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‘Wenger wanted me’ – Tottenham Hotspur legend admits he could’ve joined Arsenal

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Jermain Defoe admits that Arsene Wenger tried to sign him for Arsenal before he joined Premier League rivals Tottenham Hotspur from West Ham United, speaking on Rio Ferdinand’s Present Five podcast, writes the HITC.

Sometimes, it’s good to remember that you shouldn’t believe everything you read.

This is what Arsene Wenger had to say, all the way back in 2004, when approached about reports suggesting Arsenal had offered £5 million for West Ham’s 21-year-old whizzkid.

“We have not made an enquiry, we have not made a bid and we have no plans to make a bid,” the legendary Frenchman told Sky Sports.

Now, either Wenger was leading the media on a merry dance or he changed his mind quicker than Fabian Delph in the middle of a transfer saga.

The Arsenal boss would come calling for Defoe later that summer, only to be pipped to the post by North London neighbours Tottenham Hotspur.
What could Jermain Defoe have achieved at Arsenal?

“I remember at the time (in 2004), I got a call off Leeds and Newcastle,” recalls Defoe, who announced his retirement in March following a short-lived second spell at Sunderland.

“I remember speaking to Arsene Wenger. He wanted me and (West Ham team-mate) Michael Carrick. But then Tottenham came in.

“(Spurs boss) David Pleat was like: ‘I want this kid’ and that was it. It happened so quickly.”

Defoe would go on to score nearly 150 goals during two stints at Tottenham, helping the club qualify for the Champions League for the first time in their history after defeating Chelsea in the 2008 League Cup final – the last time these eternal bridesmaid’s felt silver against their skin.

And it’s a testament to Defoe’s remarkable longevity that Wenger was describing him as an ‘absolutely amazing’ talent some 12 years after Arsenal failed to lure him to Highbury.

Defoe, at the time, was rolling back the years in the red and white of Sunderland, proving time and again that age is but a number.

“Honestly, you have to admire Defoe for what he has done,” Wenger said in 2016.

“You think when a guy like him at his age moves to the United States (Toronto FC) that it was the end for him in the Premier League. But he came back. He had a huge impact and, certainly, it is down to him that Sunderland stayed in the league last year.

“There must be a big passion behind that. He is absolutely amazing.”