Francesc Arnau dies at 46

There are goalkeepers who have lacked continuity to be remembered for life and there are also those who are not forgotten by their performance in a moment or in a game, as is the case of Francesc Arnau (Les Planes d’Hostoles, La Garrotxa, Girona, 1975), who died at the age of 46, as reported by Real Oviedo, the club of which he was sports director since 2019.

Arnau’s moment was very famous because it happened when he was 23 years old at Wembley. That day, October 19, 1999, he became a colossus in the Champions League game that Barcelona beat Arsenal 2-4. Louis Van Gaal changed the goalkeeper because Ruud Hesp was not fit and he opted for Arnau. The goalkeeper was full of shots from Overmars, Adams and Ljunberg. The coach told him that he would start in the morning and it did not take him a minute to call his family to announce the news, convinced that this meeting would be worth it, sure that he was starting a new life with Barça. At the end of the day, Arnau was congratulated by Puyol, Guardiola and Frans Hoek, Barcelona’s goalkeeping coach.

Even with that memorable night, Arnau’s luck at the Camp Nou did not change. Joined at the age of 15 and an under-21 international, he played 32 games as a Barça player, from 1998 to 2001, until he signed for Málaga, finally starting from 2004-2005 ahead of Juan Calatayud. The game of his life took place precisely at the Barça stadium wearing the Málaga jersey on October 26, 2005. Arnau made up to 19 saves, one every 4m 44s, before his team lost 2-0. That day he became the goalkeeper who had stopped the most shots in La Liga since the 1998-1999 season. He had surpassed the record of Iker Casillas at Real Madrid, the protagonist of 14 stops in a match against Real Sociedad (1999-2000). Arnau only won in the 80th minute and from a penalty: “You see how Ronaldinho throws himself, the referee whistles and everything goes to the ground … Later we will talk about conspiracy and things like that … But today they annoyed us” claimed who was later overtaken by a Larsson Vaseline.

The Catalan goalkeeper competed for 10 seasons with Málaga until in 2015 he became their sports director, replacing Mario Husillos. The same position he held two years later in Oviedo instead of Joaquín del Olmo y Michu. On Friday he met precisely with the club’s sports commission while in Barcelona some media were considering the possibility that he would join the FC Barcelona technical team in the near future. Until this Saturday morning it was learned that Arnau had died. Oviedo decided to postpone the match with Mirandés to Monday.

No one who has followed his career will forget his Wembley match and his stops with Málaga on his return to the Camp Nou. Although it did not have continuity, his appearances were always solemn, either as a substitute for Hesp or Vitor Baía, or as a starter in Malaga. “They didn’t give me opportunities,” he lamented the day he left Barça.

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