Granit Xhaka reveals just how close he was to leaving Arsenal in comprehensive interview



Arsenal midfielder Granit Xhaka has revealed that he was a signature away from leaving the north London club in the January transfer window of 2020, claiming that ‘my bags were packed’, only for Mikel Arteta to convince him to stay.

The former Arsenal captain has always divided opinion at The Emirates Stadium, and matters came to a head in November 2019, when he was booed off against Crystal Palace by his own fans. His response, to tell them in no uncertain terms where to go and to throw the captain’s armband on the floor, seemed a point of no return.

And to Xhaka, it was.

‘I was done with Arsenal’, the midfielder told The Players Tribune. ‘Finished. There was a contract on the table from another club, and all I had to do was sign. I had talked with my wife, Leonita, and we had decided to leave’.

‘I was just going to say goodbye to Mikel, and then we would board the plane’.

That incident was in the dying days of the reign of Unai Emery, who was sacked just 6 games later after falling to a 2-1 defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt in the Europa League group stage. He left the Gunners after just 3 wins in his last 11 Premier League games, and after an interim period, Mikel Arteta was appointed.

And it was the current Arsenal boss that convinced him to change his mind.

‘When Mikel was appointed in December, I told him that I wanted to leave’, Xhaka continued. ‘He understood completely. We had a second chat a few days later, and when I went in, I had talked it through with my wife. Our suitcases were literally placed by the door.’

‘When I have made a decision like that, it is very difficult to change my mind. But then Mikel began to talk about how I was a big part of his plans. I liked his warmth. He was honest, straight. Clear plans. I felt I could trust him. He told me to give him six months to prove me wrong, and then if I still wanted to leave, no problem.’

Granit Xhaka reveals just how close he was to leaving Arsenal in comprehensive interview

Arsenal’s Swiss midfielder Granit Xhaka (C) is spoken to by Arsenal’s Spanish manager Mikel Arteta (R) after leaving the game injured during the North London Derby, which Arsenal won 3-1. (Photo by IAN KINGTON/IKIMAGES/AFP via Getty Images).

‘My head had left Arsenalbut my heart had not’, the 29-year-old admitted.

It is this love that saw him commit his future to the club last summer, despite interest from Roma, and he confirms that he will see out his contract at the Emirates if he is allowed to, reiterating his belief in Mikel Arteta and his own desire to succeed in front of the fans that he has forgiven, but not forgotten.

‘After this season, I have two years left of my contract. I believe Mikel is building a great team, and I want to achieve something special here’, he concluded.

Whether or not it will ever come to pass is another matter.

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# Team MP D P
1 Manchester City 31 52 74
2 Liverpool FC 31 57 73
3 Chelsea FC 30 41 62
4 Tottenham Hotspur 31 19 57
5 Arsenal FC 30 9 54
6 West Ham United 32 9 51
7 Manchester United 31 7 51
8 Wolverhampton Wanderers 32 5 49
9 Leicester City 29 -3 40
10 Crystal Palace 31 3 37
11 Brighton & Hove Albion 31 -9 37
12 Aston Villa 31 -4 36
13 Brentford FC 32 -9 36
14 Southampton FC 31 -15 36
15 Newcastle United 31 -20 34
16 Leeds United 32 -30 33
17 Everton FC 30 -19 28
18 Burnley FC 30 -19 24
19 Watford FC 31 -31 22
20 Norwich City 31 -43 21
Player Team Goals
Salah, Mohamed Liverpool FC 20
Son, Heung Min Tottenham Hotspur 17
Jota, Diogo Liverpool FC 15
Mane, Sadio Liverpool FC 13
Kane, Harry Tottenham Hotspur 12
Toney, Ivan Brentford FC 12
Ronaldo, Cristiano Manchester United 12
De Bruyne, Kevin Manchester City 11
Zaha, Wilfried Crystal Palace 11
Mount, Mason Chelsea FC 10
Mahrez, Riyad Manchester City 10
Sterling, Raheem Manchester City 10
Raphinha Leeds United 10
Vardy, Jamie Leicester City 10
Bowen, Jarrod West Ham United 9
Fernandes, Bruno Manchester United 9
Dennis, Emmanuel Watford FC 9
Saka, Bukayo Arsenal FC 9
Pukki, Teemu Norwich City 9
Smith-Rowe, Emile Arsenal FC 9



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