Bayer Leverkusen director of football Simon Rolfes has revealed he had to fight “a long battle” with Arsenal to secure the signing of Granit Xhaka in the summer.

The Bayer Leverkusen director has been speaking to Saarbruecker Zeitung about the signing of the Switzerland international, which has proven to be an inspired one from him and his team.

Xhaka joined the German side in a €15m deal in the summer, bringing an end to a seven-year spell with Arsenal following his €45m move from Borussia Monchengladbach in July 2016.

He had been through something of a roller coaster ride with the Gunners, often facing criticism in his early days and even finding himself involved in a public falling out with the club’s fanbase before bouncing back and becoming a key player under Mikel Arteta.

Indeed, he was a vital cog in the side that competed for the Premier League title last season and Arsenal would have been glad to keep him as a result, even with the arrival of Declan Rice from West Ham.

A deal was eventually struck, and he returned to Germany, where he has now established himself as the key man in Leverkusen’s run to the Bundesliga title.

Rolfes is delighted that they managed to secure him, but admits it took a long battle with Arsenal to get the deal over the line.

“Granit was the top option for us. That’s why we tried to recruit him so early on,” he said.

“If he had said he wanted to stay in London, it wouldn’t have been possible. But we already had his positive signal in February.

“It was just a long battle with Arsenal afterwards, but Granit had always behaved correctly there, even in difficult times. That made the transfer possible in July.”