Arsenal’s invincible season is, and could potentially remain, a singular feat in English football history.
During the 03/04 season, the Gunners boasted a plethora of household names who go down as some of the Premier League’s all-time greats – from defender Ashley Cole to captain Patrick Vieira and the ethereal Thierry Henry up front.
Aware at the time that his trusty veterans were ageing, Arsene Wenger was already grooming his next flock of stars for the future, including the likes of Gael Clichy, Cesc Fabregas and Jose Antonio Reyes, who were all being integrated into the squad.
And while some of those certainly went on to make a name for themselves as brilliant players, there were those within the group who fell short of stardom.
One such example was forward Michal Papadopulos, signed from Czech side Banik Ostrava on loan in July 2003 before the start of the historic season.
Aged just 18, he impressed quickly enough in the reserves to earn a place in the first-team squad by December for the Carling Cup clash against Wolves.
There, he made his debut, coming onto replace Jeremie Aliadiere with seven minutes to go.
But while fellow youngster Fabregas, announced as ‘Fabrice Fabregas’ by the commentator, netted Arsenal’s fifth to become the club’s youngest ever goal-scorer, Papadopulos would never play for the Gunners again.
The striker saw out the rest of his loan before quietly returning to his country.
He went on to win the Czech Football Cup in 2005 and was signed by German giants Bayer Leverkusen as his career looked set to take off.
Yet after just 19 appearances, the Czechian begun his long career as a journeyman, never quite settling in as he moved between various clubs across the Netherlands, Russia and Poland.
His most notable spell in that time was with Polish side Zaglebie Lubin, where he netted just 30 goals between 2012 and 2017.
Do you think Papadopulos' career would have taken a different trajectory had he scored instead of Fabregas? Let us know in the comments section.
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While few if any Arsenal fans will recall the player who celebrated with their future captain for his first goal, Papadopulos was successful in receiving six caps for his country.
And now the centre-forward, aged 36, is still trudging away in the top tier of Czech football, where he has managed to net four goals this season across 17 matches.
Sadly, Papadopulos did not receive Invincibles acclaim for his minor contribution in the League Cup, though he can take pride in outlasting almost the entirety of the famous squad as a professional.
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