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I wish my favourite football team had never sold …

Ever seen a great player go to another club and perform brilliantly? Read 'em and weep, as Meatloaf once sang

Ever sat watching your favourite football team serve up a load of old dross and muse to yourself …”I wish we had never sold….”? I would imagine all football fans have at one time or another.

If you’ve sat there bemoaning the one(s) that got away you are in good company. Football match ticket provider LiveFootballTickets.com decided to survey 1,273 football fans to determine which players they wish would have stayed with their former teams.

There are few surprises in the results. For example, just more than three-quarters of Spurs fans wish the north London giants had never let Welsh wizard Gareth Bale leave for Real Madrid. No great surprise there. Every now and again we read reports that he might come back. Possible, but I’ll believe it when I see it.

In my book, there are two forms of regret when a player leaves. The first is the “we tried everything, but the player was determined to go” style of transfer. The Fleetwood Mac “You can go your own way” transfer. The No 1 slot on the list below falls into that category. Manchester United knew they had a great player in Christiano Ronaldo, but it was his boyhood dream to play for Real Madrid. There was no holding him. Some 92% of United fans want him back. I’m only surprised that the figure isn’t higher.

The other form of regret is what I call the Joni Mitchell transfer. In Big Yellow Taxi she sang: “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got ’til its gone.”

Those, for me, are the ones that really hurt. Examples? As you can see, Chelsea fans in the survey were not overly chuffed that Mo Salah moved on. Now look what he’s doing at Liverpool. In a similar vein, the Blues also had Kevin de Bruyne on their books. He only appeared three times and was loaned out to Werder Bremen before signing for Wolfsburg. I’m surprised he didn’t make it onto the list below.

Did Chelsea fully appreciate the potential of Salah and de Bruyne? I’m not sure they did. Maybe that’s why they now loan out so many of their youngsters just in case one develops into a seriously good player.

Top players who went out of loan before really finding their feet? Well, a certain East London boy named David Beckham was loaned to Preston for a while before returning to Man Utd and, eventually, the England captaincy. Another England skipper is Harry Kane. He went on loan to Leyton Orient, Millwall, Norwich and Leicester before Spurs realised what a talent they had.

I’m not especially looking to pick on any team here. But can I come up with any other “wish you were still here” players? Sure I can. The list below is not limited to current players, so I’ll take their lead and mix it up a bit.

West Ham let Frank Lampard go. He went on to become Chelsea’s all-time leading scorer. If Salah and de Bruyne were errors in judgement by Chelsea, signing Lampard certainly wasn’t. But, was it a serious error by the Irons? Hindsight, that wonderful thing, would suggest so.

Arsenal fans are missing Serge Gnabry (see the list). The fact that he scored four against rivals Spurs in a Champions League game might have something to so with it. Arsenal also let Robin van Persie slip. I view the van Persie departure as a Fleetwood Mac-style transfer; Gnabry looks like a Joni Mitchell one, but I’m not certain I’m on solid ground there.

The fans I feel really sorry for at the moment are not from London, but a bit further south at Southampton. Maybe you can name two or three of your favourite team that got away. But, what about Southampton fans? In the past they had players like Gareth Bale on their books and a rather good goalscorer named Alan Shearer. Now consider the current Liverpool side that is beating everything in sight. Of the current Liverpool first team squad the following used to be with Southampton: Virgil van Dijk, Nathaniel Clyne (though how much longer he will be there appears in doubt), Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren, Alex Oxlaid-Chamberlain and Sadio Mane. If I’m missing someone, let me know.

Admittedly, not everyone named above, went directly from Southampton to Liverpool. But had each of them had stayed at the south coast club, Southampton would have had six players who look like being more than good enough to help raise the Premiership trophy.

I’m sure I could add many more to the big ‘fish’ that got away. If you would like to add a name to the list, let me know.

The final results are as follows:

Player name Former club Fans who wish he’d never left (%)
Cristiano Ronaldo Manchester United 92%
Vincent Kompany Manchester City 88%
Ronaldo Nazario FC Barcelona 86%
Robert Lewandowski Borussia Dortmund 85%
Kylian M’bappe AS Monaco 81%
Gareth Bale Tottenham 76%
Andrea Pirlo AC Milan 73%
Lucio Bayern Munich 68%
Sergio Aguero Atletico Madrid 60%
Samuel Eto’o Real Madrid 49%
Phillipe Coutinho Inter Milan 47%
Mohamed Salah Chelsea 41%
Franck Ribery Ol. Marseille 38%
Serge Gnabry Arsenal 36%
Paul Pogba Juventus 29%
David Ginola PSG 27%
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David Buckley

Dave Buckley is a career journalist. “I once went painting girders for a week and discovered I didn’t like heights,” he says. “Apart from that it has always been journalism for me in one form or another.” Past publications worked for include the South-East London Mercury*, Kent Messenger, Daily Express, Today*, News of the World* and Hong Kong Star*. All those marked with an asterisk no longer exist (trend emerging?). He owned and edited a Thailand-based property magazine before returning to England and currently works as a production editor for an East Midlands-based publishing group.

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