Ex-Arsenal scout discloses just how close 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.

"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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When asked how he feels about his departure, Cagigao responded: "That is not really a question I can answer. I think that's a question for someone else.

"You can't afford to be bitter in life and you have to have a thick skin and get over things quickly. I'm very proud of the time I spent and I'm proud of my personal achievements and I also very privileged to have worked for Arsenal FC.

"A club where I was able to learn, where I met and worked with some incredible people over the years.

"Over 24 years of course I have been approached by a lot of clubs. For one reason or another I didn't feel it was right at that time to move to any of those clubs and I stayed at Arsenal.

"Arsenal is an institution and I feel privileged to have spent basically half my life where I also started my career.

"But everything has a start and an end, and you have to look forward and now I look forward to challenges because I feel I am now in a perfect moment in my life with experience and with a lot to offer."

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