8 title-deciding signings to give Arsenal fans hope for Petr Cech
1) Sol Campbell, Arsenal (2001/02)
In 2001, Arsenal had hit a wall. The Double of ’98 had faded into memory and even the additions of Thierry Henry and Robert Pires had failed to revitalise a side that was slipping further away from Manchester United at the top. The nadir was reached when they conceded a third straight title to United on Easter Saturday, just weeks after crashing 6-1 at Old Trafford with a central defensive partnership of Gilles Grimandi and the less-than-irrepressible Igor Stepanovs.
Sol Campbell’s signing in mid-July reaffirmed Arsenal as a force in a way that even the arrival of a promising-but-scattergun Henry two years earlier had failed to, and overnight the team acquired a robustness that reinforced the delicate magic of its frontline. In 12 months with Campbell at the heart of the defence, Arsenal inflicted a 17-point reversal on United at the top, and claimed another double (with Sylvain Wiltord scoring this memorable winning goal at Old Trafford in 2002).
2) Luis Figo, Real Madrid (2000/01)
Three utterly bizarre things happened in Spain in summer 2000. The first is that Real Madrid finished a distant and dismal fifth in La Liga, seven points behind unlikely champions Deportivo La Coruna. The second is that they had the audacity to swipe Barcelona’s Luis Figo, their great rivals’ talisman at the height of his potency, from across the Clasico divide. The third – and 15 years later this still teases the senses – is that they succeeded.
Figo was the 15th player in over a hundred years of bitter rivalry to make the switch directly from Camp Nou to Bernebeau, but the first to shatter the world transfer record in the process. The Portuguese helped conjure a rise of phoenix-like proportions in dragging Real from upper-mid-table back to the league summit, in doing so putting a whopping 17 points between his new and former employers. £37m shrewdly invested.
3) Samuel Eto’o, Barcelona (2004/05)
Perhaps the sweetest part of 2005’s title success for Barcelona fans, quite apart from the fact that it was the first time they’d worn the La Liga crown in six seasons, was the ease with which their fresh-faced, £19m new signing Samuel Eto’o helped himself to 29 goals. The Cameroonian's sparkling debut season apparently left behind whatever hang-ups he acquired when being dismissed as surplus to requirements by Real Madrid four years earlier.