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26th Sep 2016

Jeremy Corbyn’s Arsenal transfer advice from 2000 shows he has a real eye for talent

Two out of three ain't bad.

Tom Victor

We imagine weekends don’t get much better than the one which Jeremy Corbyn has just enjoyed.

The Labour Party leader held onto his position following Owen Smith’s leadership challenge, with Saturday’s results seeing the Islington North MP triumph by a margin of more than three to two, and that same day his beloved Arsenal ran out comfortable 3-0 winners over Chelsea to climb to third in the Premier League.

Those of you thinking Corbyn’s support of the Gunners is a populist push like David Cameron’s fondness for West Ham United Aston Villa are wide of the mark, however.

As football journalist Michael Cox recently discovered, Corbyn has been banging the Arsenal drum since the early part of the century, and probably before.

Cox unearthed an old Arsenal problem, from around 2000, in which the then-backbencher was quizzed about potential targets for Arsene Wenger. And it feels like at least two of the three he named would have been sound investments.

Jay-Jay Okocha set the Premier League alight when he signed for Bolton Wanderers in 2002, and of course his nephew Alex Iwobi is currently making his mark at the Emirates Stadium. Did Corbyn sense that the then-four-year-old Iwobi would be a future great whose presence in North London would be assured by the arrival of uncle Jay-Jay? It’s not for us to say.

While not exactly an obscure choice – he was a reigning World and European champion – Thuram had plenty more to offer and would ultimately help Juventus to back-to-back Serie A titles after joining from Parma in 2001.

And fear not, Arsenal fans, the Denilson he mentions is almost certainly not the forgettable central midfielder brought over from Sao Paulo in 2006. He would have been 12 at the time, and while Corbyn’s supporters might consider him perceptive, even they probably don’t think he’s that perceptive.

Instead, he’s surely on about the Brazilian’s namesake and compatriot, the Real Betis winger signed for a world record £22m fee in the late 90s.

Considering the 2002 World Cup winner ended up retiring at 33 after largely fruitless spells in France, Saudi Arabia, the United States, Vietnam and Greece, it’s tempting to call this one a swing and a miss. But perhaps a move to Arsenal and a fruitful partnership with Thierry Henry could have helped Denilson fulfil his unquestionable potential.

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