Fran Merida - Former Arsenal midfielder plots escape from Spanish second division

Fran Merida left Arsenal for bigger and better things. It has not worked out that way.

The above picture shows Fran Merida training with then teammates Theo Walcott, Kieran Gibbs and Bacary Sagna.

Now his teammates include former Newcastle flop Ignacio Gonzalez and ex-Spurs and Portsmouth defender Noe Pamarot.

He plays for Hercules, a team who a couple of seasons ago briefly graced La Liga and had David Trezeguet playing up front, but now sit in the Segunda Division.

And not only that, but Merida and Hercules find themselves in the relegation zone, 20th out of 22, three points from safety. But he is plotting an escape route.

Merida is in negotiations with Brazilian club Atletico Paranaense to sign a one year contract with the club.

Reports in Brazil claim the player is 'closing' on a move, and he'd certainly welcome the change of scenery.

His fortunes which see him at Hercules neatly sum up his unfortunate career trajectory since leaving Arsenal; but going back further, it can be argued he never should have even left Barcelona.

Arsenal picked him up in 2006 from Barcelona, hailing him as an 'amazing player'. Following the path trodden before him of Cesc Fabregas, he felt he would get better chances of first team football at Arsenal.

The central midfielder only made a handful of first team appearances for the Gunners, scoring two goals- against Liverpool in the League Cup and Bolton in the Premier League.

It was looking like he was poised for a breakthrough, and it was all set up for him at the Emirates, but his impatience saw him take an 'easy route' back to Spain.

He was loaned to Spanish club Real Sociedad in January 2008, giving him a taste of La Liga which would lure him back.

Back at Arsenal the club had done their best to ease him into the first team, but midway through the 2009-10 season it became clear he had been swayed towards a return to La Liga, and signed a pre-contract agreement with Atletico Madrid.

His first season at Madrid was mixed, playing in just under half the games and failing to nail down a first team spot. He then was loaned to Braga, but it was an unspectacular spell, featuring just eight times, scoring once.

Last summer he was released, with Europa League champions and Super Cup winners Atletico having no use for him.

It was a shame, because with Atletico now second in La Liga, had he actually been a key part of that, he would have been able to say he made a sound choice in leaving Arsenal; but his failure in Madrid was his undoing.

He was picked up by Hercules, but as their league position shows, it has not been a success. 

But at least Merida is finally playing regularly, he has made 19 appearances so far this season, although has scored just once and made one assist.

He has a big job between now and the end of the season, just like his former teammates. But while Walcott, Gibbs and Sagna will be competing to finish in a Champions League place; Merida continues to fight simply to salvage a meaningful career.

What do you make of Merida's fortunes? Did you have high hopes for him?

image: © wonker

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