Granit Xhaka reveals his heartbreaking comment to Mikel Arteta about Arsenal fans when star was on brink of transfer
GRANIT XHAKA has revealed his anguished words to Mikel Arteta when he was sure his darkest days at Arsenal would mean a transfer.
The midfielder says his “heart and soul” had gone and his “bags were already packed” to leave too – after he was stripped of the club captaincy and booed by Gunners’ fans.
But everything changed once Arteta arrived as boss in December 2019.
And although Xhaka is delighted he did finally depart to join Bayer Leverkusen last summer, he has nothing but praise for the Spaniard.
The Switzerland captain, 31, told The Athletic: “I had many black days, sitting in my hotel room for away games, realising what had happened… I was completely devastated.
“The club showed me little respect even though I was the captain. It was clear they wanted to get rid of me as quickly as possible, apart from one person: Mikel Arteta.
“When I met him for the first time, my bags were already packed and I was about to hop on a plane.
“With my heart and soul, I had already left the club. I said to him, ‘The solution is for me to go’. Mikel told me he wanted me to stay.”
Even then, Xhaka’s dad insisted his son should move – “for the first time ever, he told me to run away”.
However, the hardman’s second meet-up with Arteta persuaded him to remain.
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Xhaka said: “I could not imagine myself playing for Arsenal again. I said to him, ‘I just want to be somewhere where the fans don’t boo me’.
“But he was so convincing. For the first time in my life, I took a decision without talking to my family first. I got up and said, ‘OK, I’ll stay’.
“We embraced and, from that day on, I returned to training and it was like nothing ever happened.”
Previous Gunners’ manager Unai Emery had stripped Xhaka of the captaincy following the player’s angry reaction to being booed by fans.
Under fire for his performances, the ex-Borussia Monchengladbach star riled home supporters even more after he was hauled off as Crystal Palace earned a 2-2 comeback draw at the Emirates.
However, Arteta’s appointment revived both Arsenal and Xhaka’s career.
And he believes he would have bowed out with a Premier League winner’s medal – had midfield partner Thomas Partey and centre-back William Saliba not suffered injuries during the run-in as Manchester City roared back on gther way to the Treble.
And although Xhaka’s hot form has helped Leverkusen lead the Bundesliga ahead of Harry Kane’s Bayern Munich, he is looking forward to an Arsenal reunion at Christmas.
He aims to see the Gunners take on West Ham at the Emirates on December 28 as a “chance to say goodbye to the players, the staff and the supporters properly”.
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