3. Didier Drogba
Celtic had the opportunity to sign a young Didier Drogba on a free transfer back in 2002. Momo Sylla told the Scottish Sun that Drogba approached him about a potential move to Parkhead when he was still playing for French side Guingamp. Sylla advised Drogba not to pursue a move to Celtic as he wouldn’t have seen first-team football ahead of the likes of Chris Sutton, Henrik Larsson and John Hartson. Just two years later, Drogba would complete a £24million move to Chelsea.
In 2004, Brazilian World Cup winner Rivaldo was a free agent after leaving Cruzeiro. At the age of 32, Rivaldo was invited by Celtic to join them as a free agent at their pre-season tour of the US. This sparked extreme excitement that Celtic were about to sign one of the legends of the game. Sky Sports reported that Celtic were “on the verge” of completing a deal after the lure of Champions League football helped beat off competition from Bolton Wanderers. However, the move fell through when Rivaldo’s agent was left furious at O’Neill’s decision to offer the ex-Milan midfielder a trial rather than a contract. Carlos Arime told the BBC: “My client has been one of the best players in the world for many years and I don’t think he needs to play friendly games in order to prove himself.”
1. Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Zlatan Ibrahimovic could have been a legend at Celtic had Martin O’Neill acted quicker to sign the Swedish striker in 2001. Gordon Smith, an agent at the time, told the Sunday Post that he tipped off O’Neill about a possible £2million move for Ibrahimovic. Smith stated that the Celtic boss waited a couple of weeks before following through on a deal for the 19-year-old, only to find out that the Malmo forward had already agreed to join Ajax.