Emmanuel Petit has revealed the truth about taking a taxi from Tottenham Hotspur, where he had just had a meeting about a potential transfer, to Arsenal in the summer of 1997.
Immediately after captaining Monaco to the Ligue 1 title in 1997 at the age of 26, Petit declared his next ambition during a joint interview with Monaco’s president, Jean-Louis Campora, on live television.
“During the celebrations, I was sat next to Campora when the presenter asked him about my future,” Petit recalls to FourFourTwo.
“Campora said, ‘He still has a contract; next season, he will stay here’. Then they passed the microphone to me and I said, ‘I have big respect for you, Mr Campora, but I disagree: it’s time for me to leave. I’m almost 27 and it’s time to have a different challenge. I have done everything I can with Monaco’.
"My first target was to play in England. When I was a kid, I used to read cartoons about English football – I was dreaming about that.”
He went to White Hart Lane first, and when Spurs made him an offer, he asked for a couple of days to think about it. Agreeing to his request, the club ordered him a taxi, not realising where that taxi would take him.
“When I got in the cab, the driver asked me where I wanted to go,” Petit tells FFT. “I was with some people, and we were going to Arsene Wenger’s house. [Vice-chairman] David Dein was there, too. They arranged for us to meet there, as they wanted everything to be secret.
“Arsenal’s offer was far better than Spurs’ and I really wanted to play for Arsene again, because he was my first coach at Monaco and the one who gave me an opportunity in the first team. He put his trust in me. Arsene spoke to me on a different level, as a human being.
"I loved the way he managed training sessions and the way he managed his team during matches. There was no doubt in my mind that I would go to Arsene, and Mr Dein was also very kind."
While Wenger hadn't won anything at the club prior to Petit signing, he says the ambition the club showed him made the decision even easier.
“I could feel their desire and I was excited by the project they put on the table, with the guys I was set to play alongside. After three hours I said, ‘Yeah, I’m ready to sign for you’.”
Clearly, the decision worked out well, with Petit lifting both the Premier League title and FA Cup at the end of his debut season in England.
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Ryan is a staff writer for FourFourTwo, joining the team full-time in October 2022. He first joined Future in December 2020, working across FourFourTwo, Golf Monthly, Rugby World and Advnture's websites, before eventually earning himself a position with FourFourTwo permanently. After graduating from Cardiff University with a degree in Journalism and Communications, Ryan earned a NCTJ qualification to further develop as a writer while a Trainee News Writer at Future.