Arsenal scout Danny Karbassiyoon has revealed he received an unexpected phone call from Arsene Wenger shortly after the club had completed a deal for Joel Campbell.
The Costa Rican was plucked from obscurity in 2011 after Karbassiyoon, the club's North American scout, spotted him playing for Deportivo Saprissa.
It would be another three years before Campbell made his competitive debut for the Gunners, spending time on loan at Lorient, Real Betis, and Olympiakos before finally earning the work permit that allowed him to play in England.
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Having seriously impressed for both Olympiakos and for Costa Rica at the 2014 World Cup, Campbell was given a place in Arsenal first-team squad, where he has been threatening to break through for the best part of two seasons.
But while he may be something of a fringe player at the Emirates, it is clear that Wenger thinks very highly of the tricky winger. Even when he first signed, the Frenchman believed Karbassiyoon had found a diamond in the rough.
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“When we were about to sign Joel I remember the boss calling me and it was a number I didn’t have in my phone," he told Goal.
“I wasn’t sure whether to answer or not as it was from an unknown number. I said ‘hello’ and he said ‘hey Danny it’s Arsene, I just want to say a huge congratulations on finding Joel’.
“Anytime you hear Arsene Wenger tell you 'you’ve done a good job' in any facet of life it’s a pretty good feeling especially when you’re a scout and you’ve done something that will benefit him as well.
“I’d seen Gedion Zelalem initially but because of his age Joel ended up signing first. That phone call caught me out of the blue. He asked me ‘what do you think his strengths? What do you think his weaknesses are? And then said congratulations I hope this is the first of many’."
As Karbassiyoon mentioned, he was also responsible for finding young midfielder Zelalem, who has been tipped to break into the first-team in the near future. The American youth international has been hugely impressive on his loan deal with Scottish outfit Rangers this year and is expected to get his chance to impress Wenger on Arsenal's pre-season tour.
“I honestly think Gedion has the talent to become a great player,” Wenger said last year. “But that will be decided in the next two or three years because he has to show that he has the mental level required to be a top-level competitor.
“He is a creative player and he can create a spark, an opening with his passing, his vision through the lines. If he manages to develop his physique and keep his qualities, he can be a very important player. Let's hope he will do it."
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