February 18, 2024

Blackburn’s mind-blowing reason for rejecting Zinedine Zidane and denying Prem fans’ dream | Football | Sport

once came agonisingly close to bringing French legend to the before the move was bizarrely vetoed by then-owner Jack Walker. The Lancashire outfit were, of course, one of England’s top clubs in the 1990s and boasted a number of the division’s star players in their squad including the likes of Alan Shearer, Graeme Le Saux and Colin Hendry.

Blackburn were also up there with the Premier League’s biggest spenders when they clinched the title back in 1995 and were linked with several high-profile signings that summer as they prepared to defend their domestic crown the following season. One of their most eye-catching targets emerged in the form of a young Zidane, who had been tearing it up for Bordeaux in France and was destined for bigger and better things at the age of just 23.

A move to Ewood Park would have been a fitting one for Zidane, who would have been tasked with carving out chances for the attacking duo of Shearer and Chris Sutton, while Christophe Dugarry was also said to have been lined up to join Rovers as part of the potential deal. The duo even flew to England for a tour of Blackburn’s training ground but Walker had other ideas and they were never signed before joining Juventus and AC Milan respectively a year later.

Walker’s reason for turning down the opportunity to bring Zidane to the Premier League was said to have been rooted in his admiration for title-winning skipper Tim Sherwood, with the wealthy Blackburn owner reportedly saying: “Why do you want to sign Zidane when we have Tim Sherwood?”

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Blackburn went on to lead a sub-par summer recruitment drive, with only Adam Reed and Matty Holmes joining the club for a combined total of £1.4million before they slumped to a seventh-placed finish in the Premier League the following season. Their failure to add some extra star quality in the form of Zidane and Dugarry arguably marked the beginning of the end for Rovers at the top of English football, while Sherwood later admitted that Walker made a huge mistake by not sanctioning deals for both players.

“We were English champions and Zidane and Christophe Dugarry came to the training ground to have a look around,” Sherwood told the Squeaky Bum Time Podcast two years ago. “It was an impressive training ground, by the way, but they decided or Jack Walker decided that they weren’t going to join us.

“There were a lot of players linked. I believe we failed to capitalise. We had a foundation there and we should have built again. Jack’s feelings were: ‘If it’s not broke, then why fix it?’. I think he was wrong. It was probably more coming from the heart than his head.

“He was a very astute businessman but when it came to football and when it came to his club, which was Blackburn Rovers, he just played with his heart all the time and on this occasion I think he was wrong. I think we should have strengthened at the time and maybe we would have gone on and won it again.”

Shearer also claimed that Blackburn missed a huge opportunity to tighten their grip on the Premier League that summer, telling the Daily Mail: “Ray [Harford] was one of the best coaches I ever had but, looking back, he wanted to give the players a chance to go again, to repeat what they’d done. We were linked with Zinedine Zidane and Christophe Dugarry and we didn’t get them. We didn’t strengthen while we were at the top.”

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