Early Doors

Eduardo’s broken legacy

Early Doors

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So, Eduardo da Silva, this is goodbye. In three years at Arsenal, the striker has gone on a winding journey from fan favourite to squad dead wood via horrific injury and controversy, but now Gunners fans won't be too sad to say so long, até a vista and do viđenja to the Brazilian-born Croatia striker now that he has completed a £6 million move to Shakhtar Donetsk.

He made his mark on the international scene by putting a first, early nail in Steve McClaren's coffin with his goal against England in Zagreb.

That strike may have been overshadowed by Gary Neville's own goal, which history has harshly recorded as a Paul Robinson gaffe, but it was enough for Arsene Wenger to take notice. Who was this sprightly, lethal left-footed finisher with the eyes of a puma and the mouth of a catfish? Wenger's interest was piqued.

In the way that only Arsenal do, his signing in July 2007 came out of nowhere, even if the originally reported fee of £16.5m turned out to be more than double the actual amount paid for his services.

Despite saving most of his scoring form for cup matches, Eduardo proved a big hit at the Emirates Stadium, but supporters could never have imagined how his sustaining an injury would affect the course of their recent history.

On that fateful lunchtime in February 2008 when the lumbering Martin Taylor's clumsy tackle snapped his leg after just three minutes at St Andrews, the team was rocked. At the time the Gunners were Premier League leaders, but the 2-2 draw led to a shell-shocked William Gallas slumping on to the pitch at the final whistle, and Arsenal finished the season in third place.

The fallout and recriminations over Taylor's tackle whipped up into a frenzy, while a stunned, dejected Eduardo sat dejected and helpless in the eye of the storm. Wenger blasted that Taylor should "never play football again"; while Alex McLeish trotted out the classic "he's not that type of player". The Blues defender became public enemy number one as the debate raged over fair play, the rules of the game and the very nature of the human spirit.  

By the time he made his return a week shy of the anniversary of that injury, Eduardo had behind him a groundswell of unanimous goodwill rarely seen in football - save for a few creative chants from fans travelling to north London. You know the ones. 

He duly responded with a brace against Cardiff in the FA Cup on his first game back, before scoring an outrageous backheeled flick against Burnley in the next round a month later.

But any remaining sentiment for the player evaporated at the start of this season when his shocking dive in a Champions League qualifier against Celtic saw him transformed from a pillar of gutsy sporting endeavour into a pariah. Wenger's claim that memories of his injury meant he leapt out of Artur Boruc's way in an instinctive act of self-preservation were given short shrift as Eduardo took his turn to be that week's symptom of the game going to the dogs.

He converted the penalty he had 'won', but the fuss over the incident led to UEFA reacting by seemingly inventing a rule just for him and banning him for two matches. Diving became the hot topic, and had barely died down when UEFA finally relented and overturned the ban.

By that time, however, Eduardo was a shadow of the player Arsenal once hoped he would be, and his failure to step into the breach when Robin van Persie and then Nicklas Bendtner were injured contributed to another year of disappointment for the Gunners.

It could be argued that Arsenal cannot afford to lose a forward from their already thin squad, but the fact is that a Premier League goal tally of one every five games will not fire a team to the title.

Arsenal have done well to recoup most of the fee they paid for a forward who at the time was such hot property, and Eduardo can look to rebuild his career among the other Brazilian journeymen at Shakhtar.

His impact on the pitch may not have been historic, but he has certainly left his mark.

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COMING UP: It's the final mountain stage of the Tour de France today, with the climb up from fro Pau to Col du Tourmalet. Follow Stage 17 live either via our live commentary and peloton tracker or by watching live on British Eurosport or on your PC with the Eurosport Player.  

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