Arsene Wenger has revealed he offered Jamie Vardy ‘a lot of money’ to sign for Arsenal in 2016.
But the striker rejected the legendary boss to stay at Leicester, who offered him the same amount – Wenger suspects even more – to sign a new deal with the Foxes.
The Gunners came calling for Vardy on the back of his remarkable ascent from non-league football, helping Leicester pull off a miraculous relegation escape in 2014/15 and then scoring 24 goals to fire the Foxes to a historic Premier League title victory.
Vardy’s incredible rise also earned himself a spot in England’s Euro 2016 squad, and yet his buyout clause at the time was a mere £20million.
Wenger was a big fan of Vardy and the London club apparently had no question about meeting that fee and were close to doing a deal… only for the transfer to collapse – according to reports – after the striker and wife Rebekah met with Wenger.
Vardy ended up snubbing Arsenal’s offer and agreed a new deal with Leicester instead, where he is still the main man and banging in the goals – taking his tally for the 2020/21 campaign to 12 in the Foxes’ stunning comeback win over Liverpool on Saturday.
Le Professeur was in the studio for beIN SPORTS during the game, and it appears he’s still a huge Vardy fan.
“Jamie Vardy is an animal – he’s always in the game,” said the legendary Gunners coach.
“He looks like he doesn’t get out of the game, mentally, and the great strikers are like that, they are convinced they will score at some stage. And that allows him, even when he misses a chance, to stay in the game.”
Asked how close he was to bringing the then-England international and newly-crowned Premier League winner to the Emirates, Wenger said with a sigh: “I offered him a lot of money.
“But Leicester had just won the championship [Premier League title] in 2016 and Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha [the late Foxes owner] at the time did absolutely not want to lose him.
“Leicester offered him a longer contract and approximately the same amount of money, if not more.”
Not everybody was convinced it would have been a successful transfer.
There were claims at the time Vardy would not have fit with Wenger’s style of play, and he would have been wasted had he joined the Gunners.
Wenger admitted there was an element of truth to those claims, but insists Vardy still would have been devastating in an Arsenal shirt.
“Yes, because we had more of the ball than Leicester did,” explained Wenger.
“But I think still around the box the timings of his runs, he finds the space to go. When you see the big strikers they are always on the move when the others stand still in the box, and he has that.
“You see with these strikers, they read the game earlier than others. They anticipate better, they understand quicker than other people what’s going on, and that quality of anticipation and that speed of understanding makes him the player he is.
“The timing of his runs, he is spot on every time. In a Leicester team who were struggling in the first-half against Liverpool, he still created three chances.
“The quality of his runs are exceptional, and of course he is a good finisher as well.
“When you speak about giving boys a chance, this guy played at Fleetwood Town until the age of 27, and the impact he has now in the Premier League – the best league in the world – it’s absolutely unbelievable!”
Famous Arsenal fans Piers Morgan also thinks his beloved Gunners missed a trick not getting the deal for Vardy over the line.
In fact, Morgan thinks Arsenal should have signed Vardy TEN years ago… when he was still in non-league football with Halifax Town!
Morgan wrote on Twitter: “Can’t help thinking that if Arsenal had signed @vardy7 as our lead guitarist 10 years ago – we’d have played much sweeter football music in the last decade.
“Just a relentlessly brilliant striker – tough, quick, ruthless & always gives 100% in every game. Love him.”