Arsene Wenger has done it again.
The only thing the former Arsenal manager enjoys talking about more than his time as Gunners boss is all the players he ‘narrowly’ missed out on signing.
The Frenchman has now revealed he tried to bring Jadon Sancho to Arsenal while the England sensation was still on the books at Manchester City.
Sancho joins a long list of exceptional players who are part of the ‘Almost Arsenal XI’.
But who else makes the list? talkSPORT.com has searched through all of Wenger’s past quotes and identified eight world class stars that got away…
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Patrick Vieira left Arsenal nearly 14 years ago and Gunners fans are still waiting for the club to find a suitable replacement for the powerhouse midfielder.
What’s more agonising is that Highbury chiefs were on the cusp of clinching a deal for Toure back in 2003- and he even played for the Gunners in a pre-season friendly against Barnet.
“It would be up at the top [of my list of regrets],” Wenger recalled of Toure’s passport issues that prevented him from making the switch. “He had an agreement with us – and it’s not because we didn’t want to sign him that he went to Ukraine.”
Arsenal’s Brazilian football scout Daniel Musatti had been following Corinthians and recommended the now-Chelsea star to Wenger 12 years ago.
“I did the report of Denilson of Sao Paulo that year, and shortly after he was sold to England,” said Musatti. “The athletes were recommended by Wenger’s chief scout to the scouts of Brazil; they were all pre-determined.
“I made the suggestion that we watch Willian and make a full report of him for the analysis of Arsenal’s chief scout, but at the time I was told there was no interest because they were looking at another player. A year after I suggested Willian to Arsenal, he was sold for a lot of money to Ukraine and developed there, turning into that great player we all see today. He could have gone to Arsenal but they preferred to watch Neto Baiano…”
Funnily enough, Neto is now 36 years old and playing in Brazil’s Serie B after a long career spent with almost 20 clubs.
While Wenger was on the hunt for a replacement for David Seaman, he shared a dinner with Buffon while the was still at Parma.
However, Juventus quickly jumped to the front of the queue and splashed out an eye-watering £32.6m to bring the Italian to Turin in 2001.
Eighteen years on the veteran shot-stopper is remarkably still plying his trade with the Old Lady, having returned to the club from PSG earlier this summer,
Buffon would have been Arsenal’s main No.1 for years
Wn February 2017, Wenger claimed he’d made two attempts to sign Kante before Chelsea laid their claws on him in summer 2016.
“I tried to sign Kante when he was in France and when he was at Leicester,” said the Frenchman. “We can’t explain everything – transfers are transfers – but it is quite obvious when you look at where he has gone.
“I believe Kante has had a huge impact. It’s no coincidence Chelsea are where they are and Leicester did what they did.”
Wenger has repeatedly said his biggest regret is not signing Ronaldo when he had the chance – which isn’t surprising given the greatness the five-time Ballon D’or winner has gone onto achieve.
“I showed him around and I gave him a shirt. It had his name on the back,” Wenger said in 2008. “But in the end it was a question of the transfer fee between the two clubs.”
Unfortunately for Wenger, Sir Alex Ferguson and Manchester United just wanted him more.
“I spoke with Ronaldo and Jorge Mendes and he said we had to hurry because Arsenal and Real Madrid wanted to sign him,” Ferguson later said. “I told Ronaldo to join us. He explained he’d have to talk with his mother about it.”
Drogba was an absolute beast against Arsenal – scoring 13 goals in 15 meetings against the Gunners – but he could have indeed played under Wenger.
“I missed him when he played in France at Le Mans – not even in the top league,” the Arsenal chief later claimed. “I knew he was good player there and I missed him. And secondly because he hurt us so much in big games that all this pain would not have happened.”
Incredibly, Wenger also insists he nearly signed Messi too.
When Cesc Fabregas joined from Barcelona in 2003, it is believed Messi and Gerard Pique were also part of the bundle package to north London before it fell through.
“We were in discussions with Barcelona when we bought Fabregas, because Messi played [with him],” Wenger told beIN SPORTS. “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.”
Arsenal were desperate to land the striker in his younger years.
Malmo’s director of football Hasse Borg advised Ibrahimovic not to attend the trial, insisting the Gunners either pay for the striker or do not.