Messi, Ronaldo, Ibrahimovic & the stars Wenger could have signed for Arsenal

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Goal looks at the impressive list of names that will go down as 'nearly' signings for the departing Frenchman

Arsene Wenger signed the likes of Thierry Henry, Robert Pires and Patrick Vieira for Arsenal, but equally regrets missing out on a number of football's biggest stars. Here, Goal has taken a look at who the Frenchman famously missed out on luring to the Gunners...

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    ANGEL DI MARIA

    If Di Maria had moved to England when he was younger he may have flourished, unlike his time at Manchester United. Arsene Wenger revealed that work permit issues halted a potential transfer to north London:

    "We had identified Di Maria when he was 17. We wanted him to come here but he went to Portugal and from Portugal he went to Spain. Why? Because he could not get a work permit."

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    LIONEL MESSI

    What could have been at Arsenal.

    Wenger attempted to sign a young Leo Messi but couldn't tempt him away from Barca:

    "It's true, it's just that he [Messi] didn't want to move. In the end, he was comfortable at Barcelona.”

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    CRISTIANO RONALDO

    Completing the set, Wenger revealed that he missed out on signing Messi's only true rival for the title of best player in the world:

    "My biggest regret? I was so close to signing Cristiano Ronaldo... that of course still hurts today."

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    PAUL POGBA

    When Paul Pogba was allowed to leave Man Utd on a free transfer, Wenger wanted to sign him.

    The midfielder would undoubtedly have been an ideal fit, being a young fellow Frenchman.

    "We were interested in him. We tried to get him to come here. But he very quickly signed for Juventus."

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    DIEGO COSTA

    A perennial thorn in Arsenal's side, Diego Costa was once a target for Arsenal before he joined Chelsea.

    “Yes [I wanted Costa], but that was a deal that was struck early.”

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    EDEN HAZARD

    Eden Hazard slipped through the Frenchman's fingers as he signed for Chelsea in 2012, with Arsenal unable to afford Lille's £30 million asking price.

    "Yes, I wanted to take him... the barrier was financial and Chelsea made an effort that I couldn't make."

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    ZLATAN IBRAHIMOVIC

    Maybe the most famous instance on this list, Zlatan Ibrahimovic famously told Wenger "I don't do auditions" when asked to have a trial at Arsenal

    "He was 16. I asked him to have a little training session with the first team and he didn't want to do it."

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    GARETH BALE

    Before Gareth Bale realised his potential as a winger, he was offered to Arsenal as a left-back.

    Wenger turned him down due to having better options in that position at the time.

    "We didn't take him as we had Ashley Cole and Gael Clichy... I must confess it was a huge mistake as he can play in midfield."

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    LUIS SUAREZ

    Luis Suarez was subject to £40 million + £1 bid from Arsenal during his time at Liverpool.

    The bid triggered a clause in Suarez's contract but he turned down a move to the Emirates

    “Did he want to join us? I do not want to dwell any more on that situation - it was one of the transfers that did not work."

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    JUAN MATA

    Arsene Wenger was offered Juan Mata but turned him down due to having Santi Cazorla, who is of a similar mould.

    “Mata is a similar type to Cazorla. I don’t exactly remember how it worked chronologically but we were interested in Mata.”

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    YAYA TOURE

    How did Arsene Wenger mess up a transfer so badly that Yaya Toure chose to go to Ukraine rather than London?

    “It would be up at the top [of my regrets]. But let's not forget that Yaya Toure had an agreement with us... he went to Ukraine."

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    GERARD PIQUE

    Arsenal's defensive problems of the past decade could have been less severe if Wenger had pushed a deal for Gerard Pique over the line.

    “We wanted to take Fabregas, Messi and Pique. It worked only for Fabregas."

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    DIDIER DROGBA

    Wenger spotted a young Drogba at Le Mans but hesitated to make an offer for him.

    "I missed him when he played at Le Mans... I knew there was a good player there and I missed him."

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    CESC FABREGAS

    When it was made clear that Fabregas was leaving Barcelona, Arsenal had first option on the Spanish midfielder.

    Ultimately they passed on him due to having Mesut Ozil in the squad.

    "Certainly, yes [Fabregas wanted to return]. But when he left we bought Mesut Ozil."

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    KINGSLEY COMAN

    A young talent that Arsenal may regret not buying in the future, Kingsley Coman chose Juventus over the Gunners in 2014.

    “Yes, we really tried to sign Kingsley Coman in the summer of 2014. The transfer was almost completed, but he preferred Juventus.”

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    ROMELU LUKAKU

    Arsenal wanted Romelu Lukaku in his younger days but he eventually chose Stamford Bridge over the Emirates.

    “Yes [we looked at him] since he was young. He opted to go to Chelsea, he is developing every year."

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    JAMIE VARDY

    After Leicester won the league Arsenal bid £40 million for Vardy, but he turned them down in order to stay loyal to the Foxes.

    "Jamie Vardy is, at the moment, at Leicester and, on what I know, he will stay at Leicester."