Arsenal Wenger has opened up on his attempts to bring Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi to Arsenal during their formative years.
Wenger recalling targets that he has missed out on became something of a running joke over the years, particularly if the player in question went on to do great things in the game.
There are none greater than Messi and Ronaldo, two living legends of this (or, indeed, any other) era – and Wenger as been recalling how he tried to bring both to North London in one of his final interviews with the club website.
Indeed, while agents got in the way of his hope to sign Messi, he feels that Ronaldo very nearly became an Arsenal player.
“The obvious player that comes to mind is Ronaldo. He was here with his mother and we were very close. Then Man United came in and they had Carlos Queiroz at the time, who was their coach. United played against Sporting Lisbon and Ronaldo was outstanding and they signed him.
“There is always something you could have done differently but the problem of negotiations is to know when you give in and when you don’t give in. Once we were at £4.5m, we were still in negotiations. David [Dein] met with [the agent Jorge] Mendes in Paris and he was representing Sporting, so we were very close. But Man United went to £12m, which we could not afford.
“I met Cesc [Fàbregas’s] parents and at the time we were interested in Messi and [Gerard] Piqué as well. We tried for the three but of course it didn’t work out … because of the agents. With Messi, Barcelona didn’t want to lose him of course and they made [the offer] that was needed to keep the player at the club.”
Ronaldo went on to make almost 300 appearances in his six years at Old Trafford, winning thre Premier League titles and one Champions League, before joining Real Madrid in a then-world record £86m deal in 2009, where he has gone on to win two more league titles and three more Champions League finals (with another final on the way later this month).
Messi, meanwhile, has remained at Barca for the entirety of his career, winning nine La Liga titles and four Champions Leagues so far in his spell with the Catalan giants.