Granit Xhaka says his “suitcases were packed” until Mikel Arteta convinced him to stay at Arsenal shortly after being named Gunners boss.
The midfielder’s days at the club appeared to be over after he was mocked by his own supporters when he was replaced by Unai Emery against Crystal Palace in October 2019.
He then annoyed them further by waving angrily and cupping his ear sarcastically before removing his shirt and rushing into the tunnel at Emirates Stadium.
Captain of the Gunners at the time, it looked like the writing was on the wall for the Swiss star until Arteta came on to replace Emery as head coach.
Speaking to the BBC, the 29-year-old admits he was ready to leave the North London club until Arteta spoke to him and convinced him to stay.
Xhaka said: “He (Arteta) is the reason I’m still at this football club. The whole club knows why I’m still here because three years ago I left.
“My suitcases were ready and finished, but I had an appointment with Mikel when he came. He wanted to hear my opinion on what had happened and I explained to him.
“I remember exactly. I said to him: ‘It has nothing to do with you’, because I didn’t know him and I never played with him. Obviously I knew his name, but not the person and I said: ‘I left, I can no longer wear the shirt’.
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“He said, ‘Give me a chance for six months and if you’re still not happy after six months, I’m the one who will help you, not run away, but you can leave.
“I haven’t spoken with my family, with anyone, and normally I don’t do that. But I said, ‘OK Mikel, I’ll stay for you’, and I’m still here.
When asked if he had changed since that day against Palace, he replied: “A better person? I don’t know, because I think I’ve always been a good person, but… different.
“Different because a lot of people ask me, ‘Was last season the best, Granit, since you’ve been here?’
“But I never had any problems at this club, neither with the team-mates, nor with the people in the building, it was only this moment with the Palace game.
“Everything else was fine with the club. But people only see the moment and they were disappointed and they forgot the other five years.
“But that’s part of the business. People don’t see the rest, they just see the moment, and they give you a number, good or bad.
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