Remembering Wellington Silva's time at Arsenal

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Chelsea are the loan specialists, right? Specialists at buying a prodigal talent, loaning them out five, six, or even seven times and then selling them on for (hopefully) a cool profit however many years later?

Well, they may be, but Arsenal have a record of it too. And there’s proof. His name is Wellington Silva. The Brazilian spent six years at the Emirates without playing a competitive game and, to be honest, there really isn’t that much to remember.

But what there is to recall is some chaos behind the scenes at Arsenal…shock. Not ideal for a six-year spell.

The Gunners brought the winger to the Premier League in December 2008, when he was just 15 years of age. The decision came after a trial period at the Emirates, in which he stunningly scored four goals in one academy match against Norwich – you can understand why they wanted to invest, to be fair.

The deal proved problematic and was delayed but eventually agreed upon in January 2010, for £3.5m. That for a player who had managed just 13 minutes of top-flight action in Brazil so far in his career – it doesn’t exactly scream money well spent.

But, things started well. Very well.

The Brazilian saw his first bit of Gunners action in a reserve game against Manchester United, in which he scored a beautiful curling effort after cutting in form the right. Having earned himself a call-up to the side for a behind-closed-doors friendly against Dagenham & Redbridge, Silva then scored a brace and grabbed an assist. Things seemed destined to work out; he was going to be the next Ronaldinho, wasn’t he?

Wellington Silva
Silva in action in a pre-season friendly against Leyton Orient | Ben Hoskins/Getty Images

But fate would strike in 2011, and that’s when things went south. After the FA decided not to grant the player a ‘Special Talent VISA’, Arsenal were forced to send him out on loan to somewhere he could play, giving the first push to the revolving door that was Silva’s Arsenal career.

The Brazilian subsequently went out on loan to Spain five seasons in a row, failing to impress at Levante, Alcoyano, Penferradina, Murcia and then Almeria. In 115 appearances across those five clubs, Silva managed ten goals and 12 assists. While those numbers aren’t catastrophic, three of those five loans were at lower-league Spanish sides, which puts those figures into perspective.

But, one good thing to come out of his Spanish adventure was the fact that he qualified for a Spanish passport in April 2015, automatically giving him the right to work in the UK. Oh, to be pre-Brexit.

So, finally, Wellington Silva could play for Arsenal. Can you guess what happened?

Yes, that’s right, he went on loan to Championship side Bolton for the 2015/16 season. But, at only 22, there was still plenty of time for the ex-wonderkid to prove himself and forge a career at the Emirates for himself.

Unfortunately, two goals and four assists in the Championship were not enough to convince Arsene Wenger of his capabilities, and Silva was sold back to Fluminense in 2016 for a cut price. The deal did, however, include a buy-back clause of £1.5m (for some reason) which always allowed the potential for more calamity in this saga – and that’s exactly what it delivered!

After Bordeaux showed an interest in the winger in the summer of 2017, offering £3m, Arsenal immediately activated the clause in the hope of making a quick profit. However, Silva agonisingly failed the medical at the French club.

Wellington Silva
Silva still plays for Fluminense | Bruna Prado/Getty Images

The deal fell through, resulting in the Brazilian being shipped back out to Fluminense on a permanent deal and leaving the north London club red faced, again.

A fitting final chapter to the story of a transfer that seemed a great idea at the time, but ended in disaster.

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