French star says leaving Arsenal is the biggest regret of his life
Former Gunner’s book shows how fancy transfers aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. Take heed Robinho…
Thierry Henry might be thinking it, but Emmanuel Petit has come out and said it – baling out of Arsenal to join Barcelona was the biggest mistake he ever made. This will come as excellent news of the serves-you-right variety to all those Gunners’ fans who remember the eagerness with which Petit scarpered in 2000, although it may bring a degree of gallic bafflement to the face of Patrick Vieira, whom Petit openly encouraged to join him in Spain at the time by testifying as to Barcelona’s all-round wonderfulness.
Alas, according to Petit’s new book, the Catalans treated him like just another chump, even though they weren’t apparently as clever with the cash as they traditionally like to think they are. “I was making 150,000 euros a month. So I asked Gaspart (Barcelona vice-president) for twice that. He wavered but agreed eventually.”
The freshly enriched Petit then trotted off to join the squad in Holland, where they had already begun their pre-season rituals. His joy at doubling his salary didn’t last long. “I turned up for a friendly, and when I went in to meet my team mates most of them ignored me.”
His first meeting with coach Lorenzo Serra Ferrer wasn’t a whole lot more rewarding. “The night I arrived, the boss asked another French player, Richard Dutruel, to translate. Richard, visibly embarrassed, told me not to laugh, but said the boss wanted to know what my best position was! I thought he was joking. But I soon realised I was only there as part of Gaspart’s plot to become president.” Before long his relationship with Serra Ferrer had reached such a low Petit observes “I have never met anyone whose head is more like a marble.”
The book goes on to detail how various senior Barcelona players, including current coach Pep Guardiola, took him to one side to tell him off like a schoolboy, and the day he wanted to smash Jose Mari Bakero’s face in. Indeed so unpleasant was the experience that “each day that passed I was a day closer to freedom.” This could be Mandela speaking! Who says Sepp Blatter was wrong about slavery? If only Manu had warned Thierry in time, though, another Frenchman could have been spared the agony…