Arsenal completed the signing of the Nigerian international Nwankwo Kanu from Internazionale Milano for a reported £4.5 million on 15th January, 1999, exactly 16 years ago today.
The then 22-year-old striker signed a six-year contract after months of negotiations which finished with a rigorous medical examination in London.
Kanu had a heart-valve operation shortly after his £1.3 million move from Ajax to Inter two years earlier and also had knee problems.
Before joining Arsene Wenger’s side, Kanu lifted the European Cup with Ajax in 1995 and led Nigeria to victory in the 1996 Olympic Games.
The Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said: “He is a very welcome addition to our squad and will be a great asset to us as he has already proved his talent at club and international level.”
He became Arsenal’s first African signing. In those days only a few people in Nigeria watched English football. It was regarded as static and boring. But the lanky Nigerian killed that notion with his performances and soon began to recruit a huge following for the Londoners that still stands to this day.
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A hat-trick against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge to give the Gunners a 3-2 win over their bitter rivals cemented Kanu into Arsenal history. The ease and talent with which he waltzed past the Blues defense was made even more obvious when Arsene Wenger exclaimed that the lad had skills that could not be coached.
After five seasons in North London and having won two league and FA Cup titles, Kanu moved to the smaller West Bromwich Albion club, where he made little impact as the club was relegated.
However, a move to Portsmouth seemed to rejuvenate his tiring legs and he helped the Seasiders to an FA Cup title in 2008, his third. His goal in the final against Cardiff City effectively sealed his legend in English football. Follow @thedonplato
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