Petr Cech has revealed he could have become an Arsenal player more than a decade ago had work permit restrictions not scuppered a switch to the Premier League.
The Czech Republic international completed a move from rivals Chelsea on Monday after falling behind Thibaut Courtois in the Stamford Bridge pecking order – the 33-year-old signing a long-term deal at the Emirates Stadium.
However, Cech could have been first choice at Arsenal much sooner had their original move for him in 2002 gone through.
The goalkeeper eventually left Sparta Prague for Rennes, before arriving at Chelsea for what became a memorable 11-year stint.
“There was a chance before I went to France [to join Rennes] 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 told the club’s official website.
“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.”