By Joe Brewin

Mikel Arteta has spent much of the past five months making new friends at a new club - but his best mate in football is back in Spain.

The Arsenal midfielder grew up with Xabi Alonso in the Basque region of Spain’s San Sebastian, before the duo headed their separate ways to Barcelona and Real Sociedad respectively.

Arteta admits that Alonso is partly responsible for him taking the Premier League plunge when he left Rangers for Everton in 2005. However, despite living so close for so much of their lives, the Spaniards have never shared a professional team.

“We used to live five minutes away from each other and play at the same clubs when we were young,” Arteta told

“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 [Alonso].”

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5 Jan 2012