It’s been a week to forget for Arsenal fans but it looks set to get a lot worse. A club source confirms Barcelona have told Arsenal they will pay whatever it takes to bring Hector Bellerin back to the Camp Nou this summer. The Catalan giants interest in the speedy full-back is nothing new but the fact they’re being so open about it suggests they feel a deal will happen.
Bellerin started the season well but struggled to match his form from last year. When the team began to fall apart he was singled out as one of the main underperformers. The atmosphere at the club has turned nasty and no one’s escaped criticism apart from Alex Oxlade Chamberlain. It doesn’t come across as a place you’d want to be right now and Barcelona feel it’s the perfect time to swoop.
A return home makes sense
This represents quite the turnaround from the stories doing the rounds just a few weeks ago. Barcelona’s sporting director, Roberto Fernandez, said this of Bellerin: “Of course Hector is a good player. He’s well known. He is playing at a great level but there are also other players that have good characteristics. When a player has a long-term contract it’s very difficult.”
There’s a suggestion that this was to see the player’s true intentions. Bellerin previously dismissed talk of a return to Spain. “If I wanted to play there (Barcelona) I would have stayed. It’s nice for a player to know that big teams want you but I’m very happy here. I’m not looking back, I’m just looking to help Arsenal.” These comments to The London Evening Standard were then further strengthened as he signed a new six-and-a-half-year deal last November.
Bellerin was dropped for the North London Derby
Barcelona’s stance has changed after receiving indications that the player would now be willing to leave Arsenal. It makes sense considering the turmoil at the club and the fact that Oxlade Chamberlain started ahead of the Spaniard versus Tottenham last weekend. One of the most lauded full backs in Europe shouldn’t be on the bench, and less so when his replacement is a winger.
Over in Spain they believe Bellerin is disappointed after signing his new deal because of false promises. Arsenal told him they were going to challenge at the very top, both domestically and in Europe. Less than a year in they look further away than ever from challenging at the top of the Premier League, let alone Europe.
Last month Barcelona spoke to Bellerin’s entourage and said they’d make a serious offer to sign him in the summer. The response was, according to a source in Spain, positive. The lack of direction coupled with Barcelona’s desire to sign a first choice right back makes the decision to move even easier.
This source also confirms the move isn’t dependent on Arsene Wenger staying or leaving.
A guaranteed role at Barcelona is all Bellerin ever wanted
Bellerin left Catalunya because there were too many obstacles in his way to get regular minutes. He felt undervalued by certain members of staff too. Now he’s being promised a key place in the team regardless of who replaces Luis Enrique next season.
Aleix Vidal’s injury and Sergi Roberto being a midfielder mean there is a clear route to the first team. The fact he’s a local guy makes a huge difference. Barcelona are desperate to regain that homegrown feel they have lost in recent seasons. It’s also why they want to re-sign Gerard Deulofeu.
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Similar to the previous case with Cesc Fabregas, who loved Arsenal but wanted a return home, Bellerin wouldn’t sign for another English side this summer. Manchester City did register an interest in signing him but that isn’t an option for Bellerin. He only wants a move to Barcelona.
“When I left Barça my idea wasn’t to return because my exit was a little complicated. I went to live in England and begin my journey as a footballer there and not return. But you don’t know what the future holds and you cannot close doors.” These quotes were from an interview he conducted with Mundo Deportivo while in Spain on international duty.
International ambitions boosted by a Barça return
A move to Barcelona would also greatly boost his chances of starting for the national team. At 22 his time with the U21 side is up and he needs to focus on the future. He’ll need to be in the public eye to oust the impressive Dani Carvajal in the senior squad. Make no mistake about it, playing for a big side in Spain plays a huge part in getting international recognition.
Arsenal want over €40m for Bellerin but Barcelona are confident, as in previous cases, they will be able to bring the asking price down. No one wants an ugly exit because that would make all sides come off a lot worse. Barcelona aim to pay around £30m at a push.
It looks increasingly likely that it’s a case of when, not if, Bellerin will return home. And you sense he won’t be the last to leave Arsenal this season either.