London (AFP) – Spanish midfielder Mikel Arteta, whose contract with Arsenal is due to expire, has announced his intention to retire from playing and move into coaching.
The 34-year-old said he was “99 percent” certain to hang up his boots after turning out for Arsenal for the last time in their 4-0 win over Aston Villa on the final day of the Premier League season on Sunday.
Arteta burst into tears when the full-time whistle was blown before explaining why.
“It was unbelievable because the last few months have been really difficult and I have been through a difficult position as well with my role in the team,” the Spaniard said.
“To have the opportunity to say goodbye and 99 per cent to say goodbye to the sport that I love is very hard, but my taste of it can’t get better than today.
“A big thank you to everybody.”
Arteta, who joined Arsenal in 2011 following a successful spell with Everton, won two FA Cups and two Community Shields with Arsene Wenger’s side and insists he knew it was time to call time on his playing days with the Gunners.
“It is very hard to stop but I wanted to leave it… I wanted to decide and I thought for the last few months I wasn’t good enough to represent this club on the pitch,” he said.
Arteta confirmed he has three “very different” options on the table, with reports linking him with roles at Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur, and he said there was a chance he could stay at Arsenal in a backroom capacity.
“It is very unusual to have opportunities at this level. As well, that made me think it was probably time (to retire) and the way I have been watching football in the last few months — or probably over a year — it was not as a player, it was more as a coach. Then you have to think about it,” said Arteta, who started at Barcelona before moving to Rangers and then Real Sociedad.
“I have been left the door very open (at Arsenal) and I may have to make a decision. I don’t want to say clubs but I have three very different options and I am very proud because it is not common.”