Arsenal’s on-loan defender Pablo Mari says he always believed he would make it at a big club, despite never being given a chance at Manchester City.
The Spaniard joined City from Gimnastic in 2016 but was immediately sent out on a series of loan spells – to Girona, NAC Breda, and Deportivo La Coruna.
Mari then made a permanent move to Flamengo in 2019, and his performances for Jorge Jesus’ all-conquering side earned him a loan move to Arsenal in January
The 26-year-old says he never even met Pep Guardiola or his squad, but he bears no ill will towards City.
“You go [to City’s training campus] for medicals each year – blood tests, urine, scans – but when I went to the Netherlands and Coruna, the [City] first team hadn’t started pre-season, so there was no one there,” he told the Guardian.
“You never cross paths. That can feel a bit strange, but City were transparent. The plan was always to go on loan.
“They help you find teams but never oblige you and the last word always has to be yours. After two years, I said I wanted to return to Spain, go step by step awaiting a chance in the Primera.
“Look, a player has to have one thing very clear: how much you’re prepared to lose to be a professional.
“You have to ask yourself that question and be honest. It will never, ever be all lovely. Or all awful.
“My objective was clear: whether it was City or not, I was going to get to a big club. I was absolutely convinced, ever since I left home at 13.”
Mari has overcome challenges on his path to Arsenal, moving between four countries and two continents looking for a permanent home.
He hopes to remain at Arsenal once his current loan deal has expired, with the Spaniard finally finding somewhere he can settle in north London.
“I never thought of giving up,” he added.
“Never. I’ve had really bad moments, but you can’t ever leave something you love.
“Football might have thrown me out, but I was never going to throw it out.”
Mari took some time to reach full match fitness at Arsenal and almost as soon as he was ready to make an impact, the season was suspended due to the coronavirus outbreak.
He admits it has been a blow, but he knows his football career isn't the priority right now.
"Bit by bit you get through the days, the weeks, and the moment you say ‘I’m ready, I can compete’, this happens," he said.
“The first thought was: ‘Damn, I wanted to keep playing.’ But this is no small thing; it’s not a cold or flu.
"When you see its magnitude, professional questions are secondary. What matters is everyone’s health.”