Abou Diaby was once regarded as Patrick Vieira’s successor at Arsenal.
However, the midfielder had possibly the worst luck when it came to staying fit and it’s claimed he suffered 42 serious injuries during his time at the club.
Diaby joined Arsenal in 2005 but left 10 years later having played just 124 times.
One of the worst injuries Diaby sustained during his career came towards the end of the 2005/06 season. Arsenal were 3-0 ahead against Sunderland in the final minute of the match when Diaby was caught by a horror tackle from Sunderland’s Dan Smith.
Diaby could be heard screaming in pain as referee Dermot Gallagher showed Smith just a yellow card.
How it wasn’t a red card is mindblowing.
Just weeks before Arsenal’s Champions League final, Diaby’s career was under threat. He had to undergo three surgeries and eight months of rehabilitation.
He was never the same player again no matter how many times he tried to return.
VIDEO: The horror tackle that ruined Diaby’s career
#OTD 2009,Arsène Wenger spoke of his hope for Abou Diaby emulating Patrick Vieira.— Arsenal History From Highbury To The Emirates (@4949Undefeted) March 23, 2022
It was in May 2006 that Abou received the serious injury from an utterly unnecessary tackle that ultimately destroyed his career. pic.twitter.com/lpHzYA63F1
Wenger threatened to ‘sue’ Smith for the tackle
Wenger described Smith’s challenge as one of “wicked stupidity” and said: “If you do that to a guy in the street you go to jail.”
He added: “The guy who harms you in life has to be punished. I am very upset and very disappointed with the tackle. Having watched it again I just feel I will not leave this case there because there was bad intention in the tackle.
“There was only one intention in this tackle – to hurt the player – and it’s a career-threatening tackle. I will take legal advice to see how far I can go.”
Wenger remembered the tackle many years on
Many years later, Diaby was still struggling with injuries and Wenger couldn’t hide his disappointment at how his career had panned out.
“He is a player that I have an enormous amount of respect for him,” Wenger said in 2014.
“Every time he comes back, he has to start from zero with another injury. He was a victim of competition.
“A footballer needs his ankle. He was destroyed by a bad tackle at Sunderland 6 or 7 years ago which altered his ankle.
“He is not a fragile player. He was the victim of an assassin’s tackle that went unpunished.”
Dan Smith hit back at Arsene Wenger
However, following those quotes, Smith hit back at Wenger insisting that his tackle wasn’t ‘malicious’.
“It was not a malicious tackle, he has had other injuries since, as he had before,” Smith said. “For Arsene Wenger to say that on television… for me, he’s looking for a scapegoat.
“This is my personal opinion. I never meant to hurt anyone, I never intended to hurt. The referee saw it clearly, I did not receive a red card, I do not even remember if I was warned. It was just a late challenge, that you see every weekend. There is one chance in a million that there is a serious injury. He had the ball when I was already running.
“I have compassion for him, it was not easy, he has had a lot of injuries since. But if you take all of his career, you can not say he missed his life because of this injury. The last time I checked, he still earned 60,000 pounds a week while I work full-time in Australia.”
Wenger’s tribute to Diaby when he left Arsenal
Diaby eventually had to leave Arsenal a year later in 2015 and Wenger paid tribute to the midfielder.
“It’s one of the saddest moments for us at Arsenal not to have had the opportunity to get the best out of Abou Diaby because of injury,” he said.
“I’m very sad because this boy is a massive and a huge talent. It’s sad as well because he didn’t deserve what he got. It’s sad as well because he’s a very serious player.
“He was always at home every night, prepared well every day and was not rewarded.
“He was the closest to Patrick Vieira we have seen here, with even a good offensive potential. It’s very sad.”