Injuries never come at a good time for a footballer, but Everton midfielder Mikel Arteta has revealed the serious knee injury he suffered last February came at the worst possible time.
The former Rangers and Real Sociedad man told the local press in Liverpool that he had been told he was set for a first call-up to the Spanish national side for the friendly with England, just days before he crumpled to the St James’ Park turf in agony. A scan revealed a cruciate knee ligament injury, instantly ruling him out for six months, once again dashing his international ambitions.
Prior to his agony on Tyneside Arteta was in the form of his life. A switch from right midfield to the centre of the park allowed his creative instinct to flourish. Skilful and inventive yet strong and determined, Arteta is the heartbeat of his Everton side, providing assists from open play as well as from set pieces, where he is also a goal threat from direct free-kicks.
Arteta’s form has seen him pick up a string of personal awards on Merseyside. The 2005–06 season saw him pick up both the Everton Fans’ Player of the Season and the Players’ Player of the Season awards. The following year he was awarded the Player of the Season Award again and was also voted the Premier League’s ‘Midfielder of the Year’ by the readers of Sky Sports, beating a certain Cristiano Ronaldo. He was also ranked by the ACTIM Index as the sixth best player in the Premier League. The following season Arteta picked up North West Footballer of the Year award and then became the first Everton player in five years to receive the Liverpool Echo’s Sports Personality of the Year award in January 2008. But despite these honours the one Arteta craves, an international cap, has eluded him.
Evertonians were converted a long time ago and have frequently called for Arteta to be recognised by his national side. They even started a campaign for Arteta to play for Fabio Capello’s England squad when he is eligible for English citizenship next year. Arteta, while flattered, has committed himself to his country of birth but he has constantly been overlooked.
To be fair it isn’t as if Spain have suffered in Arteta’s absence. They are European Champions, number one in the world and contain arguably two of the world’s greatest midfielders and certainly one of the best midfield partnerships in Xavi and Iniesta. With those two in front of him it is no surprise Arteta hasn’t had a look in.
But Arteta’s versatility could give him an edge. He can play right across the midfield and is comfortable with both feet, always a useful type of player to have on the bench. His time in the Premier League has also given him a tougher edge – he was the most fouled player in the Premier League last season.
If the rumours are true and Arteta was on the brink of a call-up it makes his injury particularly cruel, especially as he missed a Cup final with his club side to boot. But if he makes a full recovery and returns to his best form, will he earn a call up in time for a certain tournament in South Africa next summer? Football betting on that one may be interesting!