• Premier League

Work permit scuppered Di Maria move to Arsenal

ESPN staff
January 23, 2015
Angel Di Maria joined Manchester United for a British record £59.7m last summer © Getty Images

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger says he wanted to bring Angel Di Maria to the Premier League when the player was bursting through the ranks as a teenager in Argentina, only for England's strict work permit rules to scupper any potential move to North London.

Wenger looks set to go before a work permit tribunal in the coming days as he closes in on the possible signing of Brazilian defender Gabriel Paulista from Villarreal, with his transfer window target not complying with the rules that restrict foreign players moving to English clubs.

Non-European players who have not played 75% of recent internationals for their country during the two years leading up to a transfer face a tough task to secure a move to English clubs under the current regulations, much to Wenger's chagrin.

"Ideally it would open completely and anyone can come in," argues Wenger, who is also against proposed changes to work permit rules due to be introduced next summer that will see any player costing more than £10 million granted a chance to play for a Premier League club.

"We had identified Di Maria when he was 17. We saw him in an international competition and we wanted him to come here, but he goes to Portugal, and from Portugal he goes to Spain. Why? Because he could not get a work permit, so that means you can only get him to England once he is worth a huge amount of money.

"What does it mean if at the end of the day he comes anyway into the country [at a later date] for a huge amount of money? Who do you pay this huge amount of money to? A club like Real Madrid, they don't need the money. We have to be conscious of that."

Wenger is of the opinion that the best young English talent would still emerge through the ranks even if the borders were open to all foreign players, as he argues the quality of the player is more important than the stamp on his passport.

"There are two ways to approach the solution of the academies," he added referring to the youth team set ups at all Premier League clubs. "The first is you close completely the borders of the country and you play only with English players. What will that do? That will kill the attractiveness of the Premier League worldwide.

"The second is to say: 'Look, we have the best league in the world, so let's produce the best players in the world.'

"This is a job where the competitive aspect is very important. The players all make big money, and they have to be better than the others if you want to play in the best league in the world, so let's open it completely. At the moment, we live in a world where artificial protection is negative.

"If you want to be the best league in the world then you have to accept that you have to produce the best players in the world, so the question is how can you produce the best players?

"One thing is for sure, if you put a young player with top level players, he has more chance to develop. If you put him with average players he has more chance to remain average.

"It is the same if you have children - you put them in the top class and if they are talented they develop better than if you put them in an average class."

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