Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Ones That Got Away!

By Jeffrey Muriungi.

So I'm sure you're all getting sick of hearing about Gareth Bale and how he's supposedly better than Theo Walcott. It sucks even more now that Arsene revealed he had the chance to sign the boyhood Arsenal fan.

As much as I love the work Arsenal's scouts have done and are still doing, I'm bitterly disappointed in some of the targets Arsenal spotted first but ended up at other clubs and I'm sure you will too after reading this. The following are the top 4 transfers that never were.

The first and obviously most painful one;


Arsenal's story with Cristiano Ronaldo is just sad considering actually how close we were to having him in our books. Granted we had Pires, Reyes, Ljunberg, Wiltord all fighting for a spot on the wings at the time, surely I still think there was room for one more? Cristiano Ronaldo had already visited the Arsenal training ground, met the players and was even presented with an Arsenal shirt by Arsene, who had met Ronaldo's mother and agreed to sign him. All seemed to be going well. Then it all came crashing down due to Arsene' s penny pinching. Sporting decided to hold off the deal and listen to other offers. In between then and Arsene's next meeting, Sporting played a friendly against Manchester United and Ronaldo ran rings around the United defence, who in turn begged Sir Alex to sign him, 3 weeks and £12m later, he was dawning United red.

"I met Arsene on three occasions and one of those times was with my mum, who wanted to hear what he was proposing," said the 23-year-old Portugal winger.

"The contact we had with him and Arsenal meant it was very close to being a done deal. Really, we were within touching distance."

Ronaldo reveals that the Arsenal manager left a big impression on both him and his mother.

"Wenger remains someone that I still have immense esteem for and it’s clear that he’s a really intelligent football guy," he said

"My mum feels the same way and a while after I signed for United she and I were sitting watching a Premier League game on television and she yelled out 'I know that guy, I liked him!"

Ronaldo’s agent Jorge Mendes said there was huge interest in his client when he considered leaving his homeland.

"When he was moving from Sporting Lisbon the whole world wanted him, Real Madrid, Juventus, Barcelona . . . but only United and Arsenal were willing to take him right away, the other clubs thought he should stay for another season at Sporting," said Mendes.

(2) UEFA EURO team of the year awards, PFA young player of the year, (2) PFA Player's player of the year, (2) FWA Footballer of the year, (2) Barclays Player of the year, (4) EPL player of the month, UEFA Club footballer of the year, Ballon d'Or, Fifa World Player of the year,  FIFPro world player of the year, (4) PFA Lremier League team of the year awards and many, many more individual awards later. Wenger cringes every time Ronaldo puts the ball in the back of the net. Which happens a lot. In my opinion Arsenal missed out on possibly the best winger and all round footballer in the history of  football.

The second and almost equally as painful ;


Zlatan Ibrahimovic, his name is enough to make a monkey drop a banana from the top of a tree (tried and tested) granted I think it wanted to hit me. Anyway, I think most of you will agree he is one of the best players of his generation. Starting off his glittering career at Malmo FC in 1996, he spent a few seasons there before they were relegated and his agent persuaded him to leave Malmo. He went all around Europe looking for a club before he eventually made a stop at Highbury. Arsene really liked Ibrahimovic from past scouting missions but decided to give him one last trial before offering him a contract by setting up a training ground friendly, to which Zlatan said, "Zlatan doesn't do trials." This, knowing Arsene probably angered him and the rest as we know, is history.

He says he just sensed Wenger did not want him enough, despite the shirt.

Ibrahimovic added: “Arsene gave me the famous red and white jersey — the No 9 shirt with Ibrahimovic on it and I was so pleased I even posed for a picture wearing it.

“It was a fantastic moment for me. Arsenal had a great team then and here was an Arsenal shirt made just for me.

“So then I waited for him to convince me that I should join Arsenal. But he didn’t even try.

“He never actually made me a serious offer, it was more ‘I want to see how good you are, what kind of player you are. Have a trial’.

“I couldn’t believe it. I was like ‘No way, Zlatan doesn’t do auditions’.

“I thought ‘You either know me or you don’t and if you don’t know me you can’t really want me’.

“You see, even back then I had great faith in myself, even though I was still young.

“I’m sure that some other young players might have agreed to try out because this was the famous Arsenal team and this was Arsene Wenger.

“But I knew it wasn’t just Arsenal who wanted me — Roma wanted me and Ajax wanted me.

“So I said ‘No’ and, in the end, I signed for Ajax instead. It was the perfect choice.

“Maybe at Arsenal, maybe at Roma I would not have got straight into the team.

“At Ajax I did and so I was suddenly playing for a top club, winning titles and playing in the Champions League, too.”

(3) Serie A  footballer of the year, UEFA EURO team of the tournament, (2) Serie A topscorer, (2) UEFA team of the year, scorer of possibly the greatest goal I have EVER seen (vs ENG) and many Swedish sports awards later, I'm sure Arsene has had plenty of nightmares about the great Zlatan.

In third place;


Currently one of the best strikers in the game, undoubtedly! Falcao's story of how he almost joined Arsenal is little known but very real. Before leaving River Plate back in Argentina, Falcao's agent offered him to Liverpool, Arsenal, Aston Villa and Chelsea for a modest £7m. All 3 clubs declined and he eventually ended up at Porto where he blossomed into one of the most feared strikers in all of world football. £7m at the time seemed like a lot for a striker who was untested in Europe and it seemed like a big gamble which in the end played off big time for Porto who sold him for £40m . Tidy profit for after 3 years, don't you think? But if you think Arsene made a harsh of it, wait for it... turns out Martin O'Neil, then Aston Villa manager decided to sign Heskey instead of Falcao. How has he not committed suicide yet?

Falcao himself is yet to comment on this but I'm sure he got the last laugh.

EUROPA LEAGUE top scorer 2 seasons in a row breaking (Klinsmann's) record in the process speaks for itself.

Just another world class player that got away from Arsene's grasp.

Another quality player in 4th place to get away from Arsenal is none other than;


Was then only known as Kolo's younger brother, a situation that changed drastically over the past few years. A simple 18 year old  boy, recommended by his brother graced the Arsenal training ground for a trial friendly game. His performance on that day probably wasn't anywhere near the level that he produces game in game out for Manchester City, but I'm sure there was something that Arsene should have spotted. Currently the best defensive midfielder in the world in my opinion consistent and surprisingly technical, I really think Arsenal missed a trick with him.

3 years later Barcelona came calling and (1) African Player of the year award, 1 Champions League, 3 La Liga, 1 EPL, 1 F.A. Cup later. It's just another legend that never was, for Arsenal. Granted Gilberto Silva and Patrick Vieira were at the peak of their powers with Petit waiting in the wings, I'm sure Arsene curses his (un)lucky stars every night.

Arsene came out back in 2011 and said;

"I know him very well, since he was 15 years old, so I know him for a long time. He is a top-class talent," said Wenger.

"He was here as a young boy but we cannot get players in here if they are not internationals. He had no work permit and was too young. We tried to wait until when he was in Belgium, we tried to get him a European passport.

"He was not patient enough and left for Metalurh Donetsk, that is the club where he went.

"He has made a big impact - he is a top class player. He came out of a frustrating season at Barcelona because he didn’t play last season at all but the year before he played and was very influential.

"Last year he lost his position for Busquets and in midfield, he is the kind of player who needs to play, Yaya - we know him very well."

All of these players could have massively improved Arsenal's current squad and definitely would have improved our title ambitions over the years assuming we would have held on to them.

But as much as it even pains me just to write this piece I'd also like to appreciate some of the FANTASTIC work that the Arsenal scouting system has done over the years. Discovering talents in almost hopeless players and turning them into world class, world beaters!

Just to name a few starting from my favourite:

1. Thierry Henry
2. Cesc Fabregas
3. Robin van Persie
4. Patrick Vieira
5. Theo Walcott
6. Robert Pires
7. Samir Nasri
8. Freddie Ljunberg
9. Kolo Toure
10. Bacary Sagna.

Only includes players that were relatively unknown before we signed them.

All these players were discovered from relative obscurity and all turned (some turning) into World class players.

Hope you enjoyed this piece.

Leave a comment with your thoughts.


  1. Martin O'Neil chose Heskey over Falcao!! hahahahahaha how is he alive?

  2. We should have signed Zlatan.