Arshavin: I want to play for Barça

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The Independent Football

Arsenal forward Andrei Arshavin has courted controversy at the Emirates by admitting that he dreams of playing for Barcelona, the side that destroyed the Gunners' Champions League hopes.

Arshavin, a long-time Barcelona fan, says that "just one season" of playing for the Spanish giants would be the highlight of his career.

"Even playing just one season for Barcelona would make a pinnacle of my whole career," Arshavin, who missed Arsenal's 6-3 aggregate defeat by Barcelona earlier this month with a calf injury, said yesterday. "Barça are the best team in the world and I enjoy their style of play so much."

The Russian said, however, that much as he admires the Catalans' style he did not enjoy seeing them pick apart his own side in the European Cup quarter-finals. "After watching them against Arsenal [in the Champions League quarter-finals] the enjoyment [I take from their football] has quickly turned into sorrow," he said. "They are so much better than anybody else at the moment."

Arshavin also had some interesting views on the best managers in the footballing world. Asked why Barcelona were beaten 3-1 by Internazionale in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final, Arshavin said: "It's all [Jose] Mourinho's magic. He is a genius.

"I think there are three coaches who are the best in the world – [the England manager] Fabio Capello, Jose Mourinho and [former Russia manager] Guus Hiddink. If I would pick a coach for the Russian national team, I'd want one of them to be our boss."

His own club's manager does not quite qualify to be in this group, however. "Arsène Wenger is also a good coach but not for Russia," Arshavin said.

Arshavin, who turns 29 next month, could have easily ended up in the Catalan capital instead of London following his impressive performances at Euro 2008, where he helped Russia to the semi-finals. Barcelona's bid for the gifted playmaker was rejected by Zenit St Petersburg in July 2008, before he joined Arsenal in January last year.