Nacho Monreal has opened up about the footballing journey that has taken him from his hometown club to the Premier League.
The Spain international has assimilated quickly to life in England following his January transfer deadline-day move from Malaga.
His career started at Primera Liga side Osasuna, and the 27-year-old admits he only has fond memories of his time there.
"Being able to wear the colours of Osasuna, knowing your friends support the club and that you play for a team that is so important to everyone you know is just incredible"
“To play for my local club was, at the time, an incredible achievement for me,” Monreal told Arsenal Player. “I felt great responsibility but I was also honoured to play for my local team.
“Being able to wear the colours of Osasuna, knowing your friends support the club and that you play for a team that is so important to everyone you know is just incredible. It was always an honour to wear the Osasuna shirt.”
After five years at Osasuna, Monreal moved on the newly-rich Malaga and enjoyed a superb season at La Rosaleda Stadium.
“I was excited right from the moment I was offered the chance to sign,” he said. “It was a club that had previously been on the same level as Osasuna, in that the season before it was fighting for survival.
“But the club brought in some big names and formed a strong, quality side to reach the Champions League. When, as a footballer, you are given the chance to be part of a side that aspires to reach the top and compete in the biggest competitions and you know the team is making big-name signings, you don’t think twice.
“Thankfully, things went very well and it only took us one year to get into the Champions League. It was a fantastic season for me, especially if you consider that I had spent the previous five years fighting for my team's survival in the first division.
"When you are given the chance to be part of a side that aspires to reach the top and compete in the biggest competitions and you know the team is making big-name signings, you don’t think twice"
“I will never forget that year, it was great - we were always near the top of the table and it culminated in us qualifying for the Champions League in the final game.”
But when Arsenal came calling in January, Monreal had no doubt about making the move to England - even if it came as something of a surprise.
“I was training with Malaga on January 31 and I knew something might happen but I did not think it was anything serious,” he said. “But everything happened so quickly.
“The manager phoned me on the same day and told me Arsenal wanted to sign me and asked if I was interested in playing for them. I told them I was very interested, but everything was so fast I didn't really have time to think.
“One moment I was training with Malaga and the next I was flying to London. The Club has treated me so well and helped me with lots of bits and pieces. I’m grateful to be here, and I’m giving everything I can for the Club.”