Former Arsenal head scout Francis Cagigao has revealed how close the Gunners came to signing Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi.
Arsene Wenger, who has almost signed every footballer ever, was interested in Messi around the time of their most recent Premier League title win in 2003/04.
Arsenal looked into the prospect of bringing the Argentinean in alongside fellow La Masia alumnus Cesc Fabregas in September 2003.
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Wenger has previously described Messi as “untouchable at the time” during their pursuit of him and Cagigao points to “issues with a work permit” as to why a deal couldn’t be completed.
“I think Arsene stated while manager that we were close to signing Messi [in 2003]. I wouldn’t go as far as saying we were close,”Cagigao told BBC Sport.
“We were there or thereabouts and discussions took place with his representatives. He had issues with a work permit, so that was discarded.”
In all his 24 years at Arsenal, Cagigao has picked out Santi Cazorla as “one of the most talented footballers” he has ever seen.
Cagigao added: “I think he is one of the most talented footballers I’ve ever seen.
“You would watch Cazorla in training taking set-pieces with his left foot and right foot and not know which was his stronger. He is really an exceptional figurehead and someone who young players can really look to. There were doubts about Santi.
“People would say he’s so small, he’s not the quickest, he’s not strong, but he has an exceptional football brain, exceptional technique and he’s a winner.”