From the publishers of THE HINDU

VOL.34 :: NO.40 :: Oct. 06, 2011

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FOOTBALL

He belongs at the top

Mikel Arteta has looked the part in Arsenal's midfield and if he stays fit then who knows, a call-up to the Spain squad might not be out of the question, writes Jack Presswell.

After rebuilding his career at Everton, Mikel Arteta has realised his ambition of playing UEFA Champions League football again after securing a GBP10 million move to Arsenal.

Having last played in Europe's premier club competition in 2003, the Spaniard played the full 90 minutes for the Gunners in a 1-1 draw at Borussia Dortmund's Signul Iduna Park recently and the technically-gifted midfielder looked very much at home.

Arteta has experience highs and lows during his career so far but with his vision and skill, there was never any doubt the classy playmaker belongs at the top.

Born in San Sebastian in the Gipuzkoa region of the Basque country, Arteta lived on the same street as Real Madrid star Xabi Alonso. He played in the same youth teams as the Spain star and the youngsters were both eager to start their professional careers with Real Sociedad.

That never materialised as at the age of 15 Arteta joined Barcelona. Unfortunately, despite being an important member of the Spain Under-21 team, he failed to break into the first team at the Nou Camp.

Despite being regarded as one of the brightest prospects in Spain, Arteta was sold to Glasgow Rangers for GBP6 million in 2002 following an impressive loan spell under Luis Fernandez at Paris St. Germain.

Arteta was a big success with the Scottish giant, forming a good partnership in the centre of midfield with Barry Ferguson. He won Rangers' Young Player of the Year for the 2002/03 season as the Gers won the domestic treble.

The following season Arteta made his first UEFA Champions League appearance in the group stage for Rangers after scoring a vital penalty in the third qualifying round second leg in Copenhagen. Unfortunately, from November onwards Arteta's season was blighted by injury and he only played a handful more games for Rangers.

In the summer of 2004, Arteta moved back to his hometown as Real Sociedad signed him for GBP2.6 million. Arteta made the move with the intention of fulfilling his dream of playing for Sociedad with close friend Alonso. However, soon after Arteta joined Sociedad, Alonso was signed by Liverpool.

Arteta struggled to make an impact in his half a season at the Anoeta and in January 2005 he was loaned to Everton with a view to a permanent deal. Arteta revealed that Alonso helped convince him to move to Merseyside.

He said: “Xabi was recovering from an injury back home in San Sebastian and I had just heard that Everton was interested in me when he walked into the Sociedad dressing room to see me. I asked him what he thought and he told me it was a great opportunity. He was right.”

Arteta finally began to realise his potential after moving permanently to Goodison Park. Everton boss David Moyes viewed Arteta as a playmaker rather than a holding midfielder and subsequently the Spaniard was named Everton's Player of the Year in 2006 and 2007.

His stature grew and in February 2009 Arteta was set to finally be named in the Spain squad. However, merely 24 hours before the squad was due to be announced, the midfielder injured his knee against Newcastle which led to a year on the sidelines.

Since returning last year, Arteta gradually started to rediscover the form he had shown before sustaining the injury and in August 2011 Arsenal signed him after selling Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri.

Arteta's move was completed late on transfer deadline day and he felt it was too good an opportunity to pass up, saying: “It is a big challenge, a different challenge, fresh for me and I want to see myself on the biggest stage, the Champions League. I am 29 years old so I haven't got much time left to take a chance like this one.”

Arteta has looked the part in Arsenal's midfield and if he stays fit then who knows, a call-up to the Spain squad might not be out of the question.

Mikel is married to 34-year old former Miss Spain, Lorena Bernal. The Argentina-born model and actress and Arteta had their first child in 2009. Arteta has managed to escape photographers while behind the wheel so it is not known what he is driving at the moment.

FACTFILE

Name: Mikel Arteta

Position: Midfield

Club: Arsenal

D.O.B: 28/03/1982

Moment to remember

Winning the domestic treble with Rangers and being named the club's Young Player of the Year award in the process.

Moment to forget

Suffering a serious knee injury against Newcastle after being set to be named in the Spain squad for the first time.

© PA Sport, 2011, All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, re-written, re-distributed or commercially exploited. Sportstar is not responsible for any inaccuracy in the material.



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