MIKEL ARTETA is now the hot favourite to land the Arsenal job, after managing director Vinai Venkatesham and chief negotiator Huss Fahmy were spotted leaving his home in the early hours this morning.
But before the former Everton captain became a Premier League star as a player and assistant manager, he battled for his life as a baby and required an emergency heart operation.
The 37-year-old, who was once a youth player with Barcelona and played 149 for the Gunners, also has a glamorous wife.
In 2010, Arteta married Argentinian beauty Lorena Bernal, an actress who has appeared on US TV shows CSI: Miami and Chuck.
Arteta's football dreams were nearly scuppered from birth.
The playmaker suffered from a rare condition in which his heart wasn't getting the right supply of clean blood.
He needed an operation that doctors said would stop him from doing any strenuous sports activity in the future.
“I had a big issue with my heart when I was a baby and at the age of two I had to have an operation to repair a lot of things," Arteta revealed.
“The clean blood wasn’t circulating properly so my heart wasn’t getting the right supply.
“I think I was the first person in Spain to undergo that particular operation and the doctors said there was no chance that I could do any sports activity after that.
“But even as a little boy I was in love with football and even my parents could not stop me from playing.
“So when I was seven or eight they sat down with the medical people and said to them, ‘Look, he’s not going to give up his passion for football’ — so they needed to know just how great a risk it was.
“They didn’t want something bad to happen to me one day at school — or when I was playing on the pitch.
“But over the years my heart’s grown stronger and stronger and now it is no longer an issue.
“Obviously, when I first started playing seriously I had to do a lot of medical checks.
"At first it was every two months, then every six and now it’s every three or five years.
“I still have the scar on my chest, which is like my signature. But other than
that, everything now is OK.”
PEP'S RIGHT-HAND MAN
In 2016, Arteta's path into coaching came with Man City. Alongside the likes of Brian Kidd and Domenec Torrent, he worked on the training pitch with the club's star-studded talent.
However, it was incredibly three months into his time at City when Pep Guardiola entrusted him with picking a team to play his former club, Arsenal in a Premier League game.
In a recently published book called ‘Pep’s City – the Making of a Superteam’ by Lu Martin and Pol Ballus, the boss, who was at this point new to English football, revealed all.
“Mikel knew the team much better than I did, he’d only stopped playing with them two months before," Guardiola said.
“He knew what to expect from Wenger and I really had no doubts about entrusting the game to him.
“So I spoke to the players and told them, ‘Mikel’s in charge this week.’ I think they were maybe a bit taken aback initially but it was the logical thing to do, given Mikel’s experience with our opponents.”
Arteta said: “I’m not an idiot, so I’d already done a bit of preparatory work.
“I assumed he’d ask my opinion. So I told him how I saw it going – ‘This is what they’ll do, so I’d plan to play like this.’
“He liked my ideas and we went with my plan.” City beat Arsenal that day 2-1 and the plan worked.
BEHIND EVERY GREAT MAN...
For the past nine years Arteta has been married to the incredibly glamorous Lorena Bernal.
They met in 2002, and she reportedly didn't know he was a footballer when they started dating.
Born in Argentina, she moved to Spain when she was one-years-old, By seven she was modelling and at 13 began to take drama classes in Saint Sebastién.
In 1999, aged just 17, Bernal was crowned Miss Spain.
However, because of her age, she wasn't allowed to compete in Miss Universe.
That didn't stop her entering Miss World, where she made the final 10 contestants.
Bernal divides her time between the UK and Los Angeles, where she has scored TV work.
In 2007, she appeared on popular shows Chuck as an international arms dealer and in an episode of CSI: Miami as a nanny.
In 2009, the couple became parents for the first time, and have since welcomed two more children to their family.
Since Arteta has taken on coaching, Bernal has put her career on ice to look after their children.
It will be a move vindicated should he get the vacant Arsenal job.