Roy Keane spurned the chance to sign for Real Madrid in 2005, joining Scottish giants Celtic instead.
The legendary midfielder was leaving Manchester United following a dispute with manager Sir Alex Ferguson, and had plenty of offers on his way out of Old Trafford.
One of the clubs interested in his services was Real Madrid, but Keane admitted in his autobiography, The Second Half, that ‘fear of the unknown’ was behind his decision not to head to the Santiago Bernabeu.
Keane admitted to having a meeting with Real Madrid director Emilio Butragueno and that he maybe should have been more grateful for such an approach.
“He said, ‘look Roy, we’ll be glad to have you.’ The club’s board just had to sanction the deal, it was standard procedure,” Keane said.
“I should have appreciated Real’s offer more. It was the most attractive challenge in front of me.
“I took a negative approach… it could have been great for my kids. The weather and the training might have given me another lease of life, another two years of playing; I might have picked up new techniques for my stretching.
“But instead – as usual – I was looking at what might go wrong. ‘Hindsight’ is a f***** of word. At the time, it felt like the right decision.
“I didn’t want to move to Spain. As much as anything else, it was fear that decided me – fear of the unknown. And I threw excuses in front of me – family, language, the kids’ education.”
Keane instead signed for Celtic following a meeting with then-manager Gordon Strachan, who was not as welcoming as Butrageuno.
“When a club is interested in you, the manager generally sells it to you: ‘Listen, we’d love to have you here’,” Keane added.
“But I met with Gordon Strachan, the Celtic manager, in London… Gordon told me, ‘I’m not really too worried if you sign for us or not. We’re okay without you.
“So I said to myself, ‘f*** him, I’m signing.’ I think it was one of the reasons I signed for them – to prove Gordon wrong.”
Keane went on to make just 13 appearances for Celtic before retiring.