Arsene Wenger’s biggest Arsenal transfer failure resurfaces after what Lionel Messi did



It is hard to imagine Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal every being surpassed by Mikel Arteta or any other Gunners manager who comes after him.

The Frenchman arrived at Highbury in 1996 and brought with him some of the most exciting players the Premier League has ever seen, including Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira, Robert Pires and Robin van Persie.

His Invincibles side of 2003-04 remains a feat that is yet to be replicated and even Manchester United legend Sir Alex Ferguson recently admitted they were a level above his treble-winning side of 1999.

However, it may be hard to believe, but things could have been even more exciting.

During his 22 years in charge of Arsenal, Wenger attempted to bring two of the best players the world has ever seen to the club before they reached their peak.

On Tuesday night, they were two failed deals brought into sharp focus as Paris Saint-Germain took on RB Leipzig in the Champions League at the Parc des Princes.

Prior to the game, Lionel Messi ran to the edge of the pitch to embrace a visitor – former Barcelona teammate Ronaldinho.

The Brazilian famously assisted the Argentinian’s first goal for the Catalan giants in 2005, a team Ronaldinho would leave three years later and where Messi would remain until this year.

In 2001, the Gunners attempted to sign Ronaldinho when he was still a burgeoning star playing in Brazil with Gremio. However, he was unable to obtain a work permit and the deal fell through.

Eventually he would sign for PSG.

“We could have got Ronaldinho before he went to PSG,” Wenger revealed shortly after Ronaldinho’s transfer, as he bemoaned the rules that meant he could not sign.

“I met his brother, who is his agent, a long, long time before he went to PSG – when he was 20 – but we just could not get him to England because of the rules here.

“Basically, what the rule does is force you to wait to buy the player but, by then, you cannot afford him anymore.”

In 2014, Wenger would drop another bombshell, admitting that the club had tried and failed to sign Lionel Messi from Barcelona’s academy alongside Cesc Fabregas when he was 15.

There were rumours that the deal fell through because Wenger refused to promise that Messi’s family would have an apartment provided by the club, but the Arsenal boss insisted it was simply because the player was not ready to leave.

“I think in the end, he was not so keen to move, because it was at a period where Fabregas came,” Wenger told a press conference seven years ago.

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“Fabregas and Messi played together in the same team. We wanted to take Fabregas, Messi and Pique. It worked only for Ffbregas.

“It was not completely down to a flat in the end. It was down to the fact that, in the end, Messi was comfortable at Barcelona.”

While Wenger undoubtedly had enormous success with Arsenal, including in the transfer market, there is no doubting that the failure to bring in either Ronaldinho or Messi will still leave plenty asking: ‘What if?’





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