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Former Arsenal wonderkid reduced to 'trial' matches in Brazil

Former Arsenal midfielder Fran Merida's career appears stuck in a downwards spiral.

Fran Merida was rated as the 'next big thing' at Arsenal, a midfielder plucked from Barcelona's academy with the hope he could follow Cesc Fabregas into the first team.

He impressed when given opportunities but after being loaned to Atletico Madrid he became desperate to return to Spain and signed a pre-contract agreement with them rather than renewing his contract with Arsenal.

It has been all downhill from there. He failed to break into Atletico's first team, and found himself loaned to Braga, again without success.

Merida began this season playing in Spain's second division with Hercules, but was clearly not enamoured with his spell, deciding to make a surprise move to Atletico Paranaense in Brazil.

He said at the time: "I have not found a stable club and (I) do not know why. I would like (to find) here."

But so far his spell has been a dismal failure, unable to make his mark.

When the Brazilian championship started in May, Merida was not even included in Atletico's first game against Fluminense.

The 23-year-old is still waiting for his first taste of action, with the closest he has come so far being an unused substitute on four occasions, the last of these coming on June 9.

Clearly the midfielder is in need of a pick-me-up, awaiting an opportunity. But he has had some on-pitch action over the past 10 days.

Atletico have been playing a number of 'trial' matches against lower league opposition, with the intent to give players like Merida a chance.

Asked specifically about the Spaniard's situation, coach Vagner Mancini told the press: "The club has players on a level "below the other" and the trial matches will be important for this."

Clearly the situation is far from ideal for the ex-Arsenal man, but at least he is getting an opportunity in some form, other than training. 

When he moved to Brazil in January, he surely did not expect to be without a first league appearance heading into August, but that is exactly the hole he finds his career in.

The heady days of scoring for Arsenal against Bolton in 2010 must seem like a lifetime away.

image: © wonker

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