Exclusive Interview: Saad Noor meets Bacary Sagna


It has been three-and-a-half years since Bacary Sagna signed for Arsenal from Auxerre for an undisclosed fee, thought to in the region of €9 million that could rise to €11 million.

The pressure was on for ‘Bac’ as he is known by his Arsenal teammates straight away as he left France’s Ligue 1 as Auxerre’s player of the season, in Ligue 1’s Team of the Year and was also voted France’s best right-sided defender. A lot was expected from Arsenal fans who grew frustrated with the inconsistency of Emmanuel Eboue. Hope turned to great expectations when Sagna was handed the number 3 shirt, vacated by Ashley Cole.

Surprisingly, the demands didn’t weigh Sagna down and he took to the Premier League like a frog to water. His side led the pack for the majority of the season before stumbling after a combination of injuries, suspensions and that horrific leg-break suffered by teammate Eduardo saw Arsenal finish third behind Chelsea and eventual champions Manchester United.

Along with the problems suffered at his club, Sagna was enduring his own personal trauma as on 13 February 2008, exactly one week before Arsenal were set to play the second leg of their knock-out encounter against AC Milan in the Champions League Sagna’s older brother, Omar Sagna, died at the age of 28, the day before his birthday.

Sagna did go on to play in that game on the advice of his father and recollects the events vividly.

“My father called me when Omar died and he said ‘I don’t want it to affect your performances so I want you to play against Milan’.

“I have to say at first I didn’t want to play because I wanted to be with my family but I listened to father and played.

“He was right because we won and I played a good game.”

It was performances like this and his consistent run ousting Emmanuel Eboue from the right-back position which saw Sagna named in the PFA Team of the Year in 2007-08, an honour he has yet to reclaim since.

“When I was in the team of the year I was very proud and I was thinking about my brother because he gave me so much advice over my career. It was really special.” He pauses and begins to smile before adding, “But I know what he would say now, ‘How come you only win once, you should win it every year!”

Sagna claims there has been concrete interest in him during his spell in North London but he remains focused and is determined to succeed under his ‘second father’ Arsene Wenger.

“The boss is a great guy and he is the reason I adapted to life in England on and off the pitch straight away.

“He’s a great teacher and he teaches you things nobody else can, he is not only my football coach but also my life coach.”

Sagna needed the support of Wenger when he endured an injury-ravaged season last year where he struggled to replicate his form from the previous two seasons as injuries prevented him from contributing to the team in the same way he had.

He talks fondly about teammate Emmanuel Eboue who has become his understudy as a result of his unfailing displays in the right full-back position. He says with a throaty laugh:

“I joke with him and say ‘Eboue, I play because the boss is resting you for the big games’ but he says ‘No Bac, you’re older so when you’re tired, I’ll play’, but I’m only a few months older.”

Despite this friendly banter, competition for places is fierce and Sagna knows he has to fight to win his place back after seeing red against Manchester City last week means he will sit out for another game.

“We like to joke but Eboue is a great player and if I don’t play well I know he is there so he helps me in a way because I can see him taking my place if I’m not good enough.”

It has been made clear by the Frenchman that he is indeed good enough and with wandering showings by Premier League full-backs this year it would surprise none if Sagna is once again named in the PFA Team of the Year.

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