Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta bid farewell to a “fantastic player and person” as Granit Xhaka left the club for Bayer Leverkusen.
The 30-year-old made the move to the Bundesliga side after a seven-year stint in north London that saw him win the FA Cup twice but also be stripped of the club captaincy.
Xhaka has signed a five-year deal with Leverkusen and the PA news agency understands the deal is worth €25million to the Gunners.
During a topsy-turvy Arsenal career, the Switzerland international was also stripped of the armband by Unai Emery after swearing at supporters as his substitution in a game against Crystal Palace was cheered.
He had decided to leave the club before Arteta was appointed but was convinced to stay and played all-but one Premier League game last season, scoring seven goals from midfield, including two on the final day of the campaign.
Speaking about Xhaka, Arteta enthused about the midfielder, saying: “We are saying goodbye to a fantastic player and person loved by all of us.
“It has been an incredible journey together for him and he has given absolutely everything for this club. The influence Granit has had on his team-mates on the pitch and colleagues at the club, will tell you just how popular he is.
“We cannot thank Granit enough for his service and contribution to this club over the years. We wish Granit and his family all the best in the next step of their lives.”
Xhaka himself is now ready for the start of the next leg of his career, returning to the Bundesliga where he represented Borussia Monchengladbach before joining Arsenal in 2016.
“I know the league inside out and I watched it when I was in London,” he told Leverkusen’s official website.
“Bayer 04 is a club with an impressive history and ambitious targets. Above all, I see it as a club with a great future. Discussions with the management have been incredibly motivating. Everybody here is ambitious and wants to achieve something – I’m very much looking forward to the next few years.”
While Xhaka leaves Arsenal after helping them to finish second in the Premier League last season, winger Reiss Nelson has committed his future to the club by signing a new deal.
The 23-year-old insisted he did not want to miss Arsenal going to the “next level” as he signed a four-year deal, with a one-year option.
Nelson came through ranks with the Gunners but his previous contract had expired having made eight substitute league appearances, scoring a memorable last-gasp goal that saw Arsenal come from two down to beat Bournemouth 3-2.
Arteta’s side ultimately fell short in their title bid as Manchester City pipped them to the crown, but Nelson saw enough to believe there is more to come.
“I’m kind of lost for words, if I’m honest,” Nelson told the club’s official website upon signing his deal.
Mikel Arteta and Reiss Nelson will continue to work together at Arsenal (Mark Kerton/PA)
“I’ve been here since I was eight, I’m 23 now. It’s been a hell of a journey, and I’m just so happy. I’ve been here the good years and bad years, and last year especially.
“I’ve seen the rise that Arsenal have taken. Taking them to new heights and I feel like I want to be part of the journey.
“I want to be part of us going to the next level, which I think the boss, Edu, the backroom staff and the new players and the current players are making.
“So it was a train I really didn’t want to miss and I want to be here for it, so I’m glad that I made the right decision.”
On a busy day for Arsenal, the club also announced Steve Round had left his position on the backroom staff.
Steve Round, centre, has left his position as assistant coach to Mikel Arteta (Martin Rickett/PA)
Round was appointed as an assistant to Arteta when the Spaniard first took the reins in December 2019 having previously filled similar roles at Everton and Manchester United.
Technical director Edu informed staff on Thursday, with Round’s exit a mutual agreement with the club.
Arteta and Edu are currently plotting for Arsenal to go one better than last season, with movement in the transfer market well under way.
Kai Havertz has already joined from Chelsea while a club-record fee has been agreed with West Ham for Declan Rice, who will undergo a medical on Friday.
Ajax full-back Jurrien Timber is the next who could come through the door as Arsenal prepare for a club-record transfer window outlay.