Former Arsenal defender Lauren has revealed he turned down Real Madrid to sign for Arsenal because of the “human warmth” of former manager Arsene Wenger.
The former Cameroon international, now 43, moved to the north London side from Real Mallorca in the summer of 2000.
He would go on to make 242 appearances in six-and-a-half years with the club, winning three FA Cups and two Premier League titles, the latter being the famous ‘Invincibles’ season of 2003-04. However, Lauren’s career could have been very different had he accepted an offer from Real Madrid instead.
The former defender held talks with the Spanish giants but left without an agreement. He then flew to London for a meeting with Wenger and then vice-chairman David Dein at Dein’s home, with their more relaxed, family-orientated approach enough to convince him to sign a contract, despite being unable to speak a word of English at the time.
“My representative came to Madrid, met Juan Onieva [the vice-president] and they didn't reach an agreement because the economic conditions that Madrid offered didn't convince us,” Lauren told the Mail.
“We got on a flight and went straight to London, because there had been contact with Arsenal before. When we arrived we went straight to David Dein's house. It was David Dein, his daughter who spoke Spanish, Arsene Wenger, me, my representative, and a translator who we had brought with us because my English was non-existent.
“What really struck me was that I had always negotiated in an office with everyone very serious, wearing suits and ties. This was totally different. David Dein opens his home to you. His personality was spectacular, the treatment man to man was fantastic and I left there totally convinced.
“And Wenger, with that human warmth he has, that approachable character of his. During negotiations he didn't speak too much; he listens to you, watches you, he's seeing if you have the personality to be able to take on this challenge.
“At Madrid it was like you had to do what they said: this is the way it is, full stop. My dad is a Madrid fan, I was always a Sevilla fan and then Madrid as well, but when another club comes along with another attitude however much you might have liked Madrid, you go to the place where they treat you best and where they offer you the best terms.
"The way that Dein and Wenger acted struck us. It wasn't ‘come to the club’, it was ‘come to my house. Come to be with my family, in my home. Come to join us.’”