Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger suspects defender Bacary Sagna decided to join Manchester City "a long time ago," after expressing his disappointment at losing one of his veteran performers to the Premier League champions this summer.
Wenger was hopeful of keeping Sagna at Arsenal after his contract expired at the end of last season, but he opted to accept what was reported to be a more lucrative contract offer from City.
Ahead of his side's Community Shield match against Sagna and City at Wembley on Sunday, Wenger spoke for the first time about the departure of the full-back he signed in 2007.
"Why did he go to City? You should ask him that question," Wenger told reporters at Emirates Stadium.
"I made him a proposal to stay and he chose Man City. Did he choose that a long time ago? Maybe. It looks like to me it was agreed a long time ago.
"There is always an element of disappointment because he came here as an unknown and he became a French international, but I respect Sagna a lot because until the last day of his contract he was super-professional.
"He decided to go somewhere else, but he was ready to die on the football pitch and I respect that. Ideally, I would have loved him to stay."
Wenger again suggested UEFA need to get tough with club's who flout their Financial Fair Play rules, with City and Paris Saint-Germain among those who fell foul of the rules last season, but he accepts their powers of punishment are restricted by their own commercial deals.
"The best players end up at the richest clubs," stated Wenger. "Man United did that for years, they had superior financial power and they still do.
"Now it looks like these clubs have some restrictions [because of FFP], but they have clever people who can think about how to get around them and they do that very well.
"Time will tell. UEFA have to be cautious as well because of television financial power. If you kick a club like Paris St Germain out tomorrow, the French television companies will go to UEFA and ask for their money back. It's not as easy as it looked at the start."
While Wenger insisted Arsenal are still a long way behind City in the financial battle to pay extravagant transfer fees and wages, he painted a more upbeat view of his club's hopes of signing the best players in the game in a summer that saw the Gunners sign Alexis Sanchez from Barcelona for a reported 35 million pounds.
"We are less vulnerable now, that is for sure," he added. "In the last two years we bought [Mesut] Ozil and Sanchez. Five years ago we would have lost Ozil and Sanchez.
"We have more money available to buy today than we had five years ago. We can compete better. For years we have lost top players without the ability to replace them because of financial management."