Newcastle United: George Weah & The Greatest Players We Nearly Signed

George Weah was quoted, actually quoted, as saying "I wouldn't have signed for AC Milan had I known Newcastle were interested." It's not the only cock up...
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As we dot the i’s and cross the t’s on another exhilarating Premier League season the faint creaking of a nearby rumour mill preparing to resume whirling uncontrollably is just about audible ahead of another juicy summer transfer window. My club, Newcastle United, have been seriously linked to a number of players over the years who, for whatever reason, never put pen to NUFC headed paper. Here’s three players who came close to pulling on the black and white stripes but never did. Could’ve, would’ve, should’ve.

WHO: George Weah

WHEN: 1995

THE RUMOUR: Keegan had flogged Andy Cole and, after some verbals with toon fans on the steps outside St James’ Park, set about lining up a replacement – Weah topped the list. The powerful Liberian had been taking the French league by storm and a big-money move was on the cards but, unbeknownst to Weah, PSG already had an agreement with AC Milan in place and wouldn’t let us near him. Weah later said "I hope the stories linking me with Newcastle were true. I love and admire English soccer. I watch it every Sunday on television back in Italy.  It would have been and still would be a very real pleasure to come to play in England. I don't think PSG were honest with me because Newcastle were on the case before Milan came in for me with a £7million offer. I wanted to weigh up all possibilities and would not have signed the paper in Milan if I had known Newcastle were interested.”

WHAT HAPPENED: Weah went on to win FIFA World Player of the Year, African Player of the Year, European Player of the Year and Onze Mondial (whatever that is?) all in the same calendar year. We laboured to a sixth place finish having come third the previous year, but regrouped in the summer, brought in Ferdinand, Ginola, Barton, Batty and Tino, blew a 12 point lead to finish 2nd but played some of the most exciting football the league has ever seen.

Dennis Wise brought in Nacho Gonzalez on loan from Valencia in a deadline day transfer that broke the camel / Keegan’s back

WHO: Luka Modric

WHEN: Close season 2008

THE RUMOUR: Like our capture of Yohan Cabaye last year, we identified Modric early and, fearing a price tag inflating Euro 2008 performance would put the little Croatian midfielder out of our reach, wasted no time in preparing an offer. A meeting with Modric’s representatives was held in the city and the player was shown around the training ground by that little s*** Dennis Wise. Keegan reportedly had £50 million to splash that summer but he was reluctant to spend the best part of it on Modric who was valued at between £15m and £25m. Barcelona, Arsenal, Chelsea and Spurs were also in contention for his signature.

WHAT HAPPENED: Spurs signed him for £16.5M, we picked up Gutierrez and Guthrie instead with Emre and Milner both heading for the exit. Dennis Wise brought in Nacho Gonzalez on loan from Valencia in a deadline day transfer that broke the camel / Keegan’s back. Mike Ashley inexplicably woke Joe f****** Kinnear up from a four-year managerial slumber and handed him the job. JFK called the media c**ts at his first press conference, had another heart attack, made way for Shearer and we got relegated. True story.

WHO: Michael Carrick

WHEN: 1997 & 2004

THE RUMOUR: Carrick is unquestionably the most talented footballer to come out of the North East since a certain sheet metal workers son from Gosforth. As far as I can see two opportunities have been and gone to capture his signature. In the mid 90s when Carrick was turning the heads of West Ham scouts watching his performances for Wallsend Boys Club, under our own scouts very noses, Newcastle’s youth team policy was non-existent. Keegan had scrapped the reserve team because he didn’t want them ruining the pitch at St James’ Park, a decision he would later describe as his biggest mistake at Newcastle – even bigger than the signing of Mike Hooper. You could hardly blame a teenage Carrick who was quoted as saying. "I'm a mad keen Newcastle fan, but I felt I had to turn them down. At the time Newcastle had no reserve team and they were buying instead of producing home-grown talent. There were only two local lads in the first team – Steve Watson and Lee Clark – and they came through the ranks a few years ago.  I knew my opportunities would be limited, whereas West Ham had a brilliant youth team and were looking to push these kids through. I just thought I'd have more of a chance of making the grade there." Agonisingly we let an opportunity to sign Carrick come and go in 2004 after he’d made his full England debut and become a regular in a West ham side who’d been relegated. The Hammers were having the nucleus of their team raided by Premier League sides. Portsmouth, Arsenal, Everton, West Bromwich Albion and Crystal Palace were all linked but astonishingly his home town club didn’t stir despite the chance to sign a young, Newcastle-loving Geordie midfielder who was available for just 3.5m.

WHAT HAPPENED:Kenny Dalglish reinstated the reserve team when he took over in 1997 but the long-term damage that had been done took years to recover from. In 2004 instead of Carrick, Bobby Robson signed midfielders Nicky Butt, Amdy Faye and James Milner. Carrick signed for Spurs, established himself as an England regular and after just two seasons signed for Man United for more than five times the price Spurs paid West Ham. It has given me great pride to see a Geordie lad play for England, win European Cups and Premier League titles but it would have made me even prouder to see him pick up those medals in a Newcastle United shirt.

Others who’ve slipped through the net: Brad Friedal, Dirk Kuyt, Aaron Ramsey, Massimo Oddo, Nicholas Anelka

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