Mathieu Flamini, French in name and in nature. This tenacious pitbull of a defensive midfielder is regarded by many football fans, Arsenal in particular, as a mercenary who puts money above loyalty. Despite Arsenal fan’s loathing Flamini for how his exit from the club transpired, whilst at the club he was renowned for his hard tackling and boundless energy providing the perfect foil for Fabregas in the 2007-8 season as the two of them dominated many midfield’s up and down the country.
Anyway we will start from the beginning and Mathieu started out at Marseille, his local club, and after passing through the ranks there finally made his debut in the 2003-4 season. He excelled in the league and started to catch people’s attention with his impressive whole-hearted performances. His most impressive performances came in the UEFA Cup and he infact ended up with a loser’s medal with Marseille losing to Valencia 2-0. Flamini left Marseille in controversial fashion, according to the club owner he verbally agreed to a contract then after hearing of interest from Arsenal betrayed Marseille by signing Arsenal’s better offer.
So Flamini arrived at Arsenal in the summer of 2004 under a cloud of controversy as Marseille tried to take Arsenal to the European Court of Arbitration for compensation but ultimately failed as Flamini had not signed anything with them. Though the circumstances that Flamini joined Arsenal could have been seen as a warning for things to come.
In his first season Flamini featured intermittently picking up just 9 starts and 12 substitute appearances in a variety of positions as Arsene saw him as a key utility player with his hard tackling and good positioning that made him a good defensive midfielder also being able to be applied at full-back.
Despite Flamini repeatedly requesting to be played in his more natural position, 2005-6 saw Flamini gain his most appearances but mostly at LB as Ashley Cole and Gael Clichy were injured for much of the season. This was the season that saw Arsenal reach the Champions League final but lose defiantly to Barcelona 2-1 after playing much of the game with 10 men. Flamini was a substitute in the final and overall had a very good season picking up 49 appearances which at the age of 22 helped push along his progression as a player.
However with players returning from injury the 2006-7 season saw Flamini have less of an impact, more substitute appearances and again being played out of position left Flamini frustrated and questioning his position at Arsenal. In the summer of 2007 he had to be talked out of joining Birmingham City for £3 million. He had 12 months left on his contract but Arsene assured him he would get time in central midfield and Flamini said he would sign an extension.
The 2007-8 is the season Flamini is most remembered for, he started the season in central midfield due to a Gilberto injury and grabbed hold of the position and didn’t let go. Every great Arsenal team has had a player whose ability isn’t the best but he is still loved by the fans for his desire and commitment on the pitch, before Flamini Arsenal had Ray Parlour who despite not being the most technically endowed won the adoration of the fans and the ironic nickname “Romford Pele” due to the ability to always give consistently sound performances whilst not setting the pitch of fire with his displays. Playing alongside Fabregas who had enough technical attributes for the both of them, these two formed a near perfect partnership which saw the decline of Gilberto. Gilberto had been overlooked for captain at the start of the season and now with his game time restricted ultimately became a bit part for this season and though he got game time the season after he did quote he had “been made to feel useless by Wenger”. Throughout the season people questioned whether Flamini would sign a new contract, this become the first of many contract wrangling’s that have seen Arsene promise the Arsenal fans that a player would sign and then ultimately see them leave in the summer. This was a very unfortunate season for Arsenal in the fact they were 5 points clear until the infamous 2-2 draw to Birmingham City which saw Eduardo suffer a horrible leg break saw Arsenal’s season derailed and them quickly out of 4 competitions.
Much like at Marseille Flamini promised Wenger he would sign only to see him leave to join AC Milan leaving many an Arsenal fan cursing Flamini. Many neutral fans commented on the karma in the fact that Arsenal had acquired Flamini in controversial circumstances only to see lightning strike twice as again he left for the higher signing on fee at AC Milan.
There seems to be two things the follow Flamini, despair as he leaves a club in the lurch for more money elsewhere and the fact mangers see him as a great utility player. In his first season, the 08-09, Flamini was seen more as a RB and as such featured there. Overall his first season was a mixed success stacking up 37 appearances but many out of his ideal position.
Over the next two season Flamini played a rotation role racking up 32 and 29 appearances respectively but with many coming from the bench. However AC Milan did win the Scudetto in the 2010-11 season. Flamini injured his knee in pre-season for the 2011-12 season and as such only saw two appearances the entire season. With his contract running down but Milan leaving in a state of austerity, thus why they sold Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva, Milan tried to tie him down to a new deal with lower terms. Flamini looked to be doing another “Flamini” as he rejected the terms and looked to be heading back to France. However after his contract ran out he struggled to find a club in France that wanted him and/or could afford his wages so ended up crawling back to Milan a week later and signing a deal that Galliani, the AC Milan CEO, had great delight in telling the press was on lower terms.
Flamini’s move to Milan hasn’t been a remarked success for him with his limited game time and being played out of position again for a sustained period. It seems he took a step back as at Arsenal he had finally broken through into a starting position alongside Fabregas, also at his time of leaving Arsenal looked very promising and capable as they had gone far in all 4 competitions. It is shown that he hasn’t broken into the French team whilst at Milan that it was seen overall as a step backwards in his career. Still Flamini will be left to reflect back on this on his 60″ inch TV that his extra few thousand euros/pounds he earnt at Milan gained him.
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