Lionel Messi’s stellar career began at Barcelona almost two decades ago. The Argentine went on to become a legendary player at Camp Nou, winning 10 La Liga titles and four Champions Leagues.
However, not many know that other prominent European clubs were also interested in signing Messi while he was still a youth team player at Barcelona.
Interesting details have now emerged of Arsenal’s failed attempt to sign Messi back in 2003. While speaking to Spanish sports newspaper Diario AS, former Arsenal scout Francis Cagigao has revealed that the Premier League giants had set their sights on Messi as they attempted to raid Barcelona’s youth team.
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“The first time I saw him was in Lloret de Mar, at the MIC tournament, when he just turned 15," Cagigao was quoted as saying. “He was already a phenomenon. Messi’s situation was not regulated and it was impossible for him to have a work permit in the UK. He had several meetings with Horacio Gaggioli, his representative at the time, but it was impossible. The Pique thing was not done due to a somewhat complex bureaucratic issue. In the end, we signed Cesc Fábregas from that great Barca cadet team."
As fate would have it, the inability to gain a work permit ultimately sunk Arsenal’s hopes of bringing Messi to England. Arsene Wenger, manager of the Gunners at the time, had also lamented the club’s failure to rope in the Argentina forward in 2019.
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The crowning moment of Messi’s storied career came in December 2022 when he finally lifted the FIFA World Cup in Qatar. The seven-time Ballon d’Or winner was outstanding throughout the tournament guiding La Albiceleste to World Cup glory.
Messi is currently with Ligue 1 club Paris Saint-Germain. He has just six months remaining on his current contract with PSG.
Reportedly, the forward is unwilling to extend his stay at Parc des Princes beyond the summer of 2023 and is exploring his options.
The 35-year-old Messi has been linked with MLS club Inter Miami and even Saudi Arabian club Al-Hilal in the last few weeks.
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