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Money, betrayal and taunting – Premier League’s next big rivalry that fizzled out



Emmanuel Adebayor, arms outstretched, on his knees in front of a packed Arsenal away end.

But instead of adoring him as they once did, a plastic stool comes flying in his direction amid scenes of anger and rage.

His goal for Manchester City and subsequent celebration became the abiding image of what once promised to be the Premier League’s next big rivalry.

Whilst most big rivalries are attributed purely to geography, others are born out of circumstance.

When Arsene Wenger arrived from France, Manchester United were the dominant force.

Over the next decade, an iconic rivalry formed, built around fierce on-field leaders such as Roy Keane and Patrick Vieira in the images of their two legendary managers.

Fast forward to the late noughties and a new rivalry emerged for Arsenal with the blue half of Manchester – only this time played out in the boardroom and the negotiating table.

In the space of two years between 2009 and 2011, Manchester City handed over in excess of £70million to Arsenal to poach four of their prized assets.

This is the story of money, betrayal, taunting and the Premier League’s next big rivalry which quickly fizzled out.

It was the summer of 2018 when Manchester City’s takeover stunned the Premier League.

On the same day Sheikh Mansour took control of the club, they landed Robinho and attempted to snatch Dimitar Berbatov from under the noses of Manchester United.

They finished 10th in the 2008/09 season with Arsenal comfortably in the top four despite a title challenge fading away.

But that off-season, the big-spending spree started with the Gunners in the firing line.

Emmanuel Adebayor, who scored 16 goals the previous season, was tempted to ditch Arsenal for the Etihad in a £25million move.

Less than a fortnight later, star centre-back Kolo Toure followed suit for £16million.

To rub salt in the wounds, club legend Patrick Vieira joined their new rivals from Inter Milan, whilst Sylvinho returned to the Premier League from Barcelona.

After City’s raid of Arsenal, the gap was closing at an alarming rate.

They narrowly missed out on the top four in 2009/10 with 67 points, but finished up just five behind Arsenal.

The previous season, the gap had been 22 points.

It was in December 2009 that the flashpoint occurred and the rivalry between the two clubs kicked up a notch.

After scoring a header against his former club, Adebayor infamously ran the length of the pitch to celebrate in front of the Arsenal fans.

Toure looked bemused and apologetic behind the striker, who later apologised, but the damage was done.

In the same game, Robin van Persie accused Adebayor of deliberately kicking him in the face, an accusation which eventually earned the Manchester City man a three-game ban for violent conduct.

Alex Song also alleged he was slapped in the face by Adebayor in the 4-2 City win with Cesc Fabregas claiming he tried to stamp on him.

Tempers had clearly boiled over and the ill-feeling between the two sides hit fever pitch.

“What was going through my head? A prisoner is out. A prisoner is free,” Adebayor later said of his celebration.

“I played for the club for three-and-a-half years, you bought me for £3m, I still have five years of my contract and you let me go for £20m more and you are telling me I am the one leaving for money and abusing me.

“I am not taking that so it was just to show them that the person you are insulting still has something in his locker.”

The following season, City finished two points ahead of Arsenal and made the Champions League.

Then came the second raid on north London – a £10million move for left-back Gael Clichy and, most notably, the £24million addition of Samir Nasri.

Nasri’s departure in particular caused an outcry at Arsenal.

He was perceived to have turned his back on the club that brought him to the Premier League and the manager, Arsene Wenger, who nurtured him into a top talent.

When his move was inevitable but not confirmed, Arsenal fans accused Nasri of greed and disrespect in terrace chants. Full story

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