Barcelona star Lionel Messi was 'tempted' by the prospect of joining Arsenal in 2003 when he close friend Cesc Fabregas agreed to move to England. That is according to his former agent Fabian Soldini.

Messi, Fabregas and Gerard Pique were part of a special generation of talent coming through Barcelona's famed La Masia academy.

With his network of scouts, Arsene Wenger had identified the trio as potential signings for Arsenal.

Fabregas would join Arsenal in July 2003 while Pique moved to United a year later.

Messi would ultimately stay at the Nou Camp and make his debut as a 17-year-old in October 2004.

And the rest is history with Messi going on to make 731 appearances for Barcelona and score a remarkable 634 goals.

He has won six six Ballon d'Or awards, four Champions League titles, ten La Liga titles and is widely considered to be one of the best players of all-time.

Had Messi left Barcelona as a teenager it is possible his career could have been drastically different but Soldini says the Argentine didn't want to follow Fabregas out of the club.

"[Messi] was tempted to go to Arsenal, but he didn't go," Soldini told Spanish publication Marca.

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"I remember the day that Cesc asked to leave [Barcelona]. Messi was also asked to go, but he didn't want to leave."

Speaking earlier this month, former Arsenal head scout Francis Cagigao revealed issues with a work permit put paid to any chance of Messi moving to London.

“I think Arsene stated while manager that we were close to signing Messi [in 2003],” Cagigao told BBC Sport.

"I wouldn’t go as far as saying we were close.

“We were there or thereabouts and discussions took place with his representatives.

"He had issues with a work permit, so that was discarded.”