Nwankwo Kanu’s career had already been a remarkable one before he arrived at Arsenal.
A UEFA Champions League winner with Ajax in 1995, The Nigerian captained his country to Olympic Gold the following year. Crowned African Footballer of the Year for his efforts, Kanu also joined Inter Milan in 1996 but a serious heart defect curtailed his career in Italy.
But in February 1999 Arsene Wenger offered the 6ft 5 striker a chance to revitalise himself with Arsenal, and he made an instant impact with a number of vital goals from the bench. There was also a memorable double in a North London Derby as the Gunners fought in vain to retain their Premier League title from Manchester United.
Although Kanu would go on to win two Premier League titles and two FA Cups during his time at Highbury, his defining moment in North London arguably came a lot sooner than expected in October 1999.
With fifteen minutes remaining and Arsenal two goals down to Chelsea, Kanu took matters into his own hands as the rain wreaked havoc at Stamford Bridge. Having scored twice to pull Arsenal level, the piece de resistance was saved for the dramatic finale.
Gliding through a bog of a pitch, Kanu charged towards goal before being met by a determined Ed de Goey desperate to preserve a point for the hosts. No matter for the forward who stayed calm and danced past the Chelsea stopper - who desperately tried to cling to the ball – the only obstacle now was how far away the goal seemed and at what angle should an attempt be made.
Yet Kanu went for it, his wiry frameset and unleashed an effort that flew over the heads of Marcel Desailly and Frank Lebouf and into the far corner of the net to send the away fans into delirium.
Despite possessing the ability to amaze with goals such as described above, Kanu found himself unfortunate to ply his trade at a time when Nicolas Anelka was the main man before Thierry Henry took that mantle for himself and thus his Arsenal career was spent impacting games as a substitute.
That said, Kanu left with the adoration of everyone connected to Arsenal after the Invincible season of 2003-04. His enthusiastic nature and trademark smile after every goal won over a fanbase that seldom dishes out such affection these days.
His Premier League journey continued at West Bromwich Albion with whom he dramatically survived relegation on the final days of the 2004-05 season.
Unfortunately for the Baggies, they failed to repeat the feat 12 months later but that campaign included a memorable goal against Arsenal of all clubs.
West Brom’s relegation led to Portsmouth acquiring Kanu’s services, and in 2008 he wrote his name into Pompey folklore after scoring the winning goal in their FA Cup Final win over Cardiff City.
54 goals in 273 Premier League appearances, Kanu’s appearance belied the mercurial talent that he possessed with the ability to bamboozle and tie the opposition in knots leaving no doubt that the Nigerian is a true Premier League great.