Cape Town - Arsenal midfielder Mikel Arteta has confirmed that he will be retiring from professional football, with the Spaniard set to enter into coaching.
Arteta's current deal with the Gunners expires at the end of the season, and he will not be offered a new contract. With this in mind, and having struggled through an injury-plagued season, the 34-year-old has decided to call time on his career.
"It is very hard to stop but I wanted to leave it. I wanted to decide, and I thought for the last few months that I wasn't good enough to represent this club on the pitch," the midfielder, who broke down in tears after the final whistle of Sunday's season finale, said.
"You have to accept it. It has been a long time for me to be playing football and I didn't want to cheat them or anyone. It is time. I want to leave it like this and we will see what happens.
"You have to be honest with yourself. Thats why I haven't been upset with the manager. I have been upset with myself. When you can’t get it right and you have been through injuries and difficult moments at this level. For me, to play at this club, you have to be the best in your position.
"When you lose that, I think you should be away from this place. I have probably been here too long. In the last few months, I probably didn’t deserve to be here but at least I got the chance [against Villa] to stay in touch with them and it has been amazing.
"For me, the standards you need to play for this club - it cannot be eight out of 10. It has to be 10 out of 10. When you cannot deliver that, it is not good enough. Sometimes, people get away with it. Inside myself, my gut wasn’t clean and, when you are like this, I prefer to make the decision myself."
The former Everton man confirmed that while his playing days may be behind him, he is likely to remain involved in football, with a number of coaching opportunities already on offer. It is believed that Pep Guardiola is eager to bring him on board at Manchester City, while Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino, who is a personal friend of Arteta's, has also floated the possibility of Arteta working at Spurs, although crossing the north London divide could be a stumbling block.
"I have different options now to be related to football, which I am very grateful for," Arteta explained.
"It is very unusual to have opportunities at this level. That has made me think it was probably time and the way I have been watching football in the last few months - or, probably, over a year - it was not as a player, it was more as a coach. Then, you have to think about it."
He added: "I don’t want to say clubs but I have three very different options and I am very proud, because it is not common," he said. "I have been left the door very open [at Arsenal] and I may have to make a decision.
"I don’t want to talk. I have so much respect for this club, what they think about me and what they have shown in the last few weeks that they want to do with me, that I cannot talk about any other things."
In addition to Arsenal and Everton, Arteta also turned out for among others Paris St-Germain and Real Sociedad, having begun his career in the Barcelona youth setup.