Cesc Fabregas has paid tribute to former Arsenal vice-chairman David Dein by saying the club was “never the same” after he left.
Fabregas, who is working as a pundit in Russia during the World Cup, posted a photo on Instagram of himself and Dein on Sunday evening after a meal together.
“Great dinner with the first man to sign me professionally,” Fabregas said. “It was never the same after you left.”
Fabregas joined Arsenal from Barcelona’s academy in 2003 as a 16-year-old and signed his first professional contract a year later, at a time when Dein still played a large part in recruiting players to the club.
Dein, who also brought in Arsene Wenger as manager in 1996, left the club in 2007 after falling out with the board amid a takeover bid from American billionaire Stan Kroenke, and is believed to have been the only board member originally in favour of the bid.
He ended up selling his own 14 percent stake to Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov, while most other Arsenal directors eventually sold to Kroenke, who is now the majority shareholder.
Arsenal won the FA Cup in 2005 but did not win another major honour until 2014, and are still without a Premier League title since 2004.
Wenger also highlighted Dein’s influence shortly before he stepped down as Arsenal manager last month.
“He had a special vision for the future, for the Premier League and as well he gave me, a foreign manager, a chance when nobody knew me here,” Wenger said. “And he was always a consistent support for my 22 years, so I think he deserves from myself a special thank you because he’s a special man.”
Mattias is ESPN FC’s Arsenal correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @MattiasKaren.