Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta has revealed how undergoing open heart surgery as a toddler shaped his football career.
Footage in the trailer for Amazon Prime’s new documentary about Arsenal shows Arteta, 40, opening up to his players in a team about the life-saving surgery he underwent at the age of two.
Arteta spoke about the moment on BBC Breakfast on Thursday ahead of the release of the All-or-Nothing series.
“I’ve never opened up to anyone like this,” he said.
“I don’t think 90 percent of the boys or staff would know about the problem. But that’s how I felt before that moment, and it wasn’t what I planned.”
A former Arsenal captain, Arteta made 150 appearances for the Gunners between 2011 and 2016, after spending six years at Everton.
Early in his career he spent two years with Scottish Premier League side Rangers before joining Real Sociedad in 2004.
But becoming a professional footballer wasn’t always feasible for the Spaniard, who was told by doctors at a young age that he couldn’t do much sports due to heart problems.
“I was born with a big heart problem that they couldn’t solve until I was two years old because I was so young,” Arteta explained.
“They had to open my heart and go through it. It was one of the first operations in Spain that way, so we don’t know how it will end.
“I’m a very active kid and the doctor told my parents he needs to calm down because he can’t do much exercise because of the problem.”
Arteta’s team talk comes after Arsenal lost their first three Premier League games last season – including a 5-0 thrashing of Manchester City.
Ahead of the Gunners’ next game, at home to upgrade Norwich, a documentary trailer shows Arteta trying to motivate his players by comparing elite sports teams to the high-performance medical team that saved his life.
“They want to work 24/7. They do it for one reason – because they love what they do. That’s their motivation, that’s their purpose,” he said in the trailer.
Arteta was able to pursue his love of football thanks to the medical staff who operated on him 38 years ago, a process he believes has encouraged him to chase his dreams.
“Everything went the normal way and I was able to achieve my dream of being a professional footballer,” he said.
When asked if the experience had shaped him as a young man, he said: “I think it does in a way.
“When I was young, I was told you can’t do that, you can’t expose yourself like that, we can’t take you to the limit of your heart’s capacity.
“I always push myself to the limit.
“My parents gave me a lot of support before they had the courage to look for the best specialists – who always had the courage to push those hurdles further because they knew how important it was to me.”
Arsenal, who finished fifth in the Premier League last season, are the third English team after Manchester City and Tottenham to take part in Amazon Prime’s flying documentary series.