Former Arsenal midfielder Emmanuel Petit has revealed he held talks with Arsene Wenger over returning to the Gunners during his time at Barcelona.
The Frenchman struggled in his single season with Barcelona, and ended up returning to the Premier League with a move to Arsenal’s London rivals Chelsea.
Petit had been a star player at Arsenal, winning the double with the north London giants in 1998, and it would have been a good move by Wenger to bring him back to Highbury.
However, Petit, speaking exclusively to Ladbrokes at its launch of the 5-A-Side Bet on Crystal Palace v Chelsea, said that the way former Chelsea boss Claudio Ranieri approached the deal won him over.
Petit says that it was nice to hear from Wenger, who admitted he made a mistake by letting him go, but he chose to link up with Ranieri at Stamford Bridge after also being targeted by Manchester United in that period.
“During that bad period at Barcelona, Sir Alex Ferguson called me twice and wanted me to join Manchester United. Arsene Wenger also called me because he wanted me back at Arsenal. But Claudio Ranieri had just taken over at Chelsea and after a call with me, he came to visit me in Barcelona,” Petit said.
“Three managers had called me from three big clubs in England, but only one took a plane to come and see me. I really liked talking to Alex Ferguson, and I love the way Arsene tried to convince me to come back to Arsenal because he told me he’d made a mistake. But I appreciate the fight Ranieri put up to sign for Chelsea. He’s such a great guy and I was won over by his personality.
“He accepted my invitation to come and have lunch at my home in Barcelona. He wasn’t interested in anything other than coming to see me in my home, meeting my family and seeing how I was getting on. I don’t think we spoke about football for the first hour, and that meant a lot to me, because there are so many things that are more important, and it told me about the type of person Ranieri was.
“We talked about everything but football in that first hour, in fact. I loved it. I love football, but for me life is more important than football. If you want to be a better player, you also need to be a better human being.
“I signed for Chelsea and my ex-wife was happy with my decision because she wanted to go back to London. Can you believe that? After telling me she wanted to move away from London, she decided after six months in Barcelona she wanted to return.”