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Norwich City A-Z: N is for the nearly boys of the World Cup

Ola Toivonen scored for Sweden against Germany at the World Cup Picture: AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis

Ola Toivonen scored for Sweden against Germany at the World Cup Picture: AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

The World Cup is offering a window to the Premier League past for Norwich City fans this summer, as David Freezer reviews in our alternative A-Z series, with N for the Canaries nearly boys.

Senegal defender Kalidou Koulibaly during his team's 2-2 draw with Japan in Russia Picture: AP Photo/Natacha PisarenkoSenegal defender Kalidou Koulibaly during his team's 2-2 draw with Japan in Russia Picture: AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko

There are a distinct lack of Norwich City links at the World Cup this summer – but it could all have been so different.

Back in the all-too-brief halcyon days of Premier League stability the transfer rumour mill saw the Canaries being linked with some rather high-profile players.

Italy striker Fabio Quagliarella is the name most City fans will remember being touted regularly, with former boss Chris Hughton admitting an interest in the summer of 2013.

Having splashed out on big name strikers Ricky van Wolfswinkel and Gary Hooper all of a sudden the Canaries were being touted with top-level talent like never before.

Nigeria right-back Tyronne Ebuehi reportedly turned down Norwich in January Picture: Nick Potts/PANigeria right-back Tyronne Ebuehi reportedly turned down Norwich in January Picture: Nick Potts/PA

Italy in particular became a hotbed of City links, with Inter Milan defender Andrea Ranocchia reportedly turning down a move to Norfolk in January 2014. Sampdoria striker Eder and Juventus forward Simone Zaza were also among those touted after the club had bounced back to the top flight under Alex Neil.

While the absence of the Italians at the World Cup has prevented those names coming back into mind, there are still a host of players formerly linked which have got Norwich fans talking in recent weeks.

Top of the pile is Sweden striker Ola Toivonen, who got everyone talking on Saturday night when he fired his country ahead against Germany to leave the reigning world champions staring down the barrel of elimination.

City had reportedly agreed a deal worth in the region of £5m with PSV Eindhoven during the summer of 2013 but eventually signed fellow Swede Johan Elmander on a season-long loan from Galatasaray after growing frustrated with Toivonen dragging his heels over the move.

Just one goal in 29 top-flight games meant Elmander couldn’t help City avoid relegation from the Premier League and Toivonen eventually got his move to England with Sunderland in 2015/16, scoring one League Cup goal in 14 games.

Another of the current Sweden squad’s strikers could have been a Canary as well, with John Guidetti supposedly a target in 2015 as his Manchester City contract expired.

He opted for Spain and Celta Vigo instead but given the way Guidetti carelessly lost possession ahead of the inevitable German winner at the weekend, perhaps the man now at Alaves wouldn’t have been ideal for a relegation battle anyway.

Or how about Senegal defender Kalidou Koulibaly? The Canaries were said to have lodged an £8m bid for the centre-back following promotion in 2015 after Napoli made him available.

Three years later Koulibaly is one of the Naples club’s hottest properties and being touted with a move to Chelsea in the region of £88m. That could have proved quite the profit if the France-born star had been persuaded to move to England.

Then there’s Juan Fernando Quintero. The creative midfielder’s defence-splitting pass allowed Falcao to fire Colombia 3-0 up against Poland on Sunday, following on from his goal in a 2-1 loss to Japan, but back in 2015 Norwich had reportedly offered him a two-year contract.

At the time Quintero was unhappy at Porto and considering a move to England but has since been on loan at Rennes in France, Independiente Medellín in Colombia and River Plate in Argentina.

Tottenham defender Toby Alderweireld could be lining up against England for Belgium on Thursday night and is being linked with a big-money move to Manchester United.

However, back in 2013 Norwich were reported to have agreed a £6.9m fee with Ajax for the classy centre-back, only for the player to reject the move.

There are plenty more. Iceland striker Alfred Finnbogason was another touted target in 2015. Australia goalkeeper Matt Ryan and left-back James Meredith, now at Brighton and Millwall respectively, were also strongly linked in recent years.

An even more recent link was Nigeria right-back was Tyronne Ebuehi, who was let off the hook by Gylfi Sigurdsson last Friday after conceding a sloppy penalty during his team’s 2-0 win over Iceland in Russia.

The 22-year-old Den Haag defender reportedly turned down the Canaries in January in favour of joining Portuguese giants Benfica this summer, where he has signed a five-year contract.

World Cup level players may not be the focus of City now that the Premier League riches have faded away but things could well have been very different if rumour had become fact over the years.

• Are there any other players at the tournament in Russia that we’ve missed from our Canaries list? Let us know via email on norfolksport@archant.co.uk.

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