Cesc Fabregas and nearly Lionel Messi: Francis Cagigao's 24 years at Arsenal
Guillem Balague meets former Arsenal head of recruitment Francis Cagigao, who discusses his 24 years of star-signing for the Gunners.
He is the scout who helped bring players such as Cesc Fabregas, Robin van Persie and Gabriel Martinelli to Arsenal - and also tried to land Lionel Messi.
But after 24 years of service, the club's former head of recruitment Francis Cagigao left by mutual agreement in August.
As he weighs up his options before deciding his next move, London-born Cagigao, 51, spoke to BBC Radio 5 Live's European football expert Guillem Balagueexternal-link about his time at Arsenal, the art of identifying talent, and just how close the club came to signing Argentina and Barcelona icon Messi.Fabregas, Martinelli and a 'smell for the game'
Confirmation of Cagigao's departure from Arsenal prompted a touching tribute from former Gunners captain Fabregas, one of the several talented youngsters he brought to the club.
Fabregas, who previously tweetedexternal-link 'Francis Cagigao strikes again and again. Legend' after two of his discoveries - Hector Bellerin and Martinelli - struck against Chelsea in January, said: "Nothing would have been the same for me if you didn't spot me at 15 years old. Your next team will be very lucky to have your football brain."
On signing a young Fabregas - who became the club's youngest player aged 16 years and 177 days in October 2003 - from Barcelona, Cagigao said: "I can't remember any other case at the time of such a young player joining us from such a big club.Martinelli, 19, scored 10 times in his breakthrough season for Arsenal last term