The Top Three Leeds United Transfer Rumours Ever – by Rob Atkinson


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Well, another transfer window is flapping wide open in LS11 just as it is in less crisis-torn football outposts and, embargo notwithstanding, a couple of Serie A fringe performers have breezed into Elland Road and signed for Leeds. Possibly there are more to come, maybe an outgoing or two as well. It’s certainly different, in a good way too, from some of the depressingly inert United transfer markets of the unlamented Bates era – but it hardly compares with the wheeling and dealing we did in more halcyon days. And, if anything, some of the rumours that never came to fruition down the years were more exciting and entertaining than certain signings that actually did happen (take a bow, Messrs. Sharpe & Brolin).

There have been so many players linked with transfers to Leeds United over our chequered history and, in the nature of these things, only a small proportion ever actually pulled on the famous white shirt.  Of those who never arrived, it would probably be easy to name at least two world-class International sides comprising players who were rumoured to be signing for United, but missed out on that pinnacle of honours and finished their careers tragically unfulfilled – apart from the odd cartload of silverware. The likes of Tomáš Skuhravý, Rainer Bonhof, Peter Shilton, Trevor Francis and even Dean Saunders have all, at one time or another, been tipped as Leeds United players, only to remain trapped in dreadful anonymity at the likes of Liverpool, Bayern Munich or Nottingham Forest.  Here – in time-honoured reverse order – are my top three exciting but unrealised rumours – you may well have candidates of your own, so please feel free to comment.

3. Duncan Ferguson
In 1994, it really did look as though this one might happen. The wonderfully talented if ever so slightly thuggish Scottish Imagestriker, looking to move south to England from then mighty Rangers FC, seemed nailed-on for a transfer to Leeds in the region of £4million, but ended up at Everton where he prospered before moving on to Newcastle.  Ferguson had a bit of a “reputation” on and off the field as a nutter – in fact he did time in Barlinnie for over-generous use of that nut in a dispute with Raith Rovers defender John McStay.  A little prone to over-exuberance when he’d had a drop or two (he was known as Drunken Ferguson or alternatively Duncan Disorderly) he had previous convictions for nutting a policeman and punching and kicking a supporter on crutches. Nice.

2. Peter Beardsley
This was one of those “definitely happening, mark my words and get your money on it” rumours Imagethat you’d have so loved to be true.  Beardsley was a wonderful player, class, poise and jinking speed all rolled into one dynamite package of energy and skill. I’d first noticed him in rather abbreviated TV highlights of a Cup game he played for Carlisle United, when he stood out as the real deal among a load of dross.  After a spell in Vancouver, he moved briefly to Man U – but the other thing about Beardsley was that he was such a nice, modest guy – not really the type of player for the Theatre of Hollow Myths at all.  Leeds could have signed him whilst he was at Vancouver – Peter Lorimer recommended that they do just that – but we couldn’t raise the cash (some things never change).  Beardsley made his name at Newcastle, in the same side as a veteran Kevin Keegan and emerging Chris Waddle. From there, a big money move to Liverpool, and it was whilst unaccountably out of favour at Anfield that the Leeds rumour surfaced again – he was buying a house locally, he’d been seen at Elland Road – there really did seem to be something in it. Sadly, Beardsley was The One Who Got Away – Twice.  A great shame, as any club would have been improved by the addition of Beardsley, a phenomenal talent you could have built a team around.

1. Diego Maradona
Surely the craziest rumour ever, bar none. In 1987, Leeds had just missed out, under Billy ImageBremner, on an FA Cup Final and promotion to the top flight in the first-ever play-offs. We were doomed to a hangover season in 87-88 and the fans’ mood and expectations were dulled. Then sensational whispers emerged that managing director Bill Fotherby, a larger-than-life used-car-salesman of a bloke, had managed to persuade the agent of Diego Armando Maradona to enter into talks with Leeds United over the proposed signing of the Argentine superstar. This was only just a year after Maradona had just about single-handedly (geddit?) won the World Cup for the Argies, and his stock could hardly have been higher on the global football scene. Strangely, he had very nearly signed for Sheffield United as a youngster, and for a measly £250,000 at that. The Blunts got Alejandro Sabella instead, who actually did end up briefly at Elland Road. But Maradona was different – astoundingly different to just about anyone else – people compared him favourably to Pele. He was even compared – unfavourably, and by the ever modest and unassuming George Best himself – to self-proclaimed greatest player ever, G. Best. It was a signing that was never going to happen, and surely the Number One Daft Rumour of all time.

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It’s tempting to wonder how the history of Leeds United might have differed if we’d signed Trevor Francis and Peter Shilton in 1974, or Peter Beardsley in 1990, or even the “Hand of God” himself in 1987. The story of any major club is littered with “what ifs” and this certainly applies to our beloved Leeds. Of course our sights are set lower these days – although we’re now roughly about where we were in ’87 when an enterprising director started that Diego rumour, with a view to putting us back on the map.

Perhaps somebody in the Elland Road corridors of power will try to get the excitement going this time around with an audacious loan-with-a-view-to-permanent swoop for the undeniably promising prospect Lionel Messi? Watch this space…

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33 responses to “The Top Three Leeds United Transfer Rumours Ever – by Rob Atkinson

  1. I think we did speak to Maradona’s agent actually, but we weren’t trying to sign him – we were running a feasibility study to see if we could sign any player we wanted. That’s what I saw reported, anyway – Bremner was quoted as saying so. Still seemed weird, but made a lot more sense than an actual bid.

    Drunken Duncan, as I thought he was called, did agree terms with us but dragged his feet, hoping that Everton would come in for him. If they hadn’t he’d probably have been a Leeds player. Think I’m right in saying he never got into trouble again after signing for them. If he’d signed for us, I expect he’d have been jailed for life within weeks.

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  2. Would suggest Ronaldinho as another potential signing for us to dwell on what might have been.

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  3. No rumour but a little known fact, Ruud Hullit had a weeks trial in 1981 , David Seaman let go by Eddie G .

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  4. sniffersshorts

    Well rumours aside, having seen the same three names mentioned from Calgari and the spurs keeper and perhaps the Southend lad…. As per usual with us the rumours will abound all summer. The carbone appointment is the ground up start we need, indeed I have always thought this is the best way, unfortunately we have always been tapped up and lost valuable youth….. massimo won’t let this happen, the jewels in the crown will be polished and looked after…. I like you rob and many others on this blog backed him al the way…. Already I am liking ‘ you are going to do it my way’ carbone will work on fitness first and foremost, this will encourage good confident play with the youth .

    And that feeling that I wanted here, they want success , after all does this not breed success, but you need confidence.

    We can build slowly, anybody who thinks we will rise immediately is cuckoo , maybe he can’t quite do it the Revie way , but Massimo I just feel has the Svengali about him and like thIs …. Your going to do it my way sorry to repeat myself but discipline is required , we are all human including pro footballers , we toe the line, they ruddy need to as well. If we build slowly and surely like Leicester have, spend wisely ….. Then and when the big names start to get banded about maybe we can dream about the messies et all.

    Hopefully we will get to buy some class inexpensive players, who want to play for us, we won’t be spending bundles that is for sure. fair play to Michael Brown, personally I would like him kept on as a coach, his passion is boundless . We have all been critical of him, but his work rate this week was exemplary he’s 37.

    That sort of passion needs to rub of on the kids, it won’t happen as Massimo hasn’t been around to see it and tap it.

    Am actually looking forward this close season, as we will hopefully be getting better news and purchases , instead of the crap we have had in the past from bates, GFH and haige ….. Hollow and toothless.

    I really think we are going to get a surprise or two ….. Let’s hope so MOT.

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  5. Bill Fotherby was a bit of a globetrotter during his time with Leeds. Remember him announcing so many players were going to sign. Asprilla and Souza were both supposed to be coming from Parma and and we ended up with Brolin!!

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  6. Hi Rob, I know thst you can read, but don’t you just love the wat Cellino communicates? See below: “Benito will rebuild the academy with my help”, Cellino continued.

    “I will not accept the philosophies they have there at the moment because I don’t like them – people must accept my conditions.”

    Cellino also explained he plans to spend the entire next season making the club, in his view, “healthy”, before a real promotion tilt in 2015/16.

    “We have to fix the club’s illness and then after that we can focus on going up.

    “My plan is to spend the next months getting the club healthy and then the next season we can go up.

    “The club must be healthy again before we can be promoted. People before were throwing money out of the window and just hoping to get to the Premier League to save the club’s finances.”

    Don’t bet on football until you’ve visited Inside Bet! Interesting markets, top tips, betting facts – get all the info before you bet.
    Read more at http://www.insidefutbol.com/2014/04/28/former-aston-villa-star-benito-carbone-charged-with-rebuilding-leeds-academy/138142/#bYSP6kohBkt6aTs3.99

    Leeds have wanted shaking up by someone with guts, money and management ability. He seems to have what it takes!

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    • The academy has been poor for a long time. We had a bloody fantastic academy once, when Paul hart was in charge.

      I hear fans celebrating our category 2 status, this is nothing to crow about, It means clubs with a category 1 status can poach our best players.

      Once we had had one of the top 4 academies in the country alongside west ham, crewe and the scummers. Were a long way off that at the moment, if carbone can shake things up its a good move.

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      • Going to category A/1/whatever it is is too expensive in this division. And I think that – considering the absence of a scouting network, thanks to Bates – our academy is bloody good. Byram, Mowatt. Lees, White, Poleon. Not bad under the circumstances.

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  7. Maradona even as an unlikely rumour, was still very exciting.

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  8. Maradona was a cheat and for that reason alone, not fit to lace Pele’s boots

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  9. Sorry Rob – your info is slightly off the beam in the case of Duncan Ferguson. Wilko had lined up the player from his original club of Dundee United and the deal was set to go through until Duncan’s agent saw that Dundee United had only agreed to sell him to Leeds on condition that they couldn’t sell him on to Rangers (such was their animosity toward the Ibrox club at the time and their dubious transfer practices) – this restriction was actually written into the contract of sale. Of course, Duncan and his agent wouldn’t agree to this and the deal went down the toilet. He eventually left to join Rangers, getting the move he’d actually wanted all along. He only joined Everton many seasons later.

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  10. I lived in stirling for a while rob , and I can assure you that Duncan the drunkard was a very apt nickname according to several landlords and bouncers in the local area…. Still boys will be boys and I think he would have been a cult hero at Leeds

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    • I was aching for this one to go through at the time, I thought he’d be a perfect fit for Leeds. Leaving aside the ridiculous Maradona stunt, Ferguson and Beardsley are two I’ve always regretted us missing out on.

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  11. sniffers shorts

    Watching FA youth cup ….. These lads make conditioned pros look like lazy gits the pace has been frenetic great attitude and passion this is the standard for the future.

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  12. I was distraught when the Banana Yaya move didn’t come off…

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  13. Not quite on topic, but I as in a car going past the Queens Hotel back in (1973 was it?) and saw Don Revie on his way into it to tell Asa Hartford that his move was off because of the discovery of his heart problem in the medical.

    That’s certainly one that got away, if he had come to us rather than Man City we wouldn’t have gone into the decline after the Revie team moved on. He and Tony Currie could have been one hell of a midfield pairing – Bremner and Giles mark II

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    • Great call, that. Spot on. I believe a lazy reporter, around that time, referred to Asa as a “whole-hearted player”. He went on to do rather well in a fine Man City side, but I totally agree – Currie and Hartford together could have been sensational.

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      • HI Rob
        I always thought that it was the late, great David Coleman in a commentary that called Asa a whole-hearted player. It certainly appeared in DC obits a year or so ago.

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      • I seem to remember this – possibly as the original Colemanball.

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  14. wetherby white

    bit bizzare but I always remember us being linked with Wimbledon defender John Scales in early/mid nineties. Good player and was quire excited. Called in at paper shop next morning on way to work and read that we had signed Carlton Palmer instead!! The leeds world class midfield was being slowly dismantled at the time and the signing of this clown to me was one of the most depressing signings we ever made.

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  15. A rumour that is often forgotten is our link with Zinedine Zidane before Euro 96. We were one of the clubs along with Manchester United & Juventus who wanted to sign him from Bordeaux. Another player we were chasing that summer was Miguel Ángel Nadal from Barcelona, I think Peter Gilman’s court case against Caspian stopped that transfer happening.

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  16. Can you imagine the gutter press reaction had Drunken Disorderly joined us instead of the Toffee men. They would have crucified us, nothing new then.

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  17. wetherby white

    Remember being very excited about Ferguson rumours. With Chappy’s legs not getting any younger and with our Scottish heritage, seemed a great fit for player and club. Favourite story told to me by a scouse mate was some scally robbing house in Cheshire, looking in mirror to see house owner, one Mr D Ferguson standing behind him and next waking moment was in hospital..love it! Yes he was a thug but hed have made a great and talented thug for us.
    Not an outstanding rumour but remember only a year later, rumours of reasonably useful defender John Scales being linked with the club. Following day bought my paper next day only to discover that we had signed ,. for me, once of the worst ever signings by Leeds United Football club, the footballing calamity that was Carlton Palmer!

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  18. I saw Feguson play quite a few times for us and when he played he was brilliant. He had absolutely no pace but in the air he was perhaps second only to sir Les Ferdinan in my time at St James’. He was a great target man and brilliant foil for Shearer- I saw him destroy Man Yoo at home, scoring a wonderful turn and shot to beat Schmichael from outside the box. Defenders used to stop even going for challenges in the air against big Dunc and would play for” second ball” as he was imperious as he backed into his center half and ruffed him up. His injury record stops him from being a truly great player but inspirational when on the field and made me happy to piss the scouse Makems off in the process (Everton)!!
    As for Saint Peter- well words just don’t do him justice. Bumped into him last year in Morrisons and could hardly get me words out- loved him, absolutely worshipped Beardo!! sad I know.

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  19. don’t know about way bigger, both short arses- think there is maybe 1/2 inch between the two of them!! ha ha couldn’t resist that- I’ll get me coat!!

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