Mikel Arteta praised his “inspirational” former team-mate Mauricio Pochettino ahead of Arsenal’s fixture against Chelsea tomorrow evening.
Arsenal manager Arteta and Chelsea manager Pochettino played together during the pairs’ time at Paris Saint-Germain over 20 years ago during Arteta’s loan spell with the French club.
Ahead of their first meeting as managers on Saturday at Stamford Bridge, Arteta, who was a 19-year-old youngster on loan from Barcelona when he lined up alongside the then-29-year-old Pochetinno, thanked the Argentine for giving him confidence during their time at the French club.
“I went from playing in Ligue 1 to Champions League a week later in Milan,” the 41-year-old said. “I was all over the place. I could not speak the language, it was my first professional club, and I needed someone to be close to me, to give me confidence, give me support. He was always giving me advice, giving me confidence, coaching me, and talking to me.
“He was really really inspirational. Really supportive. I was in a hotel with him for two or three months. That period was key in my career to be able to make it. I don’t think that, without him, I would have had the time that I had in Paris and the start of my professional career.”
Pochettino spoke of the “amazing memories” that he shared with Arteta saying: “When you connect with a person like him, we share the same values and the same passion for football. I can tell you he is part of my family. From day one when he arrived at Paris (PSG), we arrived together, we spent time together, with our families also. In the first few months we were in the (same) hotel and then we lived very close (together).
“For me it is not surprising what he is doing because he was a coach already at 17, when I (first) knew him. Trust me he was really, really good, you know the judgement, obviously (his knowledge of) the football. It is not surprising me that he is great, but he is still very young and improving day by day. He can be one of the greatest managers in the world.
“It is going to be really nice (on Saturday) because my love for him is there. It’s more than friends, it’s family. That’s why it is going to be strange. But all the coaches are very competitive when you go to play (a match). We want to win and destroy the opponent. It will be strange but at some point I am going to feel proud to see him.”
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