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Jan 6, 2012

Arteta pondered England option

Arsenal's Spanish midfielder Mikel Arteta has revealed he wanted to play for Fabio Capello's England but was thwarted by a little known FIFA rule.

Arteta, who hails from the city of San Sebastian in the Basque region, has played in England since joining Everton in 2005 and could have turned out for the national side at Euro 2012.

Having not previously represented Spain at senior level, the 29-year-old had hoped to qualify for England after completing five years residency in the United Kingdom. However, because Arteta has played for Spain at junior level, he would also have had to have held a British passport when he was approached in order to be eligible.

"If it was any other country I would have had to say no, but because it was that one [England] I said I would have to think about it,'' Arteta told Arsenal's official website.

"England has been really good to me professionally and personally. In the end I didn't have to make a decision because I wasn't allowed to play because of FIFA rules.

"At least it was nice to know that Fabio Capello and his staff were thinking about bringing me into the national team. I feel English in some ways because I have spent the biggest part of my career here.

"Obviously I know how English people think, what they do, the culture - I know everything. I have to adapt to that so I am living life like an English person.

"It's funny - I look at my child and hear her talk English. It's amazing.''

Arteta has been an impressive performer in the Premier League since moving from hometown club Real Sociedad in 2005.

The Spaniard's rise to prominence surprised many but not childhood friend Xabi Alonso, who helped sway his decision to move to Goodison Park - despite then playing for bitter rivals Liverpool.

"We used to live five minutes away from each other and play at the same clubs when we were young,'' Arteta said of the Real Madrid midfielder.

"We had a good relationship but then I went to Barcelona and he stayed. Then suddenly, five years later he went to Liverpool and I went to Everton and we lived next door to each other.

"It was crazy but that's what football brings you sometimes. You never know where you are going to end up.

"Obviously I spoke to him and he said Liverpool was a really nice city to live in, that the fans were unbelievable, there was a big rivalry between the two clubs and it was a good experience.

"I didn't have any doubts about moving there and that was partly thanks to him.''

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