Nine great players that looked set to sign for Arsenal… but didn’t
The transfer window is often called ‘silly season’ with good reason – a lot of what you hear is bullsh*t.
Whenever January rolls around there is often the dread of knowing that a whole month of the most ridiculous rumours and gossip about signings lies ahead and, when it comes to Arsenal, they seem even worse.
The Gunners are linked with what feels like hundreds of players in every window, and more often than not, end up signing someone no one had previously mentioned.
Over the years there have been countless players who actually seemed close to joining the club, but then didn’t for whatever reason. Some had bids accepted for them, and some even toured the training ground before the move collapsed.
Here are nine players who looked destined to move to the Emirates, then didn’t.
Arsenal were after a holding midfielder in the summer of 2012, after selling Alex Song to Barcelona, and made a move for Yann M’vila of Rennes, who was a highly rated France international.
The deal looked set for completion, a year after Rennes refused their star asset, and it looked like Arsenal had finally landed their man.
However, a string of disciplinary issues meant that Arsene Wenger decided to pull out of the deal at the last minute and he subsequently never joined. The midfielder was even rumoured to have had a tour of the Arsenal training ground before the deal was cancelled.
M’vila eventually moved to Rubin Kazan and Sunderland, and his career could have taken a very different path.
One of the most drawn-out, tiresome transfer sagas in Arsenal’s history, the then Real Madrid striker was highly sought after in the summer of 2013.
Arsenal were after a big name and a goalscorer, and a 25-year-old Higuain fit the bill perfectly. He was certain to leave Real Madrid in that window.
Arsene Wenger had reportedly agreed a fee of around £23million for the Argentine international, but abandoned the deal at the last hurdle to pursue Luis Suarez instead.
Higuain then joined Napoli, and scored 91 goals for them. A missed opportunity for Arsenal.
The 2013 window was one of Arsenal’s most chaotic times. After the Higuain saga came the Suarez battle, where the Liverpool superstar begged to leave the club for North London in an interview.
After Arsenal had a £30million bid rejected, they followed it up with a bid of £40million + one pound, believing it would trigger a release clause in the forward’s contract.
That bid only triggered Liverpool, with owner John W. Henry tweeting “what do you think they’re smoking over there at the Emirates” upon receiving the bid.
The two clubs have had a sour relationship since, with Liverpool even rumoured to have included an “anyone but Arsenal” release clause in Roberto Firmino’s contract a few years later.
Throughout this infamous transfer debacle, Suarez continually pushed for a move to Arsenal and, with the belief that there was a release clause, the Uruguayan walking out at the Emirates seemed a very real possibility.
Suarez moved to Barcelona a year later anyway, so may not have stayed at Arsenal for too long, but there is a real sense of ‘what could have been’ at the thought of Suarez in the same team as Aaron Ramsey and Santi Cazorla.
Surplus to requirements at Bayern Munich, the Brazilian midfielder looked to be an ideal fit for Wenger’s side, who often lacked steel and tenacity in the middle of the park.
Wenger admitted that there was interest in the 26-year-old international, who was on his way out at Bayern following the signing of Thiago Alcantara from Barcelona, and was reported to be strongly interested in the move.
The Arsenal manager then drew criticism from fans as he ‘dithered’ on the deal, allowing Gustavo to join fellow Bundesliga side Wolfsburg, and leaving the Gunners empty-handed.
On transfer deadline day in 2013, Arsenal pulled off one of their biggest ever deals by signing Mesut Ozil from Real Madrid, but he could have been joined by Demba Ba on loan from Chelsea.
Chelsea had brought in Samuel Eto’o, meaning the prospect of game time at Stamford Bridge was limited for Ba, and Arsenal were interested in a striker.
Jose Mourinho was willing to let Ba join Arsenal on loan, until he heard about Ozil’s imminent arrival in North London.
“I did not accept Arsenal’s offer for Demba Ba because, added to their signing of Ozil, they would have been title contenders,” Mourinho said.
Mourinho had worked with Ozil at Real Madrid, and rated him so highly that the thought of a pacey forward like Ba in front of him at a rival club was too deadly for him to allow, and the move was called off, much to the annoyance of Ba.
Speaking a year later, the Senegal forward stated “I always said the move to Arsenal was close.
“I thought the deal was done and I would just go and do the medical, but it went another way.”
A top-quality holding midfielder at Southampton, there was a lot of noise around a potential move to Arsenal for the Frenchman in 2015.
Arsenal had reportedly sealed the deal for Schneiderlin to move to the club in January 2015, but Wenger decided against it at the last minute after the emergence of Francis Coquelin, who had just returned from a loan spell at Charlton.
Coquelin proved to be a useful player for a while, whilst Schneiderlin moved to Manchester United for £25million in the following summer, but was a complete disaster.
Could he have had a better time in North London instead? Who knows…
Summer 2016. Leicester City had just won the title, and the big clubs were ready to decimate their side.
N’golo Kante would move to Chelsea, whilst Riyad Mahrez was linked with Arsenal and eventual employers Manchester City.
Vardy, meanwhile, was the subject of a £20million bid from Arsenal, which triggered his release clause, therefore leaving the decision entirely down to the player.
Many believed he would join Arsenal, and as the days went by it seemed inevitable that his move would go through just before the start of Euro 2016.
However, a shock U-turn from the player meant that he decided to stay at Leicester, and the rest is history…
Jamie Vardy on turning down Arsenal. pic.twitter.com/kRZ5CInaqM
— Sky Sports Retro (@SkySportsRetro) October 25, 2020
Now one of the greatest players in the world at PSG, Mbappe’s career so far could have followed a very different path.
Before his astonishing breakthrough season at just 17-years-old at AS Monaco, where he helped bring the French side to the Champions League semi-finals, he was still one of Europe’s top prospects.
Not many clubs knew of Mbappe until his breakthrough, but Arsene Wenger’s expertise in French football meant he knew just how talented the teenager was.
A free transfer had been all but agreed in 2016, with Wenger even visiting Mbappe’s house, but a late change of mind from Mbappe saw him sign a new deal with Monaco, before joining PSG a year later.
Instead, Arsenal signed Lucas Perez, followed by Alexandre Lacazette. Funny how things work out.
Mikel Arteta’s first summer window in 2020 was an eventful one, with Thomas Partey, Willian and Gabriel Magalhaes all joining the club – but another player could have followed.
Arsenal were perpetually linked with Lyon’s Hossem Aouar, with the playmaker keen on joining and a fee close to being agreed with his club, it looked bound to happen late in the window.
However, Aouar’s brother, who was his agent, reportedly demanded a hefty fee, and the move collapsed as a result. Arsenal didn’t get their midfielder and Aouar didn’t get his move. Shame.