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Arsenal’s attempts to sign Lionel Messi revealed in new book

Guillem Balague's new book, 'Messi', unveils Arsenal's attempts to lure the Barcelona star to north London in 2002-03

Kieran Beckles
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Lionel Messi
Four-time Ballon d'Or winner Lionel MessiPhoto: The Sport Review

Arsenal’s attempts to sign Barcelona star Lionel Messi have been unveiled in Guillem Balague’s new book, ‘Messi’.

The Gunners famously plucked Cesc Fàbregas from Barcelona’s La Masia academy during the 2002-03 season but the three-time Premier League champions also tried to lure Spanish centre-half Gerard Piqué and Messi to north London.

Balague reveals how Arsenal representative Francis Cagigao met with one of the Argentine’s agents, leading to an offer being passed to Messi’s father, Jorge. It was the first offer Messi had received from a foreign club since moving to Catalunya.

However, unlike Fàbregas, Messi stayed put, and Piqué eventually joined Manchester United before sealing a return to Barcelona in 2008. Fàbregas would rejoin his boyhood club eight years later.

Balague explained that a potential move to Arsenal was never seriously on the cards after Messi had settled in Barcelona, which had the same feel as his Argentinian hometown of Rosario.

“They didn’t feel it [a move to Arsenal] was right because it would have meant a lot of bureaucracy again and starting over,” Balague told The Sport Review.

“Barcelona, more or less, started to protect him. But Arsenal tried.”

He added: “Real Madrid felt at some point that they could have taken him, Inter Milan felt they had a chance… there were moments when it could have happened differently. Story be told, he loves Barcelona and all that, but there was a time when Barcelona didn’t understand…”

Balague added that the upheaval of switching to the English capital could have been too big a hurdle for Messi to overcome.

“He didn’t need that [a move to Arsenal]; a new language and a new culture,” he said.

“He needs a little Rosario where he can stay happily, with Argentinian supermarkets, restaurants… He [basically] lives in Rosario; the area is very similar. If he went to London, it could have killed him.”

‘Messi’ by Guillem Balague is available from Orion Books, priced £20 / eBook £10.99

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