Incoming Barcelona midfielder Arthur has revealed his sadness over not getting the chance to play alongside Andres Iniesta, after the Camp Nou favourite announced this season would be his final campaign for the club last week.
The 21-year-old, who is expected to leave Gremio for Catalonia during next year’s winter transfer window; with the Brazilian season running by calendar year and Barca already filling their three-man quota of non-European players, has been tipped as a potential long-term replacement for the soon-to-depart 33-year-old.
However, while speaking to SPORT, the youngster, who was not even born when the former Spain international initially joined Blaugrana, admitted he has developed his talents by idolising Iniesta, and revealed his sadness that he would not get the chance to feature alongside one of the game’s greats.
“I’m sad,” Arthur admitted. “I started to learn football in a new way, watching Iniesta play with Barca. He was an example to follow for me, someone that from a distance, has become a reference point.
“On the other hand, we have to see that he leaves Barca with his head held high, having brought so many titles to the club. His career has been impressive; I hope everything goes well for him in China.
“That’s why I’m so sad,” the young Brazilian added when asked about not being able to star with his idol. “I hoped to be able to share a dressing room with him. It was a dream to be in the same team, but if God wants, we will meet at a later date, playing or not, and I can give him a hug.”
With Iniesta’s departure imminent, and Andre Gomes’ future uncertain, Ernesto Valverde will need to strengthen his midfield this summer to mount any serious attempt in retaining this season’s double.
It has been suggested that Arthur could indeed join Barcelona this summer, although, with Philippe Coutinho’s nationalisation still in the early stages, it is unlikely the Spanish champions will take the 21-year-old away from Brazil just yet.