In 1997, Emmanuel Petit moved from AS Monaco to Arsenal – thanks to unwanted help from arch-rivals Tottenham Hotspur.
There are rivalries between some clubs in the Premier League. But none is as big as the one between Arsenal FC and Tottenham Hotspur. The basis for this was laid over 100 years ago when Arsenal moved to Highbury in 1913 from their original location south of the Thames in Plumstead, thus encroaching on what Tottenham considered their territory.
Since then, a great deal of animosity has developed, especially between the fans. The North London derbies between the Gunners and the Spurs are the highlights of the year for them.
It gets very tricky when the two clubs compete for the same player, as was the case with Emmanuel Petit in 1997. The Frenchman eventually moved to Arsenal – with city rivals involved in a curious way.
Petit held talks with Tottenham
The Spurs wanted to sign the midfielder from AS Monaco, who has also become known for his ponytail. Petit was in London to discuss the move with Spurs CEO Alan Sugar. Tottenham had reckoned without Arsenal FC.
The Gunners, who are also interested in Petit, got wind of the meeting and sent Petit a message, asking him not to sign anything until he heard Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger’s opinion.
In doing so, the Gunners thwarted Petit’s already all but certain move to Tottenham Hotspur. Petit had fond memories of Wenger, who has coached Arsenal since 1996. It was Wenger who promoted Petit at AS Monaco and made him a great player.
Spurs paid Petit’s cab to Wenger
Now it was Petit’s turn. He informed Sugar that he needed some more time at his hotel to think about the move. Sugar fulfilled this wish for his top candidate. Even better, he even paid for Petit’s taxi to his hotel.
But Petit didn’t think about going to his hotel. He diverted the taxi to Wenger’s home in London. There he was received by David Dein, Deputy Chairman of Arsenal FC. He explained to him that Wenger really wanted him and finally bagged the £3.5million transfer – while Spurs waited for positive news from Petit.
Petit: Thanks to Tottenham to Arsenal
“It was the first time I met David Dein and Tottenham paid the taxi to help me sign for Arsenal. It’s part of the legend now,” Petit said in 2018. “I knew the rivalry, but I knew I don’t know how big it was. David Dein loves this story – more than 20 years later he’s still telling it!” Petit continued.
By moving to Arsenal, Petit seemed to have made the right decision. Arsenal won the league and cup double in his first season in England. In 1998 he crowned his career by winning the World Cup with France.