Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola has joked “I will beat him” when asked about Mikel Arteta’s move to Arsenal.
Guardiola branded Arteta “a incredible person”, as the former Gunners captain closes in on a return to Arsenal.
Arteta is expected to land the job at the Emirates, where he spent five seasons as a player, after Emery was sacked at the end of last month.
Managing director Vinai Venkatesham and club lawyer Huss Fahmy spent two-and-a-half hours in discussions with the Man City assistant at his house earlier this week, and it appears a matter of time before he takes charge.
Arteta was in the City dugout on Wednesday night as the Carabao Cup holders saw off Oxford United in the quarter-finals to seal a two-legged semi against arch rivals Manchester United.
And ahead of the match Guardiola paid tribute to his assistant.
“We were smart to pick him up,” said the manager. “He’s an incredible person, a good manager with a work ethic. That’s why he has been with us
“He’s talking with Arsenal so I don’t know what is going to happen. I knew about it [the meeting]. He was incredibly honest and transparent with me.
“It happens [that backroom staff members leave]; [head physio] Lee Nobes went to Liverpool and now teams want Mikel.
“He knows exactly what we want but at the end it’s his decision. It’s personal. Nobody is here if they don’t want to be here. If he wants to be here it is because we decided we want to work together three years ago.
“What happens now, I don’t know.
“The organisation of the club is always live, it doesn’t always stay the same, what works today might not work tomorrow. The people today maybe won’t be here tomorrow.”
During his time as Guardiola’s assistant, Arteta has helped City win two Premier League titles, two League Cups, and the FA Cup.
And Guardiola has joked that it will be strictly business when they eventually meet on the pitch again, with Arsenal due to travel to the Etihad Stadium in the Premier League on February 29.
He added: “If he decides to move I’ll wish him all the best, for him, his family and for his professional future.
“I will beat him… that’s a joke!”