Finally, A Proper Arsenal Farewell For Eduardo

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Finally, A Proper Arsenal Farewell For Eduardo
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Although Eduardo Alves Da Silva only played three seasons for Arsenal, his career, his life and indeed his identity will be inevitably tied to Arsenal Football Club forever. 

Although he initially made a name for himself as a young Brazilian playing for NK Dinamo Zagreb in Croatia, playing over 100 games and scoring more than 70 goals for them, he will forever be known as an Arsenal player. 

Originally pegged as one of several possible successors to the inimitable Thierry Henry, Eduardo was slow to adapt to the speed and physicality of British football, spending time during the 2007-08 preseason in the Amsterdam Tournament and later with the reserves and playing in Carling Cup matches to acclimatize himself with the occasional Premier League and Champions League substitute appearance. 

On a team with Emmanuel Adebayor, Robin van Persie, Nicklas Bendtner and even Theo Walcott, and generally firing on all cylinders and having a storming start to the season, there was no pressing need to push Eduardo into first-team action. 

But he took his chances when he was presented with them and after magnificent performances where he scored braces against Sheffield United and Blackburn in the Carling Cup and added another against Sevilla in the Champions League, he was starting to win over the manager, his teammates and Arsenal supporters. 

By the end of the year, he was getting his fair share of games, scoring yet another brace against Everton at Goodison Park, and scoring another against West Ham United on New Year's Day, bringing up the question of whether he was actually the most clinical finisher among Arsenal players. 

In the FA Cup, he scored against Burnley and set up strike partner Nicklas Bendtner for his second goal. Finally, he scored again in Arsenal's 3-1 win against a pre-money-injected Manchester City side. 

Then came the moment that changed his life and severely impacted the Arsenal team for the rest of the season. 

In the early minutes of Arsenal's Feb. 23, 2008 fixture against Birmingham City, as Eduardo was controlling a pass, Birmingham defender Martin Taylor slid in late with a high challenge on the Brazilian-born Croatian.

In one bang-bang moment, Taylor snapped Eduardo's leg, breaking both the tibia and fibula and dislocating his left ankle. Arsenal physio Gary Lewin, now with the England National team, acted quickly and decisively to save Eduardo's leg and prevent something worse from happening. 

For his indiscretion, Taylor was sent off and given a three-match ban. 

After suffering that compound fracture, Eduardo had surgery on his leg and ankle and spent much of the next year on rehabilitation before he could even walk, much less play football.

He made a few appearances during the 2008-09 season, but was largely inactive due to the nature of the rehab and the setbacks associated with such a long layoff. 

The next year, a few days after making his 2009-10 Premier League debut, Eduardo was again part of one of the most controversial situations as he was embroiled in a diving scandal against Celtic. Scottish FA chief executive Gordon Smith accused him of diving to win a penalty in Arsenal's 3-1 Champions League win over Celtic, calling for a ban on him. 

He was later charged by UEFA with "deceiving the referee" and given an unprecedented two-match ban, which was later (correctly) overturned. 

But the damage to his reputation had lingering effects on referees and his own play.

His injury and his pariah-like status in England left him a shadow of his shining former self and though he showed flashes of brilliance during the year, and enough to warrant a new contract in November of 2009, it was clear that he had lost a step. The Eduardo of pre-2008 was, by all accounts, no more. 

During the 2010 transfer season with new signing Marouane Chamakh, Robin van Persie and Nicklas Bendtner in front of him in Wenger's new preferred 4-3-3 formation, the striker position was crowded and there was not enough room for Eduardo. So despite signing that new contract, he signed for Ukrainian champions Shakhtar Donetsk on a four-year contract. 

Too bad he couldn't play one last game for the Arsenal fans who stood by him through all that adversity. 

But fate has a funny way of working sometimes, and with a happy twist of fate, Eduardo was brought back once more to the Emirates Stadium—Ashburton Grove—for one final match, a quasi-testimonial if you will. As Arsenal learned who they would face in the Champions League, they received a pleasant surprise when they found out that they would be facing Shakhtar Donetsk in the group stage of the Champions League. 

For that one night in North London, everything was perfect. 

With Arsenal running rampant over Shakhtar Donetsk and leading 5-0, Eduardo sent the ball to his right and was promptly served a cross back that he finished with typical Eduardo aplomb, a perfect volley that showcased Eduardo's best qualities: his clinical finishing and his predatory instincts in front of goal. And he did it all with new signing Sebastian Squillaci bearing down on him. 

True to his word, he didn't celebrate his goal, instead pointing to his left leg, in a noble gesture of thanks and respect towards all Arsenal fans who supported him during his trying time. 

His gesture was duly accepted and returned, with a raucous, rapturous standing ovation resonating around the stadium. For an opponent's goal

It is truly a testament to the class and relationship between the player and supporters that they would give him a standing ovation after he scored against their beloved team.

But after so much heartache and struggle, there is undoubtedly a lifelong bond between the club and this former player, and to many, he will hold a special place in their hearts. 

After the match, as he spoke to his friends and former teammates, and he basked in the cheers and adulation of the Arsenal fans, he raised his hands and clapped for them, showing his love and appreciation for this classy club and its classy supporters.  

So, though this was Arsenal's night, it was also Eduardo's night. He was undoubtedly the star of the show. 

And finally, he received his proper farewell. 

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