The 15 Arsenal players Wenger sold for £15m+ and what they did next
As well as having an eye for top young talent, long-time Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger knew when to get rid of a footballer at the peak of their value.
Countless players left Highbury or the Emirates Stadium for a big chunk of money, only to fail to deliver anything like the same consistency at their new home.
We’ve looked back at the 15 men to move for £15million or more during Wenger’s tenure, to see how they fared after leaving north London.
Giroud was one of the last two players to leave Arsenal under Wenger’s watch, joining Chelsea for £18million on the same day that Mathieu Debuchy was sold to Saint-Etienne.
The Frenchman only scored four league goals in his final half-season with Arsenal, and didn’t hit the ground running at Chelsea, managing just five goals in his first half-season there.
He did play a part in Chelsea’s FA Cup win that season, however, and followed that up with a Europa League title – against Arsenal – in 2019 and a Champions League crown in 2021.
Fair to say he did alright for himself.
Just over a week before Giroud’s exit, Alexis moved to Manchester United in a swap deal with Henrikh Mkhitaryan, with both players valued in the region of £30million.
You don’t need to be reminded of how terribly things went for the Chilean, who scored just five goals in 45 United games and none in his last 12 outings.
Mhkitaryan didn’t do a great deal better, and both have moved to Serie A, where they’ve both tasted success – the Armenian winning the Conference League with Roma on loan and Alexis conquering Serie A and the Coppa Italia with Inter, albeit as a bit-part player.
The other big-money departure in Wenger’s final window, Walcott moved north to join Sam Allardyce at Everton for £20miillion.
A return of 10 goals in 77 league games for the Toffees didn’t leave Arsenal fans thinking the club made a mistake letting him go.
Oxlade-Chamberlain left on the final day of the summer 2017 window in an effort to balance the books after the big-money arrival of Alexandre Lacazette.
The England midfielder impressed in Liverpool’s run to the 2018 Champions League final, but serious injury kept him out of the World Cup and the bulk of the 2018-19 campaign.
He got back into the team and played 30 games as Liverpool won the league the following season, but Oxlade-Chamberlain has since become increasingly peripheral in a ridiculously strong squad and looks set to leave in search of more regular game time this summer.
Vermaelen’s (lack of) fitness was hardly a secret when he moved to Barcelona for £15million in 2014, but even with that knowledge, his first few months went worse than could have been imagined.
He played just 63 minutes in his first season, waiting until May for a debut runout against Deportivo La Coruna, and only notched 1,000 minutes in one of the five seasons following his Arsenal departure (and even then, only just).
Somehow, though, he only retired in 2021, after playing out the last couple of seasons of his career with Vissel Kobe in Japan.
Robin van Persie
Wenger had no choice but to sell Van Persie after the Dutchman’s inner child convinced him to join Manchester United, but that didn’t make Van Persie’s goals in his first season at Old Trafford any less painful.
There were 30 of them in all, 26 in the league, as United won the title and finished 16 points clear of Arsenal in the process.
Even as United endured a difficult couple of seasons after Alex Ferguson’s exit, Van Persie still chipped in with two more double-figure campaigns, followed by further healthy returns with Fenerbahce and Feyenoord.
It certainly feels like he gave as many good years to other clubs as he did to the Gunners.
READ: John Terry, Robin van Persie and a slip which made lots of people happy
Song left in the same window as Van Persie, having laid on a fair few of the Dutchman’s 30 league goals in the 2011-12 season, but his move to Barcelona wasn’t nearly as productive.
The Cameroon midfielder started just 29 times in two La Liga seasons before two years on loan at West Ham during which his most notable moment was a disallowed screamer against the Gunners.
He left Barca permanently in 2016, spending two years at Rubin Kazan before moving to Swiss side Sion, where his team-mates include another former Arsenal player in Yassin Fortune.
Most recently, he won the Djibouti Premier League with Arta/Solar7. Yes, really.
What is it about Arsenal and Barcelona?
Fabregas was probably one of the more successful signings made from Arsenal by the Catalan club, but that’s not saying a lot.
He was quite good, but not the player who many at the La Liga outfit expected to stay at Barca for life. Weird to think his most pivotal season came after Arsenal turned down the chance to bring him back.
When Manchester City came calling for Nasri, the Frenchman always seemed likely to say yes to the switch.
However, after a great first season, he was unable to step up a level. The former Marseille man still did enough to stay involved as City won a second league title in Manuel Pellegrini’s first year in charge, but his post-Manchester career was one disappointment after another.
His last three seasons as a professional involved eight league games in Turkey, 246 minutes for West Ham in the Premier League, a drugs ban and seven games for Anderlecht. Not great.
Like Nasri, Adebayor started very strongly after trading north London for Manchester. Sadly for him, that’s not where the similarities end.
The Togolese striker scored 14 goals in his first City season, including four in his first four Premier League games, but added just one more the following year before loan spells at Real Madrid and Spurs, the latter turning into a mixed permanent stint.
Like Nasri, he attempted to get his career back on track in Turkey. At least that part went better for him.
In discussions over former players who might eventually manage Arsenal, Toure’s name never really comes up, and yet he’s the one with experience of winning things as a player and thriving as a coach.
He might not have been a regular, but Toure won the Premier League with Manchester City, came second with Liverpool, and played a handful of games as Celtic won the 2016-17 Scottish Premiership.
The Ivorian won another Scottish title as a coach, while he is an integral part of Brendan Rodgers’ staff at Leicester.
It’s the Barcelona curse again.
Hleb would later admit his move away from Arsenal was his biggest footballing regret, and the latter part of his career saw him drift to and from BATE Borisov like a newton’s cradle.
READ: Alexander Hleb: I cried over Arsenal exit; most players regret leaving
Sure, Henry won a Champions League title with (you guessed it) Barcelona, but did he ever really reach the heights we saw of him at his Arsenal peak?
Err, well, not quite. But he was still really, really good.
READ: Outscoring Messi & winning it all: A tribute to Thierry Henry at Barcelona
The first of many big-money sales to Barca, Overmars moved to the Nou Camp for £25million, while Emmanuel Petit made the same move at the same time for a lot less.
He found himself in Catalunya at a difficult time for the club, with managerial upheaval and stop-start displays on the pitch, but there’s no denying his form at Arsenal which earned him the move was a cut above what he showed in La Liga.
On top of that, Overmars struggled with injuries towards the end of his spell, forcing him into early retirement.
Arsenal got a great return on investment with Anelka, earning more than £20million for a player who cost them about £500k.
Things didn’t go to plan for Anelka at Real Madrid, but he’ll still look back on his career with a fair amount of fondness – not least for his league titles with Fenerbahce and Chelsea.
It’s hard to tell what would have become of the Frenchman if he’d stuck around, seeing as he was a teenager when he left, but he certainly took a bit of time to rediscover his Gunners form.
READ MORE: 17 of Arsene Wenger’s best quotes: ‘God created man, I am only a guide’