By Tony Attwood
January 1st 2005 and… Emmanuel Eboué joins Arsenal from Beveren.
Eboué started playing football for ASEC Mimosas based in Abidjan which in fact is a story in itself. The club is the most successful side in Ivorian football, and it has within it Académie MimoSifcom which has produced players such as Bonaventure Kalou, Didier Zokora, Emmanuel Eboué, Gervinho, Salomon Kalou, and Kolo and Yaya Touré
Now here’s where the story gets interesting.
In 1993, Jean-Marc Guillou joined ASEC as club manager. He was also a director and financier and there is where the Académie started with a wholesale scouting programme across the country. Some of these players came into the first team squad at the age of 17. Other clubs, perhaps envious of the speed at which Guillou had put together a new talented squad muttered about “playing against children”.
Guillou then moved in 2001 and became manager of K.S.K. Beveren in Belgium, and he took many of his players with him. So Beveren became an almost totally Ivorian team. Quite what there is in Belgium work permit laws that allowed this, I am not sure – maybe Walter can tell us, but I remember a lot of muttering from Uefa and Fifa about the situation.
Yaya Touré, Emmanuel Eboué, and Gervinho, all played for Beveren but then l Beveren broke with ASEC Mimosas. ASEC then linked with Charlton Athletic.
Eboué spent three years at Beveren before moving to Arsenal and within days played for us in a Cup game although he was primarily a reserve at first.
He moved on to become a League Cup / FA Cup player, until after the January 2006 African Cup he came into the team to replace the injured Lauren.
In the Champions League he played against Real Madrid, Juventus, and Villarreal and played in the final in 2006 and was player of the month in September 2006.
But then injury hit – and although he came back from ankle injuries, the problem re-occurred over and over and clearly affected him as a player.
Arsène Wenger then tried playing Eboué on the right wing, but the combination of the ankle problems, the repeated lay offs for injury and the change of position worked against him and his form declined dramatically.
Then came December 2008 against Wigan Athletic where having been brought on as a sub he famously tackled his own player (although I can’t for the life of me remember who he tackled – does anyone remember?)
So he lost his place, and his squad number. Indeed it is ironic that Gervinho, who came through the same route to English football as Eboué took over the 27 shirt, and on 16 August 2011, Eboué moved Galatasaray
What is interesting is that although the fee was modest (because of the injury and poor performances) at €3.5 million the salary at €2.35 million a season excluding bonus money was very high.
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