PICTURE by 90min
Age: 35 years old
Former clubs: Arsenal, Celtic (loan), West Ham (loan), Wolves (loan), Middlesbrough, Lorient, Umm Salal and Muaither (loan).
Did you know?: Aliadiere was part of Arsenal’s “Invincibles” squad of 2003-04.
NOT MANY people can say that they played alongside the likes of Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp or worked under the great Arsene Wenger during their footballing days. However, Jeremie Aliadiere is one of the who can say he did.
As a youngster, the Frenchman was a graduate of the elite Clairefontaine academy, which had previously produced the likes of Henry, William Gallas and Nicolas Anelka and most recently brought through promising PSG forward Kylian Mbappe.
A 16-year-old Aliadiere moved to North London in 1999 to sign for Arsenal, with the attraction of playing for Arsene Wenger’s free-flowing side said to be one of the main reasons for him deciding on making the move there. As a young Frenchman, he was surrounded by fellow compatriots at Highbury at the time with the likes of Robert Pires, Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira and Sylvain Wiltord all plying their trade there during that era.
Aliadiere was a forward who was held in high regard by Wenger and made his Premier League debut in a 4-1 win over Fulham in the 2001-02 season. However, despite Arsenal going on to win the league that season, he had to wait a little longer to earn a PL winners medal as he only made one league appearance in 01-02 and was ineligible for one.
Brief personal success followed in the next season when he scored his first goal for The Gunners in a 5–2 victory over West Brom on August 27, 2002.
The 2003-04 season was Aliadiere’s finest in an Arsenal shirt and one that I doubt he will ever forget. He was mainly played in the League Cup rather than the league but became something of a cult hero for the club as he banged in the goals on their run during the competition.
Goals against Rotherham United, Wolves (2) and West Brom on the way to the semi-finals (where Arsenal were eliminated by Middlesbrough) earned him high praise from fans, pundits and the press. It also scooped him the tournament’s “Best Young Talent” award.
As the season progressed, he made further inroads into the Arsenal first team, playing in the FA Cup and the Champions League. He also played ten Premier League matches, seven as a substitute and finally gained a Premier League winners’ medal in what was a truly memorable season for a then promising 20 year old striker.
Unfortunately, as with so many others at Arsenal in years gone by, injuries began to creep into the career of Jeremie Aliadiere in the 2004-05 season and this meant that game time began to become more rare. Loan moves to Celtic, West Ham and Wolves followed before he returned to Arsenal, where he again became something of a cup hero for a brief stint, scoring both goals in a 2-0 win over West Brom in October 2006.
On June 19 2007, the Frenchman decided to try his hand at another Premier League club – Middlesbrough – after sealing a £2m move to the Riverside Stadium. Incredibly, during the 2007-08 season, he scored his first Premier League goal since 2002 for Boro when he netted against Manchester United in a 4-1 loss. He also bagged memorable goals AGAINST Arsenal and in the famous 8-1 win over Manchester City.
Aliadiere decided to end his Premier League journey in the summer of 2011, then he moved back to his homeland and joined Ligue 1 side, Lorient. It was there that he found his feet as a goalscorer once again and became a favourite amongst the club’s fans. In the 2012-13 season, he became one of Lorient’s main men as they narrowly missed out on qualifying for European football and he was tipped for a national call-up (but it never quite came to fruition).
Throughout his career, the forward remained close to Arsenal Football Club and often went (and still goes) to train with squad members at the club’s London Colney training ground. Nowadays, a 35-year-old Aliadiere is still an avid follower of his beloved Arsenal and was as shocked as the rest of us when Arsene Wenger, who he has stated as being “like a father to him” announced that he was leaving the club last week.
I recently had the chance to speak to Jeremie about his life as a footballer and he gave some interesting insights into life behind the scenes at Highbury, The Emirates and beyond …
AFE: Hi Jeremie. First off, who was your footballing idol when growing up and why?
JA: Hello. It was Ronaldo – The Brazilian striker.
He was a number 9 who was fast, physically strong, could dribble past two to three players on his own and, of course, score a lot of goals too.
He could change games and win them on his own.
AFE: You signed for Arsenal as a 16-year-old. What was it like moving to such a big club at such a young age?
JA: The hardest thing about it was having to adapt to English football and the way of life in the country.
My first six months were very hard, but I gradually got used to the challenge with time and settled in.
AFE: Who helped you settle into life at Highbury?
JA: I would say that was Neil Banfield and Liam Brady, who were both coaches at the club at the time.
When I came over to the country, Neil was my coach during my time with the under 17’s and he helped me a lot.
AFE: In what ways did Arsene Wenger help you progress as a player? Do you still keep in touch with him?
JA: He helped me a lot when I started training with the first team (2002 onwards). He always came to talk to me and that helped me progress.
I am still very much in contact with him nowadays, I owe a lot to him.
AFE: You also have a Premier League medal from your time at Arsenal. Do you still follow the club regularly?
JA: Of course, Arsenal Football Club is in my blood!
I still go to watch as many matches as I can at The Emirates.
AFE: You scored four goals during the League Cup run in 2003-04 and were voted the best young talent of the competition. How did that help your confidence?
JA: It helped massively.
When you play regularly and score goals against good teams, you feel great about yourself and your confidence grows with that.
You begin to feel like you can play at that level.
AFE: You also had a good spell for Middlesbrough in the Premier League. What was your highlight from your time there?
JA: Just to be playing regularly in their starting eleven was an amazing feeling.
Scoring against Arsenal was a great feeling too!
AFE: You eventually returned to France with Lorient. How did playing in Ligue 1 compare to playing in the Premier League? What were the main differences?
JA: They are two completely different leagues to be honest.
Ligue 1 is a very tactical league, whereas the Premier League is much more physical and is played at a much faster pace too.
AFE: You played many times for France’s Under 21 side, but never quite made the senior squad. Did you ever consider playing for Algeria due to your heritage?
JA: Yes, I had the opportunity to play for Algeria but I just felt that, because I have never actually been there, it wasn’t right for me to go on to represent them.
AFE: Who were the best players you played alongside at Arsenal, Lorient and Middlesbrough?
JA: Thierry Henry was obviously the best at Arsenal.
Tuncay Sanli was a very clever player at Boro, he could nearly always pick out the right pass.
At Lorient, I would probably say it was Vincent Aboubakar – he was just a complete goal machine.
AFE: What about the best players you came up against during your career?
JA: The best two were Cristiano Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
AFE: What would you say were your best qualities as a player?
JA: I would say that it was my pace and also the timing of my runs.
AFE: Finally, what are you to nowadays?
JA: At the moment not much to be honest, just enjoying time with my family.
I’m also training hard as I am going to be playing for the Arsenal legends against Real Madrid legends soon, so I need to be in good shape.