Arsenal rejected six trialists who went on to be amazing including a Ballon d’Or winner | Football | Sport
Home » Matches » Arsenal rejected six trialists who went on to be amazing including a Ballon d’Or winner | Football | Sport
Arsenal rejected six trialists who went on to be amazing including a Ballon d’Or winner | Football | Sport

Arsenal have a long-running history of missing out on some of the world’s best Players. An XI of stars former boss Arsene Wenger has admitted to failing to sign would likely win every major trophy available. 

Many Players who went on to become world-class have been in Arsenal’s grasp but, for whatever reason, were never signed. Here are six who had failed trials with the north Londoners. 

Yaya Toure

A dynamic midfielder who went on to become a Premier League great with Manchester City, Yaya Toure’s trial with Arsenal is well documented. The Ivorian’s brother, Kolo, had already signed for the club and would go on to become a cult hero.

Toure junior - who subsequently signed for Metalurh Donetsk - was handed his audition in a pre-season friendly against Barnet in 2003. Then aged only 20, he failed to impress against the non-league outfit in a team comprised of first-team and academy stars. 

He started the game in central midfield alongside his brother before moving upfield. Arsenal’s match report of the game described his second-half miss as: “It seemed a simple job to nod the ball home, but Yaya sent his header wide."

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Ivan Rakitic

Less well known is that a teenage Ivan Rakitic was on trial at Arsenal. The Gunners would have benefitted from having a prime version of the Croatian in their midfield in the 2010s. 

Back in 2018, former academy star Les Thompson tweeted a picture of a teamsheet that featured Rakitic’s name - although rather amusingly misspelt. It seems that the team was from around 2004, which would have made former Barcelona star Rakitic around 14 or 15 years of age. 

The now-34-year-old never signed for Arsenal and instead remained at Basel, where the Switzerland-born technician made his first-team debut in 2005. He later had spells at Schalke and Sevilla before moving to Barca, and is now back with Sevilla. 

Ruud Gullit

Arsenal had the opportunity to sign a young Ruud Gullit in the early 1980s. The versatile star was playing for FC Haarlem under Barry Hughes, who knew Gunners icon Don Howe and assistant manager Wilf Dixon. 

The pair watched Gullit play in a trial game but were left unimpressed. They apparently turned their noses up at a £200,000 price tag. Gullit went on to win the Ballon d’Or in 1987 after a remarkable year at AC Milan. 

Steven Naismith

Scottish striker Steven Naismith went on to enjoy a fruitful Premier League spell with Everton and Norwich. But several years earlier, he had the opportunity to impress Arsene Wenger in a trial at the club’s training ground. 

Aged 19, Naismith had scored an impressive 13 goals for Kilmarnock in the Scottish Premiership. The club’s chairman, Michael Johnston, said at the time: “Apparently, this is how Arsenal and Arsene Wenger work – he likes to meet Players he is interested in in training.”

Arsenal opted against signing Naismith, who spent another year at Kilmarnock before signing for Rangers. 

Harry Kane

Harry Kane was not so much on trial but fully in Arsenal’s clutches as an aspiring young footballer. Images of the Tottenham icon clad in Arsenal gear and with his hair dyed red following Arsenal’s Premier League title triumph in 2004 often circulate social media. 

But the Gunners released Kane when he was still a young child. Then-academy director Liam Brady recently reflected: "He was a bit chubby, he wasn't very athletic but we made a mistake.”

Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Wenger was desperate for a 21-year-old Zlatan Ibrahimovic to play in a trial game ahead of a potential move. In a typically self-assured manner, the striker scoffed at the opportunity. 

Ibrahimovic later recalled: "I didn't have a trial - I came for talks with Arsenal. But Wenger wanted me to do a trial and I said: 'I don't do trials. You know who I am.'"

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