Arsene Wenger has revealed that Kylian Mbappe could have signed for Arsenal on a free during his time in north London.
Mbappe has been talked about as a long-term successor to Lionel Messi in the pantheon of footballing greats after his exhilarating hat-trick on Tuesday night.
The 22-year-old, whose contract at Paris Saint-Germain expires at the end of next season, has been linked with a host of top clubs, including Real Madrid and Liverpool, with his performance in his side’s 4-1 win in the first leg of their last-16 tie with Barcelona intensifying such talk.
It all could have very different, however, had Wenger had persuaded a talented youngster to join him at Arsenal.
“We can talk about Mbappe, I was at his home when he was undecided whether to extend his contract with Monaco,” Wenger told beIN Sports. “He could have come to Arsenal for free. I would say every club is full of histories like that.
“You go to Milan, to Manchester, Arsenal, Chelsea there are these kind of stories everywhere.”
It is not the first time Wenger has revealed other superstars came close to joining the club, confirming stories about further players, including Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
“He [Ronaldo] was very close to joining us,” Wenger added. ” The bad luck for us was that Carlos Queiroz joined Man Utd [as assistant manager] and in a week he persuaded [Sir Alex] Ferguson to buy Ronaldo. He was quite a good buy at the time.
“We wanted to make the trio of Messi, Cesc Fabregas and Gerard Pique. They are a 1987 generation who played all together. Pique played in midfield at the time and in the end he decided to go to Man Utd, Fabregas joined us and Barcelona were clever enough to keep Messi.”
Wenger also revealed that Arsenal offered Jamie Vardy “a lot of money” to sign for them in 2016, insisting the Leicester striker would have been a great fit at the club.
After inspiring Leicester to a shock title triumph in 2016, Vardy looked certain to move to Arsenal, who had been Leicester’s main title rivals in that season, the following summer.
Such a move never materialised, however, with Vardy putting pen to paper on a new contract at Leicester, where he has remained one of the top goalscorers in each Premier League season. It was not for want of trying, on Wenger’s part, at least.
“I offered him a lot of money at the time,” Wenger told beIN Sports. “Leicester had just won the championship at the time in 2016, and they absolutely did not want to lose him and offered him a longer contract with approximately the same money if not more.”
Many a Champions League night at the Nou Camp has been about the irrepressible Messi, but, against PSG, he was well and truly upstaged by Mbappe’s stunning performance.
As early as the second minute, the France forward was giving the Barcelona defence a fright with his pace and from then on, every time he got the ball, he caused Ronald Koeman’s side problems.
It was a performance that drew special praise from Barca forward and international team-mate Antoine Griezmann. “Kylian Mbappe had a great night,” he said. “PSG has a great star for the future, who will be at the level of Leo Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo.”
In the absence of Neymar and Angel Di Maria, who were missing through injury for PSG, Mbappe went on to produce three fine finishes to become only the third player to score a treble in the competition against Barcelona, after Faustino Asprilla for Newcastle and Andriy Shevchenko for Dynamo Kiev (both in 1997) and the first player to score a hat-trick against the Spanish club in the knockout phase.
But on what was a truly special night for PSG, he could have had more goals but for some fine saves from Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
With 110 goals now to his name, the 22-year-old is already PSG’s third highest goalscorer in all competitions, overtaking Pauleta (109). Now only Edinson Cavani (200) and Zlatan Ibrahimovic (156) have netted more for PSG, but, if he stays at the club those records will not be intact for long.
He has also drawn level with Zinedine Zidane with eight goals in the list of the top goalscorers in the Champions league knockout stages, with just Thierry Henry (12) and Karim Benzema (18) ahead of him.
The sky is the limit for Mbappe, who confirmed himself as football’s best young player with an astonishing performance that Messi himself would have been proud of.