Francis Coquelin has told L’Equipe it was “difficult” to decide to leave Arsenal, but insisted his move to Valencia is a necessary step to boost his career.
Coquelin, 26, ended nine years at Arsenal by signing a four-and-a-half year contract with the Spanish club this week.
A regular in the Arsenal first-team squad but not in the starting line-up, the French midfielder, who spent loan spells at Lorient, Freiburg and Charlton Athletic during his time in north London, admitted he could no longer settle for a bit-part role as he had made just one Premier League start this season.
“I spent some great years at Arsenal. They’re the club that launched my career, I’ll never forget that. It’s difficult to leave. I was playing games, yes, but not necessarily those that counted. I needed to grow still more,” he said.
“I’m in an important period in my career. I wasn’t playing much at Arsenal, and I wanted to see something different, to experience another story. I have chosen a club with a great past, a family club. And I immediately felt good here.”
Coquelin admitted he had talked to Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger about the opportunity to leave the club, despite still having two-and-a-half years left on his contract at the Emirates Stadium.
“We had a very healthy discussion together,” he said. “He’s someone I have a huge amount of respect for. I told him what I thought, him too, and he understood. The only thing is that I didn’t want to leave on loan, but really to start a new cycle. This is perfect.”
Coquelin also said he harbours no regrets over swapping the Premier League for La Liga.
“Honestly, no. I would have had if, in 2014, I had left when I was out of contract,” he added. “There was a change at that moment, I played a lot of games. We won a cup, we finished in the top three several times. I can’t be disappointed with that.”
Coquelin will now hope to earn himself a place in a Valencia team that — in third place, two points behind second-placed Atletico Madrid and five clear of faltering Real Madrid — have been impressing in the Spanish top flight this season.
“I had heard good things from Santi [Cazorla] about the coach,” he said, referring to his new boss, Marcelino. “The coach talked ambitiously, he wants to build a great European team, and he talked to me about the family character of the club.
“I’m coming in without any particular status. I know that in Geoffrey [Kondogbia] and Dani Parejo, there are already two very good players. I have to get myself up to that standard.”