Arsene Wenger feels more than a tinge of regret that England defender Matthew Upson did not stay and fulfil his potential at Arsenal – and he even thought about buying him back.
The 30-year-old England centre-back, who joined the Gunners from Luton in 1997 in a £2m deal, is set to face his old club at Upton Park on Sunday. With the likes of then captain Tony Adams, Steve Bould and Martin Keown all ahead of him at Highbury, Upson found his chances limited. He made 22 first-team appearances for Arsenal during 2001/02 – which saw him collect a championship winners' medal – but then broke his leg.
With Sol Campbell and Kolo Touré the established defensive partnership, Upson moved on to Birmingham in January 2003. He then left for West Ham two-and-a-half years ago.
Wenger said: "I knew he would make a big career. I didn't stop him [going] because I knew he had qualities to play in the Premiership, but he had players in front of him.
Wenger revealed Upson was a player he had contemplated trying to bring back to Arsenal before he switched to Upton Park. "Yes, he was always in my mind. Upson has good quality, good attitude, good spirit," said Wenger.