Wenger's "fighter" eyeing huge World Cup shock after surprising Arsenal legend

by 24britishtvNov. 23, 2022, 6 p.m. 18
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According to Joel Campbell's mother Roxana, the Costa Rican talisman had got to grips with the football before he had even learnt to talk.

In the eyes of those closest to him, Campbell was always destined to play at the highest level and he certainly achieved that as he prepares to feature for his country at his third successive World Cup, though his route to the top was hardly straightforward.

Campbell's career started at Costa Rican outfit Saprissa, though he soon outgrew the club and made the most notable move of his life after just two years as a senior professional when Premier League giants Arsenal came knocking. According to the player himself, the Gunners weren't the only English titans keen on landing his signature.

The ex-Emirates star has previously claimed Manchester United were also keeping tabs on his situation, with then-boss Sir Alex Ferguson tempted by the idea of bringing in Campbell to have him learn from Ryan Giggs up close but a deal failed to materialise and Arsenal got their man.

Though he signed for the Gunners in August 2011, it wasn't until 23 months later he could actually be considered a fully-fledged member of the Arsenal squad as the failure to secure a work permit robbed him of his first two years under the guidance of Arsene Wenger.

Multiple loan spells soon followed to keep Campbell match fit, with stints in France at Lorient, Real Betis and Olympiacos all failing to spark his career into life on the European stage.

HAVE YOUR SAY! Why did it never truly work out for Campbell at Arsenal? Comment below

After contributing to Costa Rica's remarkable World Cup effort out in Brazil which saw them reach the last eight, the 2014/15 campaign brought Campbell's first taste of life in the Premier League, but he only spent the first half of the season in north London before another loan spell halted his Arsenal chapter.

It was at this stage some frustration had evidently started to creep in, as the winger confessed years later to TD Mas that Wenger had snubbed an offer from Benfica only to send him to Villarreal mid-way through that season.

His one full season at the Emirates came in 2015/16, where he came in for some praise from the boss.

Speaking in the winter of 2015, Wenger explained his decision to keep Campbell around: “This season I didn’t want to loan him out because he has a genuine team attitude and he’s a fighter, what you want from him is to bring more offensively when he plays.

“Recently he has shown that when he is confident he can produce the offensive quality and also be reliable with his team attitude.

"He’s a fighter so that’s great for us. I smelt something with him that is very interesting. He’s creative. I could see that but the creativity is linked with the confidence. You open your eyes when you feel really free to take the initiative.

"That was a bit of his problem. At the end of the day you decide what’s best for the team."

It turns out, what was best for both the team and Campbell himself was an Arsenal exit in 2018, seven years after he first joined. In truth, his time at the Emirates drastically underwhelmed and he parted ways with the Gunners having made just 40 appearances across his lengthy, but disappointing Arsenal chapter.

Campbell has never been prolific when it comes to goal-scoring, but Wenger always seemed to like him for his other qualities, as he revealed when he added: "I think where he surprises you is the intensity of his team work."

He upped sticks to Italy to join minnows Frosinone, but after failing to score a single goal in a particularly miserable dry spell Campbell was on the move again - this time to join Mexican side Leon in 2020.

The 30-year-old remains there to date, though last year he briefly plied his trade for C.F. Monterrey on what was the 10th loan period of his career.

Despite largely struggling at club level, he has been selected in Costa Rica's 26-man squad for the Qatar World Cup and will be out to spark an upset in a group that also includes European powerhouses Spain and Germany.

La Roja are the first test, and Campbell and co. can certainly take inspiration from Saudi Arabia's stunning 2-1 upset against Argentina, as Costa Rica aim to shock the world.

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