Shilla on ghost Arsenal transfer: I was given the No.27 jersey
Former Ghana international Shilla Illiasu Alhassan has shed more light on his failed 2006 move to Arsenal following a brilliant performance at the World Cup.
Then on the books of Ghana Premier League (GPL) outfit Asante Kotoko, the defender impressed in group matches against the Czech Republic and Italy, benefiting from a nightmarish outing of Samuel Kuffour in the tournament opener against Italy.
He attracted interest from Arsenal but failed to seal a deal with the Gunners after a trial spell.
“When the opportunity to play for Arsenal came, I was in doubt. I didn’t think my dream was coming to pass. I love Arsenal,” Shilla narrated to TV3.
“After our game against Czech Republic, I was at the hotel when my agent came to me and said ‘Shilla, gradually we are getting close, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger was at the stadium and so after the tournament, you are going to Arsenal for trial’.
“I went to Arsenal for two weeks. I nearly signed a deal. I remember Ghana’s [post-World Cup friendly] game against Togo in London, I came to the match and saw a journalist and he said ‘Shilla, congratulations you have been given the No.27 jersey to represent Arsenal’.
“Kolo Toure was there and he also said ‘sign, what are you waiting for?’ and I told him I was waiting for my agent. If you ask me what really went wrong, I can’t tell.
“I really regret not signing for Arsenal.”
Illiasu’s stay with Kotoko was courtesy of a loan agreement with King Faisal. Recently, the former centre-back blamed Faisal president Alhaji Karim Grunsah for sabotaging the transfer.
“Arsene Wenger told me that he had monitored me against Czech Republic and believes that I’m one of the best defenders in Africa. He told me he wanted to sign me to Arsenal to help his team,” Illiasu told Asempa FM in April.
“I started training with them and after the third training session, the agent called and confirmed Wenger was impressed and wanted to sign me.
“Later, the agent called and requested that I speak with Alhaji Grunsah because he was being stubborn, and that I should also engage Kotoko – Kwabena Kesse ‘Kessben’ was then the CEO.
“I remember I spoke to him and Mr Kesse told me they were still in talks with Arsenal and assured me my future remained the central focus.”
Retired from football, the 37-year-old Shilla is now a farmer in northern Ghana.