It was almost 30 years ago. Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson made a phone call to a promising midfielder in 1993 that would go on to have a huge butterfly effect on the Premier League.
While there are many “hijackings” in soccer, where a player is snatched up at the last minute by another team, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more dramatic one.
This is the story of Irish midfielder Roy Keane, a longtime Manchester United captain. Born in 1971, Keane was 22 years old and looking for a new club after leaving his current club, Nottingham Forest. He had already been recognized by fans for his outstanding performances, including being named Nottingham Forest’s player of the season. 메이저놀이터
On a whim, Keane decided to use the release clause in his contract with Nottingham. First, Blackburn Rovers, managed by Kenny Dalglish, were very interested in him. Dalglish had taken charge of Blackburn Rovers in 1991 and immediately promoted the club to the top flight, before leading them to a fourth-place finish in the newly created Premier League in 1992. Arsenal and Liverpool were also keeping tabs on Keane.
Keane was approached by Nottingham’s new manager, Frank Clarke, to discuss his transfer.
He told Clarke that he would do what was best for the team. Clarke responded by saying that he knew Keane wanted to trigger his release clause. There was a lot of cordiality afterward, but it was clear that Keane and Clarke didn’t need to talk. They knew without saying it that Keane would be leaving Nottingham soon.
Clarke told the media that Nottingham were trying to keep him, contrary to what he had said to Keane. Keane was furious, but quickly understood. At the time, Keane’s estimated value was £3 million. That may seem like a small sum now, but 30 years ago, it was set to become the most expensive transfer in English soccer history.
Naturally, Blackburn manager Dalglish made an offer. After negotiating with Nottingham, Dalglish finalized a £4 million fee for Roy Keane. Keane then met with Dalglish in person to finalize the deal. Alan Shearer, who was playing for Blackburn at the time and would later become one of the Premier League’s top goalscorers, was earning £500,000 a year, so Keane asked for a slightly lower fee of £400,000 a year. And with that, the deal was done. That was Friday afternoon.
But there was a catch. The contract couldn’t be signed right away. Dalglish said, “I can’t write the contract right away because the club staff is away. But let’s sign it on Monday,” Dalglish suggested. Keane shook Dalglish’s hand and signed his name.
The next day, a Saturday. Keane’s move was all over the papers, with the headline “New English transfer record”. But a phone call on Sunday lunchtime turned Roy Keane’s life, Nottingham, Blackburn, and the club of the caller upside down. It’s no exaggeration to say that it was a phone call that shook the Premier League.
It was a call from Ferguson. The same Ferguson who led Manchester United to their first Premier League title in the 1992/93 season. After reading the story in the newspaper, Ferguson immediately called Keane’s home (there were no cell phones back then). Keane answered.
“Roy, it’s Ferguson!” Keane thought it was a prank. It wasn’t. Ferguson wanted to talk to Keene about the contract, which he hadn’t signed yet. Keane informed him that he had agreed to a contract, but Ferguson was not impressed. “You said you didn’t sign it, come and have a chat.”
Keane later confessed in his autobiography that he had a hunch. When Ferguson called, he realized that he would not be going anywhere else but United. Keane went to Ferguson’s house, had a meal and a chat with him, and then called Dalglish.
“Kenny, I don’t want the contract, Ferguson’s on the phone,” Keane said, and as soon as he finished, Dalglish’s expletives came through the receiver. “You shook my hand, you said you’d sign a contract!” Dalglish cursed, but the more he spoke, the more Keane’s mind turned to United. United offered Nottingham £3.5 million, slightly less than Blackburn’s offer.
Then Nottingham exploded. Half a million pounds may not seem like a lot now, but it was a lot then. Nottingham panicked and pulled Roy Keane from first-team training, but they had no choice.
It was either take the £3.5 million or let Keane rot. Dalglish called Keane on his vacation and threatened to sue him, but Keane knew he had no choice but to answer Ferguson’s call.
Of course, Dalglish didn’t sue. It wasn’t even worth suing. In his contract negotiations with United, Keane was offered a salary just under the £400,000 he had been offered by Blackburn.
His salary, which was just under £100,000 at the time, was cut to go to United, but Keane didn’t mind. It was a small price to pay to play for United.
The rest of the story is familiar to many Premier League fans. Keane spent the next 12 seasons with United, winning seven Premier League titles, four FA Cups, and one UEFA Champions League. Most notably, Keane was at the center of United’s 2-1 upset victory over Bayern Munich at the Camp Nou in Barcelona, Spain, in May 1999, as the Red Devils reached the top of the Champions League and completed the Premier League and FA Cup treble in the same season.
One can only wonder how the course of Premier League history and Keane’s life would have been different if Blackburn had had the contract ready in time, if Dalglish’s negotiations with Keane had ended a little earlier, if Keane hadn’t had to leave work, if Keane had wanted to stay a little later that day, if a contract had been drawn up in advance. After all, Blackburn also had Shearer at the helm, winning the 1994/95 Premier League title.