Mérida in action for Arsenal
|Full name||Francisco Mérida Pérez|
|Date of birth||4 March 1990|
|Place of birth||Barcelona, Spain|
|Height||1.75 m (5 ft 9 in)|
|Current club||Atlético Paranaense|
|2008||→ Real Sociedad (loan)||17||(1)|
|2011||→ Braga (loan)||5||(0)|
|* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only and correct as of 27 January 2013.
† Appearances (Goals).
He signed at the age of 17 with Arsenal from Barcelona, but only appeared in 16 official games over the course of three seasons with the club. Subsequently he returned to his country with Atlético Madrid, where he also featured sparingly before leaving in 2012.
Born in Barcelona, Catalonia, Mérida joined the youth ranks of FC Barcelona at the age of eight, but left the club in September 2005, being reportedly hidden away by his agent, Joseba Díaz, which led to speculation that he would leave with no compensation for the team; his parents had become uneasy about all the young players joining Barcelona and felt that he would have a better chance elsewhere; therefore, they approached Díaz, also Cesc Fàbregas' agent, and he promptly alerted Real Madrid, A.C. Milan and Arsenal, with the player eventually signing for the latter.
On 9 October 2007 Mérida was ordered by the courts to pay a fee around €3.2million to Barcelona, as compensation for his "failing to meet the terms of a personal pre-contract" with the club. The decision was said to have serious implications for clubs in England, where players were allowed to sign professional contracts at 17, one year earlier than in Spain; in response, a Madrid-based lawyer, Rodrigo García, was quoted as saying: "English teams will now think again before signing a young Spanish player ... It's an important ruling."
Mérida's competitive debut came on 25 September 2007, when he came on as a 91st minute substitute in Arsenal's 2–0 victory against Newcastle United in the third round of the League Cup, making two further appearances in the competition. On 3 April 2008 he extended his deal with the club by signing a long-term (unspecified) contract, being expected to play an important role in the future as manager Arsène Wenger described him as "an absolutely amazing player".
On 27 December 2007 Iñaki Badiola, prospective presidential candidate of Real Sociedad, claimed he agreed a loan deal with Arsenal for Mérida until the end of the season in Segunda División. On 9 January of the following year, five days after he won the elections, the move was confirmed; he started in seven of his 17 appearances for the Basque during his five-month spell (723 minutes of action) and made six assists, but the club failed to regain its La Liga status.
Mérida returned to Arsenal for the 2008–09 campaign, making his first start in a 6–0 win over Sheffield United in the League Cup on 23 September 2008. For the same competition, in November, he started on the left wing against Wigan Athletic, playing the full 90 minutes in a 3–0 success (also at home). On 2 March 2009 Wenger heaped praise on the player, claiming the reason for him making the bench for the previous few first team games was because "He has been doing very, very well. He looks really good in training and is getting stronger all the time."; he made his Premier League debut the following day - hours before his 19th birthday - coming off the bench for Samir Nasri in the dying minutes of a 3–1 win at West Bromwich Albion.
Mérida participated with Arsenal in the 2009 edition of the Emirates Cup: he replaced Aaron Ramsey midway through the second half of the team's first match, against Atlético Madrid, and started and created a goal for Eduardo against Rangers, a 3–0 win which certified the tournament's conquest. He was then included in the first team for the league season and handed shirt number 46 (later changing to 32), playing 20 minutes in the second match against Portsmouth.
On 28 October 2009, in the season's League Cup, Mérida contributed to a 2–1 home triumph over Liverpool, scoring from the edge of the area with the ball hitting the post on its way past goalkeeper Diego Cavalieri. After the game, Wenger confirmed how he came close to loan the player to Levante UD at the start of the campaign, changing his mind at the last minute because he had "too much quality" to let him leave. With his contract due to expire in June 2010, he said he was having talks with the club over a new deal and hoped they could come to an agreement, while Atlético Madrid president Enrique Cerezo showed his interest in bringing the youngster back to Spain if something wasn't worked out between player and club.
On 5 November 2009 Arsenal confirmed that Mérida had verbally agreed a deal with the club, but it had yet to be signed. Wenger then accused Atlético of tapping up the player after announcing their public interest of talking to him, saying "I can't say I'm annoyed by other clubs going after our players because we do it as well. But we do it legally." "The difference is that we do not do what is not allowed by the law. We try to get the best players everywhere when it is allowed by the rules."
Mérida made only eight official appearances for Arsenal during the season, including 65 minutes at West Ham United in the third round of the FA Cup (2–1 win), and 27 in another away fixture, against Bolton Wanderers, where he scored his first Premier League goal in a 2–0 success.
On 25 May 2010, Atlético Madrid officially announced that Mérida was on his way to the Vicente Calderón Stadium on a free transfer, after refusing Arsenal's contract offer at the end of the campaign. He scored his first official goal for his new club on 27 October, in a 5–0 win against Universidad de Las Palmas CF for the season's Copa del Rey.
On 16 December 2010 Mérida scored his third goal for the Colchoneros, netting in his first touch in a 1–1 draw at Bayer 04 Leverkusen, with the defending champions of the UEFA Europa League crashing out after the group stage.
He started 2011–12 on loan to S.C. Braga in Portugal. In late December 2011, however, after just eight official appearances (five in the league, 132 minutes overall), he was recalled by Atlético.
Mérida was part of the Spanish U-17 squad which won the 2007 UEFA European Football Championship. In July 2007 he also played for the team in the 2007 FIFA World Cup in South Korea, with the national team finishing second to Nigeria in a penalty shootout, with him missing the second penalty of the three taken.
Mérida was called up to the Spanish under-20 team for the 2009 World Cup held in Egypt: he starred in an 8–0 drubbing of Tahiti, scoring the fifth goal and providing an assist. In the next group game he continued his fine form and netted twice in a 2–0 win over Nigeria; after resting in the third group game against Venezuela (3–0) he played 76 minutes in the last-16 tie against Italy, which finished with a 1–3 loss.
- Atletico Madrid
- Saffer, Paul (2 May 2007). "Mérida to make Spain proud". UEFA. Archived from the original on 29 June 2007. Retrieved 2 August 2007.
- "Fran Merida hit for £2m by Barcelona". The Daily Telegraph. 11 October 2007.
- Harris, Chris (7 August 2006). "Banfield – We have high hopes for Merida". Arsenal F.C. Archived from the original on 30 September 2007. Retrieved 2 August 2007.
- "Fran Merida signs professional terms". Arsenal F.C. 8 March 2007. Archived from the original on 30 September 2007. Retrieved 2 August 2007.
- "Young Guns stun Newcastle". Sky Sports. 25 September 2007.
- "Wenger delight at Merida deal". Sky Sports.
- "Mérida: "Aportaré mi granito de arena para intentar ascender"" [Mérida: "I will do whatever i can in order to promote"] (in Spanish). Real Sociedad.
- "Bendtner bags brace". ESPN Soccernet. 3 March 2009. Retrieved 4 March 2012.
- "Arsenal 3 – Rangers 0". Arsenal F.C. 2 August 2009. Retrieved 4 March 2012.
- "Fran Merida – Who is Arsenal's newest star?". Just Arsenal. 8 September 2009. Retrieved 4 March 2012.
- "Arsenal 4–1 Portsmouth". ESPN Soccernet. 22 August 2009. Retrieved 4 March 2012.
- Sanghera, Mandeep (28 October 2009). "Arsenal 2–1 Liverpool". BBC Sport. Retrieved 28 October 2009.
- Wilson, Steve (28 October 2009). "Arsenal starlet Mérida was heading out on loan". Daily Mail (London). Retrieved 28 October 2009.[dead link]
- "Mérida – I hope I get new contract". Arsenal F.C. 29 October 2009. Retrieved 29 October 2009.
- "Aletico Madrid confirm interest in Arsenal's Fran Mérida". ESPN Soccernet. 30 October 2009. Retrieved 30 October 2009.
- "Wenger – Mérida deal ready to be signed". Arsenal F.C. 5 November 2009. Retrieved 5 November 2009.
- "'Mérida deal would be 'massive' for us'". Arsenal F.C. 6 November 2009. Retrieved 6 November 2009.
- "Ramsey and Eduardo put Gunners through". ESPN Soccernet. 3 January 2010. Retrieved 4 March 2012.
- "Fabregas inspires Gunners to victory". ESPN Soccernet. 17 January 2010. Retrieved 4 March 2012.
- "Fran Mérida se compromete con el Atlético para las próximas cuatro temporadas" [Fran Mérida joins Atlético for next four seasons] (in Spanish). Atlético Madrid. 25 May 2010. Retrieved 4 March 2012.
- "Champions relinquish defence". ESPN Soccernet. 16 December 2010. Retrieved 4 March 2012.
- "Fran Mérida se va cedido un año al Sporting de Braga" [Fran Mérida loaned to Sporting de Braga for one year] (in Spanish). Diario AS. 28 August 2011. Retrieved 4 March 2012.
- "Sporting Braga to send Fran Merida back to Atletico Madrid". Goal.com. 28 December 2011. Retrieved 4 March 2012.
- "Atlético-PR fecha com o meia espanhol Fran Mérida" [Atlético-PR agrees with Spanish midfielder Fran Mérida] (in Portuguese). Lance Net. 11 February 2013. Retrieved 9 April 2013.
- Fran Mérida at ESPN FC
- Atlético Madrid official profile
- BDFutbol profile
- Fran Mérida career stats at Soccerbase
- Fran Mérida – FIFA competition record
- Transfermarkt profile