Bacary Sagna: Blond Braids and Backline Brilliance

Cord NowellContributor IJanuary 15, 2009

And the award for best hairstyle in a supporting role goes to........ Arsenal right-back
Bacary Sagna.

With his distinctive blond braids bobbing from his head and his persistent pressure on the pitch, Sagna is quickly becoming one of the English Premier League's best defenders.

The unusual haircut that he is now known for stems from a bet he made with his father when he was a young boy. The elder Sagna told his son if he scored a goal in his next match, then he could style his hair anyway he wanted. Bacary scored twice and the braids were born.

Sagna is not a flashy player like his hair might indicate, but a determined defender who always seems to be in the right place. Small in stature, Sagna uses his quick feet and high "footie IQ" to keep his opponents frustrated on the pitch. His precise slide-tackles and ability to chase down the fastest of competitors are just a few reasons why Arsenal signed him to a contract extension through 2014.

The 25-year-old defender was born to Senegalese immigrints in Sens, France, in 1983.
Sagna started to play football at a young age, emulating his brother and father who
also played. As a youngster Sagna joined FC Lens, his local team, and instantly showed promise.

At age 14 he joined the Auxerre youth academy. While at the academy Sagna was turned from an attacking player into a defender. By 2002 he was a top player on the Auxerre reserve team and by 2004 he was one of the best defenders in the Ligue 1. His quick progression through the French Ligue ranks caught the eye of countryman Arsene Wenger.

In the summer of 2007, Sagna joined Arsenal for an undisclosed fee, thought to be around 6 million pounds. Sagna was then given jersey number 3, which was most recently worn by defender Ashley Cole. With a team full of Frenchmen, Sagna felt right at home and instantly became a first-team starter.

It did not take Sagna long to get used living in London and playing in the EPL. In his first season as a Gooner, Sagna was named to the Premier League team of the year. An award given to the top 11 players in the EPL, voted on by his peers.

The blond defender's first goal as a Gooner was a memorable one. It came last March
at Stamford Bridge vs. Chelsea. Wearing black armbands in memory of his older brother, who had passed away earlier in the week, Sagna scored the go-ahead goal. Then, with tears rolling down his cheeks he pointed to the sky in an emotional celebration.

In his second season at Arsenal, Sagna is showing no signs of slowing down. He and teammates Gael Clichy, William Gallas, and Mikael Silvestre form an all French backline and despite some tough late equalizers allowed, Arsenal are still in the trophy hunt.

Who can forget the spectacular goal-saving bicycle-kick Sagna made against Aston Villa earlier this season? With his foot nearly reaching the top crossbar, Sagna saved an almost certain goal with an impressive aerial maneuver. The save will definitely go down in highlight-reel history.

Sagna had a tough choice when it came to picking a country to represent internationally. Would he play for his parents home country of Senegal or play for France, the country where he was born and learned to play football. In the end, Sagna chose Les Bleus and it seems to be paying off. With three caps already, Sagna is now gunning for Willy Sagnol's right back slot in the French squad.

Midway through his second season playing in England, Sagna is well on his way to making himself a fan favorite at the Emirates and it is arguable that he is the best right-back in all of football. Whether it his bright blond hair or his strong defensive presence, Sagna is always easy to spot on the pitch.