The Everton midfielder has lived in England for five years now, after moving to Merseyside from Real Sociedad in 2005, and, because the twenty-eight-year-old is yet to feature for the Spanish senior side, could now play alongside Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Gareth Barry.
Manuel Almunia was denied the chance to play for England by Fabio Capello this time last year, and now it looks as though another case has arisen. Spanish-born Mikel Arteta has played for Spain at youth level forty-two times but, under FIFA’s residency rule, is allowed to play for Capello’s side.
England captain, Gerrard, has waded into the debate after telling TalkSport that he would “love nothing better than to see Mikel Arteta available for England”. The two players may play for two teams that are bitter rivals at club level but Gerrard stated that “you want to play with the best players, and if it makes the England squad better, of course I’d like to see it.”
Gerrard did add “Fabio Capello is the man to answer the question because he’s the manager”. The news comes just days after the Italian announced to the world that thirty-five-year-old David Beckham would be “too old” to play for England at the EURO 2012 championships.
Arteta would be a massive asset to England; that goes without saying. His technique on the ball is something that many of the current English central midfielders lack, while the ability to retain the ball and be comfortable in possession, something which England definitely lacked in the World Cup and something that world champions Spain definitely had, is a fabulous prospect. After the recent 2-1 friendly win over Hungary England fans were filled with a cautious optimism; England looked good but the performance was hardly breathtaking.
After England crashed out in the World Cup to a decent Germany side many were calling for more passion and more pride in the England set-up. The fact that another nation’s cast-off, albeit a very talented one, is being linked with England may not be appealing to some. The fact of the matter is, though, that Arteta is a great player. If Spain weren’t so unbelievable impressive in the central-midfield position, with Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas and Sergio Busquets all occupying that role, then Arteta would surely have a part to play in the set-up. He might not be technically English but if he wants to represent this country and he wants to put on the England shirt, then he’s got as much passion as anyone in the England side.
It’s not as if adopting a new nationality is a new idea. Marcos Senna was the mastermind behind Spain’s victorious 2008 European Championships, even though the holding midfielder is from Brazil. Former Chelsea midfielder Deco starred for Portugal on many occasions but is also actually Brazilian. England also have a foreign manager, which was well-documented when England came crashing out of the World Cup but it wasn’t even considered a problem when the side cruised through the qualifying group for South Africa.
The English cricket side has, for a long time, fielded many South Africans which has, no doubt, increased the quality of the side massively. Capello is bound to receive criticism if he decides to call up Arteta, especially from the traditionalists. Although Arteta is a great talent, he plays in a position that is slightly over-populated already. As well as the Gerrard-Barry-Lampard combination England also have the talents of such players as Joe Cole, Tom Huddlestone, Michael Carrick and James Milner. Arteta would be another option, though, and his natural ability on the ball can only be of benefit to England if the Spaniard does decide to make himself available for the England set-up.
The fact that England might even consider calling up a player from foreign lands really does say something about the state of the national game. A great side like Spain don’t want Premier League players such as Arteta and Almunia, whereas England would do anything to produce players with these sorts of talents.