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Messi to Arsenal? Wenger reveals how close Gunners came

Arsene Wenger admits Arsenal were keen on landing Lionel Messi and Gerard Pique when luring Cesc Fabregas away from Barcelona, but never came close to doing a deal for the Argentine.

With the Gunners having scoured Europe for the best young talent, it did not take long for star turns to be indentified within the famed La Masia academy system in Catalunya.

An exciting midfield prospect was acquired in Fabregas, with a man who moved to north London in 2003 going on to make 212 appearances for the club – many of those as captain.

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He could, however, have been joined at Emirates Stadium by Messi and Pique, although the former was quickly tied to terms at Barca and the latter ended up moving to Manchester United.

Wenger, who missed out on several superstar signings during his 22 years at the Arsenal helm, told the club’s official website: “The story of Cesc Fabregas is that Franny Cagiago and Steve Rowley brought the player here and we had to convince him.

“I met Cesc’s parents and at the time we were interested in Messi and Pique as well. We tried for the three but of course it didn’t work out, but we got a gem there in Cesc and he is an exceptional player. A brain for football.

“[It didn’t work out with Messi and Pique] because of the agents. I think it was linked with Nike at the time and they wanted Pique to go to Man United. With Messi, Barcelona didn’t want to lose him of course and they made [the offer] that was needed to keep the player at the club.

“I don’t really know if Messi was interested… I couldn’t get close to try to force the deal because Barcelona stopped that possibility very early.”

Arsene Wenger Lionel Messi Arsenal interest

Having joined United in 2004, Pique would return to his roots at Camp Nou in 2008.

He has gone on to become a Barcelona icon, much like mercurial team-mate Messi.

The Argentine, whose career could have been so difficult had he headed to England, has enjoyed a record-breaking spell in Spain, landing countless major honours to complement five Ballons d’Or and a remarkable haul of 552 goals in 636 appearances.