Brady reflects on swapping Arsenal for Juventus

Liam Brady playing for Juventus

While Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira are two players who have featured for both Juventus and ourselves during the past 25 years, they were simply following in the footsteps of Liam Brady.

However, the Irishman's switch from N5 to Turin in 1980 came as a shock to many Gooners. Ahead of the meeting between the two sides on Saturday (tickets still available) he talks Nik Brumsack through how the transfer materialised.

It was a move which left Arsenal supporters of a certain generation heartbroken.

During the 1970s, Liam Brady - a precocious talent who broke through the youth system after moving to north London from Ireland aged just 15 - became a firm favourite among the Highbury faithful. Vision, skill and an eye for goal - Brady had it all.

An FA Cup winner in 1979, he left to join Juventus the following summer having made 307 appearances for us. But, with transfers between major European leagues uncommon at the time - how did the move come about?

“Kevin Keegan had gone to Germany three years prior to me leaving Arsenal and that opened people’s eyes up to going abroad,” Brady said. “It wasn’t especially fashionable at the time but he went to Hamburg and then Tony Woodcock moved to Cologne. At that point, I started to think about that kind of move. 

“Then, in the summer of 1980, the Italian league allowed clubs to have foreign players again. They’d had a bad World Cup in 1966 and blamed it on the volume of foreign players in the league. They opened that up again but restricted it to one foreign player per team. 

Liam Brady in action for Arsenal against Juventus in 1980

“I’d played against Juventus in the semi-final of the Cup Winners’ Cup in the 1979/80 season - we beat them 1-0 in the return leg and they’d probably taken a good look at me then. I think they’ll have had higher-profile players on their list to sign but they weren’t able to get those over the line, and I was probably next in line. When we started to talk, I’d changed my mind from thinking about Germany to going to Italy. 

“I’d told Arsenal fans I was going to go before the 1979/80 season kicked off. I wanted to go abroad and experience a different environment in a football sense. I wanted to do well for myself and that was the thinking behind it. We didn’t win anything during my final season - we almost did - but given the number of games we had to play, it was heroic for us to get as close as we did. I had my mind made up a year before my final season started.

“I had a great relationship with [the Arsenal supporters]. They’d been supportive of me ever since I got into the team at 17. That made it difficult. On the one hand, I was sad to leave the club - I had really good friends in the team and Terry Neill, Don Howe and Ken Friar were very good to me. 

"But I left on good terms. It wasn’t acrimonious in any way and it gave me the opportunity to play abroad. I think the majority of Arsenal fans understood that.”

Hear much more from Liam as well as learn much more about the history between us and Juventus in our official matchday programme - get your copy

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