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Gilberto Silva
Gender Male
Ethnic Brazilian
Job Brazilian Footballer
Desc Gilberto Silva was a World Cup winner with Brazil. That alone makes him a strong inclusion in this list. On top of that, he anchored the midfield of the Invincibles team of 2003/04. Although his contribution was occasionally hard to spot, The Invisible Wall was an invaluable foil for his team-mates. The invisible Invincible. Played a key if understated role in the best Arsenal team of all-time, alongside Patrick Vieira. A bargain at £4.5m

Affiliation

Org Brazil National Team
Club as Coach Panathinaikos [Technical Director]
Club as Player Arsenal FC

2016 10 24 Retrieve

[Gilberto’s job is to use his skill set to put Panathinaikos back in the big time again] It is a real challenge being a sports director. It’s the first time I’m in this job and you have to understand how everything works very quickly. I came to the club at the end of last season and didn’t know much about the previous campaign and gave the best support I could to find the right players and balance in the team. There are a lot of challenges in the club and you have to slowly overcome them but I’m enjoying it so far.

[He admits he briefly spoke to Wenger and his former sidekick David Dein after taking up the role, seeking words of wisdom from the ex-Arsenal vice-chairman] We spoke about some things and I spoke many times with David Dein. We’re very close friends and I hope he will come to see one of our games soon. I spoke to other friends I have in the job and then you start to bring some new ideas to the club from what I’ve experienced as a player - and things I’ve missed as a player and to fill up this gap inside the club

[Gilberto says the sporting director role brings about its own unique challenges, and while he hasn’t ruled out becoming a coach or returning to the Gunners in the future, he says his experiences as a player have helped him settle into his new job] At the moment I didn’t have the feeling to be a coach. If you want to be a coach you must have this feeling and must live for it. You have to understand that sporting director is a full time job and the pressure is totally different and in some places being a coach is not easy - many coaches have been sacked very easily all over the world. At some point I will do my badges but that’s because I want to understand better what is behind the face of the coach, what he has to learn to become a successful one. You never know [about returning to Arsenal]. Everyone knows Arsenal is the club from the deepest point of my heart that I have a great love and appreciation for. The most important part now is not to focus on that and focus on doing my job in the right way, to help them achieve their goals. If the team achieve their goals it means that everyone has done a good job

Everyday when I wake up I think what can I improve at the club, what can I do to improve myself and what can I do to give the club better service? This is my own challenge everyday. Sometimes it is a lonely job. Sometimes you don’t have anyone to share your frustrations with. Sometimes you don’t have people thinking the same way as you but you have to encourage people to work as you want according to their abilities and try to help them improve for the club

I believe [being a footballer] can help a lot, especially when you approach a player, because I was on the other side before. You understand the mentality of the player not to be too shy and too hard - to find a good way of approaching them. Even though they are young players, old player, big players - everyone is a human being and behind the footballer there is a human being

[Working alongside Wenger, who recently marked 20 years as Arsenal manager, was evidently a career highlight for Gilberto and the manner in which he speaks and conveys his ideas bares similarities to that of the Frenchman] He was really important because when I arrived at Arsenal I came as a man. I was 25 at the time and the good thing for him was that he didn’t have so much to work with me. It was my first club in Europe and the Premier League is not so easy for any foreign player. It’s maybe a bit harder for a Brazilian player because we came from good weather, nice life and different coaching and you have to adapt to the way of playing which is difficult

The hardest thing for me was the communication as I could not speak English at the time. I had to work hard to learn the language and it was one of the gifts of playing in England, apart from football, of course. I would not have been satisfied when I left England if I had not mastered English even though I had success in football

It was important when he told me the way he wanted me to play. In Brazil we got the ball, played at the side and the back - it wasn’t aggressive going forwards. He spoke to me about it and I understood very well and this is the reason why I played regularly

Coquelin had very good moments last year. I heard comparisons to me which I’m happy about because it means people understood my role and the job I was doing. Maybe they didn’t understand at first because at the beginning they expected a Brazilian player to score the goals!

I think the hardest thing for some of those young players who came after me was that they didn’t have anyone older than them to learn things from, as I had with Ray Parlour, Patrick Vieira and Edu

They were there before me and worked with the coach for a long time. It was important to have those guys in front of me to see how they approach the game and learn from them. For some of the young players after me when things started changing, renovating the team, it was quite hard. Maybe the ones who took their opportunity were Cesc Fabregas and Mathieu Flamini because myself and Patrick left, then they started to play with each other

This [2007-08] was the season where I took a different role in the team because I had the captain’s armband as Thierry was injured. Everything worked well for me because I not only did my job as a defensive midfielder but I could help going forwards, scoring goals

The hardest thing was the season after when I was dropped to the bench which was my last season for Arsenal. It was hard for me because I was making headlines as a defensive midfielder and delivering upfront without losing focus on my main role and after I came back late from the Copa America it was hard for me to watch the games from the bench

It was not easy for me to understand, I spoke to Arsene about it and it was disappointing for me. It was hard when I saw that it would not change and I made my mind to leave which was really hard for me. I had an opportunity to move to England but it would have been hard to play against Arsenal

[Gilberto’s backstory is a fascinating one. He grew up in a poor family and took jobs at a young age which included working on a coffee plantation and as an upholsterer] There are many people like me who had the same kind of upbringing. I grew up in a very small village and I would never myself have an opportunity at a football club, a trial or whatever. When I got my chance I wanted to do the best I could. I had frustrations at the beginning, then I went back to work again to help my family

I believe that what I had to do before football was important for me. It’s easy to get lost when you achieve your goals in football. I never lost the plot because I understood how the hard the life can be outside of football. For somebody who wants to succeed in football he has to understand that the footballers life is not so easy if you want to achieve great things. You have to work hard instead of complaining all time. To work hard, to be responsible and transfer it to football - for me it worked pretty well.

I worked in a construction company which was hard work. I’ve worked since I was 11 because I wanted to have my own money and didn’t want to ask my father. Not because I was obliged to do it. At 11 years old I worked on a farm on a coffee plantation for a week. This was the first job I got paid for a week. When I was 12 I worked as an upholsterer, then a construction company, then I had a period at my first club. After five months I come back to work at sweet factory to help my family. I always understood my responsibility during each moment and it was a great lesson that I keep with me through life.

2018 09 10 Retrieve

[Gilberto Silva said Paris Saint-Germain star Neymar has a lot of room to grow after being handed the Brazil captaincy] I believe they want to protect Neymar more because of the criticism he received at the World Cup. And also to remind him that he has a greater responsibility towards the team, for what he represents and in the football world. The captaincy is for him to understand responsibility as something positive, as a personal growth. It’s important to keep his focus and to put the criticism aside. He still has a lot to do in terms of growing.

2018 10 29 Retrieve

[Former Arsenal midfielder Gilberto Silva is convinced Unai Emery’s new look Gunners are serious contenders to win this year’s Premier League title and believes Uruguay midfielder Lucas Torreira can become a key player at the Emirates Stadium] Before the season, not many people would have put them as contenders for the title, but they must believe and work hard and see what they can do in the first year of the new manager. The players have to give their answer on the pitch, and as long as they do they’ll look to be stronger game-by-game. They’ve started positively. Of course, the first two games were quite hard because they played Chelsea and City, who are two contenders for the title. But you also must observe that this was the beginning of the new manager there [at Arsenal]. You must give Emery the time to find the right players, the balance, the shape of the team, and start from there.

Since then the players have been understanding the way he wants them to play. The last game was nice (Arsenal beat Leicester 3-1), one of the goals they built up from the back and it was amazing - this is how everyone who loves Arsenal wants them to play, and I hope they keep the shape. We’ll have to wait. Obviously, the best season for any big club is winning the title at the end, but they must understand that’s not going to be easy. I’m sure they know - they’ve played a few games but still have a lot more before the end of the season

2018 10 29b Retrieve

[After seeing the performance of diminutive Uruguayan Lucas Torreira in the opening weeks of the season; Gilberto believes Arsenal have finally found an heir to his defensive throne at the Emirates] I thought in the World Cup he played very well for Uruguay. It was nice because you compare the way this guy plays - his stature is not high, he’s a middle-sized player - but he knows how to position himself and play nice football. He makes things simple, and of course at Arsenal we have a lot of expectation for him to keep the team ticking, the support and the position. Arsenal need somebody like that, and I hope that he does well

2018 10 29c Retrieve

[Gilberto has called on all Arsenal fans to experience a footballing treat next month by turning out in force on November 16 at the Emirates as Brazil take on Uruguay] I think they’ll get a very nice crowd, with expectation around their return to London, to the Emirates Stadium. It’s the new cycle now, looking forward to the new project of four years for the next World Cup. It starts now, selecting players for this time, to see how everyone’s going to respond to what the coach wants from everyone. I believe that they’re going to get a good crowd, I believe so.

2019 02 09 Retrieve

[Gilberto Silva, a title-winning star of Arsenal’s past, says Arsene Wenger should have walked away from the club in 2017] When Arsenal won the FA Cup against Chelsea that was a good moment for Arsene (to leave) in my mind. But, of course, I know Arsene very well, he is a football man. He loves the game, and he loves Arsenal. You have to respect someone like that and let him leave on his own terms. At the time when he won the FA Cup it was also difficult to find someone to replace him.

2019 02 09b Retrieve

[Unai Emery has to contend with the unwelcome speculation surrounding Ozil’s future, with a lack of game time sparking transfer talk around the World Cup winner] A player of his calibre cannot be on the bench, in my opinion. People are always trying to find something to talk about Ozil - why is he not playing and, when he is playing, why is he not playing well? This kind of player, you have to give them responsibilities. What’s the best way to give him responsibility? Put him on the field!

Right now it’s down to the manager. It’s a good challenge for Unai. What’s the best setup for the team? Why not find a way for the team to play and find a place for him, where he can be important for the team? I think for Arsenal fans it’s difficult to see him on the bench

2019 10 08 Retrieve

[Former Arsenal midfielder Gilberto Silva has also joined the debate over Ozil the misfiring German playmaker] I’m sure for him it’s been quite hard to see the game from the outside. It’s up to him to work hard and send a message to the manager that he’s ready and wants to play

2019 10 10 Retrieve

[Matteo Guendouzi’s impressive progress at Arsenal has pleased Gilberto Silva, but a Gunners legend admits there is still room for improvement from the Frenchman] Matteo Guendouzi is still young and he’s improving. But it has not been easy for him, and for everyone, in a couple of games. It’s about timing, he still has room to mature, he’s still improving his game. But he’s played some good games and I hope he keeps doing well for the team.

2019 10 10b Retrieve

[David Luiz’s new big club tranfer] It’s not so easy to move from one big club to another because the expectation is so high. I know it was important for him to score the winning goal and I hope he keeps doing well for the team, this is what I wish from him. He’s a Brazilian, we always support them, it doesn’t matter where they are.

2020 02 25 Retrieve

[Gilberto Silva admits Arsenal’s efforts to replace him in the middle of the park have been ‘painful’ at times] It’s nice when people talk about me and remember me. Of course, I’m not too proud in terms of the idea that they never replaced me, but I feel proud that people think about me positively, despite the fact that it’s a long time since I left the club. This is a good feeling. But, you know, from what I have seen over the last few years, it’s quite true, because me and Patrick Vieira especially had a great partnership and I haven’t seen Arsenal replace this. I think it’s been quite painful for the team not to have stability in this position. They are paying a high price, but I hope at some point they find somebody who can fill the gap

[The 2002 World Cup winner said of his ex-boss] It was great to play under him. He was very simple in the way he would tell us what to do but in a very effective way. He always went back to the basics to provide us with the best training sessions. He encouraged everyone to work hard and to believe in themselves and their abilities but without forgetting what they have to do as a group. I think his ability to get everyone on the same page was massively important to keeping that level of competitiveness to achieve the best results possible

2020 03 02 Retrieve

[Arsenal Invincible Gilberto Silva tells Liverpool ‘we are still there as No.1’ as Reds’ unbeaten] Liverpool came very close to the unbeaten record we hold with Arsenal. I have always said that one day it may happen and the way they have been playing, I was expecting them to do it. For most people, it was unexpected that they would lose at Watford but we are still there as No. 1, and this is a very special achievement.

I was only talking about Arsenal’s Invincibles season last week over lunch with Jens Lehmann, our goalkeeper, and David Dein, who was vice-chairman. It is impossible not to talk about it. Every conversation I have with team-mates from that time is special.

Jens and I spoke about the training sessions, the approach of everyone, when someone was maybe not in the right mood for training we pushed each other. Jens talked to everyone. If someone was not 100 per cent, he would ask why not and ask for more. He was never afraid to say things but in a positive way.

Compared to some games, our training sessions were even harder. Everyone trained to their limit, nobody at 80 or 90 per cent. Sometimes Arsene Wenger, our manager, had to calm us down. I had the feeling many times in the tunnel, the way some opponents looked at us, I knew straight away that we were going to win this game

We won the league with four games to go. We thought, ‘OK, let’s keep winning’. Arsene said that we could become a special team, not only winners but a team everyone would know went unbeaten.

I left the Premier League more than ten years ago. We won this in 2004. It’s such a long time and after the Liverpool game, ‘Arsenal the Invincibles’ came into people’s minds. It gives us a good feeling that people will still talk about us for I don’t know how long.

Even though they did not break our record, what Liverpool have done this season is very special. It is not so easy with the competition nowadays. They face Manchester City, who have done so well, and the Premier League is a competition where anything can happen. Jurgen Klopp, his staff and the players have done a great job. They can still do marvellous things

2020 04 14 Retrieve

[Gilberto Silva questions snub of Egyptian midfielder] In the last few years, the situation has been difficult at Arsenal. They have very similar players in midfield, with profiles that resemble each other and not really players of the profile of Patrick Vieira, or even my profile. The only individual who resembled [us], could have been Mohamed Elneny, but he didn’t play. But they have not really had those types of players to cover the defensive midfield position. Arsenal always plays positively, trying to deploy an attacking game, and it is not easy to find someone to marry the ability to play the forward game and to do the work in the shadows in the defensive phases

[Mikel Arteta has been charged with the task of turning the tide] It will not be easy to return to that level. Because apart from the means Arsenal has to progress, other competitors are doing things well. Whether it’s Liverpool or Manchester City, for example. But I think the club has the capacity to come back to the fore. And I hope they will do it quickly. At the moment, it’s not easy, obviously, because nobody can show what they are doing. But I think time will allow that: to get results, play beautiful football again and win trophies

2020 06 14 Retrieve

[Arsenal legend Gilberto Silva is excited to see the progress of striker Gabriel Martinelli at the club] I’m pleased that Arsenal have Brazilian players. I think it’s fantastic after some of the Brazilian players that followed us not quite hitting the heights but now Martinelli and David [Luiz] are at the club. David made the transition from a rival [Chelsea] and joined Arsenal, a club that needs no introduction. Then you have Martinelli, a promising youngster not just for Arsenal, but he’s being talked about in Brazilian football and he made a very good start. He’s doing well and shown his bravery. He wore the Arsenal shirt as if he were still playing with his friends at his previous club. I’m pleased that Arsenal managed to get the deal done and he’s in a good position to follow in the footsteps of all the Brazilian players that Arsenal have had

2020 06 28 Retrieve

[Guendouzi has to mind his temper] I like Matteo Guendouzi. He seems a very interesting player. He has ability, he has pace to go forward. But sometimes I just feel a little bit confused about which position he plays. Does he want to be like a No.6, to protect the back four, or a No.8 to go box to box. If he wants to be a No.6 he has to play simple and he has to mind his temper. Sometimes I see him a little bit nervous, sometimes that’s unnecessary. He needs to just play his game - he has quality. Don’t pay attention to other things. When I see him play he suddenly starts to get nervous in some situations and he loses his focus

In our time, we had many leaders in the team, on the pitch and off the pitch. Everyone spoke through their body language out on the field and, honestly, in the last few years this is something I have really missed seeing at Arsenal. It’s hard to say it’s about leadership because from what I understand they do have some guys who are leaders. But it is hard to see exactly how this leadership works out. It’s very hard to see the situation Arsenal are in and you can say that about the last few years. But I hope they can find a way to get back to the glory days. It’s going to be very hard work for everyone at the club - the board, the staff and the players - and they all must work together if they are to change the situation.