Arsene Wenger reflected on his bold decisions to turn down Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Real Madrid during his time at Arsenal.
Wenger rose to stardom upon taking charge of Arsenal in 1996 by converting the club into Manchester United’s principal rivals for all domestic honors.
The Frenchman changed the scope of English football forever, introducing a new brand of attacking football, dietary, and fitness methods. It earned him the nickname ‘Le Professeur’ (‘The Teacher’) in England.
But if there was one thing that Wenger truly stood out for in London, it was his keen eye for spotting young talent. Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira, Cesc Fabregas, and Robin van Persie were just some of his many discoveries.
The same couldn’t be said when a young Ibrahimovic arrived on his doorstep in 2000. The Swede turned up in London, got pictured in an Arsenal jersey, and was interested in joining. His interest soon turned into disgust, however, when Wenger asked Zlatan to do a trial with the Gunners.
“I told him ‘I will not do a trial: either you take me or not, I’m not here to waste time’,” Ibra on what he said to Wenger back then.
“I met Wenger because I expected him to tell me to start with them right away. But Ibra does not test.”
— MorFootball (@morfootball_) October 11, 2020
Despite allowing Zlatan to slip the net, however, Wenger revealed he has lost no sleep over it.
“Not really, because he was a 17-year-old boy playing at Malmo in the second league in Sweden. And nobody knew him,” said the ex-Arsenal boss on whether he regretted not signing Ibrahimovic in a Q&A with the BBC.
“We gave trials to many players at 17 – it was absolutely normal before you make a decision.”
The 70-year-old also famously turned down offers to coach Real Madrid twice during his fabled coaching career. Juventus and Bayern Munich were both interested in him at one stage in the past as well.
Quizzed on who he came closest to joining, Wenger replied: “Certainly Real Madrid – because you do not know many people who turned them down twice.
“And it was to stay with a team which doesn’t have the resources to win the championship. But I told myself if I was going to go for the challenge of managing Arsenal, I would go until the end.
“You have different types of managers. I was the longest-serving manager at Monaco and the longest-serving manager at Arsenal – so it’s part of my personality.”