Five top players who refused to transfer to AS Roma

RomaPress Staff

Every fan has undoubtedly dreamed of their ideal ‘what might have been’ lineup with all of the talents throughout the years. Mohamed Salah, Marquinhos, Miralem Pjanic, and Alisson Becker are just a few of the names that have passed through Roma. Where would Roma be now if they had been able to keep all of those players at once?

There’s another category of “what might have been” dreams that can be just as frustrating to look back on. These are the ones where a player nearly joins your team, only to excel elsewhere after their transfer falls through. The predictions for MLS seasons might have been a little different if every rumored player arrived in the league. Granted, not every transfer rumor is accurate. But some players came excruciatingly close to signing – so close they reached the training ground before everything suddenly collapsed.

Erling Haaland

In more recent times, Roma has also had the chance to sign one of Europe’s most promising forwards, but was unable to do so due to a mistake made by Monchi. Haaland, who is only still very young, has become one of the most fearsome strikers in the world. Borussia Dortmund signed the Norwegian, who made an immediate impact after moving from Bryne to Molde to Salzburg.

The club record sum was instead spent on Patrik Schick, who flopped. Edin Dzeko, Haaland’s rival, played second fiddle to him, a role he would also have had to fulfill at 17, as well. It is possible that Haaland would kick for Roma if he had less pressure.

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David Beckham

The legendary David Beckham could have been the first Englishman in Roma’s history before Ashley Cole became the first. In 2007, Beckham embarked on his American career, becoming a member of LA Galaxy after years of playing for European heavyweights Manchester United and Real Madrid. However, he soon found himself drawn back to his home continent. Beckham went on to play for AC Milan and then PSG but admitted that Roma held a special attraction for him.

Kevin De Bruyne

Not many footballers have the same skill set as Francesco Totti, but Kevin De Bruyne is one of them. He’s considered to be one of Europe’s best midfielders and could’ve been signed by Roma for a small amount before he made it big. Agent Angelo Arquilla revealed in 2012 that he had offered De Bruyne to Roma when the Belgian was still playing with Genk. Roma would have reaped the benefits of De Bruyne’s talent had he joined their team, but it is uncertain how long he would have stayed before being sold.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Zlatan Ibrahimovic would go on to be one of the finest goal scorers in Serie A throughout the 21st century, but it was Roma, not Juventus, who first lured him to Italy. During his days with Ajax, Ibrahimovic was courted by half of Europe, but Roma was one of the teams closest to signing him. Fabio Capello’s preference for big, powerful strikers made Ibrahimovic an ideal candidate to lead the line going forwards.

During the 2002-03 season, Zlatan scored a hat trick against Lyon in his debut for the Champions League group stage at age 21, prompting Roma to come calling. The player was also receptive to the transfer until he received some late guidance from a Dutch legend.

In his book, “I am Zlatan Ibrahimovic,” he admits to asking Marco Van Basten whether it would be a good idea to play for Roma. However, Van Basten, who is no stranger to success in Serie A, advised him to stay at Ajax and develop his ability to take chances, as there would be fewer opportunities in Italy. Unfortunately, Ibrahimovic was not able to put that potential to the test until two years later when Capello finally got him as a player – but only after leaving his position at Roma for Juventus.


After the lifting of the ban on foreign players in 1980, one of AS Roma’s top targets was none other than legendary footballer Zico. He was a hero at Flamengo, having helped his country to third place in the World Cup in 1978. Dino Viola, by now the club’s president, wanted him at Roma, and he also wanted to go there. However, Flamengo was preventing the transfer from going through.

In the end, Roma changed their targets and signed Paulo Roberto Falcao instead. Falcao went on to inspire Roma’s golden generation, arguably becoming the club’s best-ever foreign player. So, in the end, while it would have been fantastic to add Zico – who went on to play for Udinese in Italy after playing for Real Zaragoza – perhaps the club wouldn’t need to regret missing out.

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MatchDay 33
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