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Gervinho anticipating ‘great collaboration’ with Naxxar Lions

Gervinho (right) talks to Naxxar Lions coach George Vella at one of the team's training sessions. Photo: Naxxar Lions FC

Ex-Arsenal forward to help attracting Ivory Coast players to Maltese club

Newly promoted BOV Premier League side Naxxar Lions had Ivory Coast superstar Gervinho in Malta this past week and the Maltese community flocked over to try and meet the former Arsenal and Roma forward.

While some speculated he was Malta-bound to join the Naxxar side, the negotiations which ensued throughout the week Gervinho spent on the island revolved around other players than himself.

In fact, Naxxar are finalising an agreement with the Ivorian’s camp to help with player transfer facilitation between Ivory Coast players and Naxxar.

At the same time, promising players from the Maltese club will be spoken for overseas through Gervinho’s networks.

In an exclusive interview with the Times of Malta, Gervinho said he was happy with the choice of Naxxar and believes it will be a great opportunity for players.

“It is a collaboration between my camp and the Naxxar club,” he specified.

“I came here to see how the club operates and to discuss what kind of collaboration we can make. I’m very happy with our talks so far and I believe it is a great opportunity for young players from Ivory Coast as well as for Naxxar Lions.

“I spoke to the coach and I saw that he has a very good vision for the future. The club also has a lot of good young players and I think this collaboration should be heading in the right direction.”

The 36-year-old was present at Naxxar’s pre-season sessions throughout the week and the club said this could help them invest in future projects and improve their squad through young import players that can assist the club’s standing in the league.

Since his move to KSK Beveren’s youth team in 2004, Gervinho has played his entire career in Europe bar a two-year stint in China with Hebei FC and a season in Turkey with Trabzonspor.

Asked about his experience playing football at the highest level, the former Ivory Coast international claims all of the moves he made were positive building blocks to his life.

However, he said Roma and the Italian capital city itself hold a special place in his heart.

“All of my experiences were beautiful in themselves – France, Belgium, England, China, Greece, Turkey… all of them. I’ve enjoyed working with the different clubs I’ve played with and I’m very happy to have done so much in my career,” Gervinho said.

“However, Italy is the place I would call the most special to me. With Roma I’ve done some pretty special things, with Parma too, but Rome has a certain passion for football.

“I have a lot of good memories in the three years I’ve spent there. The city of Rome too is symbolic in itself – warmer temperature than Parma as well and I loved that.”

Under Rudi Garcia, now coach of Serie A title-holders Napoli, Gervinho played 88 matches, scoring 26 goals in all competitions, even bagging a brace against CSKA Moscow in the Champions League of the 2014-15 season.

Needless to say, his move from Arsenal proved fruitful for the player. However, his time in London with Arsenal before the transfer to the Italian capital was another highlight of his career.

Gervinho joined Arsenal from Lille back in 2011 and believes his time under former Gunners manager Arsene Wenger was short but sweet.

“Arsene (Wenger) is a great person, a great coach of course,” he explained.

“Arsene is very calm as a person but he sees everything – he looks for details to do things well. Football and Arsene Wenger are synonymous – he is a man of football.

“I’ve enjoyed working with him a lot and even though I stayed at Arsenal for only two years, they were two great years.”

Naxxar Lions director Omar Borg (left) and Gervinho pose for a photo after discussions over the collaboration. Photo: Naxxar Lions FC

Spartans link

Gervinho was last playing in the Greek Super League with Aris Saloniki where he signed a one-year contract in 2022.

Currently a free agent, his visit to Malta led to further speculation about his future, with sources close to the Naxxar club telling the Times of Malta that Malta champions Ħamrun Spartans have since contacted Naxxar about the possibility of offering a contract to the offensive player, who has played on both wings as well as a striker.

However, the request has been denied by the player’s camp due to the fact that Malta’s pitches consist mostly of artificial turf. The source said Gervinho was ‘not willing to train or play on synthetic turf’.

This rules out a possibility of another former Arsenal player making his debut in the BOV Premier League after former Gunners midfielder Denilson had joined Sliema Wanderers for one season back in 2020. However, Gervinho believes he still has more to offer.

“I don’t yet know where I’m playing this season. I’ve left Aris after a short experience in Greece,” he said,

“It was different but beneficial nonetheless.

“However, I have more to offer as a player and I still believe I can go on playing for another two to three years.”

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