Arsenal's best ever signings

CARDIFF, WALES - MAY 4: Patrick Vieira of Arsenal after the FA Cup Final match between Arsenal and Chelsea on May 4, 2002 in Cardiff, Wales. (Photo by Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)
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Some truly great players have pulled on the famous red and white of Arsenal over the years.

Plenty of them have risen through the Gunners' youth ranks – but plenty more have been brought in from other clubs, going on to make quite an impact for the North London giants.

Here, FourFourTwo runs through Arsenal's 33 finest signings of all time.

33. Mikel Arteta

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 10: Mikel Arteta of Arsenal during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Swansea City at Emirates Stadium on September 10, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

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Signed from Everton for £10m in the closing moments of the summer 2011 transfer window, Mikel Arteta spent the last seven years of his playing career at Arsenal.

A two-time, back-to-back FA Cup winner under Arsene Wenger in 2013/14 and 2014/15, the classy holding midfielder would later begin his managerial career with the Gunners – coming close to guiding them to the 2022/23 Premier League title.

32. Aaron Ramsey

ST ALBANS, ENGLAND - AUGUST 24: **EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE** Aaron Ramsey of Arsenal during a training session at London Colney on August 24, 2012 in St Albans, England. (Photo by Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

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A mainstay of Arsenal's midfield for the best part of a decade, Aaron Ramsey racked up 369 appearances for the Gunners – who he joined from Cardiff City for £4.8m in the summer of 2008, aged only 17.

The Welsh international's contributions to Arsenal included 69 goals – among them so truly crucial strikes, perhaps none more so than the winners in the 2014 and 2017 FA Cup finals.

31. George Graham

Scotland international and Arsenal F.C. football player, George Graham, 26th August 1969. (Photo by P. Floyd/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

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Another Arsenal legend who went on to become a successful manager of the club, George Graham won the title with the Gunners as a player and coach.

Signed from Chelsea in 1966, the Scot was a key member of Bertie Mee's 1970/71 double-winning side – and he featured 308 times for the North London giants, scoring 79 goals, before joining Tommy Docherty's Manchester United in 1972.

30. Malcom Macdonald

Ipswich Town 1-0 Arsenal, FA Cup Final, Wembley Stadium, London, Saturday 6th May 1978. Forward, Malcolm Macdonald of Arsenal. (Photo by Sunday People/Mirrorpix/Getty Images)

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Prolific throughout a five-year spell at Newcastle – where he notched 138 goals in 257 games – Malcolm Macdonald joined Arsenal for the ridiculously specific fee of £333,333.34 in 1976.

And it's fair to say the Gunners got value for money: Macdonald top-scored for Terry Neill's team in each of his first two seasons – leading the First Division scoring charts with 25 goals in 1976/77.

29. Jens Lehmann

Goalkeeper Jens Lehmann of Arsenal, 2003

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Signed as a free agent in the summer of 2003 to replace legendary goalkeeper David Seaman, Jens Lehmann could not have dreamed of a better first season between the sticks for Arsenal.

An ever-present in the 2003/04 Premier League campaign, the German international – who was the Gunners' number one for four years – ensured legendary status among supporters as the last line of defence in Arsene Wenger's Invincibles.

In 2011, 41-year-old Lehmann came out of retirement for a one-game second spell at the club.

28. Lauren

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 16: Lauren of Arsenal with the Premier League trophy during the Arsenal Trophy Parade on May 16, 2004 in London, England. (Photo by Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

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Brought in from Real Mallorca in 2000 as a midfielder, Lauren went on to star as right-back of the Invincibles – making 242 appearances for Arsenal during a six-year stay.

The tireless, robust Cameroon international had already done the 2001/02 double with the Gunners – and he later returned to the club to work as an ambassador.

27. Sylvain Wiltord

08 May 2002, Manchester - FA Barclaycard Premiership - Manchester United v Arsenal - Sylvain Wiltord of Arsenal celebrates after scoring the winning goal to win the title at Old Trafford. (Photo by Mark Leech/Offside via Getty Images)

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Weeks after scoring a stoppage-time equaliser to set France on their way to victory in the final of Euro 2000, Sylvain Wiltord joined Arsenal from Bordeaux for a club-record £13m.

And the winger – who partnered compatriot Thierry Henry up front on occasion – went on to enjoy immense success with Arene Wenger's Gunners, starring in the 2001/02 double win – scoring the goal that sealed the Premier League title against Manchester United at Old Trafford – and 2003/04 Invincibles campaign.

26. Nigel Winterburn

26 Mar 2000: Nigel Winterburn of Arsenal in action during the FA Carling Premiership match against Coventry City at Highbury in London. Arsenal won the match 3-0. \ Mandatory Credit: Shaun Botterill/Allsport

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An English champion with Arsenal both before and during the Premier League era, legendary Gunners left-back Nigel Winterburn arrived from Wimbledon in May 1987.

He would spend the next 13 years at Highbury – playing under George Graham and Arsene Wenger, and alongside the likes of Tony Adams, Martin Keown and Lee Dixon in some tight Arsenal backlines.

25. Cesc Fabregas

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 15: Cesc Fabregas of Arsenal scores from the penalty spot during the UEFA Champions League Group H match between Arsenal and SC Braga at the Emirates Stadium on September 15, 2010 in London, England. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

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Signed from Barcelona as a 16-year-old in September 2003, Cesc Fabregas became Arsenal's youngest ever first-team player when he made his debut against Rotherham United in the League Cup a month later.

That was the beginning of an eight-year love affair with the Gunners for one of the finest playmakers of the modern era – who made 303 appearances for Arsenal, captaining them for three years.

24. Alex James

August 1929: Scottish footballer Alex James (1901 - 1953) of Arsenal FC at Highbury, London. (Photo by J. Gaiger/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

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A key creative presence for Arsenal during the 1930s, Scottish inside forward Alex James was described as "pure magic" by England great Tom Finney – very high praise indeed.

Signed from Preston North End by Herbert Chapman in 1929, James starred in the Gunners' first four First Division title wins – three of which came in succession – and also helped them to two FA Cups.

23. Nwankwo Kanu

LONDON - 21 SEPTEMBER: Nwankwo Kanu of Arsenal celebrates his late winner during the FA Barclaycard Premiership match between Arsenal and Bolton Wanderers at Highbury in London on September 21, 2002. Arsenal won 2-1. (photo By Ben Radford/Getty Images)

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One of the best African footballers in history, Nwankwo Kanu made 198 appearances for Arsenal between 1999 and 2004 – going out on a high as an Invincible, having also helped Arsene Wenger's side to Premier League glory two years earlier.

Something of a super-sub who became popular with fans for his saluting 'Gunners' celebration, the Nigerian icon was voted the club's 13th greatest player of all time in 2008.

22. Steve Bould

6 April 1995 - European Cup Winners Cup - Arsenal v Sampdoria - Steve Bould of Arsenal scores his second goal. - (Photo by Mark Leech/Offside via Getty Images)

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Part of a legendary defensive line-up with Lee Dixon, Tony Adams and Nigel Winterburn, Steve Bould was a colossus at the back for Arsenal – who signed him from his hometown club Stoke City in 1988.

The towering centre-half won the First Division title in his first and third campaigns with the Gunners – before helping them to their first Premier League title, under the man to whom he would later serve as assistant manager: Arsene Wenger.

21. Charlie Nicholas

10 September 1983 - English Football Division One - Arsenal v Liverpool - Charlie Nicholas of Arsenal. - (Photo by Mark Leech/Offside via Getty Images)

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Charlie Nicholas joined Arsenal in 1983 off the back of a 48-goal season for Celtic – and while he was never as prolific in a Gunners shirt, he goes down as an all-time club great.

Arsenal's 1983/84 Player of the Season, Champagne Charlie – so nicknamed as his lifestyle drew much tabloid attention – scored 54 goals for the Gunners, including both as they came from behind to beat Liverpool in the 1987 League Cup final.

20. Ted Drake

2nd April 1938: Sam Bartram, the Charlton Athletic goalkeeper dives at the feet of Arsenal's Ted Drake during a match at Highbury in north London. (Photo by Central Press/Getty Images)

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One of Arsenal's leading goalscorers, Ted Drake found the net 139 times in 184 outings for the Gunners – reaching the 100-mark in just his 108th game.

A £6,500 acquisition from Southampton in March 1934, Drake – who also played professional cricket for Hampshire – spent the rest of his career with Arsenal, winning two First Division titles – and one has to wonder just how many goals he'd have racked up had the Second World War not got in the way.

19. Kolo Toure

CARDIFF, UNITED KINGDOM - APRIL 16: Kolo Toure of Arsenal celebrates during the FA Cup Semi-Final match between Arsenal and Blackburn Rovers at The Millennium Stadium on April 16, 2005 in Cardiff, Wales. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

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Another Invincibles icon, Kolo Toure was used in numerous roles early on during his time at Arsenal – who he joined from Ivorian outfit ASEC Mimosas in February 2002 – before becoming one of the top Premier League centre-backs of the 00s.

Gunners skipper on occasion – including for the 2007 League Cup final – Toure made a total of 326 appearances for Arsene Wenger's team, missing just one league match during the historic 2003/04 unbeaten campaign.

18. Marc Overmars

22 Sep 1999: Marc Overmars of Arsenal and Krister Nordin of Solna in action during the UEFA Champions League match between Arsenal v AIK Solna, played at Wembley Stadium, London. The game finished in a 3-1 victory for Arsenal. \ Mandatory Credit: Clive Mason /Allsport

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After an indifferent start following his big move from Ajax, Marc Overmars proved to be one of Arsenal's main men as they claimed their first Premier League title in 1997/98 – and completed the double by also lifting the FA Cup.

The tricky Dutch winger bagged a brace as Arsene Wenger's Gunners beat Everton to confirm themselves as champions of England – and he notched 40 goals in 142 games for the club in all.

17. Frank McLintock

Arsenal lift the FA Cup following their 2-1 win over Liverpool - Holding the cup is victorious skipper Frank McLintock on the shoulders of winning goalscorer Charlie George (left) and Pat Rice. Date - 8th May 1971. (Photo by Mirrorpix via Getty Images)

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Captain during Arsenal's 1970/71 double-winning team coached by Bertie Mee, legendary Scottish centre-back Frank McLintock was a rock at the heart of the Gunners' defence.

Signed from Leicester October 1964 for a club-record £80,000, McLintock won Arsenal's Player of the Season award for 1967/68 – and the prestigious FWA Footballer of the Year Prize in 1971.

16. Emmanuel Petit

27 Oct 1999: Emmanuel Petit of Arsenal in action during the UEFA European Champions League Group B match against Fiorentina played at Wembley Stadium, London.

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Signed from Monaco in the summer of 1997, Emmanuel Petit was reunited with Arsene Wenger at Arsenal – and he made an instant impact on the Gunners.

Deployed as a defensive midfielder alongside fellow Frenchman Patrick Vieira, Petit was instrumental in Arsenal's double success of 1997/98 – a campaign he capped by scoring in France's World Cup final victory over Brazil – while he made the PFA Premier League Team of the Year the following season.

15. Gilberto Silva

CARDIFF - MAY 17: Gilberto Silva of Arsenal takes control of the ball during the FA Cup Final between Arsenal and Southampton on May 17, 2003 at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, Wales. Arsenal won the match and the FA Cup 1-0. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

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One of the top defensive midfielders of the Premier League era, Gilberto Silva made 244 appearances for Arsenal over the course of a seven-year spell in North London.

Signed from Atletico Mineiro having played a key role in Brazil's 2002 World Cup triumph, Gilberto was a mainstay of the Gunners Invincibles side – and he scored the first competitve goal at the Emirates Stadium, one of a career-best 11 he managed in all competitions during the 2006/07 campaign.

14. Lee Dixon

16 Oct 1999: Lee Dixon of Arsenal scores during the FA Carling Premiership match against Everton at Highbury in London, England. Arsenal won the match 4 - 1. \ Mandatory Credit: Phil Cole /Allsport

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A highly reliable presence at right-back, Lee Dixon spent the last 14 years of his career at Arsenal – featuring 619 times in all, among the most of any player in the club's history.

The England international joined from Stoke City in 1988 and went on to win four league titles with the Gunners – two in the old First Division, two in the Premier League – as well as three FA Cups and the 1993/94 Cup Winners' Cup.

13. Kenny Sansom

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - AUGUST 01: Arsenal defender Kenny Sansom pictured ahead of the 1984/85 season at Highbury Stadium in London, England. (Photo by Allsport/Getty Images)

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One of England's most-capped full-backs of all time, Kenny Sansom was a hugely popular player for Arsenal – who he captained to 1986/87 League Cup glory.

Signed from Crystal Palace in 1980 – in a deal which saw a young Clive Allen, who had joined the Gunners only weeks earlier, move the other way – the incredibly consistent Sansom was named Arsenal's 1980/81 Player of the Season and made no fewer than seven PFA First Division Teams of the Year during his time in North London.

12. Bob Wilson

Birmingham City 1-1 Arsenal, league match at St Andrews, Saturday 23rd December 1972. Bob Wilson. Goalkeeper. (Photo by Birmingham Post and Mail Archive/Mirrorpix/Getty Images)

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Initially stopped from becoming a professional footballer by his sceptical father, Bob Wilson was still an amateur for the first eight months of his Arsenal career.

But the iconic goalkeeper's performances for the Gunners – who he joined from Wolves in 1963, a time before goalkeeping mod-cons like gloves – would be anything but amateur: Wilson played every game of the 1970/71 double-winning campaign, having already helped Arsenal to victory in the previous season's Inter-Cities Fairs Cup.

11. Alan Smith

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - JULY 07: Arsenal player Alan Smith pictured before the 1989/90 season. (Photo by Russell Cheyne/Allsport/Getty Images)

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Widely considered by supporters to be one of Arsenal's best ever players, Alan Smith completed an £850,000 switch to Highbury from Leicester in March 1987.

And over the next eight years, until his retirement, the striker amassed 115 goals for the Gunners – 23 of which helped fire George Graham's team to the 1988/89 First Division title, also earning him the first of two Golden Boots.

10. Freddie Ljungberg

12 May 2001: Fredrik Ljungberg of Arsenal celebrates scoring the opening goal in the AXA Sponsored FA Cup Final against Liverpool at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, Wales. Liverpool won 2-1. \ Mandatory Credit: Clive Brunskill /Allsport

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All-time Swedish great Freddie Ljungberg joined Arsenal from Halmstad for £3m in 1998 – with Arsene Wenger approving the signing after watching the winger help Sweden to victory over England on TV.

It proved to be a very shrewd move indeed: over the next nine seasons, Ljungberg played an important part in two Premier League title wins – winning the competition's 2001/02 Player of the Season award – and three FA Cups triumphs for the Gunners – who he briefly coached as interim manager in December 2019.

9. Pat Jennings

Pat Jennings Arsenal goalkeeper February 1983 hold a football with the figure 1000 which is a football milestone as he has completed a 1000 appearances in first class matches. (Photo by Kennedy Bill/Mirrorpix/Getty Images)

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Tottenham sold Pat Jennings to arch-rivals Arsenal in 1977 thinking that his career was coming to an end; what a monumental mistake that proved to be.

The legendary Northern Irish goalkeeper – one of the greatest ever to play in the position – kept going for the best part of another decade, making 327 appearances for the Gunners – taking his career total past 1,000 games – and winning the 1978/79 FA Cup (and, in a rare feat, earning legendary status at both North London clubs).

8. Sol Campbell

20 Jan 2002: Sol Campbell of Arsenal during the FA Barclaycard Premiership match between Leeds and Arsenal at Elland Road, Leeds. DIGITAL IMAGE \ Mandatory Credit: Gary M Prior/ Getty Images

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Unlike Pat Jennings before him, Sol Campbell did not remain popular with Tottenham fans after crossing the North London divide to Arsenal – which he did as a free agent in the summer of 2001.

The England centre-back had previously stated that he would never play for the Gunners – but he became an all-time great there and can't have regretted his move, winning two Premier League titles, three FA Cups and reaching the final of the 2005/06 Champions League.

Campbell later returned for a second spell at Arsenal in 2010, taking his total appearances for the club to 221.

7. Robert Pires

CARDIFF, UNITED KINGDOM - APRIL 16: Robert Pires of Arsenal celebrates scoring the opening goal during the FA Cup Semi-Final match between Arsenal and Blackburn Rovers at the Millennium Stadium on April 16, 2005 in Cardiff, Wales. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

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A fine, fine player indeed, the impossibly cool Robert Pires is undoubtedly one of Arsenal's greatest of all time – starring under French compatriot Arsene Wenger from 2000 to 2006.

In each of the 2002/03, 2003/04 and 2004/05 campaigns – the latter being that of the Invincibles, of course – Pires scored 14 goals, having won FWA Footballer of the Year and Arsenal Player of the Season for 2001/02.

The winger is also remembered for his bizarre penalty 'pass' to Thierry Henry against Manchester City in 2005.

6. Cliff Bastin

Cliff Bastin of Arsenal, January 1930

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One of Arsenal's all-time leading goalscorers to this day, the prolific Cliff Bastin's 178-goal haul for the Gunners becomes all the more remarkable when you realise he wasn't a centre-forward but a winger.

Signed as a 17-year-old from Exeter City in 1929, Bastin won five First Division titles with the Gunners – two under Herbert Chapman, one under Joe Shaw and two under George Allison – in addition to two FA Cups.

5. David Seaman

13 Jan 2001: David Seaman of Arsenal throws the ball out during the FA Carling Premiership match against Chelsea played at Highbury, in London. The match ended in a 1-1 draw. \ Mandatory Credit: Phil Cole /Allsport

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David Seaman's £1.3m switch from QPR to Arsenal in 1990 broke the British transfer record for a goalkeeper – and the famously ponytailed and moustachioed shot-stopper proved to be worth every penny.

Having replaced fan favourite John Lukic between the sticks, Seaman helped George Graham's Gunners to the First Division title in his debut season at Highbury – before winning the double under Arsene Wenger in 1997/98 and 2001/02.

Seaman – who kept the most clean sheets in the Premier League in 1993/94 and 1998/99 – made 564 appearances for the Gunners in all.

4. Dennis Bergkamp

18 April 1998, London - FA Carling Premiership - Arsenal v Wimbledon - Dennis Bergkamp celebrates after scoring the third goal for Arsenal at Highbury. (Photo by Mark Leech/Offside via Getty Images)

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An absolute magician with the ball at his feet, Dennis Bergkamp scored some of the Premier League's greatest ever goals during his 11 years at Arsenal – who he joined from Inter Milan in 1995, becoming Bruce Rioch's first signing and breaking the club transfer record.

The highlights included an astonishing hat-trick against Leicester in 1997 – which opposing manager Martin O'Neill called "the best hat-trick I've ever seen" – and that jaw-dropping effort against Newcastle in 2002 – which was voted the best Premier League goal of all time in 2017.

3. Ian Wright

5 August 1992 - English Football League Division One - Arsenal Photocall - Ian Wright. - (Photo by David Davies/Offside via Getty Images)

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The ultimate late bloomer, Ian Wright was still playing non-League football for Greenwich Borough just before his 22nd birthday; within a decade, he would be an Arsenal legend.

After scoring 118 goals in seven years at Crystal Palace, Wright joined George Graham's Gunners for a club-record £2.5m in September 1991.

He went on to score 185 goals for Arsenal – scooping the 1991/92 First Division Golden Boot – winning the League Cup and Cup Winners' Cup under Graham, then doing the double in 1997/98 under Arsene Wenger.

2. Patrick Vieira

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 15: Patrick Vieira of Arsenal with Premier League Trophy after the Premier League match between Arsenal and Leicester City on May 15, 2004 Arsenal Stadium, Highbury in London, England. (Photo by Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

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Legendary skipper of the 2003/04 Invincibles – who went 49 Premier League games unbeaten in all – Patrick Vieira probably goes down as the best midfielder in Arsenal's history.

A £3.5m arrival from AC Milan in 1996, Vieira bossed many a midfield battle during his nine-year stay with the Gunners – where he won three Premier League titles and four FA Cups.

The 1998 French World Cup winner featured 406 times for Arsenal, scoring 34 goals.

1. Thierry Henry

LONDON - OCTOBER 18: Thierry Henry of Arsenal celebrates scoring the second goal for Arsenal during the FA Barclaycard Premiership match between Arsenal and Chelsea on October 18, 2003 at Highbury in London, England. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

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Named Arsenal's greatest ever player in 2017, there's no doubt that Thierry Henry was one of the very best players on the planet for much of the 00s – when he tore up the Premier League as the attacking focal point of Arsene Wenger's Gunners.

A four-time Premier League Golden Boot winner – picking up the prize three times in a row between 2003/04 and 2005/06 – Henry became Arsenal's record scorer with 228 goals in 377 appearances.

The two-time PFA Players' Player of the Year left the Gunners for Barcelona in 2006 – but delighted fans by returning for a brief loan spell from New York Red Bulls in 2012.

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