Former Arsenal midfielder Emmanuel Petit has admitted he now feels he made the wrong decision to leave the club for Barcelona when he did.
The Frenchman was a star player for Arsenal in his three years at Highbury between 1997 and 2000, but things never really worked out for him in a brief stint with Barcelona.
Petit spent just one season at the Nou Camp before returning to the Premier League with Chelsea, but looking back he admits he made the wrong move leaving Arsenal.
Petit, speaking exclusively to Ladbrokes at its launch of the 5-A-Side Bet on Crystal Palace v Chelsea, says that he partly felt unwanted by Arsene Wenger, but also said his ex-wife had a big role to play in the move.
The 50-year-old says his former partner wasn’t enjoying life in London and that influenced his thinking, but he admits he regrets it and that he didn’t enjoy his time at Barcelona for a variety of reasons.
“I fell in love with Arsenal and the supporters very quickly, and it was a big mistake when I left the club. I look back now and I know I left the club simply because of my ego,” Petit said.
“When I won the Euros with France in 2000, I had two weeks off and I remember being in France with my ex-wife. She was driving and my phone rang, I could see it was Arsene so I answered and he told me Barcelona wanted to sign me. I asked Arsene what he thought and he said “if you want to go, good luck”.
“So I didn’t feel like Arsenal wanted to keep me. Because of that feeling I got, I started to think that maybe my future was elsewhere. So in my mind it was clear after that conversation that Arsenal had made their decision. I needed to speak with Barcelona to agree personal terms and that’s what I did.
“But I regret that move because I didn’t really want to go to Barcelona. I think I followed my ex-wife’s decision in that move. She was tired of living in London and she was born under the sun in a country where she had so much sun, so she wanted to return to that.
“Once I’d signed for Barcelona I was in the team but I wasn’t playing in my natural position. If I remember right I played 32 games in that season and I spent most of those games playing in a back three.
“Playing at the Nou Camp for Barcelona, the biggest pitch in the world, as one of a back three, knowing that the philosophy of the rest of the team was to attack and not track back, I was constantly outnumbered and I lost my motivation very quickly during my time at the club.
“I arrived at a strange time in terms of the dynamics at Barcelona; there were lots of arguments and fights between players and it just didn’t feel right. I really didn’t enjoy my time over there.”