Although not a 'forward' per se, Arsenal's new number eight Mikel Arteta is this week's pick for Forward Friday.
The departures of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri to Barcelona and Manchester City respectively left a creative void in Arsenal's midfield. A £10m transfer deadline day signing from Everton, Icon signee Arteta is the man charged with sparking the Gunner's back to life, and filling the sizeable boots left by his Catalan compatriot.
The 29-year-old, from the Basque city of San Sebastián in Spain, made over 200 appearances for Everton over the course of seven seasons. Few Premier League players have matched the consistency of the stylish Spanish playmaker, and he arrives at Arsenal with the pedigree and experience to help the Gunners put a turbulent summer and nightmare start to the season behind them.
Like Real Madrid's Xabi Alonso, Arteta came through the respected Antiguoko youth academy in the Basque Country. While his close friend Alonso would eventually sign his first professional contract with Real Sociedad, a 15-year-old Arteta was snapped up by Barcelona.
He was a regular for Barcelona B, but was unable to make the step up to the first team due to fierce competition for places, and in 2000 he was sent for the first of two seasons on loan at French side Paris Saint-Germain. Arteta's performances in a deep-lying central midfield role behind a young Ronaldinho in the 2001/02 season provoked interest from a host of clubs around Europe, and in 2002 he signed for Walter Smith's Rangers for a fee of £5.8m.
In his first season in Glasgow, Arteta helped Rangers to a domestic treble of the Scottish Premier League, Scottish Cup and League Cup, and was named their young player of the year. A regular for the Spanish under-21 side, he seemed destined to break his way into the senior Spain side. His second season with Rangers was blighted by injury, however, and in 2004 he made a return to La Liga with Real Sociedad, where he hoped to be reunited with old friend Xabi Alonso. Alonso left the club for Liverpool, however, and after a disappointing season with Sociedad, Arteta jumped at the chance to follow him to Merseyside with David Moyes' Everton.
Arteta moved in next to Alonso in January 2005, initially joining Everton on loan. In July, however, he completed a permanent £2m transfer and signed a five-year deal. It didn't take him long to acclimatize to life at Everton, and in his first half season he featured regularly as Everton ensured Champions League qualification with an excellent fourth-placed finish.
Between 2005 and 2007 Arteta was among the Premier League's standout performers, winning Everton's Player of the Season award in consecutive seasons. Moyes' decision to push Arteta further forward to the right-side of midfield had proved an inspired one. With an excellent eye for a pass and formidable set-piece delivery, he was the Toffees' creative hub, contributing goals and assists in equal measure. His intelligent and technical approach is perfectly suited to the Gunners' style of play, and Arsenal fans are rightly optimistic about the impact he can have in North London.
Spain's midfield options are so outstanding and varied that despite his obvious guile and talent, Arteta has yet to win a call-up to the national side. With the opportunity to showcase his ability at Champions League level with Arsenal, however, that could be about to change.
We at Icons conducted our latest signing with Mikel on 11th September 2008:
If all goes to plan for the Spanish maestro, we will be quick to arrange another signing session with him, this time in red and white.