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Nacho Monreal is Basque, he was born in Pamplona and qualifies to play for Athletic Club Bilbao.
They have a very strict recruitment criteria which means they can only sign players from a limited pool, and given Monreal is one of those there were repeat claims of interest whilst the defender was at Arsenal.
Throughout his time with the Gunners, Athletic rumours were never far away. Ahead of near enough every transfer window there were claims the Basque side would try and find a deal for the then Arsenal man.
It felt like sooner or later the transfer would happen, and then when Monreal did leave the Premier League club… he signed for Athletic’s rivals Real Sociedad.
Their recruitment section doesn’t face the same restrictions, something Athletic fans and officials will often be happy to make clear, but they got the man this time.
At 33 years of age, Monreal was given a contract lasting until 2021 and sounds very happy with his decision.
Asked by Diario Vasco if it’s too early to say if the transfer has been a success, he was very positive: “I have not had the slightest doubt at any time. I’ve been here ten days and the feelings are positive. I have found what I really expected: a team with quality players, who want to play football and with a very clear way of playing, with which I identify.
“I am happy, calm, trying to connect as soon as possible to this new club. I feel that my experience in this world of football is helping me to acclimatise quickly. I want to contribute now.”
Diario Vasco asked Monreal how much he thinks the transfer has hurt Arsenal manager Unai Emery: “That would have to be asked of him. I imagine there’s something because I was playing and he had a lot of confidence in me. Playing in a big club like Arsenal has been a wonderful experience of seven years. I would never have said it was going to be that long. I have been able to meet many people.”
Further quizzed on how intense Emery is, the veteran said: “He’s a great coach. He is a person who lives and loves football. He’s sick with football. He has character, ambition and is a perfectionist.”
That all sounds quite positive for Arsenal’s future.