Arsenal have confirmed that Gilberto has joined Greek side Panathinaikos. The 31-year-old spent a total of six seasons with the Gunners, making 244 appearances. Here, Arsenal.com reporter Chris Harris pays tribute to the quiet man of Arsenal's midfield.
In a football world awash with ego, hype and sensationalism, Gilberto was a breath of fresh air.
The Brazilian never courted controversy and never spoke out of turn. He arrived quietly, he left quietly and, in between, he was quietly efficient. While emptier vessels made more noise, Gilberto just got the job done.
He came to Arsenal on the crest of a wave, shortly after helping Brazil win the World Cup in the summer of 2002, and the early signs suggested that Arsène Wenger had recruited a goalscoring midfielder. Gilberto scored the winner on his debut in the Community Shield against Liverpool, broke a Champions League record with a goal after just 20.07 seconds of Arsenal's win at PSV Eindhoven and netted at Auxerre a week later.
In truth, Gilberto's qualities were rather more prosaic, though no less important. He had earned the tag 'Invisible Wall' in Brazil for his almost unseen ability to break up attacks, protect his defence and do the simple things well. He soon put those attributes to work at Highbury but struggled to win over some sections of the Highbury crowd. It seemed this un-Brazilian Brazilian was not eye-catching enough for some.
They say 'you don't know what you've got till it's gone' and so it proved with Gilberto. Having provided the midfield foundation for the 'Invincibles' side of 2003/04, the Brazilian suffered a serious back injury which left him in a brace for much of the following campaign. Suddenly Arsenal looked fragile; suddenly Gilberto's worth was obvious. Where was the man who won the ball back, who shielded the back four? He was sidelined, and he was missed.
Gilberto's return was well-timed. Shortly afterwards, Patrick Vieira left the club and it was left to the Brazilian to guide Cesc Fabregas through the embryonic stage of his Arsenal career. It worked - Wenger's new-look line-up reach its first Champions League Final in 2006 and Gilberto excelled in Europe, revelling in the holding role when Arsenal adopted a five-man midfield.
He scaled even greater heights the following season. Thierry Henry was officially the club captain but, in his injury-forced absence, Gilberto grew from the quiet man of midfield into the team leader. He wore the armband, he took the penalties, he filled in at centre-back and he contributed 11 goals, including a North London derby double and a late equaliser in the historic opening game at Emirates Stadium.
If that showed his character on the pitch, Gilberto's conduct off the pitch was just as exemplary. Arsenal endured some desperate defeats that season but the Brazilian never shied away from reporters and spoke with integrity and honesty in his post-match interviews.
In a similar vein, Gilberto didn't vent his frustrations in the media when things weren't going his way last season. Missing out on the captaincy and losing his first-team spot must have hurt, but Gilberto knuckled down, worked hard and, when his opportunity came, he stepped up and performed.
Panathinaikos are about to find out what Arsenal have known for six years: Gilberto is a man you can rely on.
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