As the COVID pandemic starts to wane, fans are slowly being allowed back into stadiums to watch their teams live. It’s a welcome return to some sort of normalcy as supporters are an important part of the game. A stadium full of cheering Arsenal fans creates an atmosphere that can motivate players and intimidate opponents.
Fandom provides supporters with a sense of belonging and unity. Unfortunately, football is a business and sometimes players will leave for a variety of reasons. Whether it’s for more money, the opportunity to win trophies, or due to a falling out with the team and manager, once loved icons can go from hero to zero.
Of course, it’s irrational to expect complete loyalty from players to a club. After all, for them, it is a job. If we had the chance to make more money or increase our profile by taking a new job, most of us would jump at that. Being a fan doesn’t work that way, though. When a member of the team you support leaves, it’s often seen as a betrayal.
When fans feel that a once loved player has betrayed them and the club they support, they are labeled a traitor or a Judas. It doesn’t take long for love to turn into hatred.
Arsenal: 7 former players who ruined their legacy after leaving Gunners
Here’s a look at seven former Arsenal players that could have become club legends, but instead ruined their legacies. They are ranked from bad to worse to unforgivable.
Cesc Fabregas – From red to blue
Cesc Fabregas joined Arsenal as a 16-year-old in 2003 from Barcelona’s youth academy. The young midfielder was seeking an opportunity for more playing time and saw that chance with the Gunners. Under the tutelage of Arsene Wenger, the Spaniard developed into one of Arsenal’s most creative and influential players. He became so important to the squad that he was named captain in 2008 at the tender age of 21.
He was a fan favorite and supporters regularly chanted his name. He was adored. In all, he spent eight years in north London and made 304 appearances.
Despite having been deemed surplus to requirements once by Barcelona, the Catalans renewed interest in Fabregas once his stock had risen. The team that had once let him leave as a teenager suddenly looked at him as one of their own. They wanted him back and pursued him aggressively. In many ways, Barcelona acted in a completely unprofessional manner and disrespected Arsenal. Several examples include:
- In 2009 Xavi declared that Fabregas has “Barça DNA” in an interview with the highly-read publication El Mundo Deportivo.
- Following Spain’s World Cup win in 2010 Gerard Piqué, Pepe Reina, and Carles Puyol jokingly pulled a Barcelona shirt over the head of Fabregas during the team’s celebration while the cameras were rolling.
Eventually, Fabregas requested a move back to Spain. While fans were upset, most understood his desire to rejoin his boyhood club. He was still loved by the supporters and even tweeted ‘Once a Gunner, always a Gunner’ on his way out.
Fabregas returned to Spain in 2011 and his stay lasted only three years. Once again, Barcelona decided he wasn’t needed anymore and looked to move him on. By then Arsenal had Mesut Ozil and Arsene Wenger opted against bringing him back to his former home.
Of course, Fabregas wanted to keep playing and no one could begrudge him that. Perhaps we as fans take loyalty too seriously, but Arsenal supporters weren’t prepared for what happened next. Instead of signing for another club in Europe, the one-time Arsenal captain signed with one of the Gunners’ most despised rivals, Chelsea.
It felt like a slap in the face. Arsenal fans were upset. The player that had become a star in red and white would now be suiting up for the enemy.
Over time, some of the pain has lessened. While he did push through a move back to Spain and did sign for Chelsea, he never spoke badly of Arsenal.