£72million winger Nicolas Pepe is the latest Arsenal player to have his contract terminated, making him the fifth player who appeared in the Gunners’ 2020 FA Cup final victory to leave for nothing after being deemed surplus to requirements by Mikel Arteta.
Here is a team full of players who had their contracts ripped up by a Premier League club.
Mark Bosnich (Manchester United and Chelsea)
The only player Sir Alex Ferguson signed twice, Mark Bosnich is also the only player in this team to have a contract terminated twice. The Australian goalkeeper did not see eye to eye with Fergie and hours after his Manchester United deal was ripped up, he joined Chelsea.
Around 18 months after signing for the Blues, Bosnich had his contract terminated after he failed a drug test and received a nine-month ban from football.
Fun fact: Bosnich has one goal in 17 caps for Australia, scoring a late penalty in a 13-0 World Cup qualifier against the Solomon Islands.
Emmanuel Eboue (Sunderland)
Known for his eccentricity, sense of humour, that fake Twitter account, and being substituted on and off in the same match, Emmanuel Eboue is a Premier League cult hero.
While Arsenal fans will remember Eboue fondly, not everyone will. The Ivory Coast international was signed by Sunderland on March 9, 2016, and was handed a one-year ban for failing to pay a former agent on March 31, 2016, meaning he was swiftly released without playing a single minute for the Black Cats.
Gerard Pique (Barcelona)
Nine La Liga titles, seven Copa del Reys, four Champions Leagues, two UEFA Super Cups, three Club World Cups, and one Premier League title. What a career Gerard Pique had.
With Barcelona skint and Pique past his best, the player ended up retiring halfway through last season to save the club some pennies. As someone with many fingers in many pies, Pique knew he would survive financially, unlike his former club.
The real reason for Pique’s contract termination was actually because he fumbled the bag with Shakira, but Barcelona do not want you to know that.
Daley Blind (Ajax)
Arsenal terminated the contracts of Shkodran Mustafi and Sokratis in a short period of time, but for a bit of variety, we have included Daley Blind, whose Ajax contract was terminated last December, six months early. Signed by Bayern Munich on a contract until the end of 2022/23, it is safe to say Blind landed on his feet.
He only played five times for Bayern before joining Spanish side Girona on another free transfer.
After officially leaving Ajax, Blind decided to spill the beans on what happened in the lead-up to his exit. “It got to the point where I wasn’t even welcome at the club where I’ve walked around since I was seven,” he said.
“On Dec. 26, the management said they definitely did not want me at the restart of training sessions on the 27th and it came to contract termination.” Ouch. Happy Christmas.
Arguably the greatest left-back of all time, Marcelo left Real Madrid in 2022 to join Greek side Olympiakos, ending a 15-year career in the Spanish capital.
He lasted a lot less time in Greece, having his contract terminated after five months, a 36th of the time he was with Los Blancos. The decision appears to have been made to allow Marcelo to return to Brazilian side Fluminese, where he played before moving to Madrid in 2007.
Another ex-Arsenal man, Sead Kolasinac, could have been selected here.
Roy Keane (Manchester United)
Roy Keane was a very outspoken character and he did not hold back when asked to conduct an in-house interview with MUTV after being hammered by Middlesbrough in 2005, a game which the Irishman did not play. The interview did not air because Ferguson and assistant Carlos Queiroz were furious with their captain’s brutal assessment of the performance. Keane insists he would have said everything in the interview to his teammate’s faces. He definitely would have, to be fair.
This was the end of Keane’s Manchester United career, which is why Sir Alex has not been on his Christmas card list for nearly two decades. His acrimonious exit remains one of the biggest bust-ups in Premier League history.
Mesut Ozil (Arsenal)
There are still plenty of question marks lingering over the story of Mesut Ozil’s departure from Arsenal.
It is easy to assume the German simply fell out of favour under Mikel Arteta due to a sharp decline in ability, but there is obviously more to it, even if he failed to impress for Fenerbahce and Istanbul Basaksehir after leaving the Emirates, which proved he was no longer good enough to play in the Premier League.
Ozil’s decision not to accept a voluntary 12.5% pay-cut during the Covid-19 pandemic might have affected his Arsenal future. The same applies to the player’s criticism of the treatment of Uyghur Muslims in China, which the club notably distanced themselves from.
After being left out of the Gunners’ Premier League and Europa League squads by Arteta, Ozil’s contract was ripped up in January 2021, allowing him to join the club he supported growing up: Fenerbahce.
Eden Hazard (Real Madrid)
Failing at Real Madrid is nothing to be ashamed of, but joining Real Madrid for £105million (with only a year left on your contract) only to fail catastrophically and leave to become a free agent with a year left on your current deal, really is quite bad.
Obviously, Hazard had his injury and fitness problems at the Bernabeu, but his stint with the La Liga giants was extremely underwhelming and he is still without a club after Los Blancos decided to cut ties a year early. They were looking to get his massive salary off their wage bill for quite a while and managed to do so at the end of last season.
Nicolas Anelka (West Brom)
Bosnich’s ban was obviously a controversial one and Nicolas Anelka’s West Brom downfall was one we have not seen before and probably will not see again.
Anelka is a player who had more clubs than Tiger Woods during his career so, despite spells with Real Madrid, Arsenal and Chelsea, it was no surprise to see the Frenchman find himself at the Hawthorns.
After missing a couple of months through injury in his first and only season with West Brom, Anelka scored a goal against West Ham and celebrated by performing a controversial gesture called a quenelle, which has been likened to an inverted Nazi salute.
This was the end for Anelka in England after the striker announced on social media he had terminated his contract. Legal bits and pieces meant that was impossible but this led the Baggies to sack him for gross misconduct.
Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United)
Cristiano Ronaldo decided to burn all of his Manchester United bridges during a controversial interview with Piers Morgan. His eyebrow-raising remarks about the club’s infrastructure, manager Erik ten Hag and former teammates such as Wayne Rooney gave the Red Devils’ hierarchy no choice but to get rid.
A mutual agreement to terminate Ronaldo’s contract was met and the Portuguese striker went on to join Al-Nassr in the Saudi Pro League. In May, Ronaldo said: “Step-by-step I think this league will be among the top five leagues in the world.” What did he know?
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal)
We had to include more than one Arsenal player. We probably could have done the whole XI of Gunners’ rejects, come to think of it.
Poor timekeeping was the last straw for Mikel Arteta, who said he had a “catalogue of misdemeanors” that would justify his decision to strip Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang of the Arsenal captaincy and then ultimately terminate his contract.
Not too long after signing a massive new contract, Aubameyang was released and he joined Barcelona, where he lasted six months before returning to Arsenal’s London rivals, Chelsea.