Hector Bellerin has revealed he almost left Arsenal on loan before eventually breaking into Arsene Wenger's first-team.
The right-back has been the breakthrough of the season for the Gunners and capped an impressive season with a superb performance against Manchester United on Sunday.
Bellerin, 19, was granted his chance after a defensive crisis left Wenger with little choice. Now he is arguably the club's first choice in the position, but things could have been so different.
Having signed Mathieu Debuchy and Calum Chambers in the summer transfer window, Bellerin's chances at Arsenal looked bleak with another loan deal most likely.
"If someone would have told me that this was a position I would do well in this season, I wouldn't have believed them," he told the club's official website. "I was really close to leaving on loan again and was talking to the coaches about where to go next season but it turned out way differently.
Keeping his place
Debuchy is still considered the first choice of but has been very unfortunate with injury during his debut season at the Emirates.
"I definitely want to remain first choice -- that's what any player wants to do, week-in, week-out, in any position"
First suffering ankle ligament damage in August and then a dislocated shoulder shortly after returning in January, the France international has managed just ten Premier League starts for his new team.
Closing in on a return, Debuchy is expected to return to his place in the starting XI next season, but Bellerin is not ready to give up his place without a fight.
"I definitely want to remain first choice -- that's what any player wants to do, week-in, week-out, in any position," he added.
"Mathieu has shown that he's a great player but he's been really unlucky with injuries. It's going to be a good fight.
"The spirit is really good between us in the dressing room so I think it's really positive that, in every single position, there's loads of top-quality players who need to fight for their spot. The fact that there's a good spirit gets the best out of everyone."
Baptism of fire
Having made his full Champions League debut against Borussia Dortmund in September, Bellerin struggled to cope with the fluent attack of Jurgen Klopp's men.
"I knew that I was going to work hard wherever I was, fight for a spot wherever I was, and that's what I did. I got my chance and I think I took it"
But despite a baptism of fire, Wenger kept the faith in the Spain Under-21 international and he has since proved his worth. Bellerin has plenty of thanks to give to the Arsenal boss.
"There were a few not-so-good performances at the beginning but then I was really happy that the boss gave me the chance to show people what I had in me," he said.
"I think I've been more comfortable in the last few performances -- from the beginning of the year onwards -- and I'm really enjoying my football.
"We're still fighting for the second spot and we're in the FA Cup final. Everything has been a surprise to me and I'm really, really enjoying it. I knew that I was going to work hard wherever I was, fight for a spot wherever I was, and that's what I did. I got my chance and I think I took it."
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