Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola says Arsenal’s Mikel Arteta had “a big, massive influence” on him and helped him become a better manager.
Arteta was Guardiola’s assistant at City before taking the Arsenal job and the two sides meet in the FA Cup fourth round on Friday (2000 GMT).
The Gunners lead the Premier League, with defending champions City second.
“I had the feeling, we knew that when he was here, (of) his ability for City,” Guardiola said on Thursday.
“I don’t know my role on him, but his influence on me was big, massive, so important in becoming a better manager.
“If I was gone, Mikel would be here and he would be the best, absolutely.”
Arteta became Guardiola’s assistant in July 2016 and in their three full seasons together City won the Premier League twice, the FA Cup and two League Cups.
Arteta became Arsenal boss in December 2019 and Guardiola, 52, said it was no surprise he joined the Gunners, for whom he played between 2011 and 2016.
“I’m not one to say ‘no, you have to stay with me’,” Guardiola added. “Everyone has dreams. We thought if a team could offer him (the chance) to be a coach, he would leave.
“I know he went to ‘his’ club, the team he dreams of. He’s a supporter, for the fact that he played there, he was captain there. He loves the club.
“I remember when we were together here, when we were scoring goals, he was jumping a lot and celebrating – except against one team, Arsenal.
“People should fly when they think it’s best. Life is too short. Spend time in a place you think is best for you.”
Arsenal, without a Premier League title since 2003-04, are five points clear of City at the top of the Premier League, with Guardiola’s side having played one game more.
Although he has to face his friend, Arteta is relishing the way Arsenal are vying with City for trophies.
“I always hoped it would one day and it’s happening this season,” said the 40-year-old former midfielder.
“It won’t change any friendship, the times we have, how important he is in my life, how important he is in my profession.
“We are both ready to win and defend our clubs in any way and that has always been the case since day one.
“I’d rather do it with someone else to be fair.”
England striker Phil Foden is a doubt for City as he recovers from a foot injury, although Guardiola said the player was “better”.
Arsenal striker Gabriel Jesus is unavailable to play against his former club with a knee injury, with midfielder Mohamed Elneny also out.
Gunners full-back Oleksandr Zinchenko, who helped City win four Premier League titles, could feature against his former side.