Nabil Fekir’s £53m move to Liverpool was so close he even picked out his shirt number before the deal collapsed, according to reports.
The France winger had a medical and the terms of a £140,000-a-week, five-year contract were seemingly agreed before Lyon pulled the plug on Saturday, announcing negotiations had come to an end.
Although no specific number was revealed, L’Equipe reported Fekir had indeed chosen his new number for the Reds, with numbers eight and ten both available in the current Liverpool squad.
Fekir, 24, wears 18 for club and country but that shirt belongs to left-back Alberto Moreno at Anfield.
Rumours surrounding the deal’s demise ranged from concerns over a knee injury the player sustained three years ago to the dissatisfaction of Lyon chairman Jean-Michel Aulas with negotiations.
After the French club announced the transfer was over, Aulas replied by tweeting ‘We love you’ to Fekir, who captains Les Gones.
Reports of any issues with Fekir’s injury history were rubbished by France Football Federation president Noel le Graet, who confirmed the deal was close to completion after meeting the player on Saturday morning.
Le Graet said: “It would be better for him if his transfer was recorded before the departure for Russia, but he did not seem disturbed to me.
“I felt optimistic about it because the medical visit he had was positive.
“In a transfer, it’s always like that. Each one tries to impose its price, to lower it, or to increase it.”
Fekir flew out to Russia with his France teammates yesterday ahead of their opening World Cup clash with Australia in Kazan on Saturday.
They then face Peru in Yekaterinburg five days later before the final Group C game against Denmark on June 26 at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium.
The deal’s cancellation unsettles Liverpool’s summer plans, with Jurgen Klopp now forced to turn elsewhere if he is to add to the arrivals of midfield duo Naby Keita and Fabinho.
They have also been linked with Klopp’s former Borussia Dortmund student Mario Gotze and Bordeaux’s Malcom as they look at alternative options.