Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger wanted to bring Lionel Messi, Cesc Fabregas and Gerard Pique to the club more than 10 years ago.
Respected Spanish journalist and broadcaster Guillem Balague writes in his new book ‘Messi’ that the Gunners had identified all three as having huge potential, although only Fabregas eventually ended up making the move to the North London club.
“It all began with a game in Lloret de Mar against Parma. On that day Pique didn’t play, but the rest of the gang, who had already won the game, did.
“Arsenal’s representative in Spain, Francis Cagigao, was astonished. He’d just witnessed something very different, quite extraordinary, namely Cesc’s control and Leo’s talent.
“He spent that day, and many more, fruitlessly searching for the Argentine’s agent. He then came back for the MIC tournament at Easter.
“While Barcelona were battling against a new rival, Cagigao was speaking on the telephone. ‘If only I could find someone who works with the Argentinian youngster.’
“As he put the phone down one of Leo’s representatives in Spain, Horacio Gaggioli, who had overheard the conversation, approached him. ‘I believe you’re looking for me.’
“That night Francis had dinner with the agent and expressed an interest in Messi, an interest that culminated in an offer being passed to the boy’s father, Jorge.
“From that moment the lines of communication between Arsenal and the Messi family were open, but Cesc and Pique were also targets,” claimed Balague.
Pique, who has since gone on to win a host of club and international honours, instead moved to Manchester United.
“Pique travelled to London to see their [Arsenal’s] training facilities, everything was agreed and confirmed, only for a legal matter to delay the process as he was not yet old enough to sign,” he continued.
“Arsenal suggested they should make a verbal agreement that would be confirmed in a year’s time, when he was 16, the same agreement they worked out with Cesc.
“Pique, however, or to be precise his agents, said no.”