Gunners wanted Barcelona star.
Arsenal tried to sign Argentine superstar Lionel Messi from Barcelona’s academy, according to respected Spanish journalist Guillem Balague.
The Gunners famously lured Cesc Fabregas from Catalonia to North London in 2003 but also reportedly tried to sign both Messi and centre-half Gerard Pique.
In a new book entitled ‘Messi’, Balague reveals that Arsenal representative Francis Cagigao met with one of the Messi’s agents, leading to an offer being passed to Messi’s father, Jorge.
It was the first proposal Messi had received from a foreign club since arriving in Spain from his native Rosaria in 2000.
“They didn’t feel it [a move to Arsenal] was right because it would have meant a lot of bureaucracy again and starting over,” Ballague told The Sport Review.
“Barcelona, more or less, started to protect him. But Arsenal tried.”
Balague also revealed that Barcelona’s fierce rivals Real Madrid were interested in Messi but says the four-time Ballon d’Or winner ‘loves’ Barcelona.
“Real Madrid felt at some point that they could have taken him, Inter Milan felt they had a chance… there were moments when it could have happened differently. Story be told, he loves Barcelona and all that, but there was a time when Barcelona didn’t understand…
“He didn’t need that [a move to Arsenal]; a new language and a new culture,” he said.
“He needs a little Rosario where he can stay happily, with Argentinian supermarkets, restaurants… He [basically] lives in Rosario; the area is very similar. If he went to London, it could have killed him.”