Gaspart: We wanted Wenger
Former Barcelona president Joan Gaspart claims Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger was forced by his club to turn down the chance to coach the Catalan giants, as was England boss Fabio Capello.
Gaspart tried to tempt Wenger to the Nou Camp in 2001, following the dismissal of Llorenc Serra Ferrer and prior to the permanent appointment of interim coach Carles Rexach. However, Arsenal stood in their way, just as they are currently doing with captain Cesc Fabregas.
"When I was president, in agreement with Rexach, when Serra Ferrer left we negotiated with Arsene Wenger and Fabio Capello to coach Barca," Gaspart told Com Radio.
"I met Wenger in Paris. He wanted to come to Barca but Arsenal didn't let him. The Arsenal chairman ordered him to fulfil his contract. Capello also wanted to come, but they (Roma) didn't let him either."
Fabregas has been the subject of a transfer saga which has run all summer, with departed Barca president Joan Laporta and new boss Sandro Rosell both left frustrated by the Gunners' tough stance.
Gaspart, who had several dealings with the club and coach during his three-year tenure, believes the only way for the matter to be resolved is for Rosell to travel to north London.
He said: "My advice, and that's what I've told him (Rosell), is that this will end by catching the plane to London and sitting down face to face with Wenger. Not by telephone, not with intermediaries - this has to be resolved with a meeting in person.
"Rosell must not be scared. If he fails, the whole world will understand but no-one will be able to say that he didn't try until the end. This fear that he is going to fail - he shouldn't have it.
"It's very difficult for Arsenal to want to keep a player who doesn't want to stay. The English are very English, very hard at the time of negotiating. Moreover, Mr Wenger, as a good Frenchman, knows how to play his cards.
"I have seen him in negotiations and he has ended up selling. You have to meet him face to face to know if he is bluffing."