Arsenal's first summer signing Granit Xhaka has revealed that the Gunners were keeping tabs on him for over a year and made it clear that Arsene Wenger played a major part in him choosing to move to north London ahead of other interested clubs. The Swiss midfielder's arrival from Borussia Monchengladbach was confirmed by the club on Wednesday (24 May) after he agreed a long-term contract for an undisclosed fee.
The Gunners' boss was keen to complete the deal ahead of the upcoming European championship finals in France after making strengthening his midfield a priority following the departures of Tomas Rosicky, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini following the expiry of their contracts. Xhaka will compete for a place in a deep lying midfielder role against Jack Wilshere, Santi Cazorla, Francis Coquelin, Aaron Ramsey and Mohamed Elneny.
The Switzerland international, who was the captain of Monchengladbach, has admitted that his first conversation with Wenger took place over a year ago. He has also been compared to a 'young Bastian Schweinsteiger' by former manager Ottmar Hitzfeld, but he is keen to forge his own identity despite admitting that it is an honour to be compared to the German midfielder.
"I was almost speechless when he called. Arsène is a legend for me. I often had him as a manager on the PlayStation. He's a gentleman, full stop," Xhaka said, as quoted by the London Evening Standard.
The 23-year-old midfielder's arrival was confirmed by the club on Wednesday but his imminent arrival was revealed after pictures of his photo shoot were leaked online on Saturday (21 May) and Xhaka has admitted that it was hard not to reveal his impending arrival to the media while still being on tour with his former employers.
"It was a very difficult week for me. I found myself on tour with Gladbach in Switzerland and had to keep a muzzle on myself, even though that's not something I like to do," he explained.