“The chief scout had the deal done, but we missed that one.”
It’s a familiar tale that has haunted Arsenal for what feels like the last 30 years.
The lengthy list of players that were all-but signed, is a staggering who’s who, of the world’s best.
Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Gerrard Pique and Zlatan Ibrahimovic are just a few of the stars that at one point or another could have plied their trade for the Gunners.
And now add to that list, Jude Bellingham.
On the day of his maiden England call-up, Arsenal legend Tony Adams has revealed that a deal to sign the talented midfielder, fell through during a club “transition” in 2019.
He told Sky Sports: “I think it got lost in transition this one – with the chief scout at Arsenal, going out – he was spotted very early on, not by me, but by the Arsenal recruitment office.
“The chief scout was absolutely bowled over by him and the great prospect that he is.
“New sporting director Edu came in from Brazil and had no European or UK experience and it got lost in the transition unfortunately.”
The chief scout Adams refers to is the much maligned former Head of Recruitment at the Emirates, Sven Mislintat.
The German, poached from Borussia Dortmund in 2017, got off to the best possible start, bringing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to north London.
But after that, it went drastically downhill, with the likes of Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Stephan Lichtsteiner and Konstantinos Mavropanos all failing to make the grade.
Had he managed to finalise a deal for Bellingham, who ironically would go to his former club a year later, then the review of his tenure may be seen in a very different light.
It is difficult to imagine that the 17-year-old would be starting and shining for Arsenal, as he is with Dortmund, but he could have certanly been an option for Mikel Arteta for years to come.
Just over a year after missing out on the ex-Birmingham City star, Arteta splashed the cash to sign Thomas Partey, signing in a deal worth £45million.
That signing brings the end to Arsenal’s midfield struggles into sight, but further additions are still required.
And even so, Bellingham has the potential to be a mainstay at the top of Europe for the next 20 years.
Of all the players on Arsenal’s infamous list, England’s newest call-up, could prove to be their most costly miss.