piece is the third in the series “The Ones Who Got Away”, following on from
entries on Franck Ribery and Yann M’Vila. While the previous two players are
rather well known, one for his skill on the ball and the other perhaps more for
his long running transfer saga with Arsenal, this piece will focus on a player
that is a little bit more of an unknown quantity.
Felipe Melo, born in 1983, started his professional
career with Flamengo in 2001. Within a couple of seasons, Melo made subsequent
moves to Cruzeiro and then Gremio, spending a season at each. This last season
at Gremio would prove to be largely unsuccessful (with Gremio getting
relegated) as well as his last season in Brazil as Melo soon transferred to the
Spanish club, Mallorca.
Again, it would not prove to be a long stay with Melo
making only infrequent appearances over the 2004-2005 season. The following
seasons saw him earn transfers to Racing Santander and then Almeria, where he
spent the 2007-2008 season. It was from Almeria where Melo would make his move
to Fiorentina, the team which would ultimately see Melo become a regular for
the Brazilian national team.
First linked with Arsenal around January of 2009, Felipe
Melo was seen at the time as a perfect replacement for the last of Invincibles,
Gilberto Silva. With Gilberto Silva himself aging and Flamini having left in
the previous transfer window, there was a huge demand for a defensive-minded
midfielder to partner the more creative Fabregas.
So with reports of Arsenal’s interest being reported
in a variety of sources ranging from the Guardian,
to the BBC
and even the Daily
Mail over a couple of years, it seemed to be only a matter of formality
before Felipe Melo was playing in an Arsenal shirt.
As it is a common theme in this series, the move
destined to happen never did with Juventus coming in to sign the Brazilian for
around €20 million; a few million more than Arsenal were ever willing to pay. So what kind of player was Felipe Melo when he
wasn’t playing as a
Looking at the following video, we can see some of
the qualities present in Melo’s natural game:
As can be seen, he is very much a defensive-minded
central midfielder. Standing at 6ft and boasting a powerful frame, Melo is
still extremely mobile and possesses a fantastic work rate, two qualities which
combine well to ensure he carries out the tireless midfielder role excellently.
Furthermore, Melo possesses an intelligent sense of
positioning which enables him to make numerous interceptions, breaking up any
attacking plays before they can progress any further. Adding to this the fact
that his general tackling style seems to be in closing down the opposition
players quickly, Melo has earned a reputation over the years as a
In fact, it is these qualities which caused Melo to
earn the nickname “The Gladiator” from the Fiorentinian fans. A little while on
this would change to “The Pitbull”, a name he dubbed himself when, in an
interview, he spoke on his role in midfield, “I’m the team’s pitbull, I run, I
chase down and I bite my opponents”:
Felipe Melo: The Pitbull of Galatasaray
Unfortunately it is this nickname which also gives
an indication to one of Melo’s bad qualities, specifically his temperament and
disciplinary problems. Although he has expressed regret for the more extreme of his actions,
he still has a propensity to gain yellow cards in abundance, something which
would only serve to put additional pressure on his team mates.
In conclusion, did Arsenal miss out by not signing
Felipe Melo? In my opinion, they did not. At the time, it definitely felt like
a bad transfer target to miss out on. With Gilberto Silva seemingly past his
best and Flamini strutting his stuff in Milan, getting someone as a defensive
foil to the attacking Fabregas was known to be a key priority for Arsenal’s
midfield. While Melo might have met these criteria at the time, I believe the
cost to buy him coupled with his distinctly average subsequent performances for
Juventus (and hasty resale to Galatasaray) show that he might have turned out
to be a bad signing. Furthermore, in the emerging Alex Song, I believe Arsenal
found a more than able replacement ensuring Felipe Melo was never really widely
Matt has been the editor of the site since June 2012 and was born into a Gooner family 21 years ago. He recently graduated from Southampton Solent University with a degree in Sports Journalism and strives to work in the Sports Media industry. As well as currently working as a reporter for Sports Mole and TIBS News, Matt has been providing football commentary for the visually impaired since 2008 at Arsenal, Exeter City and Wembley.
His earliest Gunners memory is watching the ‘Boring, boring Arsenal’ VHS as a six-year-old on repeat, to the extent where he could recite most of the commentary from that season. Matt was lucky enough to witness Arsenal lift the Premier League in 2002 as well as being present during the last match at Highbury in 2006, and at Dennis Bergkamp’s testimonial a few months later at the Emirates Stadium. Matt’s favourite players include Bergkamp, Thierry Henry and Tony Adams, with the 5-3 comeback victory against Middlesbrough in 2004 the best match he has ever spectated.
Matt is an optimistic ’In Wenger we trust’, kind of guy and believes that the glory days are not too far away…
Apart from his editorial duties, Matt will also be bringing his Arsenal knowledge to a column called “Where Are They Now?” – which focuses on former Gunners.