Leighton Baines may have been denied the opportunity to chance his arm at the big time with Man Utd, but he can take solace from the legendary status of five more footballers who stayed true to their roots and never made big-money moves.
Matt Le Tissier – Southampton
The Channel Islander who made eight appearances for England would surely have pulled on the Three Lions jersey many more times were he at a higher profile club than Southampton for his entire 16-year career.
He came closest to a domestic upgrade shortly after winning the 1989/90 PFA Young Player of the Year, when a contract with Tottenham was reportedly accepted before Le Tissier changed his mind.
Had he made the switch back then, Saints fans would have missed out on their hero’s goals in consecutive home thrashings of Man Utd in 1996 and Le Tissier could not have racked up over 100 Premier League strikes on the south coast or been on hand to score the winner against Arsenal at Southampton’s last ever game at the Dell in 2001.
Robin Friday – Reading and Cardiff
The life of Reading forward Robin Friday was cut tragically short when, at 38, the drink and drug problems that ruined the player’s chances of playing for England contributed to a fatal heart attack in 1990.
The west Londoner scored 46 goals in 121 league appearances for the Royals between 1974 and 1976, but when the time came for him to leave Berkshire several big clubs were spurned in favour of a move to Cardiff, where he scored six goals in 21 appearances over an 18-month period.
Friday has been voted ‘all-time cult hero’ at both clubs and consistently tops Reading’s ‘best player ever’ polls.
Steve Bull – Wolves
Like Le Tissier, playing for an unfashionable club did not hinder Steve Bull’s England career, with the striker making 13 appearances for Bobby Robson’s side in and around World Cup Italia ’90, scoring four goals in the process.
That thoroughly decent strike ratio pales in comparison to the 250 goals Bull plundered in 474 league games at Wolverhampton Wanderers and the Tipton-native stayed true to his Midlands upbringing by eschewing potential suitors including Leeds United during their 1991/92 First Division title-winning season.
David Hirst – Sheffield Wednesday
Sir Alex Ferguson tried continuously to sign David Hirst when the striker was banging in the goals at Sheffield Wednesday, but the legendary manager eventually gave up, signed Eric Cantona and the rest is history.
Hirst managed a single goal in his three games for England, but found the net in the league an impressive 106 times in an 11-year 294-game spell in Sheffield.
Paul Scholes – Man Utd
After four years of relatively uninterrupted success at Utd, Paul Scholes was reportedly the subject of a £30m bid from Inter Milan, but the Salford-born lad rejected a move that would have smashed the British transfer record to stay with his local club.
The classy midfielder went on to pick up a further seven Premier League titles and won the Champions League in 2007/08.