£21.5m star quashes ‘not true’ speculation over reason for Arsenal exit after ‘seven wonderful years’

Jason Soutar
Arsenal midfielder Granit Xhaka applauds the fans after a match.
Granit Xhaka applauds the Arsenal fans after a match.

Switzerland captain Granit Xhaka insists his family did not convince him to leave Arsenal for German club Bayer Leverkusen.

The Bundesliga outfit this week completed the £21.5million signing of Xhaka, ending a seven-year stint in the English capital.

The Swiss midfielder’s time at Arsenal was full of ups and downs, but he leaves the club on very good terms having established himself as a leader in a young dressing room while performing much better on the pitch in a new box-to-box role.

Many have wondered why Mikel Arteta would let Xhaka leave after such an impressive season, but the arrivals of Declan Rice (to be confirmed) and Kai Havertz will likely see the Switzerland captain’s minutes reduced.

OPINION: Xhaka leaves Arsenal at the right time after unlikely Arteta revival makes him an Emirates hero

Discussing his Gunners exit, Xhaka said he gets “goosebumps” thinking about his seven years at the club.

“There are a lot of positive memories,” he told Keystone-SDA. “Personally, I and my family spent seven wonderful years in London.

“I’ve never played for a foreign club for so long. My graduation here, my last game, all the news – wow, that gives me goosebumps.”

Xhaka’s relationship with the fans is now at an all-time high, but it once seemed unrepairable.

On those difficult times, especially after losing the captaincy following an altercation with the Emirates faithful during a Premier League match against Crystal Palace in October 2019, Xhaka said: “There are always tough periods. Every day was demanding. It’s just part of the business, you have to be able to endure it.”

Arteta convinced Xhaka to stay at the club when he took over in December 2019, and their relationship has only improved.

“He’s a coach I respect immensely,” Xhaka said on Arteta.

“A coach who understands an incredible amount of football. Someone who sees football with completely different eyes.

“I had a great relationship with him. Thanks in part to him, we achieved what was missing for years: the Champions League.”

Xhaka was eager to quash reports that he returned to Germany – where he played for Borussia Monchengladbach for four years – because of his family.

“There was speculation everywhere that my wife was no longer happy in England,” he explained. “That is not at all true. The fact is that as a person I am always interested in new challenges.

“After seven years, the time has come for something completely new. The league is not new, but the club is.

“During the talks with Simon Rolfes [sporting director] and Xabi Alonso, I felt that the long-term project at Leverkusen was worthwhile and that it was 100% in line with me.”

Xhaka continued: “This club has a big name in Germany and Europe. I’m convinced by the idea, I’m convinced by how the club is run.

“Good players have always played here. I like peace and order.

“With Alonso, there’s a manager who is responsible who represents and implements exactly these values. It stands for good and reasonable work. And of course: the length of the contract gives me security – I’m not someone who likes to play poker.”

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