Arsenal midfielder Mathieu Flamini feels he owes former club AC Milan for helping him to improve as a player.
Gunners boss Arsene Wenger raised eyebrows when he brought Flamini, 29, back to the club on a free transfer in the summer, with the Frenchman turning down a new contract offer during his first spell in North London.
However, the ex-Marseille man has proved his doubters wrong, turning in some impressive displays for Arsenal this season.
Flamini, though, feels indebted to Milan, where he spent five years after first leaving the Gunners in 2008, for the way his game has come on in recent campaigns.
“Having spent five years at Milan I have learned so much,” Flamini told UEFA.com. “Most of all I learned a lot tactically, because it’s true that you learn a lot about this aspect of the game in Italy. I matured a lot personally as well.
“I’m 29 years old now and during five years at Milan I met a lot of players and many new people. I have learned so much. I feel a lot more mature and now I am much more experienced than when I was only 24.”
Flamini returned from his three-game suspension on Sunday to help Arsenal progress into the FA Cup quarterfinals with the 2-1 victory over Liverpool.
The Gunners’ next game sees Bayern Munich come to the Emirates Stadium for Wednesday's Champions League last-16 first leg.
But despite crashing out to the eventual winners at the same stage of the competition last season, Flamini is confident his side can make the last eight this time around.
"At this level there are only big teams left," Flamini said. "I remember when I was playing for Arsenal before and we reached the Champions League final against Barcelona [in 2006], we also faced big teams like [Real] Madrid and Juventus. If you want to win it, you must face all the big teams."