Arsenal boss pounced quickly when he discovered Atletico’s transfer ban was blocking Frenchman’s move to Spain
ALEXANDRE LACAZETTE became Arsenal’s record buy after Arsene Wenger met him in Paris personally and wooed the star.
SunSport can today reveal that the secret meeting — held last month while Lacazette was on France duty — came ELEVEN YEARS after he first appeared on Wenger’s radar while playing in Lyon’s youth academy.
Lacazette, 26, was set to join Atletico Madrid to team up with his old pal Antoine Griezmann but Wenger swiftly took advantage of a Fifa transfer embargo on the Spanish club that stops them signing players until January.
And it was the Gunners manager’s comprehensive knowledge of Lacazette’s career that convinced the striker that moving to Arsenal in a £52million deal was his best move.
A source close to Lacazette told SunSport: “His move to Atletico was a done deal. It was the club where he wanted to go but the transfer embargo situation meant he couldn’t.
“He wouldn’t have been able to play there until January and, in a season that ends with the World Cup in Russia, there was no way Alexandre could afford to not be at the highest level for half a season.
“So Wenger struck quickly and raced over to Paris to meet him.”
The Arsenal boss told Lacazette his versatility and ability to score goals would make him a big success in London.
Our source added: “Arsenal’s playing style is very good for him. He has always loved watching them.
“And it’ll also be easier for Alexandre to play for a French manager with other French players there, too.”
Wenger has been keeping tabs on Lacazette since being tipped off by ex-Gunner Gilles Grimandi, his eyes and ears in France, in 2006.
And the striker was impressed by how Wenger knew all about his upbringing, where he lived, his youth career, his personality and how his career had evolved.
Yet Wenger was still not entirely sure about him until just FOUR MONTHS ago. The source said: “He previously just wasn’t won over enough. There were too many question marks hanging over him.
“He didn’t show enough maturity and wasn’t ready to join such a big club.
“Wenger has been keeping a check on him but it’s only been in the last four months that he has been convinced he wants him at Arsenal.
“The classic criticism was that he was not a great player in the great games — but during the past two years he has been quality in the big games, too.
“His two goals against Ajax in the Europa League semi-final and one against Roma in the Champions League were a perfect example.”
It is by adding goals to his armoury that Lacazette really impressed Wenger.
And our source said: “He has always been a great forward player in that he can pass a lot, is strong, has lots of pace and is a good team player.
“But he was not the top scorer. Now he scores a lot, too.”
The lack of Champions League football was never a stumbling block as Wenger convinced Lacazette that it would only be a one-year absence.
Our source added: “Playing in the Premier League is more important because it’s the biggest division in the world, watched by millions.
“The manager has told him there will be more investment into the team and Alexandre expects Arsenal to be in the Champions League next season.
“But he is happy because he knows he will be playing against Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Tottenham . . . they are all massive games.”