Throughout his many years at Arsenal, the one trophy that eluded Arsène Wenger was the Champions League.
Always falling short, the French manager came really close to winning the competition in 2006, when they faced Barcelona in the final.
Unfortunately, Jens Lehmann, Arsenal’s goalkeeper at the time, was sent off in the 18th minute, which led to Robert Pirès being subbed off to allow Manuel Almunia to come on.
Despite being down to 10-men, the Gunners took the lead through Sol Campbell in the 37th minute, but goals in the second half from Samuel Eto’o and Juliano Belletti ensured the Catalan side lifted the trophy, and not Arsenal.
As you might have expected, Pirès wasn’t best pleased at being subbed off so early in such an important game, which is something he touched upon in an interview with L’Equipe on Tuesday.
Asked specifically about that moment, he said: “I can’t believe it. At no point did I think I’d be the one coming off. I don’t even look at Arsène. For me, he was going to take off Hleb or my friend Fabregas, because I could help in attack and I have that very good technical relationship with Henry. It’s not arrogance.
“So I’m there, calm, super confident and Titi (Henry) tells me I’m the one coming off. ‘What?’, and I see the number 7 on the board. It’s awful. Awful! I pass in front of the manager, we don’t look at each other. I go sit down, very annoyed, I wait for it to calm down, and then I tell myself ‘what I want is for us to win’”.
That didn’t happen, and with everything that took place during that game, Pirès came to a very drastic decision, which was to leave Arsenal that summer.
He continued when asked when he spoke of the matter with Wenger: “Two days after when I told him I was leaving.. Basically, it triggered my exit. He wasn’t expecting it. I also needed to move onto something else. After the final, there was like a rupture… It was a horrible week: I learn that I’m not in the squad for the World Cup, I play 17 minutes in the final and we lose it… I’ve known better! (Laughs)”.
That game brought an end to a six year stay with Arsenal, during which the winger, who was part of the 1998 France World Cup win, made 284 appearances for the Gunners, scoring 85 goals and assisting another 59.