In January of 2013, Blackburn Rovers looked set to complete a swap deal which would see goalkeeper Stephen Henderson join from West Ham United and Paul Robinson head in the opposite direction. The Daily Mail reported that a deal to bring Henderson to Ewood Park was “close”, but he would end up signing for Ipswich Town.
Nathaniel Clyne could have been a Rovers player had it not been for an injury he picked up playing for England’s Under-20 side in 2011. The Crystal Palace full-back was a “top target” for Steve Kean before he broke his metatarsal, according to the Mirror. Rovers instead chose to pursue a deal for Bruno Ribeiro.
In the same transfer window, Rovers came close to tying up a deal for FC Dallas defender George John. A statement released by FC Dallas claimed that Blackburn had a “significant interest in acquiring George; however for the time being, they decided not to finalise the deal.” John would get his move to English football in the following transfer window joining West Ham United on a short-term loan.
A deal to sign Amdy Faye looked to be on the cards when the powerful defender spent time on trial with Blackburn in 2008. The Mirror reported that Rangers boss Walter Smith recalled Faye from Rovers after Mark Hughes took too long to make a final decision on the Senegalese defender. Faye would end up signing for Stoke City, where he became a strong fan-favourite.
When the Venky’s completed their takeover of Blackburn in 2010, the club began to be linked with numerous high-profile signings, including David Beckham and Ronaldinho. As reported by the Daily Mail, Rovers made an audacious £20million bid to sign World Cup winner Ronaldinho from AC Milan. Venky’s chairwoman Anuradha Desai spoke openly about the chances of the midfielder swapping the San Siro for Ewood Park, stating that “He is keen to play in the EPL [English Premier League] and I think that goes in our favour.” In an ambitious mood, Rovers’ owners also opened the door for Beckham to make a loan move from LA Galaxy.
A more realistic move almost saw Roy Keane move to Blackburn in 1993. The Nottingham Forest midfielder had agreed to join Rovers before a late bid from Manchester United took him to Old Trafford. Keane admitted to the Mirror that his last minute change of heart left Blackburn boss Kenny Dalglish “fuming”.
Perhaps the most infamous missed transfer opportunity in Blackburn’s history was World Cup winner Zinedine Zidane. In 1995, when the Frenchman was still at Bordeaux, Rovers Chairman Jack Walker turned down the chance to sign him and supposedly posed question: “Why do you want to sign Zidane when we have Tim Sherwood?” In an interview with the Independent, Sherwood confirmed that both Zidane and teammate Christophe Dugarry visited the club’s training ground.
Blackburn’s busy 2011 summer transfer window continued with a pursuit of Zidane’s long-time teammate Raul. The second highest goal-scorer in Real Madrid’s history was subject to interest from Rovers while playing for German side Schalke. As reported by the BBC, Raul was given time to ponder the move before opting to stay in Germany.
Raul isn’t the only legendary Madrid striker that could have ended up at Ewood Park. In 2009, Sam Allardyce tried to bring in Brazilian legend Ronaldo from Corinthians, according the Daily Mail. However, Ronaldo reportedly turned down the big-money move to stay in Brazil with his rumoured-to-be pregnant girlfriend.
Allardyce may have missed out on Ronaldo but he came even closer to a bargain deal for Robert Lewandowski. According to the Daily Mail, Blackburn had a £4million deal “set” for Lewandowski when he was still a Lech Poznan player, in 2010. The Polish forward was set to travel to see Rovers’ game against Everton but the ash cloud caused by Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull volcano grounded his flight. German side Dortmund soon stepped in to seal a deal for Lewandowski.