Why Fran Merida should think twice before leaving Arsenal

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It is understandable why Fran Merida looks certain to leave Arsenal for Atletico Madrid.

Merida, 19, barely gets a look-in at Arsenal, but back in Spain he is their equivalent to Theo Walcott after his starring role in the World Under-20 Championship last month.

Atletico Madrid tapped him up last year and now, according to his agent, he has agreed a five-year deal, starting this summer.

Arsenal paid around £3m for Merida when he was 16 after a courtroom tussle with Barcelona and will now get only small "training" compensation from Atletico.

There's not much sympathy there as Arsenal were hoping Merida would be the next Cesc Fabregas. Same path, same nationality but it hasn't worked out like that.

But before Merida disappears, he should just remember Alex Hleb, Mathieu Flamini, Jose Antonio Reyes and even Abou Diaby and Alex Song.

Admittedly, most of those players are older but Hleb, Flamini and Reyes left thinking it would be better elsewhere. It most certainly hasn't been.

I mention Diaby and Song because they have improved beyond all recognition under Arsene Wenger. The Arsenal manager is one of the best coaches and developers of young talent in the world.

Song has been transformed from a heavy, no-hoper into a graceful holding midfielder who has been one of the stars of the season.

Diaby, too, has often been lazy, inconsistent and injury-prone. This season, with a run in the team, he must be a contender for Player of the Year not just at Arsenal but in the Premier League.

Wenger has a knack of unlocking talent. Fabregas won't be around forever. Merida should be patient and learn from the best coach and best footballing academy around.

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