Former Arsenal midfielder Granit Xhaka has opened up on why he decided to end his stay with the Gunners and also denied rumours that his wife was unhappy in London.
Granit Xhaka completed his proposed move back to Germany with Bayer Leverkusen on Thursday in a deal worth €25 million, ending his seven-year stay with Arsenal.
The Switzerland captain joined Arsenal in 2016 from Borussia Monchengladbach and was briefly captain in 2019. He had a year left on his contract but was expected to leave the club this summer.
Speaking in an interview with Swiss media, the 30-year-old insisted it was the new challenge, rather than any family input, which prompted his decision.
“There was speculation everywhere that my wife was no longer happy in England. 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.”
Granit Xhaka’s move to Leverkusen marks the highest fee a Premier League club has ever received for a midfielder in their thirties, surpassing the previous record set by Arsenal’s deal for Jorginho from Chelsea in January for £10m + £2m.
The Swiss also said he joined Bayer Leverkusen because he is convinced with their project.
“This club has a big name in Germany and Europe,’ Xhaka said. “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.”
Granit Xhaka praised Mikel Arteta for Arsenal’s impressive campaign during the 2022-23 season.
Arsenal came close to winning the Premier League title, but injuries to key players derailed the young side who finished second with 84 points, five behind eventual champions Manchester City. Even though they didn’t win any silverware, the Gunners qualified for the UEFA Champions League for the first time since the 2016-17 season.
“He’s a coach I respect immensely,” Xhaka said of 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 scored 23 goals in 297 appearances for the Gunners, helping them win the FA Cup twice and finish runners-up in the Premier League last season.