Arsenal have had many World Cup winners on their books, but have you ever wondered which players were already Gunners when they became global champions? Here are six of the best.
Manu Petit and Patrick Vieira, France ‘98
When Arsene Wenger arrived at Highbury it started an influx of France internationals following him to North London. In a way, that was only natural but just two players across Les Bleus’ two World Cup triumphs were actually on the books at Arsenal at the time they hosted the tournament finals in 1998.
You have to go back 20 years to when the Gunners midfield contained Emmanuel Petit and Patrick Vieira. A key pairing for club and country, they did a lot of the leg work – alongside then France national captain and current head coach Didier Deschamps – in the engine room which allowed Zinedine Zidane to shine further forward.
Petit even scored the third goal to seal the World Cup in the final after Zidane’s patented first-half magic. Vieira was only good enough for the bench that night but would go on to succeed Tony Adams as Arsenal captain and guide the Gunners’ Invincibles side of 2003-04 to the Premier League unbeaten.
Cesc Fabregas, South Africa 2010
Spain dominated international football for six or seven years and the crowning glory of the tiki-taka style was the 2010 World Cup win – the first tournament held in Africa. While we were all wishing the vuvuzela had never been invented, then Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas was fighting a near-impossible battle to get into La Roja’s midfield.
Pass-masters Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta, Xabi Alonso – a Premier League contemporary of Fabregas’s at Liverpool – and Sergio Busquets were just some of the names competing to play in the Spanish midfield. When he left the Gunners for Barcelona in 2011, Fabregas ended up having the same problem.
Like Vieira before him, Fabregas had to be content with coming off the bench in the 2010 World Cup final. Spain beat the Netherlands thanks to an extra time strike from future Nou Camp teammate Iniesta, but there is no taking the winner’s medal off him.
Per Mertesacker, Mesut Ozil and Lukas Podolski, Brazil 2014
Three of Germany’s 2014 World Cup-winning side played their club football at the Emirates at the time, and this reflected well on Wenger’s team. Highlights of the tournament in Brazil include Die Mannschaft mauling the hosts 7-1 in the semi-finals.
If only Mikel Arteta had the “BFG” marshalling his defence, then Arsenal betting tips might be more favourable. Mertesacker remains with the Gunners as manager of the academy, but he got on as a very late sub in Germany’s 1-0 World Cup final win over Argentina in extra time replacing Mesut Ozil.
The much-maligned playmaker was hailed as a hero then, only to see his stock diminish somewhat with every passing year since. Versatile forward Lukas Podolski was exactly the kind of handy option Joachim Low used to have on Die Mannschaft’s roster too.