Arsene Wenger has paid tribute to Theo Walcott after selling the striker to Everton and says the player will always be welcomed back at the Emirates.
The Frenchman signed Walcott from Southampton as a 16-year-old in January 2006 and struck up a strong bond with the player as he progressed from boy to man at London Colney, became an England international and scored a century of goals for the Gunners.
Asked what his residing memories will be of the England international, Wenger reflected on Friday: “I would say that my memories of Theo go for over 12 years.
“Personally, I’m very, very attached to Theo because he’s a person who is intelligent, has complete integrity and total commitment and focus on his job.
“I remember, he arrived here at the age of 16 and went to the World Cup straightaway. Of course, he scored important goals in big games, we can speak about cup finals [versus Chelsea and Aston Villa], Champions League games or the local derbies. He’s made outstanding performances against Tottenham.
“I just regret what happened, but he didn’t play enough recently and I wish him well and thank him for everything he’s done for us. He’ll always be welcome here.”
For his part, Walcott thanked fans for the support during his 12 years at the club.
“I would like to say a big thank you to everyone involved at Arsenal, manager, coaches, backroom staff, and all the many people at the club that have been part of my family for the past 12 years,” he said
“I would also like to thank all my team mates I have had the pleasure of playing alongside, but most importantly the fans for their incredible support.
“I feel sad to leave but also excited for a new challenge. I wish everyone at the club every success for the future.”