanoute. Unfortunately for Villa, West Ham turned this down and Lampard went on to join Chelsea. I think he went on to have a fairly decent career at Stamford Bridge...

4. Wesley Sneijder

Wesley Sneijder
Real Madrid v Olympiacos - UEFA Champions League Group C / Etsuo Hara/GettyImages

It was believed for a while that Martin O'Neil was very close to signing the Dutch superstar. At a time where Villa were consistently playing in European competitions, O'Neil made it clear that someone with Sneijder's talent would dramatically improve the team and outlined his interest. Negotations with Real Madrid had started and Villa believed they were the only party involved or interested in taking on the player. Just as Villa fans were beginning to gain hope that this sensational transfer might actually happen, Italian giants Inter swooped in and signed Sneijder for a fee of only $15 million. It's almost like he somehow preferred to be playing regular Champions League football than play alongside the likes of Barry Bannan and Nigel Reo-Coker?! Crazy.

5. Roberto Carlos

Roberto Carlos
Brazil V Belgium, FIFA World Cup Finals 2002 Round Of 16 / Richard Sellers/Allstar/GettyImages

Out of all the transfers that were rumoured to be close, a deal for Roberto Carlos was REALLY close. In 1995 following a successful early career spell with Palmeiras, the future Brazilian legend was looking to move to Europe and it was Villa who were initially interested. The player himself has admitted that he met with the club to discuss the possibility of a move to Villa Park but unfortunately Inter Milan again came swooping in and signed the player. Carlos played just one season in Italy before the big move to Real Madrid where he would go on to become a club legend. Some things just aren't meant to be.

6. Tim Cahill

Tim Cahill
Everton v Aston Villa / Christopher Furlong/GettyImages

A couple of years prior to the Australians move to the Toffees from Milwall, Villa had huge interest in signing the midfielder. Villa were also close to a deal but the summer of 2022, the time of the interest, saw Cahill suffer a bad knee injury that negated any chance of a transfer. The Aussie went on to score 56 goals for Everton and his boxing the corner flag celebration became one of the Premier League's most iconic goal celebrations.

7. Klaas-Jan Huntelaar

UEFA Champions League - "Schalke 04 v Real Madrid"
UEFA Champions League - "Schalke 04 v Real Madrid" / VI-Images/GettyImages

Back in 2010, AC Milan were keen to cut their losses on the Dutch forward following a fairly unsuccessful campaign for the man who cost the club nearly $20 million. It was heavily rumoured at the time that Huntelaar was offered to Aston Villa and the club were keen to give him the chance to prove himself in the Premier League. However, the forward decided instead to go to Germany to join Schalke 04 where he would score 82 goals at an average of a goal every other game.

8. Scott Parker

Scott Parker
West Ham United v Liverpool - Premier League / Scott Heavey/GettyImages

Martin O'Neil, many years after his Villa tenure, revealed that he was very close to signing the England international as a replacement for the departing Gareth Barry back in 2010. Parker had been heavily linked with Villa as well as Liverpool and negotiations went on for some time. Ultimately, the midfielder decided to stay put at West Ham before joining Tottenham Hostpur a year later. At the time, Parker was rated as one of the best midfielders in the Premier League and would have been some coup for the club.

9. Robbie Keane

Robbie Keane, Darren Bent
Aston Villa v Manchester City - Premier League / Scott Heavey/GettyImages

After years and years of trying, Robbie Keane eventually joined Villa for an end-of-career shindig. However, the Irish international was far past his best by this point and Villa had been linked with signing the striker almost every season since Keane's birth.

10. Milot Rashica

Milot Rashica
Aston Villa v Norwich City - Premier League / Ryan Pierse/GettyImages

Not the biggest of names on this list but one man who was certainly linked with the Villa enough was winger Milot Rashica. The man from Kosovo, who showed much promise at Vitesse and Weder Bremen attracted the interest of those in charge at Villa for years. A deal was in place as well before the player himself decided he had no intention of playing for a team that would fight relegation following Villa's promotion back to the Premier League. Instead, the player joined Norwich City in 2021 and was immediately relegated to the Championship. Karma, some might say.

11. Emile Smith-Rowe

Emile Smith-Rowe
Crystal Palace v Arsenal - Premier League / Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/GettyImages

Another man that is a permanent name in the transfer rumour list for Villa is Arsenal man Emile Smith-Rowe. Every window since the Englishman's successful season back in 2020 for Arsenal has seen Villa keen to take on his talent, apparently. Villa have certainly put offers on the table in the past couple of seasons and there may well be legs in this potential signing in years to come, but for now, it is a rumour that just won't go away.

12. Kieran Tierney

Kieran Tierney
Manchester City v Arsenal - The FA Community Shield / Nigel French/Allstar/GettyImages

Like his teammate mentioned above, Tierney is another name that is ALWAYS linked with Villa. Again, the full-back had a successful season for Arsenal during the pandemic year and then fell out of favour under MIkel Arteta. Ever since, Tierney is the first name each transfer window that is rumoured to be Villa's newest addition. This will also continue to happen until he retires in several years time, I am sure of it.

As fans we hope to see some exciting signings through the door at Villa Park this summer as we begin our Champions League challenge. It is looking likely that someone like Douglas Luiz may leave the club but Unai Emery and his team will have a plan in place, that we all trust, to get us ready for another fantastic season.