West Bromwich Albion midfielder Gareth Barry, who is set to break Ryan Giggs' all-time Premier League appearance record this weekend, has revealed that he has twice had opportunities to join Arsenal during his long career.
Having become a Premier League regular for Aston Villa while still a teenager in the late 1990s, Barry had established himself as of the division's top midfielder by the end of the 2000s.
The first interest from Arsene Wenger and the Gunners came then. Liverpool were also keen, but it was Manchester City who successfully prized him away 2009 for £12m.
The second time came a few years later in 2013 as he was preparing to join Everton.
"There were a couple of conversations with representatives and Arsene that he was interested," 36-year-old Barry is quoted as saying by Sky Sports as he addressed the media before the West Brom face the Gunners this weekend.
"Before I was leaving Villa and when I was leaving Man City to go to Everton there was a bit of interest too. But it didn't materialise.
"I've got massive respect for Arsene Wenger for what he's done for the English game and it would have been good to work under him, but that didn't happen," he continued.
"He deserves credit because he was ahead of the game back then. If you speak to people who worked with him in the late 1990s, he was seeing things and doing things that other managers in England weren't."
Wenger was also asked about the subject at his own press conference, commenting, We were interested in him yes, when he moved from Aston Villa to Manchester City, but at the time City was the big investor and so that financial potential was superior to ours at the time.
"I believe that it's an outstanding achievement and that he’s a player who is intelligent, determined, strong in the challenge, has good technical quality and I personally always rated him highly."
Although not interested in signing Barry for several years now, the Gunners were chasing Baggies colleague and three-time Premier League winner Jonny Evans during the summer. But they were unsuccessful and Wenger insists that all such interest has now been dropped.
"No. Once the transfer period is over, you focus on your squad and your players. You accept that as well from the players who play for their club," came the response when the subject came up.