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MIKEL ARTETA is the new Liverpool Echo Sports Personality of the Year.


At a glittering awards ceremony at the new Echo Arena last night, Everton’s influential Spanish midfielder beat off competition from, amongst others, boxer Derry Mathews, Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard and golfer Nick Dougherty to lift the coveted award and become the first winner from Goodison Park since Wayne Rooney in 2003.


Arteta was given a tremendous ovation from a record crowd for the event, which included his manager David Moyes, as well as team-mates Nuno Valente and Victor Anichebe, plus a whole host of former Goodison greats, among them Joe Royle and Andy Gray.


“I just need to thank everyone in this city,” said Arteta. “It takes a long time to settle when you come from abroad, but the people have made it so much easier for me. When you have problems with the language, everyone will always help you out.


“This is a special honour and I am delighted to receive it. I play with a great group of lads, the manager helps me so I have to say a big thank you to them also.”


Though international recognition still proves to be elusive for Arteta, he is worth his weight in gold to everyone of a Blue persuasion in this city and the 25-year-old played a starring role for Everton in 2007 along with another nominee, Joleon Lescott.


Arteta’s performances at the heart of Everton’s midfield helped inspire the club’s return to European football during the first part of the year and he was duly rewarded with a new contract that will keep him on Merseyside until 2012.


Since then, his influence has continued to grow as Everton, who are chasing a place in the Champions League, progressed through to the Carling Cup semi-finals and into the last 32 of the UEFA Cup.

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