Arsenal celebrate one of its greatest ever signings on this day in football

Some of football’s greatest players have worn the Arsenal shirt over the years and on this day in football, the Gunners are celebrating a club and Nigeria national team legend Nwankwo Kanu who is celebrating his 43rd birthday.

Kanu signed for Arsenal in February 1999 for £4 million, just over two years after a major heart defect was discovered during a routine test at his previous club Inter Milan, which saw him ruled out of action for six months having undergone a surgery to replace an aortic valve.

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The condition saw Kanu make only 16 appearances in three seasons at the San Siro, with only one goal scored during his time with the Italian giants before Arsenal took a major risk in bringing him to the Premier League in 1999.

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With the Nigerian forward arriving at Highbury under the cloud of doubt concerning his fitness, he made his debut in an FA Cup match against Sheffield United, coming on as a second half substitute and causing some controversy which led to the game being replayed.

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There had been a stoppage in play when Sheffield United goalkeeper Alan Kelly kicked the ball out to allow for the treatment of a team-mate and when Arsenal’s Ray Parlour threw the ball back in with Kelly the intended target, Kanu latched on to the throw-in and passed to Marc Overmars to score the winner.

However, then manager Arsene Wenger accepted the move which led to the goal was against sportsmanship and offered for the match to be replayed. This replay would end with Arsenal still reaching the next round of the competition with a 2-1 win.

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While Kanu and the club ended that season without silverware, the following campaign began on a good note as the Gunners won the 1999 Community Shield to mark the first of five major titles which Kanu won during his time in North London.

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The Super Eagles legend helped Arsenal win back-to-back FA Cup victories in 2002 and 2003 as well as two Premier League titles including the unforgettable 2002 triumph which saw the Gunners become the first team to win the English top-flight title without defeat in more than a century.

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2002’s league title led to Kanu and the rest of that Arsenal squad which also had the likes of Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp, Freddie Ljungberg, Tony Adams, David Seaman and more to become known as The Invincibles.

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Other African players who starred in that legendary Arsenal team with Kanu were Cameroonian full-back Lauren and Ivorian defender Kolo Toure, with Kanu making 23 appearances for the Gunners in that season and scoring three goals.

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Kanu would end up making 197 appearances for Arsenal over five years, scoring 44 goals in that time before moving on to newly-promoted West Bromwich Albion after the expiration of his contract with the Gunners in the summer of 2004.

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And arguably one of his most memorable moments as an Arsenal player came when he scored a hat-trick in the closing 15 minutes of a Premier League match against Chelsea to help the Gunners come from 2-0 down to claim a thrilling 3-2 win at Stamford Bridge.

What are your best memories from Kanu’s time at Arsenal? Share them with us in the comment section.