Yunus Musah explains decision to leave Arsenal as USA midfielder prepares for World Cup clash against England

Former Arsenal youngster Yunus Musah has revealed he left the Premier League for Spain because he feared he would not be able to break into the club’s first-team as a teenager.

Musah spent seven years in Arsenal’s academy but joined Valencia at 16, and quickly established himself as a regular for the La Liga side.

The USA international, who was born in Brooklyn but raised in London, represented England from Under-15 through to U-18 but chose to play for the country of his birth at senior level, and is set to start against Gareth Southgate’s side in Friday’s World Cup group game in Qatar.

Asked if playing senior football was a factor in leaving Arsenal in 2019, the 19-year-old said: “That was one of the reasons I chose to move to Spain -- I felt at the time maybe, we’ll never know, that I wasn’t able to be in the Arsenal first-team so early.

“Their team was really good and I felt at my age I could play first-team football and there was the chance to move to Valencia. Things turned out great. I’m very grateful for that.”

Musah was first called up by the USA in November 2020 but shortly afterwards Southgate revealed he still wanted the teenager to stick with England.

Musah suggested that the decision to represent the USA was also linked to a desire to play senior football more quickly, and acknowledged that he will have mixed feelings about facing England at Al Bayt Stadium.

“I played for England for a few years. I had a really nice time with them, I have a lot of respect for them, for everything they’ve done for me, but Gareth Southgate I never had any conversations with, no,” he said.

“That decision was very difficult, because, as I said, I had a great time with England and that country did a lot for me, so when the time came to make the decision it was difficult.

“I made the decision because I was born in the US. That was one of the main things. Also I got the opportunity at such a young age, that was something that I wanted to take. It was great when the manager called me and gave me that opportunity.

“I don’t think I know how I’m going to feel [facing England] that day. But it’s a special game for sure because I’ve played for both sides and to be able to be on the pitch with both national teams that I’ve played with is special.”

Musah played with Bukayo Saka in Arsenal academy and England’s junior sides, while he was also team-mates with Jude Bellingham in the national youth system.

“I haven’t spoken to them recently, but we are expecting big things from both Bukayo and Jude,” he said. “They are both very key players for them, very good players playing week in week out for their clubs. we are going to have to be on our game on Friday.”