Sky Sports pundit Guillem Balague will have his new book, Messi, available for purchase come Septemeber, but excerpts from the work have already been released.
Among them, Balague talked about Messi’s younger years, and more notably, the fact that Arsenal actively pursued the Argentine and teammates Gerard Pique and Cesc Fabregas.
“Although the international scouting system was far less developed and universal than it is today, it would have been impossible for the generation of ’87 not to have attracted admiring glances from foreign clubs. So it was that during the 2002-03 season the Cadete A side was followed closely by Arsenal who were looking to sign not just Cesc Fabregas, but also Gerard Pique and Leo Messi,” Balague writes.
And the story continues, detailing how the pursuit of Messi unfolded, from the very first game Arsenal’s representative Francis Cagigo watched the now-star players.
“It all began with a game in Lloret de Mar against Parma.”
“He had just witnessed something very different, and quite extraordinary, namely the control of Cesc and the talent of Leo. He spent that day, and many more, fruitlessly searching for the Argentinian’s agent.”
Cagigo then watched Messi on another occasion, and once again, the young man’s quality astounded the Gunners’ representative to the point where he desperately hoped to find his agent.
“He came back to see Alex Garcia’s side in the MIC tournament at Easter. While Barcelona were battling against a new rival, Cagigao was speaking on the telephone. ‘If only I could find someone who works with the Argentinian youngster…’ As he put the phone down one of Leo’s representatives in Spain, Horacio Gaggioli, who had overheard the conversation, approached him. ‘I believe you’re looking for me.’
Cagigao described Messi as a “little flea”, while praising his technical and finishing ability. The only knock on the midfielder was his diminutive size.
Arsenal was the only “foreign” squad to seek Messi at the time, too, and Balague divulges where the talks went wrong.
“The Messis listened to what Arsenal had to say but they were not about to have their heads turned. Obstacles were apparent in any potential agreement.
“The English club could not offer a flat for the family, and there would be difficulty obtaining a work permit. Bit by bit points of mutual interest evaporated until the offer lay dead in the water. But they left Jorge with a message: ‘Any time you encounter problems, remember, our club wants him.’ In any case, Arsenal had managed to secure the signings of Pique and Cesc. Well, almost.”