Ronaldo, Messi, Zlatan: Arsene Wenger's XI of players he 'almost signed' | OneFootball

Ronaldo, Messi, Zlatan: Arsene Wenger's XI of players he 'almost signed'

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Arsene Wenger will forever be a legend for how he revolutionised Arsenal in a mammoth spell as manager.

It took him just two years following his 1996 arrival to become the first manager to win a Premier League and FA Cup double, announcing himself to the world as the man to watch despite arriving in England with little fanfare.

Over the next two decades, Wenger turned Arsenal into a consistent threat and propelled them forward in the modern game, wrestling away total dominance from Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United and famously going unbeaten to win the Premier League in 2003/04.

Wenger unfortunately couldn’t get over the line in Europe and painfully got Arsenal as far as reaching the Champions League final in 2006, before losing to Barcelona.

However, his legacy cannot be understated and his work as a manager can never be ignored. After all, there’s a reason the Frenchman is referred to by so many as ‘Le Professeur’.

Upon arriving to England, Wenger became known for his tactical innovation and ability to coach players into top class talents, while also spotting talented players on the transfer market and in his youth systems.

You only have to look at the likes of Thierry Henry, Robert Pires and Patrick Vieira to remember the glory days, while the likes of Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere and Cesc Fabregas all spring to mind when you think of Wenger’s later work.

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But when he wasn’t stealing Premier Leagues and FA Cups from Ferguson or putting together WrestleMania worthy face-offs with Jose Mourinho, Wenger did pick up a habit for claiming to have ‘almost signed’ just about every top player in football that didn’t end up at Arsenal.

Yeah, you know the line. Wenger was the king of saving face when it came to missed transfers and loved to reveal how he was close to signing someone but didn’t for some reason or another, or spotted someone’s talent but couldn’t make the move happen. Sure you did, Arsene.

In fact, Wenger was so guilty of the ‘almost signed’ trick that you can make an XI out of the players that he said it about. So, we at GIVEMESPORT have done just that. It’s a joke of a team, so be sure to check it out below.

GK: Gianluigi Buffon

It was actually Buffon who revealed this truth and not Wenger, surprisingly. But it still counts all the same. Could’ve, would’ve, should’ve.

The legendary Italian stopper revealed in 2017 that both Wenger and Ferguson attempted to snap him up from Parma. He declined and would instead make a world record move to Juventus in 2001.

RB: Raphael Varane

Wenger admitted in 2013 that he wanted to sign Varane after he was impressed by the young Frenchman while he played for Lens.

Arsenal didn’t act on that supposed interest in 2011, though, leaving Real Madrid with a clear path to snap him up. He went on to win four Champions Leagues and develop into one of the world’s best defenders with Los Blancos – what could’ve been.

CB: Gerard Pique

One of several world class stars that emerged from Barcelona’s famed La Masia academy, Pique headed to England in 2004, but signed for United instead.

Wenger has since stated that when signing Fabregas from Barcelona, he also intended to sign Pique in the process as well as one other player, but only came away with the midfielder. At least that midfielder turned out to be half decent.

CB: Vincent Kompany

It was Kompany’s agent, Jacques Lichtenstein, who revealed that Wenger had kept tabs on a young Kompany following his breakthrough at Anderlecht.

He is even quoted as saying that he held a meeting with Wenger himself over a possible transfer. But with first team football a priority, a move failed to materialise and Kompany instead joined German outfit Hamburg in 2006.

LB: Gareth Bale

Occupying the left-back role in our fantasy XI is Bale, whose rise to prominence came in north London, but with Tottenham.

Wenger stated that he had been keeping tabs on the Welshman during his time at Southampton. Arsenal went ahead and signed Theo Walcott, but opted against signing Bale, deciding there wasn’t enough room for him. Absolute nightmare.

CM: Paul Pogba

During his first stint at United as a youngster, Pogba grew frustrated at his lack of an opportunity to stake his claim in the first team and left for Juventus for free in 2012.

He exploded into life and it was apparent that United had made a fatal error. Wenger stepped in later down the line and admitted that he had tried to bring Pogba to Arsenal upon hearing of his availability, but conceded that Juve had completed the deal too quickly for him to intervene.

CM: Claude Makelele

Signing Vieira in 1996 meant that Wenger had to miss out on Makelele, if the Frenchman is to be believed.

The ball-winning midfield general was influential for Chelsea during Jose Mourinho’s first stint, but perhaps could’ve been strutting his stuff in north London had he snapped him up from Nantes before stardom.

CM: Yaya Toure

Completing what would be an exquisite midfield three is Toure, who Wenger never managed despite enjoying the exceptional service of his brother Kolo while at Arsenal.

A year after Kolo had impressed Wenger on trial, Yaya was given a chance to do the same in 2003 against Barnet. However, Wenger wasn’t convinced and passed up the opportunity to sign the young Ivorian, describing him as ‘completely average’. How wrong he would turn out to be.

RW: Lionel Messi

The third player Wenger supposedly tried to pry away from La Masia? Messi. Of course.

It’s not a surprise to think that the Frenchman was able to spot the potential of the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner, considering how good an eye he had for it. But were Barcelona ever going to let him go? Really? No chance. Don’t lose sleep over it, Arsene.

ST: Zlatan Ibrahimovic

While Toure had a trial and failed to impress, a young Ibrahimovic refused to even entertain the idea of partaking in one in 2000.

After posing with the Arsenal shirt and meeting with Wenger ahead of a potential transfer, the plug was pulled as Ibrahimovic wasn’t interested in doing a trial first. Wenger didn’t like what he’d seen of the Swede, and pulled the plug on signing him. Dear oh dear.

LW: Cristiano Ronaldo

In an interview with Huawei, per Bleacher Report, Wenger admitted that failing to capture Ronaldo before United swooped in and completed the deal was his biggest ever regret.

He has since explained that Arsenal were simply too slow when completing the deal in 2003. United played Sporting in a friendly that summer and Ferguson would immediately snap up the Portuguese winger after that. The rest, as they say, is history.

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