Sol Campbell was a favourite among the Spurs faithful, that was until he made the dramatic switch to arch-rivals Arsenal in 2001.
The move caused mass outrage at White Hart Lane, but it brought more years of success for Arsenal who went from strength to strength at the turn of the millennium. During his nine-year stay at Spurs, Campbell said he’d never play for Arsenal, but things changed quickly after failing to challenge for honours and managerial fall-outs.
How did the transfer change Arsenal?
Campbell’s move immediately paid off, winning the Premier League and FA Cup in his first season, and it was him who filled the hole about to be left by club legend Tony Adams at the end of the 2001/02 season. Playing alongside Adams for most of his first campaign, the seamless transition from one successful domineering centre-half to another was consolidated, providing Arsenal with continued defensive stability needed to continually challenge for titles.
An injury forced the Englishman to miss Arsenal’s only trophy of the 2002/03 campaign, the FA Cup, but he remained the club’s top centre-back and partnered with Kolo Toure for the Invincibles season. His 35 appearances launched the Gunners into the history books as one the greatest Premier League teams ever, while his old club Spurs finished 14th.
How did the transfer shake the world?
Arsenal fans across the world were delighted to see Campbell switch across North London, and it was one of the first moves that suggested power was shifting from the clubs down to the players themselves. The move also highlighted the horrors of the Bosman rule for clubs with players nearly out of contract, as they wouldn’t receive any transfer fee when players’ contracts ended.
For Spurs to receive no money for their star centre-half’s move to their arch rivals was disastrous for Spurs, but it set a precedent that the grass may actually be greener on the other side. It showed winning trophies and feeling loved at a club was worth the hassle of the fan backlash, and players such as Carlos Tevez have followed suit since.