Fran Merida is the latest youngster to be added to the Arsenal squad, being given squad number 46 for this season. He is over the moon to be finally given his place in the first team and refused a loan move to Levante this summer so that he can try and become a first team fixture in Arsene Wenger’s squad.
But where did he come from?
He is often compared to Cesc Fabregas, and the similarities are numerous. He joined Arsenal from Barcelona when he was 17, but with a little less controversy than Fabregas as he hadn’t signed a contract with the Catalan club. He was also brought to Arsenal’s attention by the agent Diaz, who also represents Cesc.
In fact, Fabregas himself, when visiting his old home (now occupied by Merida) with a reporter, saw Fran coming down the stairs looking dishevelled and said: “That was me a few years ago.”
This comment may turn out to have a lot of truth in it, as he seems to be preparing to join Fabregas in the Arsenal midfield.
But Merida was also taken to court for compensation for his training at Barcelona, and was ordered to pay a massive 3.2m euros in compensation to Barcelona for breaking a “pre-contract agreement”. He is, of course, appealing the ruling. This state of affairs was brought about by the anomaly of the laws in England, where a youngster can sign a professional contract in 17, while in Spain they have to wait until they are 18.
So Merida signed as he passed his 17th birthday and was installed in Wenger’s League Cup team for the 2007/08 season, where he made four substitute appearances before being loaned to Real Sociedad at Xmas, for the second half of the season. He made 14 appearances for them and scored just the one goal.
A new improved contract was given to Merida just after his 18th birthday, and his future at Arsenal was confirmed by Wenger.
He was made a first-team squad member this season and appeared in both the Emirates Cup games, as well as the pre-season game in Valencia. He then made his first official appearance of the season as a sub against West Brom and again at Portsmouth when he replaced Arshavin for the last 20 minutes.
Despite being only 19, Merida has appeared for the Spain international side at all ages up to the U21’s, and was named in the Top Ten Stars of the Future at the UEFA U19 Championships, and is hotly tipped to become a regular full Spanish International in the future.
In an interview with the official Arsenal website today, Merida explained why he refused another loan offer this summer as he is keen to break into the first team here at the Emirates.
“I am 100 per cent staying.” he said.
“It is true that I had an option to go out on loan but me, the boss, my agent and my family decided that the best thing for me is to stay here.
“The boss told me he believes in me and the only thing I can do now is prove it on the pitch and repay that faith.
“My target is to help as much as possible to get trophies. I truly believe we have a fantastic chance. We have started well, we must keep that going because we haven’t done anything yet.”
That interview was just after he played in reserve team fixture, and he showed his dedication to playing time, whether it is in the first team or the reserves.
“Everytime you get the chance to play in the Reserves it is good because you keep your match fitness,” he continued.
“I know Neil has confidence in me and if he tells me to play for the Reserves I am more than happy.
“Personally it’s just about training hard, taking any chances I am given and doing my best for the team. Hopefully the season can be great for Arsenal.”
If he carries on the way he is going, he could yet be a big part in Arsenal’s push for trophies this season, and maybe Spain’s as well in the future.
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