William Gallas is a graduate of the French Football academy at Clairefontaine. He started his professional career at second division SM Caen helping them to promotion as champions in 1996. He was subsequently transferred to Olympique Marseille in 1997. Gallas spent four seasons at Marseille, playing alongside Robert Pirès among others. He made his debut in the UEFA Champions League playing for Marseille, and he also played against Chelsea in that competition in 2000.
Former Chelsea manager Claudio Ranieri bought Gallas from Marseille in May 2001 for £6.2 million. He chose the number 13 shirt because it was his postcode back when he lived in Marseille. Under Ranieri, Gallas developed centre-back partnerships with Marcel Desailly and later with John Terry; his partnership with Terry included a run of 16 games without conceding a single goalHe also played at right-back at times. It was with Chelsea and under Ranieri where Gallas obtained his first international cap.
Gallas was part of Chelsea's team which won back-to-back Premier League titles and a League Cup under Ranieri's successor José Mourinho. However due to a serious injury to left-back Wayne Bridge in 2004-05 Gallas was forced to play out of position. Despite the purchase of Asier del Horno from Athletic Bilbao for £8 million in the 2005 close season, Gallas found himself often playing on the left, a situation he got increasingly frustrated with. However Gallas scored some vital goals as Chelsea retained their title in the 2005-06 season at Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool and Manchester United. Gallas called the goal against Tottenham, a 25-yard injury-time winner, his "greatest ever" on Chelsea TV.
Gallas's contract with Chelsea was due to expire in May 2007. He refused to sign a new contract with Chelsea on improved terms after saying the club didn't offer him enough money and expressed a wish to play in Italy, with Juventus and AC Milan both interested. Chelsea however did not agree to a transfer request by the player in May 2006, as they considered Gallas an important first team member.
After the 2006 FIFA World Cup, Gallas refused to turn up at Chelsea's pre-season American tour, citing tiredness after the tournament. Upon assigning squad numbers the club gave new arrival Michael Ballack Gallas' number 13 shirt as a punishment for not turning up, an indication that his future at Stamford Bridge was in serious doubt. His reception at the club's membership day at Stamford Bridge was mixed, with sections of fans clapping him while some fans booed and other remained unmoved.
Despite reported links with several clubs around Europe, a move out of England looked unlikely. The 2006 Serie A scandal scuppered any interest from Juventus or A.C. Milan, and the only club to express an interest was Arsenal. In an implied admission that Gallas would be allowed to leave Stamford Bridge, Chelsea signed Dutch defender Khalid Boulahrouz.
On September 1, 2006, Gallas transferred to Arsenal as part of a deal that took Ashley Cole to Chelsea and Arsenal also received the sum of £5 million. The press reported that José Mourinho was furious Gallas had been allowed to move to their rivals and that the Cole-Gallas swap deal had been forced through by Chelsea executive Peter Kenyon. After the transfer, Chelsea issued a statement that Gallas threatened to deliberately score own goals if he was not allowed to leave Chelsea. Gallas rejected Chelsea's claims and accused the West Londoners of lacking class and 'hiding behind false accusations'. Claudio Ranieri, the former Chelsea manager who signed Gallas from Marseille said of the allegations; "I cannot believe these stories. It is absolutely incredible. I signed William and he was always a good professional on the pitch. Of course, I don't know what has happened in the last two years." PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor declared that the whole episode has left a "bad taste in the mouth" and that Chelsea's statement should be taken "with a large pinch of salt."
Subsequently, a year before joining Arsenal, Gallas claimed that "things will no longer be easy for Arsenal, and that the future is Chelsea," in an interview with The Sun.
Gallas applauding supporters.
Gallas signed a four-year contract with Arsenal, where he took the number 10 shirt vacated by the recently-retired Dennis Bergkamp. In an interview in the October 2006 issue of the Official Arsenal Magazine, Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger explained the rather peculiar decision to hand him the squad number 10 (traditionally a forward's number):
Number three was uncomfortable for him and I had given the rest of the numbers out. In the end I thought it might be a good idea to give the number ten to a defender, because a striker would suffer a lot with the comparison with Dennis. At first I was reluctant to give Dennis's number out, and especially to a defender, but overall I think it's better that way.
Gallas made his full debut for The Gunners at left-back in the 1-1 home draw against Middlesbrough on 9 September 2006 and scored his first goal against Sheffield United on September 23, 2006.
Gallas was confirmed as Arsenal captain on August 9, 2007, with Kolo Toure serving as vice-captain. His first competitive game as Arsenal captain was on 12 August 2007 against Fulham F.C. which ended in a 2-1 victory for Arsenal. Gallas suffered a groin injury in the game against Blackburn on August 19, but returned to play for Arsenal in their 2-0 victory over Bolton Wanderers on 20 October. In the traditional Arsenal vs Manchester United clash at the Emirates Stadium on November 3, he scored a last minute goal to give the Gunners a draw.
On November 24, 2007 Gallas scored against Wigan when Bacary Sagna crossed in and Gallas fired a header through the arms of Wigan's goalkeeper Pollitt to open the deadlock.
On December 16, 2007 Gallas scored against his old club Chelsea, which was to be the only goal in the match to secure 3 points for Arsenal. Gallas later reflected on his goal against former club Chelsea, claiming that "When Cesc sent the corner in for my goal, I saw Petr Čech come off his line and to be honest I was sure he would catch it. So I was surprised when he didn't take it, and it was just a reflex reaction to head it into the goal. I just happened to be there at the right time".
Gallas has come in for some criticism following his actions in a 2-2 draw against Birmingham City on 23 February 2008. After team-mate Gaël Clichy conceded a penalty in injury time at the end of the second half, Gallas walked into the Birmingham half, apparently in protest. He stood there as Birmingham striker James McFadden converted the penalty. He then had to be restrained as he appeared to confront the crowd in fury. After the final whistle, Gallas sat down on the pitch for two minutes as the rest of the players left the field, before being consoled by manager Arsène Wenger.
Gallas also scored for Arsenal against Bolton in a 2-3 win on 29 March 2008, starting the comeback which 10-man Arsenal ultimately completed.
Wenger said he would consider if Gallas will continue as Arsenal captain at the end of the season. It comes after the tantrum incident earlier in the season.
Coming after that news Wenger has in the recent press hinted strongly that he will continue as captain, abolishing the medias favorite Cesc Fabregas from taking over the armband.
Gallas was a part of the France U-18 European Championship winning side. He also played for the France U-20 team in the 1997 FIFA World Youth Championship.
He is now a regular member for France, forming Raymond Domenech's first-choice centre-back partnership with Lilian Thuram. He made his full France debut in a 5-0 demolition of Slovenia in a Euro 2004 qualifier on October 12, 2002, and was a member of the squad for the tournament's finals. He was in the 2003 Confederations Cup winning side, and more recently he was a member of the squad that reached the 2006 FIFA World Cup final. Following the 2006 World Cup, he criticised the Portugal team for diving, saying that when the French faced them in the semi-finals they needed to look out for their unfair style of play.
Gallas won his 50th cap for France in the 3-1 win against Italy on 6 September 2006 at the Stade de France in a Euro 2008 qualifying match.
- Ligue 2 Championship Winner 1995-96