Granit Xhaka admits he was “very close” to leaving Arsenal last summer

There was a long-running saga last summer about Jose Mourinho making Granit Xhaka one of his main targets when he took over at Roma, and many pundits were convinced that the Swiss was set for a move to Serie A, but in the end Mikel Arteta persuaded Xhaka to sign a one-year extension to his contract at the Emirates.

In an interview with ESPN, Xhaka also admitted that he was set to leave three years ago when Arteta first took over at Arsenal, and Xhaka’s relationship with the Arsenal fans was at rock bottom, but again Arteta convinced him to stay. Xhaka said about that time: “Without him [Arteta], I would not be here in this football club anymore,”

“He helped me a lot when I was completely down. He took me aside, helped me with small things, step by step, tactically, as a person, mentality, between the team and the club, tried to help me as well with the fans. He is a freak in a positive way. Tactically, he knows everything. How he prepares the team before training, before the games, is unbelievable. I had a lot of coaches, but I have to put Mikel as one of the top ones in my career.”

But then the conversation turned to the Roma saga from last summer, and Xhaka explained the situation carefully. This is how the interview continued….

Was it true?
“It was something, yes.”
How close?
“Very close.”
Why didn’t it happen?
“Because Mikel was the guy with [technical director] Edu, they didn’t let me go because they wanted to keep me here. Of course, my first reaction was to stay at the football club, but they opened the door: ‘If something comes, I can leave.’ I have to be honest as well. I don’t want to say a name now, but the door was open for me to leave the club as well. But in the end, people decided to keep me here.”

LONDON, ENGLAND – JANUARY 30: Marcus Rashford of Manchester United gets away from Granit Xhaka of Arsenal during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Manchester United at Emirates Stadium on January 30, 2021 in London, England. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

So, now we know the truth from the horses mouth. I know that many fans on JustArsenal don’t rate Xhaka, but it is obvious that Mikel Arteta has great faith in him, and Xhaka appreciates the support from his coach.

So he signed a new contract, and what does Xhaka think about his future right now. He said: “I am very happy here,”

“My family is very happy here. I have a contract for another two years, it is true. I will be 30 in September but I don’t believe in age. You can be 18, you can be 90, you can be 35. If you have the quality, you can play. We had a lot of people who were here as well — David Luiz for example — who had an amazing career, 33, 34, 35, he is even playing now.

“That’s why age is only a number for me. As long as I am fit, as long as I can help the team, I will try to do everything. When the moment comes, I can’t do that, I am the first to say to the club: ‘I am not ready to do that.'”

So, maybe we can expect to see Xhaka in an Arsenal shirt for many more years to come….


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  1. “I don’t believe in age” really?soon or later,he will learn that time catches up with everyone.

    1. I think you need to re-read his interview…..

      He said age is but a number, you can be any age as long as you can compete. When he cannot compete he will stop, whatever age this will be.

      For example, ronaldo and lewendowski or somebody like teddy Sheringham will play top level until 40 years old, other retire at 33….

      Dont pre judge age is all he is saying, he will play until he cant.

      1. We both know how much many on here wants xhaka gone to bring up the story of he admitting that he was inch close to leaving the club will only leave them fuming finding out their wish almost came to pass.

        1. @ fk @ad-pat

          The “suffocation” for me was when xaka said “tactically Arteta knows it all” this one will choke some pple

  2. Xhaka actually “admits” nothing we don’t already know. The club wanted to sell hm but Roma did not meet the Arsenal asking price. The club then begged him to extend his contract so they can sell him at a latter date. He was offered a salary increase better than he could get any where else so accepted. In short he just “admits” that he knows payers are expendable and that he in turn has no loyalty to anyone in particular and will play for anyone any time anywhere as long as they pay his salary demand. It’s just business after all. Which makes him exactly the same as 99.% of every other pro footballer.

    1. read the whole interview and not a selected snipped and you might be pleasantly surprised and you might think very differently about Granit.

      Also look at his stats and not the sky sports rival pundits and twitters reviews of his ability…..

      There is a reason hes been around and was wanted for so long, even if some fans read too much tripe on the internet and decide its all true.

      1. hothed, isn’t it frystratibg when people read something without digesting the content?

        The Arsenal have never officially said that Roma didn’t meet the asking price, neither have they said that they want to sell him at a later date… pure speculation, just like the comment about his salary.

        Perhaps now, after reading how Mikel and Edu asked him TWICE to stay at the club, fans will get behind those decisions and support the manager and player, rather than trying to question said decision at every opportunity?

        After all, isn’t that what real supporters / fans should do?!

        1. “neither have they said that they want to sell him at a later date… pure speculation”
          I do remember the phrase “protect his value” regarding the xhaka contract. You could say that protecting his value is not the same as saying we want to sell, but you can see why it would prompt speculation that we weren’t expecting to be keeping him for the long term? At the time, I was thinking it meant he’d be sold this summer, and the contract was just to keep him sweet until we found a replacement (sadly I was apparently wrong there!)

    2. @fairfan,no one will turn down a chance that’ll help fill their fridge as long as they hurt no one in the process,exactly what he did and what anyone will do if they were in his,such is life my friend.

  3. I am glad we kept him.. He was massive for us last season.. I am sure he will be this season.

  4. A very very interesting article that’s sure to provoke some serious comments and even a bit of ranting.

    One very very interesting comment from Xhacka I red and i quote , I HAD A LOT OF COACHES. BUT I HAVE TO PUT MIKEL AS ONE OF TOP COACHES IN MY CAREER, this is not a simple statement, and I will tell you why.

    This is not the first time am hearing these sentiments from very accomplish players than even Xhaka,
    Now when you take into account the age of the gaffer and experience.

    One of the best traits a footballer can possess is being a team player and that Xhaka has in abundance.
    Am not the biggest fan of Xhaka, but with my experience working in a large heavy duty equipments company, team players employees are priceless.

  5. No mention by Xhaka of the pressing need for pace, mobility and soberminded heads I note, with no surprise whatsoever.

  6. But if his value as a “slow, back and sideways, always prone to a gaff, talentless, snail” as some would have us believe – what, exactly, would Mikel be protecting, especially when he could have sold him to Roma?

  7. Xhaka is like Marmite to a lot of people and I am somewhat ambivalent about him, although I very much admire how he came back after all the terrible criticism and vile comments about his family that he received. Definitely a team player

  8. oh granit, you are such a tease , sir, telling us how close to leaving the arsenal you were.i still maintain, and i always will, that this player is holding us back.i am considering on opening a book on how many yellow/red cards he will receive next season, as opposed to how many goals he will score.obviously, i know not a jot about football, if managers continue to pick this player of such limited talent.i am convinced he will ,once again, continue to let us down in the upcoming season, he does not have a football brain.

  9. Xhaka clearly has some strengths to his game. Unfortunately, amongst many fans, pundits and other media people the weaknesses are often blown out of proportion and therefore dominate any discussion.
    I remember one pundit opined that any Arsenal midfield that has Xhaka in it has something wrong with it.
    I also suspect that some of his previous history influenced decisions that went against him and Arsenal in recent seasons.
    In my view, both he and Arteta have demonstrated that when the team is set up appropriately he can provide good strength and balance to the midfield. Unfortunately, some of his unnecessary antics and the limitations to his skill set mean that his positive attributes often get overlooked in any debates or discussions.

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