Gheorghe Hagi, Dino Baggio and the other huge Everton transfers that didn’t quite pan out

With seven managers since 2016 and now a third director of football, Everton’s recruitment of late has come under scrutiny as a side widely reported to have the seventh-highest wage bill in Premier League battles to stay in the division. International recruiting is now commonplace, but a generation ago, before the spread of global scouting and the ease of access to digital images, launching your network abroad was often a precarious activity.

The 1990s were a ‘golden era’ if you can call it that, for Everton’s bold transfer pursuits of overseas players who weren’t quite successful. Those of you who watched the BBC documentary series last year Excitement! The rise of the Premier League will recall how it was a time of change both on and off the pitch in the upper echelons of English football.

While the Blues had long been one of the game’s powerhouses, known as the ‘Mersey Millionaires’ when John Moores owned the club, had enjoyed their most successful period in the previous decade of the 1980s and were a key player in the creation of the Premier League under Sir Philip Carter, they struggled to keep up with the game’s elite as 20 and century was coming to an end.

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Everton hadn’t even signed a player beyond the British Isles until the arrival of Swede Stefan Rehn and Dutchman Ray Atteveld in 1989 and none of those made big waves in Merseyside, especially the former, who despite winning 45 caps for his country, only made six appearances for England and suffered ignominy in what turned out to be his last game to be replaced by Colin Harvey after he himself even left the bench earlier.

Indeed, when the Blues won the 1995 FA Cup, their only trophy of the decade – and last major trophy to date – Rehn’s compatriot Anders Limpar was the only non-British player in Joe Royle’s starting line-up. . While Everton were perhaps slower to adopt than some of their rivals when it came to bringing in overseas talent, sometimes it wasn’t for lack of trying. Here are some of the more notable exotic names they attempted to bring to Goodison Park but ultimately failed to catch on during this time.

Gheorghe Hagi

Widely regarded as the greatest Romanian footballer of all time, Hagi’s nicknames included “La Maradona des Carpathians” and “Regele” (The King) among fans of his home country while supporters of his last club Galatasaray nicknamed him “Comandante” (The Commander). A creative attacking playmaker renowned for his dribbling, technique, passing, shooting and overall vision with a left-footed stick, Hagi would have brought a pinch of stardust to an Everton side looking for inspiration in the early 1990s.

Perhaps alerted by his contacts in Spain, Howard Kendall attempted to bring Hagi to Goodison Park in the first season of his second term in 1990/91 when the player faced an uncertain future in his first year in outside Romania with Real Madrid. At a time when Premier League money hadn’t made England an attractive prospect for talent around the world, the player himself poured cold water on the possibility of a move to these shores , rejecting the state of the pitches and the style of play.

Although Hagi remained at the Bernabeu in the summer of 1991, Everton tried again for him in October of that year with Kendall telling ECHO: “Contact was made from Spain. I believe he “There was a change of heart last week with Real considering making the player available. Now I have to decide if he’s still the right guy for us, based on the fact that I’ve signed Beardsley.

Hagi would leave Real the following summer, but it would be for Italian side Brescia, not the Blues. Everton would be linked with him again in the summer of 1996 but Joe Royle rejected the links and the 31-year-old left La Liga for the second time, moving from Barcelona to Galatasaray.

Dino Baggio and Pierluigi Casaraghi

That potential 1997 double-blow was revealed a year later thanks to Everton centre-back Slaven Bilic. The Croatia international had agreed to join the Blues when Royle was still manager in 1996/97, although he postponed his switch to help West Ham United avoid relegation from the Premier League.

By the time he moved to Merseyside, the Blues were without a manager, with Kendall eventually taking over later that summer, returning for a third term in charge. After his first season at Goodison Park came to an end – with the team remaining solely on goal difference – Bilic reflected on what world-class acquisitions he thought would join him at the club.

In an exclusive interview with ECHO’s Garry Doolan, he claimed owner Peter Johnson had agreed to fund a £15million package for an Italian star duo, saying: “Joe told me I’m going buy you I’ll buy Dino Baggio and I’ll buy Pierluigi Casiraghi He told me he wanted me to be his leader on the pitch He said he wanted us to be the backbone of the team, with me at the back, Baggio in the middle and he wanted Casiraghi to play with Duncan Ferguson.

Instead, Bilic was joined by Tony Thomas, John O’Kane, Carl Tiler, Danny Williamson and Mitch Ward as Johnson tightly tightened the purse strings.


Richarlison is the latest in a string of Brazilians to have played for Everton in recent years, but despite making his way from Sao Paulo to Goodison Park for negotiations, Muller left the Blues pitch in 1994 without having signed a contract. ECHO reported that the deal fell through after six weeks of protracted negotiations when the player’s advisers demanded a tax-free salary.

Manager Mike Walker blamed the agents’ influence for the collapse and said: “I don’t think the player was the problem. He looked more embarrassed about it all than anyone else. We sent him a contract a few days ago which he accepted in full but an adviser came with him asking for more I was disappointed the player didn’t make it clear to them that he wanted to join us, but at the end of the day, they are his men and he must support them.

Once safely back in South America, the 28-year-old – who will instead join Japanese side Kashiwa Reysol the following year – claimed the main sticking point was not the expectation of a tax-free salary, but rather a request to become a free agent after his four-year contract had expired (a right afforded to all professionals over the age of 24 since the Bosman ruling).

Muller said: “I was led to believe I would hold my contract after spending four seasons there. Everton later said that was not possible. I was also led to believe that we would buy me a car and a house, but Everton said if they did that for me they would have to do that for their other players as well.

Martin Dahlin

Impressive for Sweden at home during Euro 92, Martin Dahlin first caught the attention of Everton during Kendall’s second term. After missing out on Cambridge United’s Dion Dublin to Manchester United – Kendall resigned less than 18 months later when the board refused to back his decision to take the striker from Old Trafford – the Blues boss was looking to boost his team’s firepower.

ECHO’s Ken Rogers reported on August 6 that Kendall was perfectly placed to open negotiations for Dahlin who had already scored for his German club Borussia Mönchengladbach in a 2-1 pre-season win over Everton and was on the point of facing the Blues for a second time. that summer in the game Goodison Park Centenary. Dahlin has been described as the ‘turning star’ of the Bundesliga side who ‘looks extremely comfortable on the ball, gives himself time and space, and has that ability to use short acceleration in and around the box to get into shooting position”.

A charge of just over £1million was mooted, but four days later it was claimed Kendall’s interest had waned after Dahlin saw very little of the ball during the game at Goodison , although the club were set to send a scout to watch him play for Sweden against Norway later in the month. Two years later, now under Mike Walker, Everton rekindled their interest.

On 20 June 1994, the ECHO reported that the Blues were trying to tempt Dahlin on a £300,000-a-year deal – and hoped Norwich City’s Chris Sutton and Coventry City’s Peter Ndlovu would both join him. Everton offered a fee of £1.84m for Dahlin and although Italy and France were seen as priorities for him ahead of England, he admitted: “It’s a very good offer – a real increase in my salary.”

Eight days later it emerged that Dahlin – who would stay at ‘Gladbach until joining Roma in 1996 before finally moving to the Premier League at Blackburn Rovers a year later – and had decided to stay put after his club increased his annual salary to £250,000. He said: “The offer from Everton was good and very attractive, but deep down inside me England didn’t appeal. That was the deciding factor. . »

Fabrice Ravanelli

Unlike the other targets, the Italian striker, nicknamed ‘The White Feather’ due to his prematurely gray hair, was already playing in England when Everton tried to sign him but that didn’t help the negotiations. Ravanelli traveled to Goodison Park but, like Muller, emerged from the Blues stadium without a deal being agreed.

The former Juventus man had scored 31 times for Middlesbrough the previous season (16 of them in the Premier League) but was available for transfer after the Teessiders were relegated. At a time when £5.75m Nick Barmby was Everton’s record signing – also from Boro – Ravanelli’s proposed fee was £7.5m (a figure the Blues wouldn’t end up with). splash until they landed Crystal Palace’s Andrew Johnson some nine years later) with the prospect of the overall package potentially costing upwards of £15million.

Ravanelli arrived on July 16, visiting Everton’s training ground at Bellefield and then Goodison, but the club issued a statement the following day which read: “Everton have made him a contract offer. He rejected that and unless there is a change of mind from the player’s side there will be no deal.

ECHO reported that after talks with Kendall – now back in charge for a third stint – and director Clifford Finch, it quickly became clear that the player’s outrageous financial demands would be a deal breaker and the Blues boss was turning his attention to Newcastle United. The Ferdinands. Twenty-four hours later, Kendall accused Middlesbrough of using Everton as leverage to push other clubs to sign Ravanelli, who would eventually go to Olympique Marseille later this summer, and said: “We knows that we are looking for a striker and we could be used to push other clubs into making a decision.

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