New Arsenal goalkeeper Petr Cech has revealed that he almost signed for the north London club when he was 18, but was denied the opportunity to link up with Arsene Wenger after failing to be granted a work permit.
The 33-year-old stopper, who ended up moving to the Emirates Stadium from Premier League champions Chelsea 15 years later, recalled the first time the Gunners declared an interest in securing his services, during the formative stages of his development at Sparta Prague.
Due to the number of barriers that prevented him from plying his trade in England, Cech ended up moving to France with Ligue 1 outfit Rennes in 2002 and spent two seasons at Roazhon Park before being snapped up by Jose Mourinho during his first spell at Stamford Bridge in the summer of 2004.
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Speaking to the club's official website in his first interview as an Arsenal player, the Blues legend explained how his entire career could've turned out very differently had the necessary paperwork gone through.
"There was a chance before I went to France that I could sign for Arsenal but I was only 18 or 19 and at that time Czech Republic were not in the European Union," he reflected.
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"You needed a work permit and the conditions were to play 75 per cent of the first-team games for the national team, which at the time was impossible for me to get. In the end I went to France because I couldn't get a work permit.
“I had a few teams who were interested but Arsenal was one of the main ones. I was so excited because of the Premier League and big clubs but unfortunately it was not the time for me to come.
“It was later with Chelsea, and I’m obviously grateful for that, but you can never prepare the ways in your life and you’ll never know where you’ll end up. Here we are and I hope that I can replicate all I’ve managed to achieve in the past decade.
“If I could have got the permission, maybe my story would have been a completely different story but here we are 10 or more years later, and now we can write the story again.”
Cech called time on his Chelsea career after losing his No.1 spot to Thibaut Courtois and was granted his wish to remain in the Premier League by Russian owner Roman Abramovich, who overruled Mourinho when it came to selling the player to a direct title rival.
Arsenal fans will now have genuine belief that Wenger's side can challenge for the domestic crown in 2015/16 with the veteran custodian between the sticks. They've had to sit back patiently for more than a decade to get their man, but now that he's here, it won't be long before he proves it was well worth the wait.
Arsenal fans: How big a signing will Petr Cech be for Arsene Wenger's side this season? Do you think Chelsea will live to regret letting him move to the Emirates? Have your say below...