Time will tell if Arsenal are letting a talent slip through our fingers by not making Dennis Suarez’s loan permanent. In a few years we could look back at is as a mistake. It did give me an idea for my next list (it’s the international break so I like my lists). Arsene Wenger has always been fairly open about those who nearly became Gunners, apparently not thinking it might depress some Gooners to learn just how close we came to recruiting some famous names. To clarify these are not names who have simply been linked to us through the press. The majority have admissions that interest was very much real.
So here are 15 players who nearly signed for Arsenal FC…. by Dan Smith
Low on the list because Arsene Wenger has always denied suggestions that only getting the right apartment stopped us from getting Messi. Not for the first or last time, we raided Barcelona’s famed academy. We had convinced Fabregas to pack his bags, but he wanted his two best friends to come with him. As teenagers at the time, Arsenal were dealing with the parents as much as the players and wouldn’t give in to certain demands. Pique joined Man United while Wenger maintains he felt Messi never wanted to leave Spain, nothing to do with living arrangements.
The only positive to Fabregas re-joining Barcelona was at least we had been smart enough to include a buy back option, meaning if Barca wanted to sell, we get first refusal for a reduced price. Our ex-skipper could not have made it clearer that the Emirates was his chosen destination, but Wenger felt he had enough in midfield with Wilshire and Ramsey. With their respective injury records, there was no guarantees they would stay fit, making many to suggest this was more Wenger not being happy with how his captain left.
Of course, we did end up making this signing, with the keeper due to retire a gooner. As respected as he is in the dressing room though (one of the few leaders we have) it’s fair to say we got him when he was no longer considered one of the best in the world. By his own admission, he could have joined us as early as 17 but one of our scouts felt he lacked that ‘something’. I hope that man got sacked.
This is a hard one. On one hand Arsenal were offered a chance to have one of the best DMs of all time, a problem position for us. On the other hand, Nantes sent feeders out at the worst possible time, when we had just brought another French youngster, Viera. Arsene Wenger felt he had to show faith with the teenager and let’s be fair, he was kind of proven correct
In 2001 Arsene Wenger was caught having dinner with the Parma star. Neither could admit it was a business meeting as that would be tapping up. Yet it’s no coincidence this meal took place as the search began for a replacement for David Seaman. Juventus put 32 million on the table which Arsenal felt was an insane amount of money at the time.
Looking for one last payday after leaving Real Madrid, the Brazilian sent out a come and get me plea to Arsene Wenger, calling Arsenal a ‘dream move’. Instead of getting one of the world’s most famous left backs on a free though, it was decided it be better to pay 6 million for Santos.
A classic example of what would let Mr Wenger down in his final years at the club. He started to dawdle, with no one above him stepping in to be more decisive. Everything was done right in terms of the player being scouted extensively at Lens. The Frenchmen made it clear he would be open to a move. But as Arsenal stressed about every last pound, Real Madrid swooped in overnight and suddenly the deal was dead
Not just Arsenal, the Belgian was talking to some big clubs, including Real Madrid when deciding to leave Anderlecht. His agent said, all his client wanted to hear was assurances that he would get game time. Despite looking for someone to replace Sol Campbell, Arsene Wenger wasn’t willing to make any promises. The response was that Kompany was not the type to be 3rd of 4th choice anywhere.
Arsenal had struck up a good relationship with Southampton by giving them decent money for academy graduates Walcott and the Ox. Out of courtesy, the Saints let us know that they had another teenager making quick progress, Gareth Bale. Arsene Wenger’s answer was he already had enough left backs, apparently not believing the Welshman could play further advanced.
Before he announced himself to the world at PSG, Arsene Wenger already knew about the Brazilian’s talents. He went as far as on more than one occasion meeting the midfielder’s brother. The only thing that stopped this from happening was a failure to get a work permit.
Arsene has admitted he spoke to the player, with wages agreed, after Suarez believed that he had a 40 million release clause in his contract. Arsenal thought they had triggered that by offering 40 million and a pound. It’s believed John W Henry was so insulted he dug his heels in even deeper, giving Steven Gerrard the chance to have a heart to heart with the striker, telling him if he was patient, his dream move to Spain would happen.
Some Gooners might not know this but Yaya Touré has in fact played a game for us. With Kolo Touré on our books, he suggested that his baby brother was also quite decent at football. So, his sibling played at Barnet and did well enough to earn a transfer. Complications then existed over getting a work permit, something Arsene Wenger has been critical about. Despite being outspoken though, the consensus is more could have been done to make this deal happen.
For years Arsenal benefited from Mr Wenger’s knowledge of the French and Africa market, something his rivals would catch him up on. A good scout is someone who can identify potential while finding value for money. So, the Frenchmen was told about a striker who was available for 100,000 but the feeling was he was still too raw at the time. His name was Drogba who went on to terrorise us.
He visited Arenal, describing our shirt as ‘the famous red and white’. He was so honoured to be offered the number 9 Jersey, took photos with it, so clearly the Swede was open to the move. Apparently though he was offended by the idea of a trial. It’s easy with hindsight, seeing how good the striker would become, to criticise Arsene Wenger. The Frenchmen was only following the club’s policy and most of the time you would question a youngster’s attitude if they thought a trial was beneath them. Little did the club realise it at the time, they were dealing with one of the biggest egos to ever exist.
He came so close to joining us, he was even shown round our Colney training ground. That all changed when Sporting Lisbon happened to play Man United in a friendly. If Sir Alex Ferguson’s pre-season schedule hadn’t included a trip to Portugal how different history would have been? The story goes that United’s senior players were so amazed by the teenager they just faced, they told their manager to make a deal happen. With Carlos Quieroz at Old Trafford, he convinced his countrymen to choose them over us.