The ex-Gunner was one of the Premier League’s best right-backs during his time in north London but left in 2014 after growing disillusioned
Bacary Sagna has opened up about leaving his ‘beloved’ Arsenal in 2014, admitting that he lost his head at the club’s reluctance to open contract talks.
Having arrived in north London in 2007, Sagna quickly established himself as one of the best defenders in the Premier League with his consistent performances on the right side of Arsenal’s back four.
He was named in the Premier League team of the year in 2008 and 2011 and went on to make 284 appearances for the Gunners during his seven-year stay with the club.
But he left on a free transfer in the summer of 2014, having let his contract run down, and went on to make a move to Manchester City, where he spent the next three seasons before leaving in 2017.
The ex-France international has now revealed why the circumstances around Emirates Stadium at the time left him with no option other than to leave.
Sagna – who is a free agent and living with his family in Canada – admits Arsenal’s decisions to sell Robin van Persie to Manchester United and Alex Song to Barcelona played a part in bringing about his exit, but the main reason was how late the club left it before trying to enter into talks about a new contract.
“I got upset, not when [Cesc] Fabregas left – because that was quite an obvious move – not when [Samir] Nasri left, but when Robin left. It was like a statement from the club. He left in a way that no-one understood because he was flying,” the 37-year-old told Goal in an exclusive interview.
“He was a different type of player. An animal on the pitch, a goalscoring machine. When he left, I wondered why Arsenal didn’t try more to keep him.
“Even if they had to spend lots of money, just do it because you have to spend money to get another player. And if you want to win something, it’s going to take time for that player to adapt.
“I didn’t understand that and Alex Song’s move. The two of them left at the same time and I found out reading the French press. That got me really upset.”
Sagna added: “Not long afterwards I had an interview with L’Equipe and they asked me what my future was and at that time, I hadn’t held any talks about my future and I only had one year left before the end of my contract.
“To me, personally, if they wanted me to stay I would have stayed. But I didn’t feel like they did everything to make me stay. I was not expecting them to run around after me, but I at least expected them to show me some love and make me feel like they wanted me to stay one year before the end of the same contract I had kept for six years without asking for one penny more.
“But they only talked to me after I did that interview with L’Equipe. It did not feel like a natural move and I didn’t feel comfortable at all. This hurt me as a player and as a person because I always gave my best, I never asked for anything from 2008 to 2014.
“I didn’t knock at the club’s door to change contract, I respected my contract, but the way I left was a bit dirty. I didn’t like it, I didn’t feel comfortable anymore. Something broke inside my head.”
At the time of Sagna’s exit, there were many suggestions that his move was purely about getting one last big payday.
He was 31 at the time; the latest in a long line of players to move from Arsenal to big-spending Manchester City, following the likes of Emmanuel Adebayor, Kolo Toure, Gael Clichy and Samir Nasri.
But Sagna is adamant money had nothing to do with his decision.
“It was not about money like people think or any way of leaving to win trophies. No, I was happy at Arsenal,” he said.
“But my head was gone. I was upset. I remember the fans singing ‘we want you to stay’, but I couldn’t stay because I was upset and I couldn’t play with my head.
“Even my dad talked to me, saying ‘look you need to clear this up’ but I said I was too upset. I was not even performing. I remember my dad and my brother came to a game and they didn’t recognise me.
“I had some great moments, some difficult moments. I had some good seasons, some average seasons. But during that period I think I did more positive things than negative things and I never asked for anything.
“So I expected a bit more respect and so I made up my mind. When they came and said how can we help you, I said it was too late.”
He is currently without a club, but has not ruled out playing again once football’s temporary suspension caused by the coronavirus pandemic is lifted.
He could have returned to Europe in January, with several offers on the table, but he opted to remain in Montreal because he is currently applying for citizenship in Canada and any move would have seen he and his family lose their Canadian status.
It’s been nearly six years since the last of his 284 appearances for Arsenal – which came in the 2014 FA Cup Final, when the Gunners finally ended their nine-year wait for silverware.