Ex-Arsenal scout discloses just how close Lionel Messi signing was after redundancy

Former Arsenal scout Francis Cagigao has opened up about the Gunners’ pursuit of Barcelona pair Lionel Messi and Gerard Pique.

Cagigao revealed that work permit problems scuppered any chances Arsenal had of signing Messi, while Pique was “inches away from signing” but ended up joining Manchester United instead.

Speaking to European Football expert Guillem Balague on his YouTube channel, Cagigao said: “Arsene has said that at one stage we were close to signing Leo Messi and although I wouldn’t go so far as to say we were close, we were there or thereabouts.

“Discussions took place with his representative, but he had an issue with his work permit which at the time wasn’t even clear in Spain where he was, so that was discarded.

Lionel Messi and Gerard Pique both nearly joined Arsenal
(Image: GETTY)
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“It’s public knowledge that Gerard Pique was inches away from signing a contract with us, but he joined Manchester United six months later.

“There was some contractual disagreement between the club and Gerard’s representatives, and it didn’t go forward because of that.”

Cagigao was recently let go by Arsenal after 24 years as part of a major overhaul of their scouting network.

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Francis Cagigao has left Arsenal after more than 20 years at the club