“It hurt me” says former Arsenal youngster about player

The young winger, who recently made his own move to the Bundesliga club from Southampton, delves into the emotional upheaval and swift changes in his career.

Mainz’ German defender #21 Danny da Costa (C) and Bayer Leverkusen’s English midfielder #19 Nathan Tella (L) vie for the ball during the German first division Bundesliga football match Mainz 05 v Bayer 04 Leverkusen in Mainz, western Germany, on September 30, 2023. (Photo by Daniel ROLAND / AFP)

Nathan Tella, a former Arsenal academy winger, has expressed his initial disappointment over Arsenal’s decision to sell Granit Xhaka to Bayer Leverkusen earlier this summer.

Tella himself joined the Bundesliga club from Southampton for £20m, more than a month after Xhaka made the same move.

In an interview with Kicker, Tella said: “When Xhaka left Arsenal in the summer, it hurt me because I knew how well he had done for this team and how much the team needed him.”

Kicker reports that the 24-year-old Tella is a ‘self-confessed’ Arsenal fan, which complicated his feelings about Xhaka’s departure. The young winger came through the Arsenal youth system, but was released in 2017 after the club chose not to offer him a professional contract. He then underwent trials at several clubs, including Reading and Norwich City, before eventually signing with Southampton.

Tella overcame his disappointment swiftly, stating: “Four weeks later I was suddenly playing with him in a team – it was a very quick change of mood.”

MUNICH, GERMANY - SEPTEMBER 15: Granit Xhaka of Bayer Leverkusen looks o during the Bundesliga match between FC Bayern München and Bayer 04 Leverkusen at Allianz Arena on September 15, 2023 in Munich, Germany. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)
MUNICH, GERMANY – SEPTEMBER 15: Granit Xhaka of Bayer Leverkusen looks o during the Bundesliga match between FC Bayern München and Bayer 04 Leverkusen at Allianz Arena on September 15, 2023 in Munich, Germany. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)

Tella was signed after a notable stint with Burnley in the Championship last season, where he managed 19 goals and five assists in 45 games.

On Monday, Xhaka revealed that the search for a new challenge led him to leave Mikel Arteta’s side for Leverkusen.

Tella spent the last season on loan at Burnley, where his performances contributed to the club’s promotion to the Premier League.

While his parent club Southampton was relegated, Tella remained in the Championship only briefly this season, scoring once and assisting once in the first three games. However, his talents caught the eye of Bayer Leverkusen, who offered him a five-year deal.

“When [Jadon] Sancho moved to Germany, I said: That would be cool. But when Leverkusen came, I had the thought: Should I really do that? This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Tella said.

“It would have been stupid not to take it: last season I played in the second division, now I’m playing in the Europa League and for a team that is undefeated at the top of the table in Germany – that’s crazy.”

Tella, who had initially felt “embarrassed” about leaving Arsenal in 2017, has dramatically turned his career around. “For me, it was a bit of an embarrassment because I didn’t know how I was going to tell all my friends and family that I was leaving Arsenal,” he reflected on his departure from the north London club.

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