Mikel Arteta: How long before we see this man wearing the Three Lions?
"Mystical" Mike Norman is full of praise for Everton's versatile and skiful Spanish import Mikel Arteta. Soon he will be eligible to play for England courtsey of FIFA's five-year residency rule, but will he and should he get the call from Mr Capello?
It's the eve of a crucial World Cup qualifier and England are facing a huge crisis on the right-hand side of midfield. David Beckham is on duty at a Milan fashion show, David Bentley has withdrawn from the squad claiming he is too good to play in qualifiers, Theo Walcott is suffering from burnout, and Shaun Wright-Phillips is attending samba classes with his Manchester City team-mates Elano, Jo and Robinho.
Despite the rumours, Fabio Capello has decided against calling-up former Manchester United pin-up Luke Chadwick, who is reported to be in scintillating form for the MK Dons. Instead, the shrewd Italian gives Everton's (and Spain's) Mikel Arteta a call and tells him he is in England's starting line-up.
Confused? Well don't be. Under FIFA's five-year residency rule, the Spanish-born Arteta may soon become eligible to play for England. Forget gentleman's agreements and bloodlines (the ruling that currently prevents Spaniard Nacho Novo from playing for Scotland), if Capello wants Arteta, then you can bet your life he will get him.
Mikel Arteta first came to prominence on these shores during Rangers' treble winning season of 2002/03. Signed for £6m, he quickly established himself as a key member of the Scottish club's midfield and became a huge favourite with the Ibrox crowd. His commitment and no nonsense tackling were just a few attributes that singled Arteta out as a midfielder very much in the mould of a typical British style player. However, his second season at Rangers didn't go anywhere near as well. Injuries and a loss of form threatened to derail the young Spaniard's progress and he was eventually sold on to Real Sociedad.
In January 2005 Arteta was back in the UK, this time on loan at Everton where he would quickly become a vital member of the team, helping the club qualify for the Champions League. In July 2005 manager David Moyes paid just £2m to sign Arteta permanently, an astronomical bargain with the benefit of hindsight.
Much of Arteta's time is now spent playing on the wing at Everton, and as a result he is a completely different player to the one that was at Rangers. His experience of playing in the centre of midfield has taught him how to tackle, and also when to expect a tackle. It's because of his excellent anticipation, his close control and his slick dribbling ability that he can beat players with ease. His high energy, all action style of play makes him a constant threat to full-backs, and as such he has become one of the most fouled players in the Premiership.
But Arteta isn't just a defensive midfielder turned winger. His splendid range of passing makes him on of the most effective players in the league when it comes to assists and he is also high on the list of top free-kick takers in the Premiership - maybe not as good as the Ronaldos and Beckhams of this world - but certainly not a million miles behind. He is a player I rate highly, and though Everton fans won't thank me for saying it, he is a player who wouldn't look out of place playing for one of the big four clubs.
Mikel Arteta has been voted Everton's Player of the Season for the last two years, and the calls for him to be named in an England squad come no louder than they do from Goodison Park. He is an excellent winger, a good midfielder, determined and hard working, skillful and effective - in fact, if he was English, he would almost certainly be into double figures now in terms of being capped for his country. But should he play for England?
My own view on it is that no he shouldn't play for England simply because it will open a whole new can of worms as to who can play for who, and when and why they become eligible. England already has a foreign manager, let's not go down the road of capping foreign players also.
But it's not important what I think - please tell me what you think. Should Arteta play for England? How will Everton fare in this season's FA Cup (they are [26.0] to win it) and will they finish in the top six of the Premiership ([4.5] to do so)? If not, where will they finish? In the Finishing Positions (line) market, you can Sell Everton at [8.5] or Buy them at [10.7], indicating that the Betfair punters think the Toffees will finish somewhere around mid-table. I'd love to know your thoughts.
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