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How Wenger nearly signed Messi and Ronaldo

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According to a former Arsenal scout, Arsene Wenger’s Gunners were very close to signing both Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. 

There are always rumors of Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo when they were younger players. The two greatest footballers who ever lived were also amongst the most wanted when they were only starting their careers as professionals.

The classic tale of Arsenal always edging closer to signing the best players in history will remain present forever. But this actually has some truth due to Francis Cagigao, the former chief scout during the Arsene Wenger era at the North London club.

Ronaldo previously spoke in public about the time when he met Arsene Wenger in person to sign for the Gunners before going to Man United. Now we get more confirmation of this encounter and also the chances they had to sign Messi when he was younger. 

Both Messi and Ronaldo were on Arsenal’s radar. 

“That was very close to happening,” recalled the former scout. “Obviously, he was a player we had looked at a lot at youth level.

”We’ve always had a very strong network but it’s one thing knowing about a player; it’s another thing being able to sign a player. They are two completely different things.

“But we had a great understanding of the market and what was out there. That’s what you need in your department. To be very proactive and efficient in terms of compiling information and knowing what’s out there.”

“We had identified Messi and we wouldn’t have been the only ones,” Cagigao revealed to Goal.

“I remember there were a couple of Italian clubs and obviously Spanish clubs who were very aware of Messi.

“But he couldn’t play national level because of the restriction on his status in the country at the time. He could only play regional games for Barcelona.

“So, yes, there were talks between myself and representatives, and we got a very good feeling that there was a possibility that the player would want to join us.

“But, once we’d delved into the situation and looked at it from a legal point of view, we very quickly saw that it actually couldn’t happen. It was impossible. So, that was discarded once we saw that.”