Fabrice Muamba

Indefatigable midfielder Fabrice Muamba began his career as a schoolboy at Arsenal.

He signed his first professional contract in October 2005 and made his first-team debut away at Sunderland in the League Cup shortly afterwards. His final Arsenal appearance came in the next round of that competition, helping Arsene Wenger’s side to defeat Reading 3-0.

Muamba joined Birmingham on a season-long loan in 2006/07 and made the permanent at the end of the campaign.

Speaking in 2012, Arsene Wenger said: “He had big players in front of him and it was very difficult to take them out and put Fabrice in at the time,” he said.

“The second reason is that he is so highly motivated that I felt he was ready to play and needed to play.

“There always comes a moment in the career of a player that you play him now or you let him go. Because I didn’t play him, I let him go but I knew he would have a career.”

A year after his switch to the Midlands, the former England Under-21 international joined Bolton Wanderers. He made more than 100 league appearances for the Lancashire team and scored against Arsenal in the League Cup in October 2011.

But Muamba’s career was to take a devastating twist. On March 17, 2012, he collapsed during the first half of Bolton’s FA Cup quarter-final against Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane.

Muamba was treated with a defibrillator on the pitch and was rushed to hospital, where doctors described his condition as ‘critical’.

His condition began to improve and, after just under a month in hospital, he was released on April 16.

Muamba announced his retirement from football in August 2012, aged 24, and went on to work with heart charities.

“He [Muamba] is a loved guy,” Wenger told Arsenal Player in March 2012. “Because we have a young team, many of them grew up with Fabrice. There is a strong link when you fight together in the youth teams because it creates a special bond.”

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