Welcome to ‘Random Premier League Chancers’, a weekly look at some of the strangest characters to have ever lined out in the English Premier League.
Typically transfers that didn’t work out and were quickly erased from the memories of most supporters, these men were the guys who’s name you heard a few times in Match Of The Day, then never heard from ever again.
This week we look at man who can live the rest of his life knowing that he won a Premier League winners medal as part of Arsenal's "Invincibles" side of 2003/2004, and yet the mere mention of his name makes Arsenal fans feel vulnerable and nervous. It's the one and only Pascal Cygan.
Pascal Cygan signed his first professional contract with French side Lille in 1995, having made a name for himself as a teenager in French amateur football. He made his debut in his first season at the club, but was not a regular in a team that was relegated to Ligue 2.
With Lille dropping out of the top flight, Cygan's playing time increased, and eventually he became an integral part of the team. Lille were promoted back up to Ligue 1 as champions at the end of the 99/00 season, with Cygan at the heart of the team, and they enjoyed a fantastic first season back in the big time as they finished in 3rd place and with qualification for the Champions League. For his part, Cygan was awarded the club captaincy.
It wasn't long before Arsene Wenger's Ligue 1 sense was tingling. Cygan was now regarded as one of the best defenders in France, and after seven years and nearly 200 games for Lille, Wenger made a move to bring him to the Premier League. In July of 2002, Pascal Cygan signed for Arsenal for £2m.
Comparisons were instantly made with 'Kryten', the cyborg from Red Dwarf:
Arsene Wenger described Pascal Cygan as a "certainty for the French national side" upon his arrival, but the tall defender and his Bond-villain-esque features didn't feature much for Arsenal during his first season in English football, mostly being used as a late substitute to get in the way of things. He did however grab himself a goal against Everton in March, 2003 as he headed home from a corner in a 2-1 win (Everton's equaliser in that game came when an 18 year old Wayne Rooney drilled a low shot through Cygan's legs).
The following season was an historic one for Pascal Cygan, as he featured 18 times, enough to earn a medal, in 'The Invincibles' unbeaten season en route to the Premier League title. It was all down-hill for Cygan from that point on however, as his sporadic appearances signified his place in the squad as a backup, and despite a surprisingly non-disastrous run at left-back due to an injury to Ashley Cole in 2005, including a game where he bagged two goals against Fulham, Cygan was always close to the exit door at Highbury. In the summer of 2006 he would make his exit, leaving behind him mostly hilarious memories of failed offside traps...
...and this song that the Arsenal fans used to sing about him.
He's bald, he's shit, he plays when no-ones fit, Pascal Cygan! Pascal Cygan!
Cygan would have to stock-up on high factor sun lotion for his astonishingly bald head as he made the switch to sunny Spain by following Robert Pires to Villarreal for £2m. That's right, Arsenal recouped the money they paid for Cygan, one of Arsene Wenger's less celebrated managerial master-strokes.
Cygan never really took to La Liga football, and was largely criticise for being too slow for the Spanish game. He made 46 appearances in three years for The Yellow Submarine, but was mostly limited to featuring in other people's highlight reels, such as being the closest defender to Ronaldinho as he scored this fantastic bicycle kick:
In his three seasons with Villarreal, Cygan was never seen as the first choice centre-back, so in August 2009 he revealed that he was going to look for a new club, at 35 years of age. Having had several offers from small clubs across Europe, Pascal Cygan gave an interview where he suggested he wanted to stay in Spain, but he also terrified Arsenal fans every where when he jokingly said this about a return to work with Arsene Wenger:
He told me that if it went wrong in Spain, the door would still be open. Now I'm awaiting his phonecall.
That call never game, but Cygan did get his wish of staying in Spain, choosing to sign for newly promoted FC Cartagena in the Segunda División. He even put on a show for his new employers by doing keep-uppys in what must go down as the most painfully empty new signing unveiling in football history.
After making 56 appearances in two seasons for Cartagena, Pascal Cygan's contract expired and he retired from football at the age of 37.
He built a strong reputation as a reliable defender in France, he played with great players in one of the most successful team's in English football, and he spent three seasons in the top-flight of Spanish football, but Pascal Cygan will always be remembered as a random Premier League chancer.