Mérida in action for Arsenal in 2009
|Full name||Francisco Mérida Pérez|
|Date of birth||4 March 1990|
|Place of birth||Barcelona, Spain|
|Height||1.75 m (5 ft 9 in)|
|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 1 January 2014.
† 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 €3.2 million 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.
The midfielder left Atlético Paranaense in July 2014, as the Brazilian club decided not to extend his contract.
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.
- Atlético Madrid
|Real Sociedad||2007–08||Segunda División||17||1||0||0||—||17||1|
|Atlético Madrid||2010–11||La Liga||17||0||5||2||4[b]||1||1[c]||0||27||3|
|Atlético Paranaense||2013||Série A||6||1||4||0||6[d]||0||—||16||1|
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- Fran Mérida at ESPN FC