Michael Carrick has admitted he was just days away from signing for Arsenal, then Cesc Fabregas broke through and ruined his chances.
Carrick recently retired from his playing days, having spent the majority of his career at West Ham, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United. According to his new autobiography, though, his career could’ve gone very differently. Back in 2004, before he moved to Spurs, the midfielder almost joined Arsenal.
“On the way home, we got another call,” he wrote. “Arsenal again, asking us to meet Arsene. As it happened we were driving past his home in north London, so we arranged to call in on the way.
“Within an hour I was sitting in the front room of Arsene Wenger’s house, pinching myself. Could this really be happening? Arsenal! Could I really be on the verge of signing for the Invincibles who’d just gone through the season unbeaten?
“We talked for almost an hour about football. Wenger had the Community Shield at the weekend but was spending an hour with me, so surely he had to be interested in signing me? “Let’s get Cardiff out the way, and we’ll see you Monday,” Wenger said as we left.
“On the Sunday, I settled down at home in Theydon Bois, Epping, to watch Arsenal, my team to be, in the Community Shield against Manchester United. I saw that a kid, Cesc Fabregas, only 17, started in Vieira’s place.
“Fabregas played a blinder but I didn’t think too much about the significance. I sat at home on Sunday night waiting for the call to arrange details of the next day. Arsenal! I couldn’t wait.
“But I waited and waited, and that call never came. The next day, I had to go into training at West Ham instead and, on the way, David [Geiss, Carrick’s agent] phoned to say he’d had a call from Dein.
“David relayed the gist of his message, like, “I’m sorry, the manager says we don’t need Michael. Fabregas is coming through like he is. Sorry, the deal’s off.” Fabregas’s performance changed Wenger’s mind about needing me.
“I was totally devastated as I had my heart set on Arsenal and playing with all that talent. My head was gone. Arsenal had swayed me and I didn’t have a clue what I’d do now.”
What happened next?
West Ham still really needed the money, playing in the Championship at the time, so they kept negotiating with alternative buyers. One of those was Tottenham Hotspur, who agreed on a £3.5m transfer fee just over a week later.
The rest is history. Carrick didn’t win anything with Spurs except a move to Manchester United, obviously. In Manchester, he lifted five Premier League titles, the FA Cup, three League Cups, six Community Shields, the Champions League, the Europa League and the Club World Cup. That’s a pretty comprehensive trophy haul.
It’s unlikely Arsene Wenger regrets his decision either, as Fabregas went on to become a key player for Arsenal over the next seven years. Then the Spaniard left for Barcelona, but Carrick would’ve been just as likely to leave at that stage, with Arsenal’s financial restrictions as they were.
Nonetheless, it’s interesting to think about how different things could’ve been if Fabregas had just picked up a knock and missed that Community Shield match.