Arsene Wenger and the ones that got away

Arsene Wenger yesterday announced that he tried to sign Angel Di Maria as a 17-year-old but was unable to complete the deal due to the difficulties in obtaining a work permit for the Argentine.

This news makes Di Maria the latest in a growing number of players that Wenger seems to have missed out on.

The likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Zlatan Ibrahimovic were all targets for the Frenchman that he just could not get over the line.


Yesterday’s news has prompted mockery from some quarters as the hash tag ‘#WengerTries’ began to trend.

We take a look at the side that could be running out at the Emirates had Wenger completed these deals.

Petr Cech

Wenger is said to have kept tabs on the Czech between 2002 and 2004 and tried to prize him from Rennes where it is claimed work permit issues were again the stumbling block.

Cech went on to sign for Chelsea in 2004, where he has won three Premier League titles, four FA Cup’s, two League Cup’s, one Champions League and one Europa League, as well as a number of individual honours.

Gerard Pique

At the heart of Barcelona’s defence, Gerard Pique is widely regarded as an integral part of the Catalonian’s starting XI. Pique was one of three Barcelona youngsters that Wenger swooped for, the other two being Lionel Messi and Cesc Fabregas.

Successful in his pursuit of the latter, Wenger had less success with the former pair. Pique instead moved to Manchester United in 2004 before returning to the Camp Nou where he remains to this day.

Raphael Varane

The young French defender joined Real Madrid in 2011, however, Wenger says that he had made an offer for Varane 18 months prior to the completion of that deal.

Described by Jose Mourinho as “the best young defender in the world”, Varane’s stock is rising as he impresses for both club and country.

Vincent Kompany

Back in 2006 the big Belgian was little more than a hotly-tipped youngster. However, when he declared his intentions to leave boyhood club Anderlecht there was a whole host of interest.

Wenger faced competition from Real Madrid and Barcelona for the Belgian’s signature, but in a shock move he joined Hamburg in Germany before making a £6 million move to Manchester City where he has become the linchpin of City’s defence and the club’s captain.

Yaya Toure

Today he is known as the titan of Manchester City’s midfield, but back in 2003, the 18-year-old was better known as the brother of Kolo Toure, Arsenal’s accomplished centre-half. Yaya was on trial at Arsenal in 2003 and even featured in a pre-season game for the Gunners.

However, after a delay in gaining a work permit, the Ivorian chose instead to join Ukrainian side Metalurh Donetsk. Toure went on to play for Olympiacos, Monaco and Barcelona before moving to the blue side of Manchester in 2010 where he has firmly established himself as one of the finest midfielders in world football today.

Angel Di Maria

In an emerging theme, a work permit was once more the problem for Wenger when he attempted to sign Di Maria as a 17-year-old. Wenger had watched the Argentine play for his country at youth level and was keen to bring him to North London but a deal could not be struck.

Signed by Louis van Gaal last summer, Di Maria currently stands as the most expensive import in the history of British football.

Paul Pogba

Another man Wenger tried to bring to the Emirates is compatriot Paul Pogba. Pogba left Manchester United in 2012 but despite Wenger’s best efforts, he claims Juventus acted too fast and the deal had been done before he had any real chance of signing the youngster.

Gareth Bale

Wenger had the opportunity to bring Bale to Arsenal when he signed fellow wonderkid Theo Walcott. Wenger claims he decided against the decision in the end as Gael Clichy was considered the superior prospect and talent in Wenger’s mind.

In the end, Tottenham moved Bale out to the wing where he flourished, earning a move to Real Madrid where he is regarded as one of the world’s best players.

Cristiano Ronaldo

Wenger described the club as being “so close” to signing Ronaldo back in 2003, when he eventually joined Manchester United. The Mirror reported that the Gunners even printed shirts emblazoned with Ronaldo’s name and proposed number on the back.

Wenger has since spoken of his regret in missing out on Ronaldo who recently won his third Ballon D’or, strengthening his claim as the greatest footballer on the planet right now.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic

The enigmatic genius that is Zlatan Ibrahimovic went as far as the offices at Highbury before eventually turning down the Gunners. So insulted was the Swede by Arsene Wenger’s insistence that he take a trial, Zlatan left the negotiations.

Today Ibrahimovic can be found plying his trade in Ligue 1 for PSG where even at the ripe old age of 33 he regarded as one of the top marksman currently playing the game.

Lionel Messi

Arsene Wenger famously missed out on signing Messi as 15-year-old. Widely regarded as one of the finest talents to ever grace the beautiful game, Messi has broken all kinds of records in the game, despite still only 27 years of age.

A little light at the back, perhaps, but you cannot argue with the attacking prowess Wenger would have had at his disposal. An attacking quartet of Ronaldo, Bale, Messi and Ibrahimovic means that not even the in-form Alexis Sanchez could get himself into this star-studded starting XI.

The defensive trio of Varane, Kompany and Pique would appear to be the only possible weakness of the side as one suspects that Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale would not provide all too much protection should they be utilised in a wing-back role.

Joking aside, Arsene Wenger undoubtedly missed out on some great talents but in telling the press he was close to signing eleven of the best players in the world, it is little surprise social media has picked the Frenchmen as the butt of some jokes this week.

The Author

Alfie Potts Harmer

I'm a young sports journalist with a particular passion for football. I've been a season ticket holder at my local club, Hull City, for 11 years now. I have been a rather fanatical football fan since a young age and follow the game religiously, in both a domestic and international capacity.

One thought on “Arsene Wenger and the ones that got away

  1. I feel sorry for wenger. He is only
    Making himself look an idiot now for not buyimg any of them
    He should keep his mouth shut and
    be thanlful to the good players he has bought.

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