Eduardo da Silva reveals crazy Wenger offer, says Gunners would have won league in 2008 without his ankle injury and talks Eboue love
Eduardo da Silva spent three seasons with Arsenal between 2007-10, making 41 appearances and scoring seven goals, before joining Shakhtar Donetsk in the first of two spells with the Ukrainian club.
In an exclusive interview with Ladbrokes and ahead of the launch of the 5-A-Side bet on Monday’s match between Crystal Palace and Arsenal, the Brazilian-born former Croatia international spoke about joining the club, the terrible injury he suffered against Birmingham in 2008 and revealed the funniest player in the Gunners dressing room.
Arsene Wenger offered me Thierry Henry’s shirt number – there was no way I was taking it!
I thought my move to Arsenal was a joke from my agent, if I’m being honest! I knew I’d had a good season for my club and country, and I was aware of the interest in me from around Europe – but I was also very aware of the standard I was playing at, in Croatia.
There’s a big difference between that and the Premier League. A more common route to those top clubs like Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea would be via a club in between Dinamo Zagreb and the top teams in the Premier League. Someone could succeed in the way I did for a club like Zagreb, and then maybe go on to play at a better standard in Italy or France, before reaching that top, top level.
My agent always liked to mess around with me, so you never knew whether or not to believe what he was saying. And one day he told me: “Arsenal are interested in you.”
I laughed. “Of course they are.” I said. “OK then, I want to go.”
Then he surprised me completely by telling me I had 24 hours to prepare to fly out to London for a medical. It all happened just like that – and he wasn’t kidding.
I was in the middle of pre-season training in Austria with Zagreb when I had to pack my things and fly out to London, where a representative from Arsenal was waiting for me to land to take me to the training ground.
I’m sat in the car, driving to the training ground, when this guy gets a phone call. He gives me his phone and I had no idea who was on the other end of it. This guy was Arsene Wenger. I couldn’t believe it. It didn’t sink in that I’d obviously end up talking to him.
He said he wanted to welcome me to England, to London, and asked how I was feeling. My English wasn’t great but I could just about hold a conversation with him. All of a sudden, he asks me which number I’d like.
“Number nine or number 14?” he said.
Listen, Thierry Henry had just left the club, maybe two weeks before to go to Barcelona. One of the best strikers that’s ever played in the Premier League. You think I want the pressure of that number on my back!
I wanted number 22 because that was my number for Croatia, but Gael Clichy had taken it, so that was it. I was Arsenal’s new number nine! That was much better for me. If I’d have taken that number 14 shirt, you can imagine the comparisons straight away – people would have thought I was coming in to directly replace Thierry. And that was of course my plan in the long term, but through hard work and proving myself to my team-mates and my supporters, not by coming in and taking his shirt right away!
I’ve never watched the Martin Taylor tackle on me
I try my best to forget about what happened to me against Birmingham. I’ll always talk about it if asked, but when I’m in my own space,and in my own head, I’ve tried to forget it. But you can’t help people stopping you and asking you about it. Once you’re recognised as Eduardo, it’s always “how are you? How is your leg?” If it were up to me I wouldn’t ever talk about it again, but I understand people will always want to hear the story.
I’ve never watched the tackle back and I never will.
It’s difficult to talk about forgiveness. What’s happened is in the past, we can’t go back and change it. I never think about Martin. I never think about the incident, but because of the nature of it, and the pictures and everything that followed, it’s difficult to forget it completely.
I screamed and screamed when the doctor tried to take my boot off
All of my weight was on my left leg, and that’s why so much damage was caused. Martin Taylor put his boot straight through my leg – not with too much power, but because my weight was on that leg, what happened, happened. If my weight was evenly balanced, it wouldn’t have been anywhere near as bad, I’m sure.
I’ve never seen Martin since the incident. I know he came to see me in the hospital, but I have no memory of that.
I was rushed to hospital after the incident and seen by an ankle specialist straight away. I can remember the pain. I’ll always remember it. At first, it was as if I’d just twisted my ankle, you know. And then it started burning; it was as if my whole leg was burning.
Gilberto Silva helped me while I was on the pitch because I couldn’t really communicate with anyone. I was given morphine on the pitch to ease the pain, and that really helped until we got to the hospital. Once we were in hospital, the doctor wanted to take my boot off. Obviously it was still attached to my foot as no one could take it off at the time, so the doctor attempted to remove it and I just started to scream – that was the most painful part of it all. I kept screaming “No! No!”, so the doctor stopped, gave me anaesthetic and I went to sleep immediately. After that moment, I remember nothing.
I woke up, I didn’t know where I was. One guy from Arsenal stayed with me, and told me Martin Taylor came to see me and apologise, but I didn’t see him.
The next day, the doctor came back to me and told me the most important news: “Don’t worry, you will play football again.” That was all I needed to hear, and from that moment I was ready to begin my recovery.
If it wasn’t for my injury, we’d have won the league that season
I am sure that Arsenal would have won the league in 2008 if it hadn’t have been for my injury. I’m confident of it, because we were playing some of the best football in the world at the time. We were in such a strong position, we were about to knock the reigning Champions League winners, AC Milan, out of the tournament – that was an unbelievable team.
Everything was going very well for us, so why wouldn’t we have won the league? I know you can never really know with these kind of things, but that season in particular, with the form we were in, and the players we had – I’m confident we’d have won the title.
I came into a team which already had Robin van Persie and Emmanuel Adebayor up front, so I was challenging those two for a starting place. I eventually got my break after a few games on the bench, and I was feeling really confident. And then you just had to look around the rest of the team… Manuel Almunia, Bacary Sagna, Kolo Toure, William Gallas, Gael Clichy, Tomas Rosicky, Mathieu Flamini, Cesc Fabregas, Alexander Hleb, Emmanuel Adebayor and Robin van Persie.
When I broke into the team, it was at a time we were really building momentum. People were talking about Barcelona and Arsenal, we were the two best teams to watch at the time. Even as a player, being in that team, I had to take a step back because sometimes I just couldn’t believe how we played.
We were in such a good position, but after that game where I picked up my injury and we drew, we went on to draw another three games in a row and lose against Chelsea. All of a sudden, that position we were in at the top of the table had been taken over by Manchester United. As soon as they caught us, they flew away. They were top in the middle of March, and then they stayed in that position until the end of the season.
My friends back in Brazil said my haircut made me look like a country singer – I had to change it!
You don’t realise how many little things you have to change when you sign for a big club like Arsenal, like my hair, for example! I didn’t really care much for what my hair looked like when I was playing in Croatia, so I had it short on top and quite long at the back. Nobody was bothered about it over in Croatia, but as soon as you move to the Premier League, you don’t realise how many eyes are on you.
You come to Arsenal with this hairstyle, and play some games, and all of a sudden your friends in Brazil and everywhere else in the world start to watch you. Now that my friends in Brazil could watch me on TV, they would joke with me straight away about my hair. They’d just try to wind me up by telling me I looked like a country singer, so I thought I just had to make a change. To be honest, I’m really glad I chose to cut it, especially when I look back at some of those pictures now.
I can’t help but smile when I think of Emmanuel Eboue, he’s exactly the kind of player a title-chasing dressing room needs
It’s such an easy question to answer whenever anyone asks me who the funniest player was in that Arsenal team. I’m laughing even thinking about him…Emmanuel Eboue. You would not believe how funny this guy was to be around every day. He’s unbelievable. In the dressing room, before the game, at training, whether he played or was on the bench, or out injured, he was always positive. He never dropped below a certain level of positivity. He’d just be dancing at any chance he got, always making fun out of himself.
It’s so important to have someone like that in the dressing room, though. Whether he knew it or not, he was a huge reason why we had such a positive atmosphere, and so he deserves a lot of credit for that, let alone what he did on the pitch for us. We could count on him at any time, whether it was a good or a bad result. Listen, as soon as he was on that pitch and the whistle went, he was serious, and he always gave his best for the club. But afterwards, he was that joker again.
Gilberto Silva set a great example…he’s a very good friend of mine who offered me his London flat when he left Arsenal
Although I spoke a little bit of English when I joined Arsenal, I still needed a lot of help from the likes of Gilberto Silva and Denilson to settle in. Gilberto, in particular was great with me. He helped me a lot with all things, no matter how big or small. I got to play with him for a year before he left for Panathinaikos and when he moved, he let me stay in his flat. I rented his place in London – which took a lot of pressure off things for me.
He really did help me adapt to life in England and would always remind me that there were so many people around the club who were there to support me with everything off the pitch – all I had to do was focus on training and matches. He’s a very nice guy who set a great example to all of the youngsters around the club. He’s a great friend, and he’s carried that example over into life after his playing career.