Arsene Wenger has revealed he tried to sign Lionel Messi for Arsenal at the same time as securing the signature of Cesc Fabregas in 2003.
The Frenchman brought Fabregas from the La Masia academy – where he played alongside Messi – to north London as a 16-year-old.
How close was Wenger to signing Messi? Five things to know…
- Fabregas joined Arsenal from Barca as a 16-year-old in 2003.
- While signing Fabregas, Wenger also asked about the availability of Messi.
- But the Frenchman was knocked back from the “untouchable” Argentine.
- Messi has gone on to win 10 La Liga titles and four Champions Leagues with Barca.
- Fabregas won the 2005 FA Cup under Wenger with Arsenal.
And while he was making that signing, he also enquired about the availability of Messi but was knocked back by Barca, describing the Argentine as “untouchable”.
“We were in discussions with [Messi] when we bought Fabregas, because Messi played [with him],” said Wenger.
“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.”
Subscribe to Squawka’s Youtube channel here.
Fabregas went on to win the 2005 FA Cup with the Gunners, while also helping them reach the 2006 Champions League final, where they lost to his former club.
But the Spaniard would return to the Catalan giants in 2011, staying at the Nou Camp for a trophy-laden three-year spell in which he won a La Liga title and Copa del Rey crown.
He then returned to England, this time with Chelsea, winning two Premier League titles, a League Cup and an FA Cup in four-and-a-half years.
The 32-year-old now plies his trade with French side AS Monaco, joining in January 2019, for whom he has made 16 appearances so far.
Meanwhile, remaining with Barcelona has seen Messi win La Liga 10 times plus four Champions Leagues and six Copa del Rey trophies among other minor trophies and various personal accolades.
But the Argentinian could be allowed to leave Barcelona on a free transfer next summer – thanks to a clause in his contract similar to the ones previously afforded to Xavi, Carles Puyol and Andres Iniesta.