The Stamina League trophy is one of the few to have eluded Lionel Messi so far in his illustrious career, which is perhaps why the Barcelona star thought to tap up Arsenal over a potential transfer towards the end of last season.
According to reports in the Daily Mail, the reigning World Cup Golden Ball holder considered engineering a transfer to north London when Los Blaugrana’s opening contract gambit failed to meet his lofty demands.
The Catalan club quickly scribbled out the massive numbers on the draft of his new deal and substituted in gargantuan alternatives, causing Messi to withdraw the feelers he had casing out the Emirates.
If these allegations printed on – to borrow the Mail’s terminology – ‘top Spanish website’ Vozpopuli, are to be believed (and they seem perfectly plausible) the Argentinean joins an arm-length list of superstars to have slipped through Arsenal’s holey transfer net.
Look away now, Gooners, here’s the team you could’ve had:
Arsenal chief scout Steve Rowley thought three-time Premier League-winning goalkeeper Petr Cech ‘wasn’t good enough for the English league’ prior to his move to Rennes, according to the Chelsea stopper.
Gareth Bale was overlooked as the club had Ashley Cole and Gael Clichy at left-back when Southampton were looking to cash in, while Phil Jones turned down the chance to sign in favour of a move to Manchester United.
Centre-back duo Gary Cahill and Phil Jagielka were subject of bids deemed ‘derisory’ by both Bolton and Everton prior to Per Mertesacker’s signing.
Wenger considered £16m for Xabi Alonso too steep, nor was he prepared to meet the £32m release clause of then Borussia Dortmund whiz kid Mario Gotze.
Manchester City virtuoso Yaya Toure failed to impress in a trial game at Barnet and was sent packing; the French talent spotter labelled his Underhill performance as ‘completely average’.
At least they convinced the Ivorian to try out, which is more than can be said for Zlatan Ibrahimovic who famously told Arsenal he ‘doesn’t do auditions’ and joined Ajax instead.
The Gunners’ low-balling tactics cost them Cristiano Ronaldo too, whom they only offered £4m for prior to his £12.25m switch to Manchester United, which suggests they may have balked at the £197m it would cost to buy Messi.