The ones that got away

WTTGT Writer: Ryan Cottell


Former World Player of the Year, Ronaldinho is one player who could have donned the red and white of Arsenal if it wasn’t for the Work Permit restrictions imposed on non-European players in the UK.

Arsène Wenger met the Brazilian superstar in 2001, before he moved from Grêmio to PSG revealing at the time: “I met his brother, who is his agent, a long, long time before he went to PSG – when he was 20 – but we just could not get him to England because of the rules here.”

The same red tape prevented Yaya Touré signing for the Gunners before joining Barcelona, prompting Wenger to regularly question the national laws currently in place.


Zlatan Ibrahimovic has featured for Ajax, Barcelona, Juventus, and both Milan clubs in his illustrious career, but Arsenal were very nearly the first team on that list.

In the summer of 2001, while at Swedish side Malmo FF, a £3m fee was agreed to bring the striker to Highbury.

Personal terms were confirmed and Ibrahimovic was so confident the deal would go through he was pictured in the number 9 shirt of Arsenal.

However, a last minute decision by Wenger to have Zlatan play in a trial match before the contract would be sealed lead to a furious outburst from the temperamental Swede, resulting in him storming out of the negotiations, never to return.

Arsenal instead signed the infamous Francis Jeffers for more than triple the price. Nice one Arsène…


Love him or hate him, there is no denying the immense ability of the Portugese winker, who starred at Manchester United before completing his dream move to Real Madrid and becoming the world’s most expensive player in the process.

If it were not for Wenger’s prudence in the transfer market he may well have begun life at Arsenal.

“I met Arsène on three occasions and one of those times was with my mum, who wanted to hear what he was proposing,’ said the Portugal winger.

“The contact we had with him and Arsenal meant it was very close to being a done deal. Really, we were within touching distance.”

Despite such positive discussions, United came in with an offer of £12m, more than three times the amount Wenger was prepared to pay for the raw talent. The rest, as they say is history.

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One Response to The ones that got away

  1. June 28, 2011 at 10:58 am #

    Man United always manage to get visas but we never do. I'm sure if they bid for Ronaldinho back then, they'd have got him. The same can be said about Peter Cech – we bid for him ages before Chelsea even heard of him and got turned down for a visa. What the hell's the point of a special talent visa if they won't let you sign special talent?

    The Zlatan thing was a mistake but with hindsight I'm glad we didn't get him – his attitude is suspect and he's got a MASSIVE ego. On the other hand, missing out on Ronaldo was a huge miss as we'd have probably won a lot more with him the side but them's the breaks. I won't hold that against Mr Wenger as he's secured other gems for us in the past.

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