Former Arsenal scout reveals talks with Juan Mata and Barcelona duo

Barcelona legendary duo Lionel Messi and Gerard Pique alongside with current Man Utd midfielder, Juan Mata were “very close” to departing from Spain to join Arsenal during Francis Cagigao’s time as the Gunners head scout.

Arsene Wenger was interested in signing of Lionel Messi around the time of their most recent Premier League title success in 2003/04 .

Arsenal looked into the prospect of bringing the South American forward alongside with Cesc Fabregas back in September 2003, while they also looked into the possibility of luring Spanish pair Juan Mata and Gerrard Pique at the Emirates Stadium.

Speaking to Sid Lowe in The Guardian, Cagigao said: “Messi, [Gerard] Piqué, [Juan] 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.”

On the purchase of Fabregas, Cagigao added: “A combination of very good technique, vision, awareness, intelligence. I was watching a boy with a GPS in his brain, maturity beyond his years.

“His decision-making was near perfect already. A pioneer who won everything, simply a great player, a great person. If you’re talking exceptional Arsenal playmakers from Liam Brady, you would say Cesc and Santi.

“Cesc showed how strong our scouting department had become, how well we could identify and then recruit. If [a player] is willing to sit around a table the first part’s done and whatever player we brought to the club, a 16-year-old fresh from Paris, Barcelona or Rome, or an established professional, we sat him in front of Wenger – and Arsène insisted.”