West Brom midfielder Gareth Barry has revealed Arsenal tried to sign him twice as he prepares to break the Premier League appearance record at the Emirates Stadium.
The 36-year-old will play in his 633rd top-flight game and eclipse Ryan Giggs’ record if he features against the Gunners on Monday.
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger admitted he wanted to take Barry to north London when he left Aston Villa to join Manchester City in 2009 but could not compete with City’s financial muscle.
The Gunners were also keen before Barry joined Everton five years later and the player acknowledged it would have been good to work with Wenger.
“There were a couple of conversations with representatives and Arsene that he was interested,” Barry said.
“Before I was leaving Villa and when I was leaving Man City to go to Everton there was a bit of interest too.
“But it didn’t materialise. I’ve got massive respect for Arsene Wenger for what he’s done for the English game and it would have been good to work under him, but that didn’t happen.
“He deserves credit because he was ahead of the game back then. If you speak to people who worked with him in the late 1990s, he was seeing things and doing things that other managers in England weren’t.”
Barry made 365 top-flight appearances for Villa, 132 for Manchester City, 131 for Everton and has played four games for West Brom since signing for around £800,000 in the summer.
The former England man had the option of staying at Goodison Park, but did not want his career to peter out.
“Part of me thought, ‘This was going to be the easier way to end your career’. There’s less pressure on you, you’re not going to be starting games and less expected of you,” he said about the prospect of remaining at Everton.
“But the other part of me thought, ‘It’s going to be too easy going down that road – come to West Brom for another challenge’. It might be harder, a tougher challenge, but I didn’t want to slowly go down that road of fizzling out.”
Barry has been sent a video message by former Manchester United winger Giggs ahead of Monday’s match.
“I’ve done an interview with Phil Neville and he passed a message on from Ryan Giggs through the iPad, just congratulating me,” he said.
“It’s lovely to hear from him, passing the Premier League record over. I’m aware he’s played in the old First Division before and collected a few more appearances than the 633.
“I’m also aware the Premier League started in 1992, 25 years ago, and records existed before that too. I’m not here to say I’m top of the tree in English football history, I’m aware of that. But I’ll try and get past Ryan’s Football League appearances (672).
“He (Ryan) didn’t say thanks for the 6-1 game (Manchester City’s 2011 derby win) at Old Trafford. The best players erase their memories quite quickly! He just said his was a tougher record because he’s done it at a bigger club through his career.
“Fair enough, I’m not going to argue with Ryan about trophies and things like that!”