Football clubs miss out on players all the time. For every successful signing, there are numerous failures. For every offer accepted, plenty are disregarded with little more than a cursory glance.
And because it is the nature of the sport, clubs move on, focusing on the players who do want to join them and swiftly forgetting what might have been.
But this summer has seen the movement of two players who could have gone down as legends for Liverpool and Manchester United respectively. Men who instead chose a resurgent Bundesliga over a Premier League that appears to have lost its mojo.
With Henrikh Mkhitaryan now a Borussia Dortmund player, and Thiago Alcantara reunited with Pep Guardiola at Bayern Munich, some may wonder why they are still being written about.
Their stories are footballing history and footballing future; for now there is little to add aside from the fact that they didn’t end up at the clubs most regularly linked with them.
And yet while fans of Liverpool and United have already moved on – with the likes of Christian Eriksen and Cesc Fabregas potentially softening the blows – these might-have-beens should cause more regret than most.
To say the clubs “lost” the players to the Bundesliga may not be true, as they were not theirs to lose in the first place. And yet Dortmund and Bayern seemingly swooped in at the last minute, after weeks of speculation linking the English sides with moves that never came.
If Liverpool and United made offers for Mkhitaryan and Thiago respectively, then they simply lost out to a domestic league – or at least its “big two” – whose standing has rarely been higher.
But if they didn’t even make offers, more fool them.
Regardless of what we think we know – we take both our facts and our falsehoods from the same media outlets. All we know for certain is where they ended up.
In years to come, the former Shakhtar Donetsk and Barcelona men will be among the next generation of great players. And while Liverpool and United will have moved on – signing alternatives that may prove to be every bit as exciting – there may also be a whisper of regret that is that little bit louder than most.
Because while clubs miss out on players all the time, it isn’t often they miss out on future legends.
images: © (Mick Baker)rooster