Highly-rated Belgian Dennis Praet reveals why he turned down Arsenal at 16

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Anderlecht starlet Dennis Praet told Belgian outlet HLN he snubbed Arsenal as a 16-year-old to focus on his studies.

Prior to the Anderlecht and Arsenal game, the Belgium under-21 international Dennis Praet discussed a big decision he made five years ago.

Praet told Belgium outlet HLN that he had the chance to move to Arsenal at 16, but turned it down to play at Anderlecht and focus on his studies.

‘‘I was 16 when I went to do a trial at Arsenal,’’ said Dennis Praet.

‘’I played a match with the reserves, I visited the training complex and went through training with the first team. I never met Arsene Wenger.

‘’The move to Arsenal fell through because I gave priority to school. Absolutely 100 per cent I wanted to finish my school and at Anderlecht I could make the perfect combination.’’

The young attacking midfielder played a key part for Anderlecht as they came close to pulling off an upset against Arsenal on Wednesday night, only to see his side capitulate seconds after his substitution.

The 20-year-old created the Anderlecht goal, which was scored by Andy Najar, in the 71st minute and was substituted after a job well done in the 88th minute.

However, seconds later, Arsenal put themselves on an equal footing with Anderlecht, with Kieran Gibbs grabbing an equaliser. A minute later, substitute Lukas Podolski sealed up the win for Arsenal as Praet could only watch on from the bench.

After the game, a clearly frustrated Praet echoed the statements of teammate Steven Defour and thought the Belgian side were unlucky not to take the three points.

‘’Arsenal are still a top team, but we made life very difficult for them. We didn’t allow them any space,’’ Praet said after the match.

‘’I was confident that we would win it. I don’t think Arsenal created many chances.

‘’We defended well as a united and didn’t allow their attackers any space to create something.

‘’That makes it all the more disappointing that you conceded two late goals. We lost focus towards the end and fatigue kicked in. ’That cost us the win.’’

The youngster's performance may leave Arsenal fans thinking 'what if', but the result, in favour of Arsenal, could leave Praet thinking exactly the same. 

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