Real Sociedad star prepares for reunion with former team-mate.
Real Sociedad star Carlos Vela has hailed the influence on his career of former Arsenal team-mate Robin van Persie, now of Manchester United, as the two teams prepare to meet in the Champions League this week.
In an interview with the Independent, the Mexican striker has spoken of how van Persie helped him and advised him during their time together at the Emirates Stadium.
Like van Persie, Vela left the club last summer for a new challenge, having failed to force his way into the starting lineup during his time with Arsenal.
In contrast, the Dutch forward was a key player for the Gunners before making a shock exit to their rivals, and Vela believes he benefited from watching and learning from a player he thinks is the best striker in the world.
While van Persie left Arsenal to pursue a greater chance of winning silverware, Vela also believes it was important for him to try his luck at a new club, where he could gain more experience of regular first-team football.
After failing to make the grade in the Premier League, the 24-year-old now feels he is a better player than he was when he was last in England.
“I learned a lot from him,” Vela said. “For me, he’s the best striker in the world and it was a pleasure to be able to share moments in training with him.
“We used to sit next to each other in the dressing room and talk. I used to ask him about his movement, what was going through his mind when he did certain things, and he would explain. If I was missing something in my game he’d speak to me and give me advice and I’m grateful for that.
“I’ve grown a lot. The fact I didn’t get so many minutes at Arsenal meant I never had the continuity you need to be able to develop. Here I have the confidence and the time on the pitch.
“I’ve grown in every way and am a much better player than I was at Arsenal. When you’re playing week in, week out, your confidence, your motivation is different and that’s when you’re prepared to risk trying new things and I’ve managed to get the best out of myself.”