A flat and a work permit - Two of the reasons Arsenal failed to sign Messi

Messi Close Up

Guillem Balague has revealed more about the details behind Arsenal's failed pursuit of Lionel Messi over a decade ago.

Earlier this month it was revealed that Arsenal had tried to sign Lionel Messi from Barcelona when the player was just 16-years-old.

Now, from extracts in his book Messi, Guillem Balague has gone into detail into just how close they were to signing the Argentine who was described by Arsenal's Spanish representative as a 'little flea'.

Balague claims:

"Arsenal’s representative in Spain, Francis Cagigao was astonished. He had just witnessed something very different, and quite extraordinary...

"He came back to see Alex Garcia’s (Barcelona youth) side in 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...

But despite that no deal ever came off, Balague explaining why.

"The Messis listened to what Arsenal had to say but they were not about to have their heads turned. Obstacles were apparent in any potential agreement.

"The English club could not offer a flat for the family, and there would be difficulty obtaining a work permit. Bit by bit points of mutual interest evaporated until the offer lay dead in the water. But they left Jorge with a message: ‘Any time you encounter problems, remember, our club wants him.'"

The rest, as they say, is history.

Messi has gone on to be crowned World Footballer of the Year no fewer than three times, win an Olympic Gold medal as well as numerous trophies in Spain - not to mention scoring a sensational 361 goals for Barcelona in 434 appearances.

Today marks the tenth anniversary of Messi's professional debut. But while Barcelona fans celebrate that milestone, Arsenal fans can only be left wondering 'what if?'

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