UNAI EMERY thought Lucas Torreira was too small for Arsenal and wanted to buy towering Steven Nzonzi instead.
But Arsenal’s recruitment experts alerted him to 5ft 5ins Torreira – who stands just under a foot shorter than Nzonzi – and eventually managed to change his mind.
It was a battle, though.
Emery is said to have a preference for a very particular type of holding midfielder.
He wants a physically dominant player, who jumps above others to win headers, does not get pushed off the ball easily and at the same time can barge others off it.
At 6ft 4ins, Nzonzi, 30, fits the mould perfectly.
But Arsenal’s former head of recruitment Sven Mislintat and analytics expert Jaeson Rosenfeld had already earmarked Torreira.
They were drawn to the former Sampdoria man’s figures for ball recoveries and tackling, as well as his ability to win back possession and set an attack in motion.
At the time of the proposed move last summer, Torreira’s age also made more sense.
He was 22 then – Nzonzi 29 – and had a much greater sell-on potential.
Arsenal only bring in older players when “strictly necessary”, the report adds, with the recent acquisitions of Nicolas Pepe, 24, Matteo Guendouzi, 20, and Kieran Tierney, 20, to name but a few, testament to that.
That all helped Mislintat and Rosenfeld convince Emery that Torreira was the man for the job and he signed for £26m last summer.
And he has proved a shrewd investment with three goals since joining.
Torreira could start for Emery in Sunday’s North London derby after grabbing the Gunners’ consolation goal in the 3-1 defeat to Liverpool.