Crack a (wry) smile, Arsenal fans. The Gunners have re-signed midfielder Mathieu Flamini on a free transfer after departing AC Milan.
Manager Arsene Wenger expressed his joy over the deal. “We’re very pleased Mathieu has agreed to rejoin us,” the Arsenal boss told the club’s website. “He is a player of real quality, with a fantastic work rate and great mentality.”
The Gunners know Flamini quite well after the Frenchman spent four years in North London before departing for the Rossoneri in 2008. At Milan, Flamini went on to make 96 Serie A appearances over five seasons, scoring seven goals and notching three assists.
Flamini missed all but two matches of the 2011-12 season after undergoing cruciate ligament surgery on his right knee. Last summer he signed a one year contract extension with the Italian giants after reportedly accepting a substantial pay-cut. After that contract expired this summer, Flamini returned to train with the Gunners where he impressed Wenger enough to put pen to paper.
The 29 year old is expected to contribute in the midfield and possibly even the Gunners defense. It was the former, however, where Flamini contributed the most during his last stint in England. After an initial few years of lacking a clear position and role with the club, Flamini formed a strong partnership with Cesc Fabregas in 2007-08. But that summer his contract ran down and, not feeling particularly valued by the Gunners, Flamini left for the perceived greener pastures of Milan.
After failing to hit full stride in Italy, Flamini returns to Wenger with the hope of salvaging a career that promised so much yet never truly delivered.
The hopes of Arsenal supporters will be tempered. Flamini will always be an injury concern and it would be a legitimate surprise if the Frenchman’s play rose to any level beyond that of a role player.
That is, after all, the reality of signing a 29 year old on a free transfer.