If a survey amongst Tottenham Hotspur supporters were to be run regarding the player they dislike the most, Sol Campbell would likely top the list by a considerable distance – something that a 2014 article by WhatCulture proved.
Indeed, after making 295 appearances for Spurs, the academy graduate failed to pen a new deal with the Lilywhites over the course of the 2000/01 campaign – despite himself stating that he would be remaining at White Hart Lane – meaning that he was free to leave the club on a free transfer at the end of the season.
And, while the centre-back revealed that he had offers on the table from some enormous European clubs – including Barcelona, Inter Milan and Bayern Munich – the centre-back committed what is considered to be a cardinal sin by Tottenham supporters by securing a move to north London rivals, Arsenal.
Speaking upon his unveiling for the Gunners, Campbell said: “Staying in the Premiership was important to me. I was very keen to stay in the Premiership. Sven-Goran Eriksson, the England coach, is here and the majority of games he sees are here in England. It was a big decision. I could have earned more money by going abroad but I felt this was the place to be.”
The defender went on to state his belief that Arsenal are a “fantastic club” with a “great team manager and the set-up is geared up to win. I want to be here and I’m here now. There were a number of factors I had to go through but in the end, it was overwhelming for Arsenal. I’ve made my decision and I’m happy. I just hope everyone respects that decision.”
And, considering just how successful the England international was following his move from the white to the red half of north London, Daniel Levy’s decision not to offer Campbell a contract that matched Arsenal’s proposal very quickly proved to be something of a shocker by the newly-appointed Tottenham chairman.
Indeed, in his first season at Highbury, the centre-back played a starring role in Arsenal’s Premier League-winning campaign, featuring in 31 of the club’s league fixtures – chipping in with two goals along the way – as well as helping the Gunners lift that year’s FA Cup.
The 73-cap international was also a hugely important factor in Arsenal’s famous ‘invincibles‘ title-winning side in 2003/04, making 35 appearances in the league, while he would also go on to help the Gunners lift a further three FA Cups before leaving the club for Portsmouth in 2006.
Meanwhile, over the five-year period the player who Arsene Wenger dubbed “unbelievable” spent in north London during his first spell with the club, Tottenham finished ninth, 10th, 14th, ninth and fifth, while also failing to lift a domestic or international cup.
As such, while Campbell alone may not have helped Tottenham enjoy the success their north London rivals did with the centre-back in the heart of their defence, a talent of the 48-year-old’s ability may well have helped Levy convince a higher calibre of player to join the club in the transfer market, as well as being the rock on which the Tottenham side could have been built.
Indeed, the fact that Levy let Campbell slip through his fingers is easily one of the chairman’s worst mistakes of his tenure at Spurs, something that was only further compounded by the defender’s role in Arsenal’s huge success in the early 2000s.