In conversation: Gilberto and Ray Parlour

We were joined on this summer's tour to Sydney and China by Gilberto and Ray Parlour.

In Shanghai, the pair took time out to reminisce over their playing days, look back at the Invincibles season and discuss their favourite team-mates.

Here's how their conversation went:

RP: How did you come to play for Arsenal?

G: When I had the opportunity to move to Arsenal, at that time I had two other clubs that I heard were interested in bringing me in. One was in Germany, another was in Turkey. I didn’t know much about Arsenal but I tried to find some information and I saw players like Dennis Bergkamp and Patrick Vieira were there. Edu was there and I didn’t know him closely but it was helpful to have one Brazilian there. What about you?

RP: I was a young boy, 11 years old, when I signed. I made my debut at 18 and gave away a penalty against Liverpool - your debut against them was a bit better than my one…

G: Yeah, I had a very good start. My debut was against Liverpool in the Community Shield, in 2002. It was a great start for me.

RP: Let’s go back to that team - I left after the unbeaten season, but in 2003, did you think this team could maybe go without losing?

G: Well the frustration from the season before [2002/03] was hard for us, because we played well. The turning point, when we got a lot of pressure, was when Arsène Wenger said that we were going to be unbeaten in that season.

RP: I was a bit-part player - I played a few games but you were a regular. When did you think this team could go unbeaten? Was it with 10 games to go?

G: When there were about 10 games until the end, you could feel that. You just wanted to win the games and the trophy at the end of the season. We knew how frustrated we were from the season before. I remember being in the tunnel - that was something special. We were in there, it was very narrow and it was like the other teams were looking at us like giants.

RP:So do you feel like we won the game in the tunnel often?

G: I could feel that.

RP: We won the league at White Hart Lane - but those four final games were very difficult. Do you remember the one at Portsmouth?

G: It was hard in the last four games. We’d already won the league and you don’t have the same concentration, not because you don’t care, but it’s natural. But Arsène would always say ‘why not win it unbeaten? You can make big history’. 

RP: What about the last game of the season?

G: That game was hard because we were 1-0 down but we didn’t want to lose it. It was maybe the hardest game of the season.

RP: Who was the best player you played with in your career?

G: Playing alongside Patrick Vieira in the middle was something incredible for me. I’ve learnt a lot from that man. He was a monster in the middle, not letting anyone pass [him]. I can mention some others - like you! Bergkamp and Thierry too. In Brazil I played alongside Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Rivaldo, Roberto Carlos and Cafu - big stars.

RP: What about winning the World Cup? That has to be the pinnacle.

G: Yeah, of course. I can say that was the top moment. I never imagined I’d be there. I came from a very little town and after I started playing football, I had to stop for a period and come back to my hometown, helping my family and working hard. When I had my opportunities in football, they were something special and I didn’t want to let them pass in front of me. I grabbed all of them.

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