Pep Guardiola has said Mikel Arteta could have been manager of Manchester City but he "didn't wait" for the top job at the Etihad Stadium.
Guardiola gave Arteta his first coaching job when he was named City assistant in 2016.
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He spent three-and-a-half years as No. 2 before taking the Arsenal manager's job in Dec. 2019 but Guardiola said he could have succeeded him as City boss had he stuck around longer.
"I am pretty sure if I would have left before, he would be here and he would be the best, absolutely," Guardiola said.
"But I extended the contract, I am sorry, and he didn't wait, so it could not happen, but definitely [he could have been City manager]."
Arteta has guided Arsenal to the top of the Premier League table and on course to win their first title since 2004.
The Spaniard was a player at the Emirates between 2011 and 2016 and Guardiola said he always had a feeling he could return to the club -- even when he was working at City.
"He loves the club," Guardiola said. "I remember when we were together here when we score goals, he jumps a lot and celebrates except one team. One team every time we score a goal, I jump, look back, and he was sitting there. It was Arsenal.
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"It was that moment I said that guy likes Arsenal. Like me, training here or Barcelona if I'm training as assistant and Barcelona call me, I will go. My club."
Guardiola and Arteta will go head-to-head on Friday when City and Arsenal meet in the FA Cup. The two teams are also leading the Premier League, with Arsenal five points clear at the top of the table.
"It is a different competition, the FA Cup, it is a final," said Guardiola. "And of course, more than Arsenal to prove ourselves how is our level, when the team make 50 points [at the halfway stage] it is because they have been the best, and they are.
"We have to prove how far away or how close we are and the best way to notice is to perform our best level. Otherwise, against a team at that level, it will be difficult."