What Wenger Would Give For Another Gilberto

Hindsight is a beautiful thing, but I often find myself wishing that Arsene Wenger had held onto Gilberto Silva.

I found myself thinking this shortly after Robin van Persie was ludicrously sent off at the Camp Nou on Tuesday night. The stage and the circumstances were made for Gilberto.

‘The Invisible Wall’, or ‘Volante’ as he was nicknamed in Brazil, has given Panathinaikos three very good years of service since leaving Arsenal in 2008. He is also still a valuable member of the Brazil squad -  a consummate pro and senior squad member that young players learn invaluably from. And he’s still doing the business for a half decent Panathinaikos team, and was arguably one of the most consistent players in last year’s turgid World Cup.

Whatsmore, Gilberto is a genial character. Read his Twitter timeline (below) and you’ll see how he has been interacting with those affected by the tragic natural disasters in Japan. That right there is a touch of class, often lacking from the millionaire footballer of today.

The circumstances of Gilberto’s departure were not satisfactory considering the way that Wenger kowtowed to William Gallas’ need to have sun shone up his bracket. Gilberto, the then Arsenal vice-captain was overlooked for the club captaincy following Henry’s departure from the club, with Gallas instated as Arsenal’s new captain. The results of this were catastrophic and have been well documented.

The emergence of Matthieu Flamini meant that Gilberto was no longer first choice and he spent a large part of his final season at Arsenal on the bench. And despite Flamini running down his contract and leaving for Milan in the summer of 2008, Gilberto also found pastures new in Greece.

Perhaps Wenger was hopeful that Denilson would kick on more than he has; he obviously felt the path needed to be clear for Alex Song, yet Gilberto would’ve provided fantastic cover in Song’s absences through injury and suspension.

Upon signing for Panathinaikos for around £1 million, Gilberto expressed his on and off-field persona in a single, succinct sentence:

‘My goals are the goals of my team’.

Selfless, sacrificial and a significant part of Wenger’s Invincibles, Gilberto remains a hugely under-rated player: a player who went unnoticed because of his disciplined yet understated style of play. In a team comprising Bergkamp, Henry, Pires, Vieira et al, it is easy to see why Gilberto was often inconspicuous. In retrospect, that perception has changed.

By the time Gooners realised the value of Gilberto Silva – The Invisible Wall – he was playing in Greece, whilst still representing his country at the highest level. How useful Gilberto would have been in recent weeks.

You don’t know what you have until it’s gone.