Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has revealed how open-heart surgery as a toddler shaped his football career.
Footage from the trailer for Amazon Prime’s new Arsenal documentary shows Arteta, 40, opening up to his players in a squad talking about life-saving surgery as a two-year-old.
Arteta spoke about the moment on BBC Breakfast ahead of the launch of the All or Nothing series on Thursday.
“I’ve never opened up to anyone like that,” she said.
“I think 90% of the boys or the staff wouldn’t know about it. But that’s how I felt just before that moment, it wasn’t anything I planned.”
Former Arsenal captain Arteta made 150 appearances for the Gunners between 2011 and 2016, having spent six years at Everton before that.
Earlier in his playing career, he played for Scottish Premiership side Rangers for two years before moving to Real Sociedad in 2004.
But becoming a professional footballer was not always the focus of the Spaniard, who was told by doctors at a young age that he would not be able to do much exercise due to his heart condition.
“I was born with a big heart problem that they couldn’t fix until I was two because I was too young,” Arteta explained.
“They had to open my heart and go through it. It was one of the first surgeries done this way in Spain, so we didn’t know how it would turn out.
“I was a very lively child, the doctor was telling my father and mother that he needs to calm down, that he won’t be able to do much exercise with this problem.”
The talk of Arteta’s side came after Arsenal had lost their first three Premier League games last season – a run that included a 5-0 drubbing by Manchester City.
Ahead of the Gunners’ next game, at home to promoted Norwich, the documentary’s teaser shows Arteta trying to inspire his players by comparing top sporting teams to the high-performance medical teams that saved his life.
“They’re willing to work 24/7. They do it for one reason only – because they love what they do. That’s their drive, that’s their purpose,” he is heard saying in the trailer.
Arteta was able to pursue his love of football thanks to the medical staff who performed his operation 38 years ago and believes the procedure encouraged him to pursue his dreams.
“Everything developed in a normal way and I managed to fulfill my dream of becoming a professional footballer,” he said.
Asked if the experience shaped him as a youngster, he said: “I think it kind of did.
“When I was younger, I was told you can’t do this, you can’t expose yourself so much, we can’t push you to the limit of your heart’s capacity.
“I always pushed myself to the limit.
“The support from my parents was great and then they had the courage to look for the best specialist possible – and those specialists always had the courage to push those barriers a little further because they could see how important it was to me” .
Arsenal, who finished fifth in the Premier League last season, are the third English club to feature in Amazon Prime’s fly-on-the-wall documentary series, following Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur.