Arsenal had a deal for Jude Bellingham “done” at one stage, claims Tony Adams, but “transition” behind the scenes at Emirates Stadium saw a talented teenager slip their net.
While he burst onto a senior stage at Birmingham in 2019, an all-action midfielder had seen his potential noted some time before that.
Arsenal were among those to have monitored his development, with the Gunners forever in the market for the best young talent available.
The north London outfit eventually made their move and looked to have an agreement in place that would see Bellingham link up with them.
No deal was ever pushed through, though, and a 17-year-old who has just been added to Gareth Southgate’s England squad is now plying his trade at Bundesliga giants Borussia Dortmund.
“I think it got lost this one in the transition of the chief scout,” former Arsenal captain Adams told Sky Sports.
“He was spotted very early on, not by me but by the Arsenal recruitment office. The chief scout was absolutely bowled over by him and the great prospect that he is.
“New sports director Edu came in from Brazil and had no European experience and no UK experience and I think it got lost in the transition.
“Unfortunately the chief scout had the deal kind of done but we missed that one. He’s a great talent but unfortunately he’s not joined the right club.”
Without Bellingham, Arsenal have had to explore other options – with £45 million ($60m) invested in Thomas Partey over the summer.
He has slotted seamlessly into the fold, but Mesut Ozil has been outcast and no longer figures in Europa League or Premier League squads.
Adams is among those to have been left bemused by that decision, with the ex-England international saying of the World Cup winner: “Ozil for me is one of the best creative players in the world. What he struggles with at times is the defensive side.
“To win the league we need great players, like Dennis Bergkamp. Now and again I would ask Dennis to get back in behind the ball and just do a little bit for us. That’s all Ozil needs to do.
“But when you’re putting him on the sides and asking him to go with runners, he’s not got that in him. But with Partey he’s got someone who can [do that].
“I always said Ozil’s the cherry on the cake without [Arsenal having] the cake but we’re getting some players in the team [now] with stability there.
“There’s signs you could get the cherry on and let him pull the strings for [Pierre-Emerick] Aubameyang down the middle. I would love to see Ozil in behind feeding Aubameyang all day long.”