Emmanuel Petit’s career might have panned out far differently had he not listened to his wife.

Or ex-wife, more specifically, after it was actress Agathe de la Fontaine who convinced him to leave Arsenal for the sunnier climes of Barcelona in 2000. Petit was a World Cup-winner and enjoying the best football of his career when Barca came calling at the turn of the century, and his former partner’s distaste for London weather led to a transfer.

Looking back, the Frenchman wishes he put his own career first and remain in north London. And one can see why considering he lasted only a year at the Camp Nou before returning to England with Chelsea.

“I was very happy at Arsenal, with the fans and my team-mates,” he told FourFourTwo. “I played well and we won the Double. But I could feel that Arsene [Wenger] was thinking of selling me.

“Maybe he wanted to sign other players, and he got it right in the end because they were invincible in the Premier League. But the main reason I decided to leave was my wife.

“Sure, there were sporting reasons – I wanted to win the Champions League – but my wife was tired of the rain and wanted to live in the sun, so I listened to her. If I have any advice for players now, it’s: ‘Don’t let your wife decide where you go.'”

As if it wasn’t bad enough his move to Catalonia failed to conjure up the success he would have envisioned at the time, Petit’s marriage also didn’t last. The couple share a daughter, Zoe, together but were wed for only two years before divorcing in 2002.

Having won both the Premier League and FA Cup in his first year with the Gunners, Petit found glory harder to come by at Stamford Bridge. In fact, it was his former employers who beat the Blues to another FA Cup crown in his first season with Chelsea.

That ended up being as close as the 52-year-old came to lifting anymore silverware, eventually retiring in west London in 2004. That was the same year Arsenal completed their historic ‘Invincibles’ campaign, further proof Wenger & Co. had successfully moved on.

Petit has also made moves of his own in retirement and acts as a pundit and analyst on French television, as well as appearing on British broadcasts. He has also been an ambassador for the Homeless World Cup in the past and is a ‘major shareholder’ in digital media company Netco Sports.


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