Five PL players Arsene Wenger could have signed for Arsenal
Players come and go but sometimes, it’s the players who could have come to a club which sometimes make managers regret the past . In the case of Arsene Wenger, while he has created many of today’s modern stars, there are some world class players who have been missed out on as well. Let’s take a look at five of the very best players Arsene Wenger could have signed before they joined Arsenal‘s rivals in the Premier League.
While performance-wise, he might not be the same goalkeeper that Chelsea initially bought in 2004, Petr Cech is still a world class goalkeeper and could have joined Arsenal in 2002. Playing for Sparta Prague at the time, Cech attracted interest from Arsenal after going over a 1000 minutes without conceding a goal in any competition.
He was bound to be an Arsenal player until work permit issues ensued. Cech eventually joined French club, Rennes and then ultimately moved to Chelsea in 2004 where he had a brilliant debut season with Chelsea conceding only 15 league goals.
“We wanted to take him before he went to Rennes but we could not get a work permit. At the time he had not played the necessary amount of games for his national team.
Yes, we missed out – but these things happen. He is not the only player we have missed out on. And when he moved to France we still had David Seaman and we had Jens Lehmann. But Cech is doing well and he is developing well. He has what you need to play in England. He has the size and that is vital.” – Arsene Wenger.
One of the best midfielders in the Premier League today, Yaya Toure could have joined Arsenal and played alongside his brother, Kolo Toure back in 2003.
Playing with Belgian club, Beveren at the time, Yaya had a trial with Arsenal, however he couldn’t impress much. A deal had eitherway been agreed but the Ivory Coast international soon became impatient and ended up signing for Ukrainian side, Metalurh Donetsk. Since then, the versatile and strong Yaya has gone on to represent Monaco, Barcelona and now, Manchester City where he as progressed as one of the best box-to-box midfielders in the world.
“I have known him since he was 15. We had an agreement with Yaya to come here, but the problem was that he was at Beveren and we had to wait long enough for a European passport. Therefore he was impatient and went, at the time, to Metalurh Donetsk.
Now he is a top-class player. We knew that at the time he would be a top-class player, but the only problem with Yaya was to fix him into a position because he can play everywhere.”
He can play centre-back, as a second striker, as a midfielder and for a long time we didn’t know where to play him.” – Arsene Wenger
A challenger to Lionel Messi‘s crown – The Ballon d’Or, the most expensive player in the world, Cristiano Ronaldo’s career has hit heights even he couldn’t have imagined. Averaging a goal per game for Real Madrid, and not even playing as a natural striker is no mean feat and managers today, would kill to have the services of Cristiano Ronaldo.
Having made his name at Manchester United, Arsenal could have been his destination before coming to Old Trafford.
Having been under the radar of Arsene Wenger along with other names such as Jose Antonio Reyes of Sevilla, Wenger was looking for an exciting talent as backup for Ljungberg and Pires on the flanks.
Ronaldo met Arsene Wenger at Arsenal’s Hertfordshire training ground in 2003, having a tour of the facilities, and just before he left, was even presented with an Arsenal jersey bearing his name at the back.
Eventually, Wenger turned down the chance to sign Ronaldo as Arsenal couldn’t agree terms with Sporting Lisbon and Ronaldo eventually met, Sir Alex Ferguson, before joining Manchester United for £12.24 million.
Wenger went on to buy Reyes for £17 million who at that point of time was deemed superior to Ronaldo – presently Ronaldo has evolved into a megastar while Reyes, who never really settled with Arsenal, left after just two seasons and is now playing for his youth club, Sevilla.
“I saw that he [Ronaldo] was an exceptional talent but we could not predict that he would become the player that he is. What we did not see in him at that time was his capability to score goals. He was something special but he did not score goals, he did not even go in the box.
But in the end it was a question of the amount of transfer fee between the two clubs.” – Arsene Wenger.
Didier Drogba, a member of Chelsea’s old guard and definitely their best striker since Zola departed – could have been an Arsenal player before joining Chelsea in 2004.
Arsene Wenger was keeping tabs on the Ivory Coast hitman in 2002 and was also close to securing a deal for him when he was playing for Le Mans in the 2nd division of France, however it was not to be.
“We were interested in him when he played in the French Second Division with Le Mans, before he went to Guingamp.
We went to watch him when he played in Le Mans a couple of times. But it did not happen at the time.” – Arsene Wenger
“Arsenal as a team had a lot of French players and players from the French League.
Sylvain Wiltord, Patrick Vieira, Thierry Henry, Robert Pires… the French used to joke Arsenal were the 21st team in Ligue 1. And then I heard Arsene Wenger was interested in me.
But for some reason it didn’t happen and I didn’t sign for Arsenal, I don’t think it was my destiny.
I honestly believe if things don’t happen, it is for a reason.
I don’t know if Arsene Wenger regrets it – you will have to ask him. But remember he did have Thierry Henry!” – Didier Drogba
It may not have been a regret at the time but Wenger could have done fine with a player who has gone on to score over a 100 goals for Chelsea up till now.
Ruud van Nistelrooy
Picture this – two of the best strikers in Premier League history partnering each other, banging in the goals and terrorizing defenses everywhere and wreaking havoc. Arsenal fans could have very well witnessed this in the summer of 2001. With a young Thierry Henry hitting his stride and banging in the goals, Arsene Wenger was in the market for another striker.
He shortlisted his hunt to two strikers – Francis Jeffers of Everton and Ruud van Nistelrooy of PSV Eindhoven.
“I did consider Van Nistelrooy, as I believe he could play very well with Thierry Henry.
Thierry is an all-round player, while Van Nistelrooy is more of a box striker.
But Van Nistelrooy was only one of the options. We were also considering Jeffers and, in the end, I went for him to keep an English basis at the club.
You cannot keep bringing in foreign players. You need to have youngsters coming through as well.” – Arsene Wenger
Wenger eventually doled out £8 million for Jeffers who managed to score only 4 league goals in his 3 year spell with Arsenal while van Nistelrooy joined Manchester United for £19 million and scored 95 league goals in his 6 year spell with them.
Jeffers was eventually sold in 2004 to Charlton Athletic for only £2.6 million – one of Arsene Wenger’s biggest flop signings ever.
Had he opted for van Nistelrooy, along with Henry, both their league goal tallies would have equaled 271 goals in a combined 408 Premier League games.