Why Hector Bellerin may well prove a barometer for Arsenal’s future

In the last week or two, the first mutterings and musings of a possible future return to the Nou Camp for Spanish youngster Hector Bellerin have started to find voice.

In truth, the genesis of the rumours began when Arsenal met Barca in the last 16 of the Champions League, way back in February and March.

As a Barca youth product who followed the well-trodden and oft successful route from Catalonia to London, Hector was an obvious choice to put up for press conferences and interviews ahead of those games.

And, to that end, a series of questions about his allegiances and plans for the future were sure to follow – and very much did.

Hector is another young player to have slipped through the cracks of Barcelona’s youth academy and, having made a name for himself in England, the Spanish press in particular were keen to find out if he would ever consider a return to his boyhood club.

Hector conducted himself with good grace in those interviews and, after a tough time against the likes of Neymar over the two legs, the rumours and questions were quelled.

With the end of the domestic league seasons in both Spain and England, however, came the news that the Barcelona right back, Dani Alves, had entered talks with Italian champions Juventus about a possible summer move.

Cue a can of oil poured directly over the smouldering pile of Bellerin rumours, made ever more fearsome by the youngster’s impressive debut for the national team.

It’s a dance we have danced before – on quite a few occasions, in fact.

The most notable case was that of Cesc Fabregas, whose return to Barcelona from Arsenal came after months and years of persistent chipping away with well-timed interviews from players and officials in Spain.

By the end, Cesc’s Spanish team mates were literally cramming a Barcelona shirt over his head and, months later, the inevitable deal was finally announced. And it’s not the only time it has happened. We have seen Marc Overmars, Thierry Henry, Alexsander Hleb, Alex Song, and others go much the same way.

The lure of a club as glamorous as Barcelona is hard to resist, there is no denying that, but, if Arsenal are to compete against the biggest clubs in Europe, they have to be able to hold onto their prize assets.

They cannot afford to be so easily bullied into submission by the likes of Barcelona, lest they continue to be a feeder club for the European elite. They need to be the club competing for the best talent, and turning the heads of the world’s biggest stars.

As such, I think the future of Hector Bellerin could well prove to be a barometer of our future as a club. Despite his denials, and protestations of contentment in North London, I expect Barcelona will subtly begin turning up the pressure on Hector over the next year.

If he continues to progress and improve as he has done over the last 12 months, that pressure will only intensify. If the Arsenal board really do harbour ambitions of making the club a major force in European football, keeping hold of players like Hector Bellerin, the future of the club, is absolutely vital.

While the rumours and the whispers may die down again over the summer, I expect this to be the beginning of a very long, very wearying, road ahead.

It is a road we have walked before but, this time, our destination must be different.

In short: Hands off, Barcelona, we stole him first!


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