Arsenal right-back Hector Bellerin has revealed he "was close to leaving" the Emirates Stadium during the 2014 summer transfer window before establishing himself in the first team.
The 20-year-old followed the footsteps of Cesc Fabregas in summer 2011 when he left the prolific Barcelona youth system to move to the north London academy.
He has since worked his way through Arsenal's ranks, becoming one of the sensations of the current campaign after making 25 first-team appearances since his debut against Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League earlier in the season.
But Bellerin has revealed things could have been different after manager Arsene Wenger bolstered the right-back role in 2014 with the signings of Mathieu Debuchy from Newcastle United and Calum Chambers from Southampton.
"I was really close to leaving on loan again and was talking to the coaches about where to go next season, but it turned out way differently. I knew that I was going to work hard wherever I was, fight for a spot wherever I was, and that's what I did. I got my chance and I think I took it," Bellerin revealed.
"If someone would have told me that this was a position I would do well in this season, I wouldn't have believed them. We're still fighting for the second spot and we're in the FA Cup final. Everything has been a surprise to me and I'm really, really enjoying it.
"There were a few not so good performances at the beginning but then I was really happy that the boss gave me the chance to show people what I had in me. I think I've been more comfortable in the last few performances – from the beginning of the year onwards – and I'm really enjoying my football."
Following the departures of Bacary Sagna to Manchester City and Carl Jenkinson's loan move to West Ham United during the summer of 2014, Bellerin has taken advantage of Debuchy's injuries during the season to become the starting right-back.
And even though the experienced France international is ready to return, Bellerin says he is ready to compete with him to remain in the starting line-up.
"I definitely want to remain first choice, that's what any player wants to do, week in, week out in any position," he said. "Mathieu has shown that he's a great player but he's been really unlucky with injuries. It's going to be a good fight.
"The spirit is really good between us in the dressing room, so I think it's really positive that in every single position there's loads of top-quality players who need to fight for their spot. The fact that there's a good spirit gets the best out of everyone."