Speaking to legalsportsbooks.com, the Arsenal invincible said:
- Juventus and Barcelona wanted me – but I was not interested
- Fight with William Gallas after Birmingham game came from emotion
- Thierry Henry would have got into the 2002 Brazil squad – Ronaldo would have got into the 2004 Invincibles team
- Kaka was brilliant – but Ronaldinho was a ballerina and a genius with the ball
- Roy Keane, Frank Lampard or Steven Gerrard were amazing – but Paul Scholes was levels above
There was reported interest from Juventus and Barcelona in me – but I was not interested
GS: “There were rumours about Juventus coming in and making a move, someone always once told me about Barcelona – but I never heard about it officially and I never sat down with anyone because I was happy at the club.
“My intention was to always stay at Arsenal and actually finish my career here. Things changed of course and Arsene had ideas about what he wanted to do with the team and I decided to move. But I only moved to Greece in the final year of my contract, but I never really considered moving away from Arsenal because that was not what I really wanted.”
Fight with William Gallas after Birmingham game came from emotion
GS: “What I remember most from that day was how hard it was with everything going on with Eduardo, it was tough to see how distressed he was with the injury. We also didn’t have a good game, because of the emotion involved and we felt very distracted, which reflected in our performance.
“Sometimes you can have these moments with teammates when you have bad games and there are emotions running high, we just tried to calm everything down. You cannot let your emotions lead you, I did everything I did to just try and ensure calm throughout the squad. We had a bad day, but we tried to not let it influence us. You need people to ensure the whole squad reacts in a positive way, because otherwise it is not going to help at all.”
Thierry Henry would have got into the 2002 Brazil squad – Ronaldo would have got into the 2004 Invincibles team
GS: “I would have to pick Ronaldo, to play alongside Thierry. Then I would just leave that problem to Arsene to see how he would have managed to play with both of them!
“That’s a really difficult question because they were two really good teams; but I would say Thierry could have easily played for the Brazil team from 2002 as well. They were both big players with big personalities, but I wouldn’t swap them because they both brought individual qualities to both of those teams. For me, I can say that I was fortunate to have played alongside some of the best players in the world and learned so much from them.”
Kaka was brilliant – but Ronaldinho was a ballerina and a genius with the ball
GS: “Kaka was more straight-forward, he would look to pick the ball up and just drive with it at any opportunity. He was very fast, very strong, he was always trying to get the ball forward at every opportunity.
“Ronaldinho was like a ballerina with the ball, he could do things with a ball at his feet that no one else could do. He was such a genius, but he was also so fast with the ball – looking to assist and create things for teammates because he was so talented. They had very different kinds of styles, Ronaldinho was definitely more of a dribbler and a creator though.”
Thierry Henry was the fastest I played with – but Roberto Carlos and Theo Walcott come close
GS: “Thierry was just unbelievable and he could pass players for fun, it was so easy. You mentioned Theo Walcott, he was unbelievably fast as well when he arrived.
“Roberto was unbelievably fast and he could also run for such a long distance as well, but all of those players knew how to use their power. They used their speed with intelligence, it doesn’t matter if you are fast if you are not smart enough to use it.
“Thierry epitomised this, he was so intelligent with his movements and he left defenders in his wake for fun.”
I still don’t know why European success proved so elusive for our Arsenal team under Arsene Wenger
GS: “This was a question we always asked ourselves as a squad, we just always came up against squads that shared the exact same ambition as us. I still think about the Champions League final against Barcelona, just thinking ‘why not us?’. I find this question very difficult to answer, honestly.
“We knew as well, it was going to be really tough to get to a Champions League final as well, because of that process of transition as well. It made our life even harder, it is so tough and frustrating to be there and not win. But we have to move on with life and deal with this tough process.”
Roy Keane, Frank Lampard or Steven Gerrard were amazing – but Paul Scholes was levels above
GS: “They are all very tough, players with great ability. But I like Scholes; I like him because he was so smart, sometimes you did not notice him during a game but he was always there reading it. He was great at tackling, good passing, and I loved the fact he was outside the box always trying to score a goal.
“You have to be very smart to play against him, this was my mindset always when I played Manchester United. I had to be very careful with Scholes, because he didn’t make lots of noise, only when he made a good pass or a killer shot. When you play against intelligent players like this, you need the whole team to help you neutralise him and I liked him very much. Playing against all four of those players made me feel like a better player though, because I had to consistently raise my game when I played against them – they pushed you because they were so tough.”
Players leaving Arsenal was tough to see – but it didn’t guarantee success
GS: “It was really tough for the club at the time and the players who stayed, because you always believe you will have your teammates for the next season. It’s all about the decisions of players when good offers come in for them as well, it can sometimes lead to doubts for players as well.
“Yet these decisions can cost you a lot. If you speak to players who make these big moves away about how long they last after Arsenal, most of them had a tough life. So I would urge any young player from the current squad to consider this if a similar big offer comes in from another club.
“These players had to move again and their careers changed, maybe they didn’t really think before leaving the club, because these players need to remember Arsenal is a big club and a great place to be and you have to be very careful in terms of what you choose for a next move.
“When I look back at some of those players and the moves they made, they had a great time, but they had opportunities to become even greater at this club. But they all had to start again at new clubs, and this is what I mean by the decision.”
Theo Walcott was a great guy – but Arsenal move may have come too early
GS: “When he came to Arsenal, there was so much pressure on him and he was such a young guy – but he was so nice and such a good guy. Everyone embraced him when he arrived – the players, the staff, the management – but it is not easy to come to an environment like Arsenal at such a tender age.
“He had to alter his game to try and understand how Arsenal played, he was trying to adapt from the first day. There is always so much expectation for a player like this who is promising and has a lot of hype around them, people always assume players like this just naturally adapt.
“Sometimes, you can be a good player but you join a big club and they are in a transition like we were in at that time, so people assume you are not progressing due to the high expectations. People expected him to come to Arsenal and be the best player, but we had to share the expectation and the responsibility amongst the team. We had to learn to help him as well.”
A move to Arsenal could be on the cards one day – either as a coach or in the boardroom
GS: “You never know, Arsenal is a place where I feel at home any time. I love the club, I feel really comfortable, it is like coming back home. It depends as I am working on several different projects which are personal to me.
“Arsenal has a special place in my heart and any call from Arsenal is something I would always answer positively. I don’t want to create any speculation, because if it is going to happen in the future it will happen.
“But right now I am just a supporter and content to watch from the outside, or the training ground.”