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That Time West Ham Thought they Could Sign Neymar

What a piece of business that would have been

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FC Barcelona v Villarreal CF - La Liga Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images

With Neymar’s transfer pretty much a forgone conclusion (see: sad post from Lionel Messi), let’s take a trip back to 2010, when Spain was continuing their reign as the king of world football and West Ham United was being run by one Avram Grant. The young Brazilian talent was plying his trade for Santos in the Brazilian top division and Grant, presumably attempting to make a splashy move to generate some headlines and save the team from relegation, bid £12m, failing to meet his release clause. And these were not just rumors, as the bid was confirmed by Santos club with director Pedro Luiz Nunes: “We received an offer from West Ham for Neymar…” only to reject the offer out of hand: “Our position is clear…These athletes only leave the club by paying the release clause.” The release clause, it should be noted, was £28.4m, which, by today’s standards, is not outrageous, even for a player who, at 18, was still uncapped by his country (he was capped later that summer, in August).

Thinking about what could have been.

The audacious bid by the Hammers would have changed the course of the club, had it been accepted. Assuming the deal goes through, Neymar’s talent could have saved the club from relegation that season, meaning no season in the Championship, no Big Sam and maybe no Slaven Bilic. With the eventual transfer fee from Santos to Barcelona still up for debate, it is unknown how much the Irons could have potentially sold Neymar on for, again, changing the fortunes of the club and its finances. With transfer fees going bonkers (eyyy Dizzee Rascal), deals like the one West Ham could have struck are to be a thing of the past. With buy-back clauses and giant clubs snapping up young talent (only to loan them out), developing young players through the academy seems to be the best way ensure the club can get the best out of the next generation. (On that note, be sure to catch Brace the Hammer’s countdown of the best players coming up through the Academy of Football!)