Arsene Wenger is the longest serving boss in the Premier League. He has seen highs, lows, and everything in between during the last 20 years. He has also done a number of remarkable things while at the helm. Coaching them through the ‘invincibles’ season, for instance. Or overseeing a smooth transition to a shiny new stadium, without putting the club in economic meltdown, and making sure of their Champions League status all the way, for another.
What ‘Le Professeur’ will most be remembered for, however, is his ability to identify talented players hidden deep in the land of nowhere, nurture their potential, and turn them into Premier League superstars.
There have been flops over the years – Denilson and Nicklas Bendtner are fine (or not so fine) examples of that – but even the most talented artist’s paintbrush wavers from time to time. Keeping in mind that scouting great players at a young age is as hard a job as any in football, we look at the 5 finest players Arsene Wenger has given the Footballing World:
#5 Kolo Toure
Kolo Toure was born in Bouake, Ivory Coast, in 1981. He began his professional career at Ivorian club Mimosas and played there for 3 years before Arsene Wenger came calling in 2002, with an offer of a trial at Arsenal. Contrary to intuition, Kolo Toure had a horrible trial, first taking down future teammates Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp, before lunging in two footed at coach Arsene Wenger himself.
Wenger was then taken to the medical room for treatment, and Kolo Toure was almost in tears, thinking that he had ruined his one chance to play for a great European Club. Arsene Wenger had other ideas, however, and told his staff “We are signing him tomorrow. I like his desire.”
Even though Kolo Toure didn’t show the best of himself at the trial, Wenger thought that with a little bit of polishing, Toure would turn into a top class defender and shine like a diamond. And he was right. Kolo Toure formed a formidable partnership with Sol Campbell at the centre of Arsenal’s defence as they went the 2003-04 season undefeated. He went on to make 326 appearances for the club over 7 trophy-laden years, scoring 14 goals.
He became one of the best African defenders under Wenger, and certainly justified the Frenchman’s faith in him.