Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger says the club previously missed out on signing Real Madrid defender Raphael Varane.

The French defender has been installed as first choice alongside Sergio Ramos in the Madrid starting XI, amid an impressive second spell in the team under Jose Mourinho.

Portuguese centre-back Pepe had dominated the role, but the 19 year old has recently leapfrogged his teammate in the reckoning, starting against Manchester United in the Champions League last 16 clash at the Bernabeu on Wednesday.

Varane first caught the attention of Real during his days with Lens, and Wenger admits Arsenal were also interested in recruiting the highly-rated defender.

Raphael Varane
Varane has forced himself into the Madrid first team

"When he was at Racing Lens, we tried to get him," Wenger admitted. "We need to ask why he did not want to play with us,"

"Varane has shown (Jose) Mourinho that he can count on him, I'm happy for him with the way he has developed."

Arsenal this weekend face Blackburn Rovers in the FA Cup fifth round, a crucial game in the club's hopes of ending their eight-year trophy drought.

Wenger's team selection has suggested the French boss is taking the cup competition, alongside their league commitments, seriously but he admits midfielder Jack Wilshere won't be risked after a recent gruelling schedule.

"I will not take a risk," Wenger added. "[That is because I have] the rest of the season in mind and what happened to him before.

"There was no big issue on that [playing 90 minutes for England]. What I said after the game was that I could understand, England were winning and he was the best player. It is difficult to take the best player off when you are beating Brazil.

"Maybe it is a friendly but it still has meaning for the confidence of the country, so I could understand that."

Captain Thomas Vermaelen however will play against Rovers at The Emirates Stadium after an ankle problem, while Laurent Koscileny and Wilshere will face further fitness test ahead of their possible inclusion.

"Wilshere and Koscielny have a test this [Friday] morning and Thomas Vermaelen should be back. He has a definite test today," the Arsenal boss said.

"We have plenty of people in training today who have a test and we'll see how well they come out of it. I am confident 50:50 with Wilshere and Koscielny, and Vermaelen 90:10."