Arsene Wenger has claimed that he regrets missing out on Barcelona captain Lionel Messi, who was in discussions with Arsenal over a move years ago.
In an interview with beIN Sports, Arsene Wenger has revealed that he came close to signing Lionel Messi from Barcelona during the Argentine’s days in La Masia. The former Arsenal manager has claimed that the Gunners had held talks with Barcelona over signing Messi, although he was “untouchable”.
Messi has enjoyed one of the most legendary careers in the history of the game, etching his name in Barcelona folklore as perhaps the club’s greatest ever player. Over the last 15 years, the Argentinean wizard has been an indispensable figure for the Catalan giants and has slowly made the rise to being the club captain, a responsibility he was bestowed with permanently last season.
During his storied career with Barcelona, Messi has gone on to become one of the most successful players of all time, winning 34 trophies with the club while also garnering a number of individual honours, including lifting the Ballon d’Or five time.
Add to it his staggering attacking tally of 603 goals and 242 assists in 687 appearances for Barcelona (statistics from transfermarkt), and his contribution seems to be simply mind boggling. But, Messi could well have been turning out for Arsenal, if Arsene Wenger had his way.
Speaking with beIN Sports, Wenger revealed how Arsenal were in discussions with Barcelona over signing Messi when they also brought in Cesc Fabregas, but were met with a stern no from the Blaugrana.
The former Arsenal manager said, “You have to live with regrets in life, you know. There’s only unachieved business in life and this is a big part of it. We were in discussions with Barcelona when we bought (Cesc) 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, Messi stayed in Spain. We were interested in him, but he was untouchable at the time.”
While eventually, Wenger was only able to secure the services of Fabregas, the Spaniard ended up being one of Arsenal’s best modern day players. The heart of the Arsenal side during his time in North London, Fabregas even became the club captain before returning to Barcelona.
Given how successfully Fabregas transformed himself in England, Arsenal fans could be filled with regrets over not signing Messi, who could have potentially made them genuine title contenders across all fronts season after season.
But, Messi remains one of many players that Wenger nearly signed over the years, with Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho also among those who almost joined Arsenal, as per Wenger. But, in Wenger’s own words, regrets are a part of life and one can only wonder “what could have been” later on.