The news that Nacho Monreal is off to Real Sociedad is a surprise for many after he started all 3 of Arsenal’s Premier League games this season, but there is a clear and obvious explanation in his departure this summer.
Monreal quietly renewed his contract for an extra year earlier this year. There were rumours that it was done, but no announcement, no fanfare.
It was only really confirmed on the last day of the seasons when the club said goodbye to Pete Cech, Aaron Ramsey and Danny Welbeck. Monreal did not get the big goodbye.
There seems to be an agreement between the Spaniard and the Arsenal hierarchy when he signed on for another year.
Arsenal were targeting a new left back, but wanted Monreal to stay on just incase they could not secure their man.
Monreal was happy to stay, but also wanted to play. If a new left back came in he would be 3rd choice, with Sead Kolasinac staying at the club.
So an agreement was struck.
Monreal would sign a new one year deal, but if Arsenal signed a new left back, they would accept any reasonable offers for their loyal servant.
Once Kieran Tierney was signed, time was ticking down on Monreal’s Arsenal career.
At 33, the curtain is clearly coming down on Monreal’s career. But he still wants to play football.
The easy option would have been to stay at Arsenal for another 1 or 2 years, not playing and banking millions. But Monreal is a proper professional.
Signed from Malaga in January 2013 for £8.5m, Monreal quickly became a fan favourite.
A defensive full back in an era of attacking players, did not have the pace of a Gael Clichy. However he was a better defender and put in a better cross.
He saw off the challenge of Kieran Gibbs and has played 250 times for Arsenal.
Even when Kolasinac came in, he never complained. He raised his game, regained his place and even reinvented himself as a central defender on the left of a 4 as Arsenal won the FA Cup.
He returns to Spain knowing that he made the most of his talent. He leaves with his head held high knowing he was heavily involved in 3 FA Cup wins and 250 games.
The fact he agreed to a new deal despite knowing Arsenal were trying to replace him shows his character.
He was willing to sacrifice a move to Spain to help the club out. To delay things for a year just in case Arsenal couldn’t sign a defender. It would have been easier to turn that contract down and move.
I wish him well in Spain in the twilight of his career and he leaves knowing that he has contributed to The Arsenal and is always welcome back.
Nacho, thanks for the memories.