Not a summer transfer window goes by that Arsenal are linked with some of the biggest names in world football.
More often than not autumn (fall) arrives without Arsene Wenger digging too far into his pockets, snubbing the world record striker on the market in favour of a more savvy purchase from the mid-table mediocrity occupying France’s Ligue 1 – offence intended, Giroud.
Over the years, Arsene Wenger has done nothing but add fuel to the fire, admitting time and time again that he had the opportunity to sign one of that seasons biggest stars.
Recently the French coach admitted he had the opportunity to sign Manchester City playmaker Kevin De Bruyne, last year of course, Wenger was widely criticised for his decision to reject Cesc Fabregas’ plee to return to the gunners – he went on to secure the Premier League with Chelsea.
Of course these two examples are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Arsenal’s transfer near-misses…
Arsenal’s ‘Nearly Signed’ Fantasy XI
Goalkeeper – Gianluigi Buffon
At 18, Buffon was already Parma’s number 1 goalkeeping choice and widely considered one of the best shot-stoppers around. Commanding Cannavaro and Thuram in front of him, Buffon attracted a number of interested parties.
In 2016, Buffon revealed that he sat down to dinner with Arsene Wenger before eventually deciding to join Italian giants Juventus.
Defence – Vincent Kompany
After Sol Campbell revealed he no longer wanting to continue with Arsenal, Arsene Wenger went after Kompany as a long term replacement. The two-time Premier League winner’s boyhood club Anderlecht valued their young centre back at £5million – a price which, after consideration, was deemed too high by Arsene Wenger who instead played Johan Djourou 30 times the following season.
Defence – Raphael Varane
No excuse for this one Arsene, as current Real Madrid star centre back Varane was excelling for French outfit Lens in 2010 during the time of Arsenal’s interest. Arsene was close to the defender’s agent and made a bid to sign the youngster but was ultimately outgunned by Jose Mourinho’s Los Blancos.
Defence – Gareth Bale
Gareth Bale, defence? Correct – no error here. Now known as the world’s most expensive player, Bale was originally a left-back for Southampton, playing in the academy alongside Theo Walcott. Where Wenger was quick to steal Walcott away from the saints, he decided to let Bale remain at the academy, instead moving to bring Gael Clichy to Highbury.
Midfield – Eden Hazard
Another sensation from Ligue 1, Hazard guided Lille to the double whilst still a teenager. Hazard teased nearly all of the Premier League’s big spenders with his signature before eventually signing for Chelsea. It later emerged that Wenger had wined and dined with the Belgian’s agent in an attempt to bring him to Arsenal.
Midfield – Xabi Alonso
Of all the potential Arsenal signings in this fantasy XI, Xabi Alonso came the closest to joining the gunners. With Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez looking to bring Gareth Barry to Merseyside, Alonso’s career at Anfield seemed to be over. Alonso headed to London hoping to secure a £15million transfer to join Cesc Fabregas in the Arsenal midfield, yet in classic Arsene style, when the Barry move collapsed… Arsenal signed Mikel Arteta.
Midfield – Angel Di Maria
Arsenal fans weren’t surprised when Arsene Wenger didn’t scrap with Manchester United to match the £59.7m spent on the Argentinian midfielder… but The Gunners missed the opportunity to sign the Portuguese trickster when he was just 17. Arsenal just needed to stump up the price of a budget airline flight and Di Maria could’ve been in the development system – they just needed to sign the work permit papers.
Midfield – Cristiano Ronaldo
The story of Arsenal woe on this occasion goes a little like this. Ronaldo was shown around London Colney and given the famous red and white jersey with his name and the number 9 on the back. A £4million deal with Sporting Lisbon was verbally agreed, but then Sporting hosted Manchester United in a friendly… Ronaldo tore the United defence apart, Sir Alex Ferguson was impressed, Ronaldo was gestured with the number 7 of United and chose that over the Arsenal 9.
Forward – Lionel Messi
Once upon a time, Arsenal’s esteemed scouts not only identified the 15 year-old Argentine alongside Barca rising stars Fabregas and Pique – they even offered him a contract. Messi requested that Arsenal pay to accommodate his family, needless to say, Arsenal rejected Messi’s proposition and turned down the opportunity to sign the worlds greatest player.
Forward – Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Zlatan was on the cusp of a £3million move to London from Malmo, back when he was 19 and everything was going to plan until Wenger asked the Swede to play in a trial match. Rumour has it that even at age 19, confidence was not an issue for Ibrahimovic, who replied with: “Zlatan doesn’t do auditions.” Needless to say, Wenger didn’t pursue the move any further.
Forward – Luis Suarez
The final addition and potentially the most agonising ‘nearly transfer’ in the entire line-up – certainly Wenger’s most notorious transfer error. At the conclusion of the 2013 season, Suarez looked nailed on to leave Anfield. Arsenal looked to trigger the Uruguayan’s release clause with an offer of £40,000,001, to which Liverpool reacted angrily and refused to discuss terms with the Gunners. If only Wenger hadn’t been so stingy, Suarez’s phenomenal form could have transitioned into an Arsenal shirt…