Arsene Wenger reveals incredible story of how he had to break off transfer negotiations to pinch Danny Welbeck away from Tottenham… because he had to meet the Pope!
- Welbeck looked certain to join Tottenham on deadline day back in 2014
- But Wenger was determined to bring striker from Man United to Arsenal
- Gunners boss was over in Rome for the Match for Peace charity event
- This included an audience with Pope Francis but it didn’t stop negotiations
- Wenger has recalled how he sealed the deal for Welbeck while in Vatican queue
Arsene Wenger has recalled how he snatched Danny Welbeck from under the noses of Tottenham – all while queuing for an audience with the Pope.
As negotiations reached a delicate stage, with Welbeck looking almost certain to join Arsenal’s north London rivals, Wenger was in Rome to meet Pope Francis ahead of the Match for Peace, an inter-religious charity game.
Arsene Wenger has revealed how he signed Danny Welbeck while queuing to see the Pope
Wenger was at the Vatican for an audience with Pope Francis on deadline day in 2014
Despite being in line to see the Pope, Wenger was able to influence the transfer talks and ensure Welbeck signed for Arsenal in a £16million deal.
Speaking on the Ornstein and Chapman Podcast as he promotes his new autobiography, Wenger recalled: ‘Danny Welbeck when I went to the Match for Peace.
‘At the airport I was told he was signing for Tottenham and I managed to intercept him. It was a funny story because I was negotiating all day.
‘We had Ivan [Gazidis] and Dick Law to negotiate and they called me up and I had the agent on the phone.
‘And I told him, “Look, I have to hang up because I’m in front of the Pope.”
The former Arsenal boss has recalled the story as he promotes his new autobiography
Welbeck on his Arsenal debut following his £16m move from Man United on deadline day
‘He said to me, “What?” I said, “Yes” because we were queuing to have a photo with the Pope in a private audience, and I was at the back of the queue because I had to talk and negotiate.
‘I arrived in front of the Pope and I had to say, “Look, that’s not possible any more. I will meet the Pope now.”
‘And we still signed him.’
Pope Francis was in attendance as Wenger managed a team that included Diego Maradona.
At the time, Wenger said the deal for Welbeck would not have happened had he not been up early that day to fly to Rome.
Diego Maradona present an Argentine shirt to Pope Francis ahead of the 2014 Match for Peace
Wenger pictured in the dug-out as he managed a team at the Match for Peace in 2014
Because United signed Radamel Falcao from Monaco that day, their manager Louis van Gaal was willing to offload one of their other strikers.
Welbeck was initially only available on loan, which would have been Arsenal’s preferred option, but when a permanent move was mooted they didn’t hesitate.
Wenger said at the time: ‘If I had not travelled that day, Welbeck would not be here. The advantage of that day was I had to get up at six o’clock in the morning and I was available the whole day.
‘We are in 2014 and you can always be in touch with everybody, even when you travel.
‘Meeting the Pope was an experience I did not want to miss. I am a Catholic and the invitation was something that I accepted a long time ago.
Welbeck scored 32 goals during his time at Arsenal and has just been released by Watford
‘On top of that, it was a game for peace and multi-religion understanding. I thought that today, when we are a bit in front of an international religious war – it was a very important game.
‘The Pope is a great person to meet because he shows humility and he has a word with everybody. He is a football fan.
‘You cannot be born in Argentine and not be a football fan. He is a supporter of San Lorenzo in Argentina.’
Wenger’s side lost the Match for Peace 6-3 at Rome’s Stadio Olimpico.
Welbeck, who has just been released by Championship club Watford, scored 32 goals in 126 matches during his five seasons with Arsenal.