Ex-Arsenal scout reveals Lionel Messi, Gerard Pique and Juan Mata were ‘very close’ to joining Gunners

FORMER Arsenal scout Francis Cagigao claims Barcelona superstars Lionel Messi and Gerard Pique were ‘very close’ to joining the Gunners earlier in their careers.

Cagigao was axed from his role as head of recruitment during the summer after 24 years, despite bring a whole host of quality names to north London.

Arsenal came 'very close' to signing Lionel Messi and Gerard Pique from Barcelona


Arsenal came ‘very close’ to signing Lionel Messi and Gerard Pique from BarcelonaCredit: Getty Images – Getty
Francis Cagigao also claims he nearly landed Juan Mata during Arsene Wenger's era


Francis Cagigao also claims he nearly landed Juan Mata during Arsene Wenger’s eraCredit: AP:Associated Press

Cagigao was responsible for landing Arsenal icons including Cesc Fabregas, Robin van Persie, Santi Cazorla, Jose Antonio Reyes, Lauren and Nacho Monreal.

Meanwhile, current stars including Kieran Tierney, Gabriel Magalhaes, Hector Bellerin, Gabriel Martinelli and even new £45million signing Thomas Partey all have Cagigao to thank for their Emirates arrivals.

However, Cagigao admits he came very close to signing both Messi and Pique from the Nou Camp during Arsene Wenger’s time at the club.

The former scout also claims he nearly signed Juan Mata for Arsenal as well.

But he prefers to reflect on those he did bring to the Gunners – having also missed out on Cristiano Ronaldo.

Cagigao told The Guardian: “Messi, Pique, Mata were very very close, and there were others.

“With Messi, work permit issues ensured we couldn’t get as close as we would have liked.

“And that’s all I can say on that. A lot get away – two, three, four a year – but I prefer to look at the ones we did get.”

Cagigao adds the capture of a 16-year-old Fabregas from Barcelona showed just how strong Arsenal’s scouting system became under Wenger.

He explained: “Cesc showed how strong our scouting system has become, how well we could identify and then recruit.

“However good your recruitment is, you need a brave manager who while fighting for titles throws young players in.

“If it was for Arsene a lot of careers might have gone a different way.”

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