Legendary Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger coached several world-class talents across his 22 years in north London.

Despite attracting the likes of Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira and Robert Pires to the Gunners, he admits many more famous faces almost pulled on the red-and-white shirt.

The Frenchman missed out on Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappe, Ronaldinho and many other great players during his tenure.

And Wenger admitted in a Guardian interview that Cristiano Ronaldo “had the shirt” before Manchester United sneaked in to sign him, marking his biggest ever transfer regret.

The greatest players of all time?

When asked the one player he regretted not signing when he had the chance, Wenger said: “Oof! I would say there is not one player, there are 50! Maybe the closest was Cristiano Ronaldo, when he signed for Man United.

“We had an agreement with Sporting and Man United took Carlos Queiroz as assistant coach, and they outbid us quickly and took Ronaldo.

“He had the shirt of Arsenal. I had lunch with him and his mother at the training ground! It’s one example but there were so many. The history of a big club is full of missed great players!”

Wenger also approached Barcelona behemoth Lionel Messi at the same time he tried to sign Cesc Fabregas from the famed La Masia academy. That meant two of the greatest players of all time could have linked up at Arsenal.

Other big names Wenger missed

The 70-year-old had lunch with Gianluigi Buffon while he was at Parma before the goalkeeper signed for Juventus, went in for Barcelona stalwart Gerard Pique before he joined Manchester United, and sniffed around future title-winning captain Vincent Kompany while he was at Hamburg.


Manchester City snapped up Yaya Toure after passport issues prevented Wenger signing him from Metalurg Donetsk. Arsenal were also pipped to Paul Pogba by Juventus and tried to sign N’Golo Kante twice but failed on both occasions.

Wenger almost signed Ronaldinho from Gremio before work permit issues meant he left for PSG. The Frenchman also missed out on Ivorian striker Didier Drogba while he was in France at Le Mans and failed with moves for Kylian Mbappe, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Luis Suarez and Jadon Sancho.

In hindsight, Wenger and Arsenal fans might look back on several opportunities missed.

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