He’s one of Arsenal’s star players and a solid fans’ favourite, but Arsene Wenger has revealed he came very close to passing on the opportunity to sign Santi Carzola.
The Spanish World Cup winning midfielder is an essential part of the Gunners’ side, cementing his place at the heart of the team’s midfield since arriving from Malaga for £15 million in 2012.
But Wenger had admitted he was unsure about whether the diminutive midfielder would be able to hold his own in the physically-demanding setting of the English Premier League.
He told the club’s website:
You could question whether he was physically equipped to play in the tough Premier League.
It’s true that I had that doubt, but his quality was so big that I was ready to take that gamble.
His technical quality, his right foot, left foot, his availability, his vision and the quality of his passing made me go for it.
I thought, ‘If there is a team in the Premier League where he has a chance to make it, it’s with us.’ That’s why I went for it.
And the manager goes on to tell Arsenal.com that he required a bit of help from club legend Robert Pires, who had played alongside Carzola in La Liga for Villarreal:
I think I first saw him when he was about 20 or 21. He was not a regular player, but in some games we watched you could see he had talent.
After that Robert Pires moved to Villarreal and played with him. Sometimes I asked Robert, ‘Are there any good players there?’
He said to me straight away, ‘Cazorla is a fantastic player’. So Robert was a scout for me! He at least confirmed the impression I already had about Santi.
Thankfully for the north London club’s fans, Wenger pushed ahead with the transfer for a player who has now made over 100 appearances in the Premier League and is known to captain the side on occassion.
And they’ll need Carzola and co to be at their very best after the international break if they are to rescue their stuttering season, with a double-header against Bayern Munich in the Champions League looming, as well as tough domestic fixtures against Watford and Everton.