AC Milan forward M'baye Niang has revealed just how close he came to joining Arsenal when he left Caen in 2012, before instead ending up in the Serie A.
The promising French forward was wanted by Arsene Wenger when he first burst onto the scene as an aspiring goalscorer, but eventually moved to Milan after a breakdown of negotiations. Now, for the first time, according to the Daily Mail, Niang has admitted that he was on the verge of becoming a Gunner, and even held talks with Wenger himself.
"He wanted me, asked if I was ready to come and I said ‘Yes’. Then after that, it’s between the two clubs," he said.
"He wanted me, asked if I was ready to come and I said ‘Yes’. Then after that, it’s between the two clubs"
"They didn’t come to an understanding and told me that [Milan chief] Adriano Galliani had reached an understanding with Caen.
"Then I spoke with manager Massimiliano Allegri and when I felt he wanted me, things happened very quickly."
Article continues below
Wenger is known for his aptitude at luring young compatriots to north London but even so he may be disappointed to have missed out on Niang. The 19-year-old has been tipped for a bright future in the game and despite the fact his career appears to have stalled - he’s currently on loan at Montpellier - he has plenty of time to develop into a fine talent.
Niang in France
The France U21 international has five goals so far this term for Montpellier in 22 appearances across all competitions, and will be looking to improve his strike rate prior to his return to the San Siro. New Milan boss Filippo Inzaghi is running a tight ship with the Giallorossi, and he won’t be prepared to hand players game-time based on burgeoning reputation alone.
As for Arsenal Wenger has striker issues of his own to deal with, with support man Alexis Sanchez having scored far more than his go-to-guy Danny Welbeck. First-choice forward Olivier Giroud has been injured since the start of the season, which goes some way to excusing his record in front of goal, but the likes of Welbeck and Yaya Sanogo would have perhaps been hoping to have had more of an impact.
With regards to Sanogo it’s interesting that he may have been purchased as an alternative to Niang after Wenger’s failure to land the former Caen starlet.
There’s plenty of comparisons to be drawn between the two strikers, the most pertinent being that they're of similar stature, both French and both young. Sanogo was acquired by Wenger in 2013, 12 months after Niang had joined Milan, but has yet to impress in the Arsenal first-team.