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Why Lionel Messi never joined Arsenal despite being ‘very close’

Last updated 4 days ago | By Mirror

Arsenal's players vie with Barcelona's Argentinian forward Lionel Messi (C) during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 second leg football match FC Barcelona vs Arsenal FC at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on March 16, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / JOSEP LAGO

Ex-Arsenal scout Francis Cagigao has explained why Lionel Messi did not join the Gunners despite coming “very, very close”.

The Argentine has enjoyed an incredible career with Barcelona, scoring 635 goals in more than 700 appearances.

It has seen the forward win 10 La Liga titles as well as four Champions League honours, earning six Ballon D’Ors.

But reports emerged last month that the 33-year-old was “tempted” by a move to north London in 2003 when friend Cesc Fabregas moved there.

And Cagigao, who was sacked from his role as head of recruitment this summer after 24 years, has revealed why a move failed to materialise.

Speaking to The Guardian, the former scout said: “Messi, [Gerard] Pique, [Juan] Mata were very very close, and there were others.

“With Messi, work permit issues ensured we couldn’t get as close as we would have liked.

Barcelona's Argentinian forward Lionel Messi celebrates scoring his team's first goal during the UEFA Champions League round of 16 1st leg football match between Arsenal and Barcelona at the Emirates Stadium in London on February 23, 2016. [AFP / JAVIER SORIANO]

“And that’s all I can say on that. A lot get away - two, three, four a year - but I prefer to look at the ones we did get.”

Pique did make a move to the Premier League, heading to rivals Manchester United in 2004 before returning to the Nou Camp four years later.

While Mata spent three seasons at Chelsea before also heading to Old Trafford, where he has scored 50 goals in more than 250 appearances.

Messi was at the centre of a dramatic summer transfer window when he expressed a desire to leave Barcelona, days after their humiliating 8-2 Champions League loss to Bayern Munich.

It saw the Argentine get linked with several clubs as a reunion with Pep Guardiola at Manchester City was most hotly touted.

But the Barca captain performed a U-turn as he decided to stay, despite talks between Messi’s dad and chiefs ending in stalemate.

City, though, have not given up hope on signing the Argentine as their chief operating officer hinted at a bid next summer.

 

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