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Granit Xhaka rebuffs claims his wife was the reason behind Arsenal exit

Granit Xhaka rebuffs claims his wife was the reason behind Arsenal exit

The 30-year-old insists the move to Bayer Leverkusen was solely for footballing reasons.

Granit Xhaka has denied rumours his wife was the reason he left Arsenal for Bayer Leverkusen this summer.

The 30-year-old midfielder departed the Emirates after racking up close to 300 appearances for the Gunners, joining the Bundesliga outfit, managed by former Liverpool maestro Xabi Alonso, for £21.5million.

The Switzerland international was officially unveiled as a Leverkusen player earlier this week after a seven year stint in North London that was defined largely by controversy, but which ended on a far more positive note.

Notable for his aggressive playing style and frequent ill-discipline, Xhaka was sent off five times during his Arsenal career. His complicated relationship with the Gunners faithful hit an all-time low in 2019 when, after being substituted to a chorus of boos in a draw with Crystal Palace, he appeared to tell the Arsenal fans to “f*** off”.

However, during his final season at the Emirates under Mikel Arteta, he appeared to flourish in a more advanced role than his usual deep-lying midfield position as Arsenal came close to winning their first Premier League title in nearly two decades.

As such, Xhaka, who signed from Borussia Monchengladbach in 2016, left Arsenal having somewhat redeemed himself in the eyes of Gunners fans.

His return to Germany, however, has been the subject of recent speculation that Xhaka’s partner Leonita, with whom he has two daughters, played a crucial role in the move, according to news outlet Sport Bild.

Speaking to Keystone-SDA, Xhaka rebuffed such claims.

"There was speculation everywhere that my wife was no longer happy in England. That is not at all true,” Xhaka said.

"The fact is that as a person I am always interested in new challenges. After seven years, the time has come for something completely new.

"The league is not new, but the club is.

"During the talks with Simon Rolfes [sporting director] and Xabi Alonso, I felt that the long-term project at Leverkusen was worthwhile and that it was 100 per cent in line with me."

Xhaka added that his respect for former boss Arteta, who is on the verge of bringing in Declan Rice for a reported £105million fee, has in no way been affected by his departure.

"[He's] a coach who understands an incredible amount of football,” he said.

"Someone who sees football with completely different eyes.

"I had a great relationship with him.

"Thanks in part to him, we achieved what was missing for years: the Champions League."

Featured Image Credit: Alamy

Topics: Granit Xhaka, Arsenal, Bayer Leverkusen, Mikel Arteta