Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has been linked with former club Barcelona in the event that the Catalan giants dispense with current coach Ronald Koeman ahead of next season.
The 2021/22 campaign promises to represent a much-needed new era for Barcelona after a tumultuous few years under the previous regime. While Koeman is a Camp Nou legend from his playing days, there may be little of merit to keep him in a job once the summer comes.
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Should it be Arteta, it would mean a return to his football roots, having spent five years on the books at Barcelona at the beginning of his playing career.
The current Arsenal boss hails from the Basque city of San Sebastian on Spain’s north coast, making Real Sociedad his hometown club. But it was Barcelona that spotted Arteta playing for local youth club Antiguoko and recruited him for La Masia at the age of 15.
The blossoming midfielder progressed from the youth teams to Barcelona C in 1999 at 17 and was quickly promoted to Barcelona B, where he played two seasons in Spain’s second division.
But rather than getting his first-team chance at Barca, Arteta joined Paris Saint-Germain on loan in December 2000 and made his senior debut against AC Milan in the Champions League second group stage two months later, playing 11 times in all competitions by the end of the season.
A 19-year-old Arteta remained at PSG for the 2001/02 season, making 42 appearances across all competitions and was a regular starter when fit. His teammates in Paris at that time included Ronaldinho, Mauricio Pochettino, Jay-Jay Okocha, Nicolas Anelka and Gabriel Heinze.
Rangers gazumped PSG in the transfer market towards the end of the campaign and Barcelona accepted a £6m offer that saw Arteta transfer to Scotland in the summer of 2002.
But after success in Scotland, a return home to San Sebastian to join Real Sociedad in 2004 didn’t work out, losing his starting place only three games into the new season. Everton then offered an escape with a loan offer in January 2005 in a deal that was made permanent for £2m.
Arteta went on to play over 200 games and was crucial as David Moyes transformed the Toffees into regular European qualifiers. Arsenal then paid around £10m for his services in the final week of the 2011 summer transfer window, where he was eventually made captain and retired in 2016.