Arsenal tried to sign Lionel Messi 16 years ago but failed to complete a deal for the ‘untouchable’ Barcelona superstar.
This is according to Arsene Wenger, who has confirmed long rumoured stories that the Gunners missed out on bringing Messi to north London before he developed into one of the greatest footballers ever.
The proposed transfer took place in 2003, at the same time Arsenal were signing Cesc Fabregas from Barcelona.
The midfielder, who went on to become a key player for the Gunners, was part of the same youth team as Messi, and talks took place with the pair over moves to England.
But while Fabregas completed a switch to Arsenal, they found it impossible to prise Messi from Barcelona’s clutches.
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Speaking to beIN SPORTS, Wenger revealed: “We were in discussions with [Messi] when we bought Fabregas, because Messi played [with him].
“You can realise sometimes what fantastic youth teams you had before when you’re a club like Barcelona. In the same team, Messi, [Gerard] Pique and Fabregas.
“Pique and Fabregas came to England [with Manchester United and Arsenal respectively], Messi stayed in Spain. We were interested in him, but he was untouchable at the time.”
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Messi is joined on the list of failed Arsenal signings by Cristiano Ronaldo, his rival for the title of best player in the world over the past decade.
Wenger also confirmed he came close to capturing the Portugal legend before he moved to Man United in 2003.
“Yes, you have to live with regrets in life, you know,” he continued. “There’s only unachieved business in life and this is a big part of it.”