Arsenal Transfers: Grading Ex-Gunners' Career Moves from Anelka to Fabregas

Shona Black@@shona_blackContributor IIJuly 30, 2012

Arsenal Transfers: Grading Ex-Gunners' Career Moves from Anelka to Fabregas

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    Robin van Persie is only the latest in a long line of Arsenal stars looking to capitalize from a big-money move.

    Although disgruntled fans tend to suspect purely financial motives—sometimes, but not always, correctly—players always point to the opportunity to take their game to the next level.

    To pursue European glory.

    Or in the case of Arsenal over the last few years, to win anything—anything at all.

    But it turns out the grass isn't always greener at the Camp Nou, or Eastlands or the Bernabeu. Here's a look at some of the key player moves away from Arsenal in the Premier League era.

Nicolas Anelka to Real Madrid, 1999

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    Trophies Won with New Club: 1

    Player Grade: D

    Arsenal Grade: A

    The original player-pressure move worked out well for Arsenal, not so well for Anelka—that is, if you believe the transfer was forced for footballing reasons, not financial.

    Anelka's single season at Real Madrid earned him a Champions League medal, but otherwise can hardly be categorized as a success.

    His lack of playing opportunity—he made just 19 appearances in 1999/2000—and reputation as a troublemaker set Anelka down a path of perpetual transfers.

    Arsenal, on the other hand, banked a record £22-million transfer fee, money that helped build one of the most successful sides in the club's history.

Emmanuel Petit to Barcelona, 2000

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    Trophies Won with New Club: 0

    Player Grade: D

    Arsenal Grade: A

    Arsène Wenger demonstrated his talent for off-loading star players at the right time with a lucrative deal for Emmanuel Petit and Marc Overmars.

    In 2000, Arsenal sold the 1998 Double-winning pair to Barcelona for a combined fee of over £30 million.

    Arsenal fans were sceptical, but as with Anelka, the transfer turned out better for the club than the players.

    Petit in particular struggled at Barcelona, lasting only one season. In his 2008 autobiography, Petit revealed how he was shunned by his new teammates, and that the Barça coach didn't even know what position he played in.

Patrick Vieira to Juventus, 2005

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    Trophies Won with New Club: 0*

    Player Grade: D

    Arsenal Grade: B

    Seven years on, there's still a lingering feeling that Arsenal's decline started with the sale of Patrick Vieira.

    That may tangentially be the case in retrospect, but it is clear that the transfer itself benefited Arsenal more than it did Vieira.

    The France midfielder had been agitating for a move for some time before Arsenal finally accepted a £17-million offer from Juventus in 2005.

    While still enormously influential, at 29 Vieira's best years were behind him. This was amply demonstrated when Arsenal met Juventus in the 2006 Champions League quarterfinals, and Vieira was comprehensively outshone by his replacement No. 4, emerging star Cesc Fabregas.

    To add insult to injury, Vieira was stripped of the only medal he won with Juventus after the Italian giants were convicted of match-fixing.

    (*Juventus were stripped of their 2005/06 Serie A title)

Ashley Cole to Chelsea, 2006

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    Trophies Won with New Club: 8 to date 

    Player Grade: A+

    Arsenal Grade: C

    At the time, it seemed like a decent bit of business for Arsenal. Cole certainly had to go after the bitter salary negotiations and flagrant Chelsea courtship detailed in his notorious book My Defence, and Arsenal were able to secure £5 million plus William Gallas in return.

    But despite a promising start, it wasn't long before Gallas showed his age and temperament, which meant a £20-million valuation was completely off base.

    Meanwhile at Chelsea, Cole quickly established himself as one of the club's most dependable and valuable players, helping the team to multiple trophies including the 2012 Champions League.

    Cole's incongruous professionalism on the pitch and continued world-class skill at left-back have even partly rehabilitated his tarnished public image.

Thierry Henry to Barcelona, 2007

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    Trophies Won with New Club: 5 

    Player Grade: B

    Arsenal Grade: B

    On paper, a win-win transfer. Thierry Henry finally won the Champions League with Barcelona, while Arsenal offloaded an expensive player on the wane.

    And far from devastating the team, Henry's departure actually seemed to inspire the Arsenal squad, who by some accounts had been negatively overawed by their captain's stature.

    But despite the trophies, Henry's increasingly rare performances at Barcelona made it clear his glory days at the highest level were over. In 2010 he was encouraged to transfer to the MLS, where he has created an impressive late-career rally at New York Red Bulls.

    Henry's post-Barcelona form saw him make a sensational return on loan to Arsenal in the 2011/12 season. 

Emmanuel Adebayor to Manchester City, 2010

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    Trophies Won with New Club: 0

    Player Grade: C

    Arsenal Grade: B+

    Emmanuel Adebayor started his Manchester City career with a splash, becoming the first ever City player to score a hat-trick in European competition.

    But in what has become a trademark pattern, his early enthusiasm soon faded and mid-way through his second season at City, Adebayor found himself surplus to requirements.

    Unfortunately for the striker, he was sent away on loan just before City started winning things.

    Arsenal fans may rue the loss of a proven goal-scorer, but in retrospect the £25-million fee was more than generous for a player whose inconsistent form, salary demands and destabilizing dressing room influence have since made him seemingly impossible for City to unload. 

Cesc Fabregas to Barcelona, 2011

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    Trophies Won with New Club: 4 to date

    Player Grade: B+

    Arsenal Grade: C

    Losing Fabregas was always going to be painful, but hardly unexpected. Arsenal knew it was only a matter of time before the Barcelona youth product returned home.

    Unfortunately, so did everyone else, which hampered the club's ability to negotiate.

    After damagingly protracted negotiations which dragged into the start of the Premier League season, Barcelona finally got their man for a reported £35 million. A month later, The Independent reported that Barcelona vice-president Josep Bartomeu acknowledged to Catalan paper Sport that Cesc was actually worth Arsenal's initial valuation of over £50 million.

    Arsenal's failure to deal effectively with a transfer everyone knew was on the horizon not only cost them £15 million, but contributed to their worst Premier League start in years.

    As for Cesc, joining Pep Guardiola's Barcelona was essentially guaranteed to end his trophy drought, and it delivered almost immediately with the 2011 UEFA Supercup win.

    Yet it has not necessarily been an unblemished dream move. Champions League success continued to elude him. And Cesc's arrival coincided with Barcelona's first losing La Liga campaign in four years, a fact some observers have suggested is more than coincidence.