Emmanuel Petit may be more famous for his footballing ability but did you know he was also an actor and starred in a Christmas episode of The Bill?
It may have only been a one off but it is definitely something not many players can claim and adds to his interesting life off the pitch. He also won £17,000 on a fruit machine and kindly gave it all away to charity and after his career had ended he then shaved off his hair for charity in July 2011. He may have been kind off the pitch but when he got on it there were few that could compete with his power and his determination to win.
Petit started his career at the small French side ES Arques-la-Bataille before being spotted by Arsene Wenger. The manager subsequently signed the 18 year old for Monaco in 1988 and he made his debut soon after, featuring in the club’s run to the 1989 French Cup final, which he also played a part in. Petit had a lot of success for Monaco and after becoming a regular in the midfield he helped them win the French Cup in 1991 and reach the European Cup Winners’ Cup final in the following season.
In the 1996-97 season he became the club captain and led them to the Ligue 1 title but after 292 games and five goals it was time for him to leave and try his hand in a different league. Petit was reunited with Wenger after Arsenal paid £2.5 million for the midfielder in June 1997. Him and fellow countryman Patrick Vieira formed one of the best central midfield partnerships ever seen in the Premier League and over the next three years they went on to dominate the middle of the pitch. With these two in the side they were a team to be feared and it was unsurprising that at the end of the Petit’s first season at the club Arsenal won the double.
He made 118 appearances for the club and scored 11 goals before signing for Barcelona in the summer of 2000 for £7 million. The midfielder struggled in Spain, largely because he was played out of position and had a lot of niggling injuries that stopped him from reaching top form. In the Frenchman’s autobiography he claims that the Barcelona coach at the time, Llorenc Serra Ferrer, did not even know where he played when he first signed for the club.
After a miserable season, he returned to England and joined Chelsea. He was a first team regular to begin with but Chelsea had a disappointing season and although they reached the FA Cup final it was still seen as a failure. The following season things got a lot better as Petit and Frank Lampard had a fantastic understanding and drove the team forward to a fourth place finish and Champions League qualification.
A knee injury ruined the rest of his career and despite having offers from other clubs he decided to retire on the 20th January 2005.
The final word can go to Arsene Wenger. “I know Manu well enough – because I gave him his start. He was fantastic. I feel his home is at Arsenal Football Club. We were lucky at Arsenal to have Petit at the peak of his career. He was a tremendous player.”