Arsenal and calamitous decisions go hand in hand these days, but it seems Arsene Wenger was making disastrous choices as far back as 2001, when the Gunners lost out on one of the finest strikers playing the game today, Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The then 20-year-old Swede came within a hair's breadth of moving to the Gunners, even posing in the Arsenal number nine shirt which he claims was sent to him by Wenger himself. Worse still, Arsenal had reportedly agreed a £3m fee with Swedish side Malmo for him, but before the deal could be completed, something went terribly wrong and they ended up with Franny Jeffers instead.
"Zlatan doesn't do auditions"
Arsene Wenger claims Ibrahimovic visited the English club's training ground, but after failing to take part in a trial, decided against sending someone over to watch him at Malmo, and the deal fell through. Ibrahimovic's version of the tale is that Arsenal didn't step up their efforts to sign him and when they asked him to come for a trial before completing the move, his reply was unequivocal: “Zlatan doesn't do auditions”.
However, the Gunners didn't end up empty handed and after losing out on Ibrahimovic for £3m, they decided to splash out an initial £8m on Francis Jeffers, Everton's 20-year-old academy product. So just how did the respective careers of the strikers work out, and was Jeffers really worth more than double what they were prepared to pay for Ibrahimovic?
The next step
After Arsenal failed to sign him in 2001, Ibrahimovic moved to Dutch giants Ajax where he stayed until 2004, honing his skills and slowly making a name for himself. In his first season in the Netherlands, while still finding his feet, Ibracadabra scored nine goals and the following campaign notched up 21. In his three years in Amsterdam, he won two Eredivisie titles, a KNVB Cup, and topped it off by sealing a move to Serie A with Juventus for €16m (around £12.8m).
Jeffers, much like Ibrahimovic at Ajax, showed he was still looking for his best form in his first year with the Gunners. He improved in his second, but seven strikes are pretty meagre in comparison to the Swede's 21 and by the third season he had been shipped back to Everton on loan where he repeated the feats of his first year in London, scoring two goals in all competitions. The scouser did manage to collect two FA Cup winners' medals during his time at Arsenal, though, his £2.6m move to Charlton Athletic in 2004 hardly compares to the glamour of Juve.
The big move
Ibrahimovic's big move to Juve started brightly, with the striker scoring 16 times en route to a Serie A victory with the Old Lady. His second season wasn't quite as strong, but over two years with the Italian side he registered 26 goals, six assists and two league titles.
Jeffers would also spend two years under contract with new club Charlton, but his first season wasn't as strong, scoring just five goals in 24 appearances. In his second season he was once again loaned out, this time to Rangers on transfer deadline day in August (there's a pattern emerging here), but he wasn't even good enough for Scotland and was sent packing back down south with his tail between his legs after four months.
Trophies are what really count, however, and on paper Ibrahimovic's two Serie A titles at Juventus trump the sweet nothing Jeffers won at Charlton, but there's a twist in the tale! Both league titles Juventus won were revoked after the uncovering of the Calciopoli scandal, so technically Ibrahimovic went home empty handed just like Jeffers. That being said, the Swede's transfer to Inter at the end of his spell with Juve in 2006 for nearly £20m is slightly more impressive than Jeffers' free transfer to Blackburn the same year.
The big regret
The careers of Jeffers and Ibrahimovic took a similar turn once again a few years later, with both making moves to clubs that wear blue and red stripes, yet both also ultimately failed to impress and soon moved elsewhere. Ibrahimovic donned the famous stripes of Barcelona in 2009, but despite a bright start following his biggest move yet, his goals dried up in the second half of the season. Despite managing 21 goals in his only full season with the Catalan side, Ibrahimovic was deemed a bad influence in the dressing room and, after Barca begged anybody to take him off their hands, shipped him off to Milan on loan for the 2010/11 campaign, with the Italians taking up the option to buy him at the end of the spell.
Jeffers can relate to the pressure experienced by Ibrahimovic after making a similar big money move to Newcastle Jets, in Australia in 2010, signing a 10-match guest contract with the club after a rigorous trial. His sensational debut saw him play a lethal through ball, which led to the winner against the might of Adelaide United. Like Ibrahimovic, however, a strong start to his campaign wasn't good enough and the Jets allowed the maverick striker to leave for free in 2011.
The present day
Ibrahimovic's move to Milan didn't prove to be his last, as the number nine signed a huge £15.7m deal with Paris Saint-Germain in 2012, which ensures he will earn a tidy salary of just over £11m per year at the French club. With 12 goals and five assists in all competitions already, it looks to be paying off for the club, and certainly pays well for the player.
Forget the Eiffel tower, Francis Jeffers is currently taking in the impressive sights of Floriana in Malta, which include its Botanical Gardens, King George V Recreational Grounds and, lest we forget, the famous Hydrofoil terminal. Why? Because the striker just completed a sensational move to Maltese Premier league club Floriana FC, the 25-time champions. With a goals-to-game ratio of 50 per cent (scoring one in two appearances), Jeffers is on track to keep up with his Swedish Doppelganger.
For Ibrahimovic, the one major trophy that has always eluded him is the Champions League and with money flowing quite literally like oil at PSG, the cup with the big ears has to be Zlatan's next major goal. Jeffers on the other hand will be working hard to bring Floriana back to where they rightly belong, by firing them to the top of the pile in the Maltese Premier League, a trophy they haven't won since 1993. The sky is clearly the limit for these sensational goal scorers, but did Arsene Wenger really make the right decision all those years back?
Ibrahimovic: Eredivisie(x2), KNVB Cup (2001/02), Serie A (x4), Supercoppa Italiana (x2), La Liga (2009/10), Supercopa de Espanya (x2), UEFA Super Cup (2009), FIFA Club World Cup (2009), Golden Foot (2012), Serie A Top Scorer (x2)
Jeffers: FA Cup (x2)
Ibrahimovic: Seven caps and six goals for Sweden U21/ 85 caps and 39 goals for Sweden senior side
Jeffers: 16 caps and 13 goals for England U21/ one cap and one goal for England senior side
Combined transfer fees
Click the video below for some of Ibra's best bits...
Check out some highlights of Jeffers at Newcastle Jets below...
Do you think Arsene Wenger was right to sign Francis Jeffers over Zlatan Ibrahimovic? Leave your comment below...