Whatever happened to… Alex Song?

The former Arsenal midfielder may have failed to hit the heights after winning a move to Barcelona in 2012 but now he’s building a business empire, writes Alasdair Hooper.

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For a time, it looked like Alex Song could become one of the greatest African midfielders of his generation.

The Cameroonian had excelled at Arsenal and earned himself a move to Barcelona in the process – but his career soon took a downward trajectory. Gunners fans remember Song fondly following his first-team breakthrough as a 21-year-old in the 2008-09 season.

He made 48 appearances across all competitions that year and formed great relationships on the pitch with the likes of Cesc Fabregas. Song’s consistency continued thereafter as he became one of the first names on the team sheet in the years that followed, making 38 appearances in the 2009-10 campaign and then 42 appearances in the next.

However, the 2011-12 season was arguably the midfielder’s finest after Fabregas was sold to Barcelona in August 2011. More creative responsibility was put on Song’s shoulders that year in the Spaniard’s absence and that translated into 11 Premier League assists. His tally in the previous two years were four and two respectively, highlighting how much he had added to his game.

Just as they had done the year before with Fabregas, Barcelona came calling for Song’s services following his excellent campaign and, in August 2012, the midfielder joined in a £15million deal. However, his time in Spain did not live up to his Arsenal heights. As someone who primarily played in the holding role, he had a certain Sergio Busquets ahead of him for competition. 

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As a result, Song’s playing time was limited and, when he did get on the pitch, he was often playing at centre-back. Following two underwhelming seasons at Barcelona the midfielder returned to the Premier League on loan with West Ham in 2014.

Under Sam Allardyce, he soon established himself as a vital player at the club and received plenty of praise. But, as the team’s performances started to drop off, Song’s did too and his latter half of the 2014-15 campaign failed to live up to his first.

Despite the dip in form West Ham re-signed the midfielder on loan again for the following season – the final campaign at Upton Park with then-manager Slaven Bilic – but Song’s performances were again underwhelming.

Bilic largely stuck with Mark Noble and Cheikhou Kouyate, with Pedro Obiang sometimes coming in, as the holding midfielders and Song’s game time was again limited. All in all, he only made 15 appearances with five of those coming off the bench. Song then signed for Russian side Rubin Kazan after his contract at Barcelona was terminated but that spell turned sour as well.

In January 2018, he returned to train with Arsenal after Rubin gave him permission to find a new club, but no move materialised, and he was subsequently removed from their league registration list that March.

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After that turbulent season, Song then joined with Swiss Super League side Sion on a free transfer making just 10 appearances in his debut campaign for the first team as well as turning out occasionally for their second team.

However, in March 2020 Sion sacked nine of their players for reportedly refusing to take a pay cut during the coronavirus pandemic. Song was one of the nine.

So where is Alex Song now after all this? The 33-year-old has just become a league champion again with Arta Solar, who won their first Djibouti Premier League title earlier this month.

He’s also been busy off the pitch by setting up a construction company and building flats in his Cameroon hometown of Douala. He also completed the construction of an international school in Douala, named the Canadian International School and College, which boasts a day care, nursery, primary and secondary school.

To top all that off he also owns an established business in the fashion industry called Systeme Tchakap. So while Alex Song’s career on the pitch might not have panned out how many of us imagined, he is certainly keeping himself very busy with a host of other exciting ventures.

You can follow Alasdair on Twitter at @adjhooper1992

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