After acquiring Manchester City in 2008, the powerful Abu Dhabi owners wasted little time getting to work. Instantly, the club made an effort to recruit the top players in the globe.

The Citizens’ new owners had lofty goals. At the time, the team was performing in the middle of the Premier League table. They were out to slow the team’s advancement—they even had Lionel Messi in their sights.

Now the club’s manager, Mark Hughes, has reminisced about the most bizarre transfer deadline he has ever experienced. City shocked the soccer world on transfer deadline day by acquiring Robinho from Real Madrid. It may have been Lionel Messi, not the Brazilian, who relocated to the Etihad Stadium, as Hughes has recently admitted.

What did Mark Hughes say about Lionel Messi?

No Tippy Tappy Football is a podcast by William Hill and Footy Accumulators. It featured Hughes saying: “The first day of the takeover being complete came as a surprise for me because I was out playing golf! I was playing with some of the staff because it was a day off, but I was getting these phone calls from Gary Cook, who was the CEO at the time, telling me that the takeover was happening and that they wanted a marquee signing to mark the new ownership of the club.

“They just asked me, ‘who do you want?.’ They had a load of bids out for pretty much every top player in the world, they had just put all of these bids out to see if anyone would actually come back, but people forget that at that time, Man City were a mid-table Premier League club – mid-table to bottom if we’re honest. There weren’t that many takers because players were thinking, ‘Man City, who?’.”

What did Mark Hughes say about Robinho?

As expected, the Brazilian ultimately agreed to a transfer price of £32.5 million. At the time, it was a record for the United Kingdom. It is uncertain, however, if Robinho was aware of which Manchester club he was signing for.

“They had all these bids out and nothing was happening, then all of a sudden, they had a little nibble from Robinho and Real Madrid. We had to try to make it happen and I knew the Real Madrid coach at the time, Bernd Schuster, so I was on the phone to him asking if there was any chance of letting Robinho speak to us.

“It was a crazy day, there were bids going out for Lionel Messi and all sorts! We finally managed to get Robinho over the line which was a hell of a statement, and the rest is history. There’s probably a grain of truth in the rumor that Robinho thought he was actually signing for Manchester United. He certainly didn’t recognize me when he turned up, he was probably expecting to see Sir Alex Ferguson at the airport! He was probably a bit disappointed, to say the least.”

City was unsuccessful in its attempt to get Lionel Messi. Mansour has continued to bolster the Etihad Stadium with a slew of star players. During a time of Premier League domination, the club was graced with the arrival of star players. Carlos Tevez, Sergio Aguero, David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne are just examples of the talent. Several high-profile signings have followed since then, including Erling Haaland, as well as Jack Grealish.