"I would get injured if I tried Ronaldinho's skills!" - Arsenal star Mikel Arteta
By Peter Fraser - Follow me on Twitter @SkySportsPeteF. Last Updated: March 21, 2013 1:05pm
Mikel Arteta is one of the best passing midfielders in the Premier League but it could have been very different for the Arsenal star.
- Since his debut for Arsenal, Arteta has made more passes than any other player in the Premier League (4344)
- Arteta has also completed more passes than any other player (3977), maintaining a completion rate of 92%
- During his spell at the club, Arsenal have won 61% of games with Arteta playing and just 20% without him
The Spaniard might have been making a living from tennis if he had not decided to pursue football but he has no regrets.
Arteta has learned from some of the best, having spent his early years at Barcelona with the likes of Xavi and Andres Iniesta, where he looked up to a still-playing Pep Guardiola.
Paris Saint Germain, who had rising Brazilian ace Ronaldino in their squad, then tempted a 17-year-old Arteta to France in 2001 before a successful spell with Rangers in the Scottish Premier League, where he famously helped win the 2002/03 title on goal difference with almost the last kick of the match.
A return to Spain followed with Real Sociedad prior to a move back to Britain with Everton, who then sold him to Arsenal in the summer of 2011 in a £10million.
Here, Arteta reflects on an eventful career and reveals the moment he knew he could make it as a professional footballer.
Who was your favourite player when you were growing up?
Pep Guardiola. Not only because he was a terrific player. He was also a big leader and the main personality on the pitch for Barcelona football club.
Can you describe the best goal you have scored?
I do not know if it was the best but I was 19 or 20 years old and I was playing for Rangers. It was the last game of the season and the 93rd minute and I think we were 5-1 up. We had the same points and same goal difference as Celtic but had a penalty and I wanted to take it. We had big players at that time, like Ronald de Boer. I scored and we won the league. It was a special goal.
Who is the most naturally gifted player you have played against or with?
Ronaldinho, without a doubt. Some of the things he was able to do with the ball, if I tried, I would get injured!
Were you good at other sports?
I was quite good at tennis when I was young. I had to decide whether I would be a professional footballer or a professional tennis player. It was a tough decision, because I really liked tennis. But it can be very lonely when it is only about you
When did you know you had made it as a footballer?
When I was 15 and Barcelona came to me. They explained how they wanted to develop me as a footballer. After a while they put me in the same group as the likes of Xavi and Iniesta who at that moment were on the up for Barcelona. That, for me, was a big compliment.