Arsenal nearly signed “unbelievable” talent for just £4.5m, but now he’s worth £129m

Arsenal’s recent seasons have seen a tremendous metamorphosis. The Gunners’ incredible rise has caused them to step up their expenditure in the transfer market.

From losing out on the Champions League to bitter rivals Tottenham in 2021/22 to nearly beating Manchester City to win the Premier League in 2022–2023, they have become more successful than ever before.

Mikel Arteta was given permission to raid his old club in the summer of 2022 for Oleksandr Zinchenko and Gabriel Jesus, for a total of £82 million. The two players ended up becoming essential components of the Spaniard’s football machine.

In order to contend with Manchester City for the championship again, Arsenal has increased the amount of money they spend. For a total of £208 million, they have replaced players like Matt Turner, Rob Holding, Granit Xhaka, and Florian Balogun with David Raya, Jurrien Timber, Declan Rice, and Kai Havertz.

Among the four, Rice has had the most remarkable start to his life in north London. He cemented his place in Gunners history by scoring the game-winning goal in a thrilling 3-1 triumph over Manchester United.

In the engine room, the Englishman and Thomas Partey are developing a good partnership. However, Arsenal could have signed Federico Valverde in 2016 to replace the Ghanaian.

Did Fede Valverde almost end up at Arsenal?

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Arsenal had the chance to recruit Valverde in 2016 while he was playing for CA Penarol in Uruguay, according to Spanish publication Mundo Deportivo.

The 25-year-old’s journey to the top could have gone quite differently, despite the fact that he is now among Europe’s best midfield players.

Seven years ago, the Gunners gave the 50-cap Uruguay international a week of trial; however, Real Madrid made a £4.5 million bid for him after Arsenal’s manager at the time, Arsene Wenger, turned down the chance to sign him.

Even though the Frenchman turned him down, Valverde talked positively about his brief time at the team and in particular, the influence Alexis Sanchez had on him in his early years.

“I have always been grateful to him,” he declared. Among the few people who approached me to offer assistance, Alexis was present when I went to train at Arsenal.

“I will always be appreciative of him since he treated me nicely despite the fact that I was nothing. When I was a child, he was there to support me. He is an outstanding football player.”

What triumphs has Valverde brought Real Madrid to?

Valverde, who won two La Liga titles and the Champions League in 2022, has had an incredible career thus far in the Spanish city, earning him the nickname “untouchable” from manager Carlo Ancelotti. According to Football Observatory, his value has skyrocketed to £129 million due to his stellar play and accolades.

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The ability to play in multiple places has made the dynamic midfielder, who can operate box-to-box, as a number 10, or on either flank, a vital member of the Italian team. However, his versatility isn’t the only thing that has drawn attention.

Speaking on BT Sport during Real Madrid’s 5-1 annihilation of Celtic in the Champions League the previous year, Joe Cole compared Valverde to Jude Bellingham and praised the variety of technical and athletic skills he possesses.

With Bellingham among the younger players, he’s at the top of the tree and about to take the crown as the greatest.

“He is a technician, a box-to-box player, and a goal scorer. He was the unsung hero in the final, and I thought he played fantastic against Liverpool.

“We talk a lot about Bellingham in this country, but this kid is every bit as good as Bellingham,” the player said. “His stats this year are unbelievable, his goals, assists, goal involvements, incredible player.”

The £134k-per-week star’s desire to make an impression next to the unstoppable combination of Toni Kroos and Luka Modric was sparked by Casemiro’s move to Manchester United. He did this by taking the lead in that midfield, moving quickly across the pitch and breaking into sprints that take his breath away to score more goals.

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Valverde ended up scoring 12 goals in 56 appearances in the 2022–2023 season—more goals than he had in any of the five previous seasons he spent with the team. This shows how quickly his impact on this Real Madrid team rises as he plays more often.

Casemiro, Valverde’s old colleague, had always had faith in the Uruguayan’s abilities and thought he would rank high among the best in the world.

“He’s going to be one of the best No 8s in the world in two years,” the Brazilian stated in a 2020 speech.

Valverde is supporting that assertion, according to FBref, with startlingly impressive metrics when compared against positionally similar players in Europe’s top five leagues. In terms of progressive carries, non-penalty goals, projected assists, and progressive passes recorded, he is ranked in the top 8%, top 10%, and top 13%.

Arsenal will continue to regret letting the 25-year-old pass through the net, as long as Valverde, who is currently valued at a staggering £129 million, keeps producing for Real Madrid and exerting influence in every area.

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