Cody Gakpo to Liverpool next: 10 of the most impressive transfer hijacks by Premier League clubs

PSV Eindhoven winger Cody Gakpo Credit: Alamy
PSV Eindhoven winger Cody Gakpo Credit: Alamy

Liverpool have hijacked Manchester United’s move for Cody Gakpo and it’s not the first time they’ve stolen a player from under the nose of a rival.

Gakpo has become one of Europe’s most-sought players and was reportedly Erik ten Hag’s top transfer target for United as they search for a replacement for Cristiano Ronaldo.

But Liverpool are also in the market for a new forward and they moved swiftly before agreeing to pay PSV Eindhoven an initial £37m.

It’s the latest in a long line of transfer hijacks by Premier League clubs and we’ve taken a look at 10 of the best.

John Obi Mikel

In April 2005, Manchester United announced the signing of Obi Mikel from Norwegian outfit Lyn and they even presented their new arrival at a press conference.

But Chelsea subsequently claimed that they already had an agreement in place to sign the midfielder, who claimed he’d been pressured – without his agent present – to sign for United.

He then missed a Norwegian Cup game and United assistant manager Carlos Quieroz accused Chelsea of ‘kidnapping’ the Nigerian teenager.

Following a long legal dispute, the Blues eventually got their man in the summer of 2006 but they had to pay compensation to both United and Lyn.

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Emmanuel Petit

While Petit is now an Arsenal legend, he initially travelled to north London to speak with Tottenham chairman Alan Sugar in 1997.

Arsene Wenger – who had managed the Frenchman at Monaco – heard about the meeting and urged him not to sign anything.

“Tottenham put the contract on the table for me, I needed a couple of days to think about it but they didn’t expect what happened after that,” Petit told the Daily Mirror in 2018.

“When the cab came, he took me straight to Arsene Wenger’s house, it was the first time I met David Dein and Tottenham paid for the cab to help me sign for Arsenal. It’s part of the legend now.”

Paul Gascoigne

Gascoigne decided to leave Newcastle United in the summer of 1988 and was the subject of interest from Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester United and Liverpool.

The midfielder, who had just won the PFA Young Player of the Year award, reportedly met with Sir Alex Ferguson and verbally agreed a move to Old Trafford.

Ferguson then went on his summer holiday to Malta, confident that when he returned, he’d have his man.

But Tottenham refused to give up and managed to get the deal over the line after providing a house for Gascoigne’s family and – bizarrely – a new sunbed for his sister.

Robinho

After being deemed surplus to requirements by Real Madrid, Robinho looked set to join Luiz Felipe Scolari at Chelsea in the summer of 2008.

But Chelsea started selling replica shirts with his name on before the deal had been announced and this reportedly angered Madrid.

Manchester City, who were bankrolled by new owners, intervened at the 11th hour and signed the winger for £32.5m. The move broke the British transfer record and took everyone by surprise, including Robinho.

“On the last day of transfers, Chelsea made a good offer for me personally, and good for Real Madrid, and it was accepted,” Robinho said before someone pointed out his mistake.

“Chelsea? No, Manchester. Sorry.”

Roy Keane

Having suffered relegation with Nottingham Forest at the end of the 1992/93 season, Keane sought a move away and he agreed personal terms with Blackburn Rovers.

Kenny Dalglish tried to get the paperwork through late on a Friday afternoon, but the Ewood Park office had closed for the weekend and they agreed to finalise the contract on the following Monday.

During the course of the weekend, Sir Alex Ferguson read about the impending deal in the papers and rang Keane to see if any paperwork had been signed.

The following Monday, instead of signing for Blackburn, as agreed, the midfielder met with Ferguson and decided to join Manchester United instead.

Willian

Tottenham fought off competition from Liverpool and agreed a £30m deal to sign Willian from Anzhi Makhachkala in 2013.

The Brazil international completed his Tottenham medical and the move appeared little more than a formality, but he changed his mind after being told that a switch to Chelsea was on the cards.

Roman Abramovich contacted his compatriot and fellow oligarch Suleyman Kerimov – the owner of Anzhi – to hijack the deal and agreed to pay £32m.

Willian reportedly spent hours locked up at Tottenham’s training ground but ultimately ended up at Stamford Bridge after Daniel Levy conceded defeat.

“That’s the danger of medicals before contracts but, at the same time, if the medical is after the contract, sometimes you can have a problem before signing a player so you have to do the medical before,” a delighted Jose Mourinho said.

“The best thing you can do is do the medical in secret. If the player is fine, you can sign him. If the player is not fine, you don’t destroy his career by saying the player has problems, so you do it in secret and after that sign the contract.”

Moussa Sissoko

Newcastle United slapped a £30m asking price on Sissoko’s head in the summer of 2016 and Everton agreed to pay it on transfer deadline day.

The Toffees got everything set up for a medical and had a private jet ready to take the France international to Merseyside.

But with just over an hour of the transfer window left, Tottenham matched Everton’s bid and the promise of Champions League football was enough to lure Sissoko to White Hart Lane.

While completing his move to Spurs, the midfielder reportedly switched off his phone to avoid calls from Ronald Koeman.

Mousa Dembele, Moussa Sissoko Tottenham 2017 Credit: Alamy
Mousa Dembele, Moussa Sissoko Tottenham 2017 Credit: Alamy

Jorginho

Having starred under Maurizio Sarri at Napoli, Jorginho seemed tailor-made for Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City side.

City reached a £50m agreement with the Serie A side in the summer of 2018 and had also finalised personal terms with Jorginho and his agent.

But Chelsea then appointed Sarri and subsequently made their own move for the midfielder, who decided to reunite with the manager.

“We were close but in the end Jorginho decided to stay with Sarri,” Guardiola said. “I’ve said before that I want players who want to come here. He didn’t want that. We tried, we believed it was done but at the last turn he decided on Chelsea.”

Luis Diaz

Tottenham identified Porto’s Luis Diaz in January 2022 and reportedly felt they had an agreement with both the club and the player.

Liverpool were also following his development and had initially earmarked him as a transfer target for the summer of 2022 but Tottenham’s interest accelerated their plans.

The Reds swooped in and agreed to pay Porto an initial £37.5m for the Colombia international, who decided to pick Merseyside over London.

“Tottenham was one. Roma was also left behind in the process. They hesitated a lot and let themselves be caught by Liverpool,” Diaz’s dad told BluRadio’s Blog Deportivo.

“Liverpool were faster than them, they needed him and they took him away. There were many suitors who wanted Luis’ services, but he had the dream of reaching Liverpool. Because Liverpool are an elite team.”

Liverpool winger Luis Diaz Credit: Alamy
Liverpool winger Luis Diaz Credit: Alamy

Cristiano Ronaldo

After missing out on Harry Kane, Manchester City made a surprise move to sign Manchester United legend Cristiano Ronaldo in 2021.

However, when United caught wind of the move they became determined to prevent Ronaldo from joining their cross-city rivals.

Sir Alex Ferguson and Rio Ferdinand both spoke to the five-time Ballon d’Or winner, urging him to snub City and make an emotional return to Old Trafford.

Ronaldo then had a change of heart and joined United from Juventus but has since confirmed that a move to City had been close.

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