Former Arsenal midfielder Emmanuel Petit has revealed he had talks with Arsene Wenger about his return to the Gunners during his time at Barcelona.
The Frenchman struggled in his only season with Barcelona and ended up returning to the Premier League with a move to Chelsea, London rivals Arsenal.
Petit had been a star player at Arsenal, winning the brace with the North London Giants in 1998, and it would have been a good decision for Wenger to bring him back to Highbury.
However, Petit, speaking exclusively to Ladbrokes at the launch of the 5-A-Side bet on Crystal Palace v Chelsea, said the way former Chelsea boss Claudio Ranieri approached the deal had it convinced.
Petit says it was nice to hear from Wenger, who admitted to making a mistake in letting him go, but he opted to team up with Ranieri at Stamford Bridge after also being targeted by Manchester United around this time.
“During this bad time at Barcelona, Sir Alex Ferguson called me twice and wanted me to join Manchester United. Arsene Wenger also called me because he wanted me to come back to Arsenal. But Claudio Ranieri had just taken over at Chelsea and after a call with me he came to visit me in Barcelona, ”said Petit.
“Three managers had called me from three big clubs in England, but only one flew to see me. I really enjoyed talking to Alex Ferguson, and I love the way Arsene tried to convince me to come back to Arsenal because he told me he made a mistake. But I appreciate the fight Ranieri put in place 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 place in Barcelona. He wasn’t interested in anything other than coming to my house, meeting my family, and seeing how I was. I don’t think we talked 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 except football in that first hour, actually. I liked it. I love football, but for me life is more important than football. If you want to be a better player, you also have to be a better human being.
“I signed for Chelsea and my ex-wife was happy with my decision as she wanted to return to London. Can you believe this? After telling me that she wanted to leave London, she decided after six months in Barcelona that she wanted to come back.