Newcastle United failed with a reported £35m bid for Lille's Boubakary Soumare because the midfielder did not want to move.
Manager Steve Bruce also said he could not persuade Chelsea forward Olivier Giroud, 31, to leave London.
United's club record is the £40m they paid for forward Joelinton last summer.
"We had a bid accepted that would have nearly got us to our record transfer eight days ago, but the player wanted to stay where he was," said Bruce.
"We were active - we were really, really active and it didn't quite happen. We'll just have to wait and see what we can do in the summer.
"He was our number one target and unfortunately, we couldn't do it."
Soumare, 20, graduated through Paris St-Germain's academy and has been linked with Chelsea and Manchester United.
"We had a plane booked to go and meet Soumare, but the boy changed his mind. He's only young and there's a lot of top clubs who have been linked with him."
Bruce also defended why he was willing to spend a potential club record on a midfielder after his side have struggled to score goals this season.
He said: "There wasn't a striker to be had at that money. Who can we buy who can make a difference to us? There simply isn't anyone who is better than what we've got, in my opinion."
'Takeover bid unsettling'
Bruce, whose side host Norwich City on Saturday, also said that he has no update from managing director Lee Charnley regarding the potential takeover of the club.
BBC Sport understands talks of a possible £340m takeover at Newcastle by Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund are "advanced".
Negotiations between the Arab state's Public Investment Fund (PIF) and Newcastle owner Mike Ashley are believed to have been in progress for several months.
However, Bruce said: "If there was something to talk about and something to tell me, he [Charnley] will tell me. I have a relationship with him that I think he would."
He added: "At the moment all he's said, there's nothing in it. OK, fine, let's go to work and let's see where we are.
"It has an unsettling effect on everybody, of course, I wouldn't lie, but we're somehow getting used to it.
"All I'm concentrating on is the game tomorrow and certainly the players are as well as myself."
Newcastle have also announced that midfielder Ki Sung-yueng has left the club by mutual consent.
The South Korea international, 31, who joined the club from Swansea in June 2018. has not featured for Newcastle since September and his contract was due to expire in the summer.