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'Wow, I'm here!' – Gervinho on his dream of playing for Arsenal & the moment Wenger told him he wanted him

The 31-year-old looks back on his two years with the north London club fondly and hailed his former manager’s impact on him

Former Arsenal star Gervinho says he realised his childhood dream when he signed for the club and hailed Arsene Wenger as one of the biggest influences on his career.

The 31-year-old joined the Gunners from Lille in 2011 and spent two seasons in the Premier League. The Ivory Coast international was unable to win any silverware with Wenger’s team, but made over 60 appearances before leaving for Roma and then eventually going on to Hebei China Fortune.

His time in north London was special for the attacker, who was elated to get the phone call from a famous name like Wenger.

“Many young players tell you that they want to play for Manchester United or Arsenal. My dream was to play for Arsenal and I realised it,” the attacker told  Goal.  “When I arrived, I thought: ‘Wow, I’m here!’ 

“Each of my clubs made an impression on me, but Arsenal was special. When Arsene Wenger called me to tell me that he would like me to come to his club, I don’t think you imagine the satisfaction I felt just after hanging up the phone.

“Arsenal is an historic club. At the time, it was a club that made a lot of young people dream, with a style of its own and a coach like Wenger who had all of England at his feet. There was not one player who did not like watching Arsenal, with Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira and others.”

Wenger left Arsenal at the end of last season, bringing an end to a 22-year spell at the club. Although many Gunners fans had wanted him to leave long before then, Gervinho says he will always have respect for the Frenchman who helped make his dream come true.

“He will remain one of the great gentlemen I encountered during my career. He taught me a lot. This is someone to whom I owe a lot of respect. It allowed me to realise my dream, and showed all his quality as a manager. He made Arsenal the club it is today.”

Gervinho returned to Italy in August after his spell in China, joining Parma on a three-year contract. He has been in excellent form so far, scoring five goals in 10 Serie A matches.

“It was time to come back, I think,” he said when asked about his decision to head back to Serie A. “I still spent two and a half years in China. I wanted to take more pleasure, continue to play in an atmosphere that I like. I really like the atmosphere in Italian football and I think I still have things to do here. We don’t know the rest, but I hope to stay at this level for a few more years.

“I have good memories of my visit to China. It was a beautiful experience for me. I learned a lot of things. I hope Chinese football is still evolving, that they have the chance to sign other players to develop the league. We did our part of the job by bringing what we had to bring to Chinese football. It is a country that also loved me in other circumstances, I will always wish them the best.”

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