It’s that time of the year when we are bombarded with gossip that this player or that player is rumored to be pursued by Barça. Summer transfer window gives us, the Blaugrana faithful, something to discuss and ponder as we wait to see what moves our club will do. The number of players rumored to be joining Barça every summer could be enough to field three additional lineups. In the end, only a few of the rumors became reality while most dissipate into the wind. This series though will look back on the possible Barça transfers that almost happened. The second part deals with the near capture of Alan Shearer and David Ginola.

The summer of 1996 was a strange one for Barça and their fans. For the first time in eight years, Johan Cruyff was no longer in charge. His successor was the legendary manager, Sir Bobby Robson, who left Portuguese club Porto to join Barça in July 1996. The era of the “Dream Team” was over and the club was looking into starting a new era.

Upon Robson’s arrival, many players were signed to strengthen the team following two seasons without any silverware. He signed players he was familiar with from his Porto days, Vítor Baia and Fernando Couto. Nonetheless, two players who Robson wanted were plying their craft in the Premier League. Those players were David Ginola and Alan Shearer.

20 years ago, Alan Shearer was the one of the most recognized strikers on the summer market. Most of that interest though was limited to just to England. After shining at Euro 96, there was interest from Manchester United and Newcastle in getting England’s dangerous goal scorer. However, there was also interest from overseas as Robson was interested in signing Shearer. Robson stated that he spoke to Blackburn Rover’s manager, Ray Harford, on three separate occasions about getting Shearer, only to be told each time that Shearer was not for sale. Robson never got to directly talk to Shearer but he was also plotting on convincing the Barça board to sign a 19 year old Brazilian from PSV Eindhoven, Ronaldo. In the end, Shearer ended up going to his boyhood club, Newcastle, while Barça broke the bank to sign Ronaldo.

David Ginola was another player that Robson wanted. Ginola had shined for France and Paris Saint-Germain in the mid 90’s. Rocking the long hair look that would make him a well-known popular shampoo spokesperson, the French winger possessed the right amount of talent and flair to be either loved or hated by fans. La Liga fans were aware of him after shining against Real Madrid in the 1992/1993 UEFA Cup and the 1993/1994 UEFA Cup Winner’s Cup, and also against Barça in the 1994/1995 Champions League when his PSG side eliminated Barça in the quarterfinals. Ginola then made the jump from the French league to the English league when he joined Newcastle in the summer of 1995. With Robson himself a former Geordie, it was no surprise he was aware of Ginola's performance for Newcastle as they finished runner-ups in the Premier League in his first season there.

After Bobby Robson was hired as Barça’s new manager, he personally called Ginola to inform him that he wanted the player to be part of his team. In an interview with Talksport, Ginola said he received a phone call from Bobby Robson expressing his interest in signing him. Ginola then claims that Newcastle were not interested in selling Ginola to Barça or anyone. However, Bobby Robson stated that Newcastle were willing to sell the 29 year old Ginola but the Barça board rejected the idea because Newcastle were asking too much for a player at his age. Ginola probably wished he had been sold since the manager who signed him, Kevin Keegan, quit halfway through his second season with Newcastle, which coincidentally was the same season Alan Shearer joined Newcastle. Ginola ended up leaving Newcastle at the end of that season, his only one with Shearer, and joined Spurs. Meanwhile, Barça moved on from Ginola and decided to bring back Hristo Stoichkov to the club from Parma.

Now, those two near signings were not going to haunt the club. Even though Barça lost out on Shearer and Ginola, Barça still signed other players that summer such as Antonio Pizzi, Giovani, Luis Enrique, and Ronaldo while bringing back the legendary Stoichkov. Under Robson, Barça would go on to win three titles that season, the Spanish Super Cup, the Copa del Rey, and the Cup Winners Cup.

Yet, we can only imagine what would have happened if those transfers did take place. It would have been interesting to see Shearer and Ginola don the Blaugrana kit. Barça had signed Gary Lineker in the 80s and we would not see another big name English scorer join the Spanish League until the arrival of Michael Owen in 2005. In the end, many would agree that Barça signed the better player in Ronaldo, but how would have Barça done with Shearer instead? Would he have left the club after one season like Ronaldo did? Better yet, had Barça signed him, would that have meant Rivaldo would not been signed as a deadline day transfer the following season because of Ronaldo’s sale to Inter? As for Ginola, the club already possessed a superb winger in Luis Figo, who would excel under Robson and become one of the best wingers in the world for the next few years until his departure to Real Madrid.

Ultimately, Barça did not regret missing out on those players 20 years ago. The club went on to have three successful seasons under Robson and Louis van Gaal. Nonetheless, one has to wonder what if.

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