ARSENAL manager Arsene Wenger concedes he made a "huge mistake" in failing to sign Gareth Bale.
Wenger was tracking the Welshman back when he was a young left-back at Southampton, alongside future Gunner Theo Walcott.
But while Walcott made the move to Arsenal, Bale, now 23, headed to north London rivals Tottenham, where he is now proving to be one of the best players in England.
Wenger said: "We didn't take him as we had Ashley Cole and Gael Clichy and didn't want another left-back.
"I must confess it was a huge mistake as he can play in midfield. He struggled at the start at Tottenham, then they moved him to midfield and he has done exceptionally well.
"The career of a player sometimes depends on playing in the right position."
Meanwhile, Wenger maintains any club would be interested in signing Wayne Rooney should the England striker come on to the open market this summer.
Rooney's future at Old Trafford is uncertain after David Moyes, his former manager at Everton, succeeded Alex Ferguson, who had left the forward out of the Manchester United squad for the penultimate Premier League fixture against Swansea as a result of him handing in a transfer request.
The England international, who netted in Sunday's 2-2 draw against Brazil, struggled for consistency last season when he played second fiddle to Robin van Persie following the Dutchman's £24m arrival from Arsenal.
Wenger has some £100m in the Emirates Stadium war chest to spend as he looks to make the Gunners title contenders once again.
The wage bill is set to be freed up by the impending departure of several surplus players like Andrey Arshavin, Marouane Chamakh, Nicklas Bendtner, Sebastien Squillaci, Park Chu-Young and Denilson, who has left already by mutual consent.
"Rooney could be an interesting player for everybody in the world, who would turn him down?
"David Moyes' first challenge is to go in to Manchester and bridge the gap between him and Rooney.
"If that is feasible or not depends on his personality and if Rooney bears a grudge or not, we will see that.
"It will be interesting to see how that will be handled," said Wenger.
Wenger has already begun his rebuilding plans, pushing through a deal for France under-21 Yaya Sanogo, and is tracking Real Madrid frontman Gonzalo Higuain along with Celtic midfielder Victor Wanyama.