Arsene Wenger admits he wanted to sign Angel di Maria

Arsene Wenger has bemoaned the work permit system in England and used Angel di Maria as an example of a player that slipped through his grasp because of it.

Speaking at his weekly press conference the Arsenal manager said:

“We had identified Di María when he was 17,” Wenger said. “We wanted him to come here. But he goes to Portugal and from Portugal he goes to Spain. Why? Because he could not get a work permit. That means that he can only come to England once he’s worth a huge amount of money. What does it mean if at the end of the day he comes into the country anyway, with the only difference being it’s for a huge amount of money. And who do you pay that to? A club like Real Madrid, who don’t need the money.”

Di Maria, who was the only Premier League player to be selected for the FIFA World XI for the last year, moved to Manchester United for £59.7m in the summer and has settled nicely. But you can only imagine the service that Arsenal could have got out of him had they signed the lad at 17.

In other news the Arsenal manager said that a deal for Villareal centre back, Gabriel Paulista, is in the balance at present. The Guardian writes:

He said there was a “50/50 chance” of a transaction being agreed with the Spanish side before the close of the transfer window – the clubs are thought to be close to a £15m deal

But that wouldn’t necessarily complete the transfer. Arsenal would then have to apply for a work permit, which could prove difficult to obtain considering that the 24 year old has never played for Brazil.

What is for sure is that Arsenal need to bring another defender in before the end of the window, with their resources further stretched by the recent injury to French right back Mathieu Debuchy.