So now it is official: Willian is an Arsenal player.
A deal long rumoured was finally confirmed on Friday, the Brazilian signing a three-year contract at Emirates Stadium after opting not to extend his stay at Chelsea, where he became a two-time Premier League winner.
However, Willian, 32, is by no means the first player to represent both sides of the fierce London rivalry in England’s top flight.
Some famous names have featured in both the red and white of Arsenal and the blue of Chelsea.
The famous red and white suits you, Willian pic.twitter.com/sqPFEQv1yP
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) August 14, 2020
The much-travelled Frenchman, the feature of a new Netflix film, arrived at Arsenal as a prodigious teenager in February 1997 and won a Premier League and FA Cup double the following season. His performances led to a big-money move to Real Madrid in 1999 but an unsuccessful spell at the Santiago Bernabeu led to a return to Paris Saint-Germain and subsequent spells at Liverpool, Manchester City, Fenerbahce and Bolton Wanderers, before he rocked up at Chelsea in 2008, where he lifted the Premier League once and the FA Cup twice.
Considered by many as England’s greatest ever left-back, Cole was a hero in north London having risen through the ranks at Arsenal where he was a two-time Premier League champion and three-time FA Cup winner. His relationship with the club’s fans soured amid a controversial move to Chelsea in 2006, but the honours continued to stack up as Cole won another Premier League title, the FA Cup a further four times, an EFL Cup, the Europa League and the Champions League.
The versatile French defender was signed for Chelsea from Marseille by Claudio Ranieri in 2001 and he went on to win the Premier League twice with the Blues before heading for Arsenal as part of the deal that took Cole to Chelsea in 2006. He racked up over 100 top-flight appearances at the Gunners before joining rivals Tottenham in 2010, completing a career hat-trick in terms of capital clubs.
Snared from Barcelona’s academy, Fabregas made his Arsenal debut as a wide-eyed teenager as a 16-year-old in an EFL Cup tie against Rotherham United in October 2003. His solitary major honour with the Gunners was an FA Cup medal in 2005, though he was a Champions League runner-up the following season. A return to Barca followed in 2011 and he was linked with a move back to the Gunners prior to joining Chelsea in 2014. Fabregas lifted the Premier League (twice), the FA Cup and the EFL Cup with the Blues.
After firing Montpellier to an unlikely Ligue 1 triumph in the 2011-12 campaign, Giroud earned a move to the Premier League with Arsenal. A popular figure at the Gunners, Giroud won the FA Cup three times during his time in north London. He opted to join Chelsea in January 2018 in order to play more first-team games with a World Cup on the horizon. At Stamford Bridge, Giroud has medals in the FA Cup and Europa League and, despite being linked with a move elsewhere, signed an extension to remain with the club for the 2020-21 season.
“It is the character that I want. The kind of player that when things get difficult in the game that wants to take responsibility, wants the ball and wants to win the game for the team.”
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) August 14, 2020
A fierce competitor in Arsenal’s engine room, Petit reunited with former Monaco boss Arsene Wenger in June 1997. The 1998 World Cup winner became a fan favourite playing alongside French compatriot Patrick Vieira, with the duo influential in the double-winning 1997-98 team. Along with Marc Overmars, he left for Barcelona in 2000 but spent a solitary unsuccessful campaign at Camp Nou before returning to the Premier League with Chelsea, where he stayed for three years.
Like Willian, Brazilian compatriot David Luiz arrived at Emirates Stadium last year with a wealth of experience and honours to his name. After winning the Premier League, Champions League, Europa League (twice) and FA Cup (twice) across two stints at Stamford Bridge, the centre-back is already off the mark at Arsenal thanks to a triumphant FA Cup campaign. His first season with the Gunners had several low points, the nadir being his disastrous display against Manchester City in June, but he was still handed a contract extension.
A real fan favourite at Chelsea, Cech departed the club in 2015 after 11 years and elected to see out his career with Arsenal. He added another FA Cup to his collection in the second of his four seasons with Arsenal but tasted defeat in the EFL Cup and Europa League finals, the latter coming at the hands of Chelsea and, somewhat fittingly, that proved to be his final game before confirming his retirement.
The midfielder was barely used in three seasons with Chelsea and was twice sent out on loan. One of those spells was with Arsenal in 2011-12, making 25 appearances in all competitions, scoring six times, but he is better known for his time in England with West Ham and Liverpool.
Another who opted to swap Chelsea for Arsenal after struggling for playing time at Stamford Bridge, Diarra lasted just five months at Emirates Stadium before moving on to Portsmouth, where he won the FA Cup in 2008. The Frenchman’s displays at Fratton Park earned him a shock move to Real Madrid and he has also gone on to represent Marseille and PSG in Ligue 1.
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