Exclusive: Edu on his Arsenal playing career

Edu was just 22 when he boarded a plane from Sao Paulo to London, expecting to join Arsenal. It was the summer of 2000, and he was accompanied by Sylvinho, who had made the same move from Corinthians to Arsenal a year prior. The idea was for the Brazilian pair to report for pre-season training together.

When training began, however, Edu was not there.

“I was so excited to leave Brazil and go to England,” Edu, now 43 and Arsenal’s technical director, tells The Athletic. “It was a dream come true — a great squad, a great club, and a chance to be in the Premier League.”

The deal had been sped along by the news that Edu already had a Portuguese passport, organised for him by an agent — or at least that’s what the player thought. When Edu attempted to pass through immigration, he was stopped. “We’re sorry,” border control informed him. “You will not be allowed to enter the country.”

So began a bitterly testing period. For the next year or so, Edu’s dream threatened to become a nightmare. He was beleaguered by passport problems, significant injury, and personal tragedy. He would not join Arsenal until the following January, and even then faced a gruelling adaptation period.

In such trying circumstances, surrender would have been understandable. Edu persisted. He kept hold of his Arsenal dream, and he succeeded. In his current role, Edu is frequently the subject of scrutiny and debate. As an Arsenal footballer, however, his quality was rarely in question: he was part of a squad that landed two league titles, and three FA Cups. He was not always a starter, but remained undeniably important — and in the face of adversity, he became Invincible. This is the story of Edu, the player.

Add comment