Squillaci: Playing in England was superb
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French defender Sebastien Squillaci is hoping to end his fine career in style after joining Bastia this summer. "I'm hungry for playing time and to enjoy myself on the pitch," he told FIFA.com. "The desire is there."

So too, crucially, is the opportunity, the 32-year-old having been anxious for a new adventure after his contract with Arsenal expired at the end of 2012/13. Having agreed a one-year deal with the option of a further year at Bastia, Squillaci is now anxious to put a testing couple of years behind him in Corsica.

"To play in full stadiums with a great atmosphere, especially the Emirates, was a superb experience and a good memory, even if it was a little tough from a sporting point of view at the end," explained the centre-back.

The former France international spent his last two seasons in north London mostly rooted to the bench, but he is eager to recapture the regularity of his first year with the Gunners in 2010/11, when he made 22 appearances in the Premier League and six in the UEFA Champions League. Despite the frustrations of the recent past, however, Squillaci is driven more by an appetite to play than resentment.

"I'm nearly 33 and I'm closer to the end of my career than the start," he said. "I'm happy with everything I've achieved and my desire to go out on a high has more to do with myself than anyone else. I just didn't want to hang up my boots after a season when I didn't play."

To play in full stadiums with a great atmosphere, especially the Emirates, was a superb experience.
Sebastien Squillaci on his time in England

The player nicknamed 'Toto' certainly has plenty of highlights to look back on as he settles into his new home.

"I've had good experiences at all the clubs I've played for, but the trophies are definitely special: I won Ligue 2 with Ajaccio and lifted the League Cup and reached the Champions League final with Monaco. At Lyon, I won two league titles and the Coupe de France. I also won the Copa del Rey with Sevilla, and even if I didn't win anything at Arsenal, I got the chance to play alongside some great players. I got a lot of pleasure out of all those experiences."

Lifestyle choice
Given that he also collected 21 caps with Les Bleus along the way, his decision to join one of the smallest clubs in Ligue 1 might seem slightly odd at first – particularly as a player with his CV could surely opt for a lucrative final chapter in a more exotic location.

"That wasn't my goal," he said. "The financial side of things wasn't one of my motivations when I signed for Bastia. I wanted to go to a place where I'd enjoy myself, where there's a strong squad and I knew some of the players already. Everything is in place here for me to spend two good years. It was a career choice, though I totally respect those who've taken different roads."

His eagerness to turn out for the Stade de Furiani side was undoubtedly a lifestyle choice too, as Squillaci feels a deep attachment to Corsica. "It was very important for me to go somewhere where my family would feel good and where I'd be closer to my loved ones," added the player who was given his introduction to top-flight football by Bastia's island rivals Ajaccio between 2000 and 2002.

In addition to rediscovering the 'Isle of Beauty', of course, he will also be back in a league he knows intimately: "To play against my old clubs will be something special because I still follow them. To go back to Monaco and Lyon… Everywhere I've played things went well, and there's going to be people I'll be happy to see again."   

As a defender, he can expect some fascinating challenges as well, with the likes of Edinson Cavani, Falcao and Zlatan Ibrahimovic all on the prowl in France's top division. "It's always a pleasure to play against really great players," he said, having already come up against the Swede in Spain. "That's almost the best thing there is, and it'll be good for me and the French championship as a whole."

His own club will nonetheless be focused on survival, having been forced to overhaul their squad this summer. Most damagingly, they have lost several of the players who led them back into the top tier before helping to claim an impressive 12th-place finish last term, but Squillaci could hardly be more enthusiastic about the coming campaign.

"I'm not the type of person to regret anything, whether in football or life in general," he said. "I'm happy with what I've done and I'm hoping for two more good years. I've had tough times like everyone else, but those are the moments when you learn about yourself. That toughens you up for the rest of your life, including your life after football."