Thirteen-years-ago, yesterday, Edu Gaspar was signed by Arsene Wenger at the relatively young age of 23. It would have been earlier had Mr Gaspar realised his passport was a Portuguese fake. Nonetheless, Edu was eventually prised from Corinthians for the modest fee of £6 million.
The Brazilian appeared rather robust – a 6″1 central midfielder, he mirrors the exact type of player many fans are currently calling for. He was a typical Wenger signing; an unknown player, but when Arsene trusts a player, more often than not he turns out to be a hidden gem.
He seemed to fit the Arsenal philosophy perfectly, receiving an injury on his debut against Leicester. Overall, his initial time at Arsenal was patchy, due to the death of his sister and the blight of injuries. The 2000/01 season resulted in a meager five appearances.
The 2001/02 season saw Edu establishing himself in the side, making 14 appearances, and becoming the first ever Brazilian to win the Premier League; he also helped Arsenal win the FA Cup in the same season, coming on as a substitute in the final.
The following season saw similar fortunes, with four more appearances and the same number of goals. However, it is the famous, glorious ‘Invincibles’ season that saw Edu become one of Arsenal’s most underrated players in their history. Making 30 PL appearances and 48 overall, Edu was an integral part of the Arsenal team that went a season unbeaten – Wenger’s faith had paid off.
However, what goes up, must come down. The emergence of Gilberto Silva made Edu’s role at the club rather nominal, and he left for Valencia at the end of his contract, his last appearance, rather fittingly, in the 2005 FA Cup Final. Edu’s time at Arsenal may not have been as efficient as it could have been, having three stop-start seasons, but his performance throughout the Invincibles season warrants his status as an Arsenal hero.