Arsenal flop Gabriel Paulista faces his old club in Thursday’s Europa League semi-final.
The defender, who spent two-and-a-half years in north London, joining in January 2015 for £11m from Villarreal before heading back to La Liga with Valencia – Arsenal’s Europa League semi-final opponents.
Gabriel endured a difficult spell at the Emirates under Arsene Wenger’s stewardship. The physical enforcer came under fire for sub-par performances and was infamously shown a red card for losing it with former Chelsea star Diego Costa.
He told The Independent: “I remember my first game. I was up against [Romelu] Lukaku and there were a couple of 50-50 challenges early on and I went into this challenge hard, down on the ground and came away with the ball and suddenly the noise in the Emirates …”
“In the Premier League, I tried to prove my worth but I didn’t get the chances.
“When I played, it was often because of an injury to my team-mates. I deserved more opportunities.
“I was sad because I knew I had the ability to play… but other people didn’t think so.
“I’ve proven myself here and now I just want to keep showing what I can do for Valencia.”
Recalling the incident with Costa, Gabriel said: “The thing is, Costa is …” There is a pause. “I’m the same. I change on the pitch, I’m like another person, and I want to defend my team.
‘Diego Costa off the pitch is someone with an incredible heart. If I didn’t know him off the pitch then, yeah, I might also say: ‘This guy is crazy – he’s a bad guy, bad character.’ But he’s an incredible guy with a big heart.
Gooners, was Gabriel better than given credit for? Let us know in the comments…