Granit Xhaka has confirmed he nearly left Arsenal last summer before holding talks with Mikel Arteta.Throughout his time at the Emirates, Xhaka has been a divisive figure and has had a strained relationship with the fans for much of his six years in north London.
That was most visible in 2019 when he was jeered off against Crystal Palace, responded by cupping his ear to the home fans and he was stripped of the captaincy shortly afterwards. Many saw that as the beginning of the end of his Arsenal career, but Xhaka has gone someway to improving relations.
The midfielder was also linked with a move away last summer, as Jose Mourinho pushed to bring him to Roma. Xhaka revealed he was “very close” to leaving the club, but was persuaded to stay despite having options elsewhere.
“Mikel was the guy with [technical director] Edu, they didn’t let me go because they wanted to keep me here,” Xhaka told ESPN
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.”
Xhaka’s current contract runs through to 2024, while Arsenal continue to be linked with a number of midfielders including Youri Tielemans as the club look to continue their summer business.
However, Arteta has huge faith in Xhaka and the Swiss international insists there is no reason why he can’t continue to play for the club for years to come.
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.’”