Arsene Wenger has revealed that Arsenal missed out on signing Manchester United superstar Angel di Maria for free, when he was just 17.
In Wenger’s long tenure at Arsenal, he has missed out on signing several top players like Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Yaya Toure and Zlatan Ibrahimovic – who nearly joined Arsenal when they were youngsters.
Di Maria joined Manchester United for a British record fee of £59.7m when he moved from Real Madrid in the summer, but Wenger admits he nearly have signed him for free, but the deal fell through because the club couldn’t arrange work permit for him.
“That means you can only get him to England once he is worth a huge amount of money.
“Messi is a different example because he was in Barcelona from a very young age. But a player like Di Maria, he left [Argentina] at 18 years of age. We saw him in an international competition.
“What does it mean if at the end of the day he comes anyway into the country, just with a huge amount of money and that is the only difference. And who do you pay this huge amount of money to? A club like Real Madrid. They don’t need the money.”
Wenger is facing the same problems again, as Arsenal are looking to sign Villarreal defender Gabriel Paulista, but work permit issue means the Gunners could miss out on the Brazilian defender.