Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has suggested that Hector Bellerin's long-term future remains in north London despite reported interest from Barcelona.
The Gunners originally poached Bellerin from Barcelona's La Masia academy as a 16-year-old along with midfielder Jon Toral, leaving Nou Camp officials fuming.
While Toral is currently on loan with Championship outfit Brentford, Bellerin has developed into an established first-team star under Arsene Wenger. The right-back produced a stellar performance against Liverpool last weekend. It was a display that caused a stir in his native Spain.
Eyebrows were raised after the 19-year-old topped a poll in a prominent Catalan newspaper for potential replacements for Dani Alves. It appears Barcelona fans are already warming to the prospect of bringing their former academy starlet back.
“He came at 16 so I consider him a real Arsenal player”
That would be a sore subject for Arsenal fans with the emotional scars of losing Cesc Fabregas in a similar situation in 2011. However, Wenger believe Bellerin has adopted Arsenal's values since joining, rejecting the idea of him leaving for the Nou Camp anytime soon.
He told reporters: “He came at 16 so I consider him a real Arsenal player.”
The Frenchman also admitted his surprise at the speed of Bellerin's development. He started the season as a youth player, but is now arguably ahead of Mathieu Debuchy, the £12million summer signing.
He said: “I’m surprised how quickly he has settled in and that is down to personality.
“Of course he has adapted very well.
“He had a difficult start at Dortmund but he has recovered very well and has improved permanently.
“He’s only 20 years old now. Him and Chambers are 20 years old and they have had two outstanding seasons together.”
An inevitable transfer
Unfortunately for Arsenal fans, the better Bellerin gets the more likely a return to Barcelona becomes. As with Fabregas, the chance to go back to a hometown club, which also happens to be one of the best in the world, would surely be too good for Bellerin to turn down.
Of course, Bellerin is obviously happy at the Emirates, but there will be no surprises here if he quietly asks for a move in if Barcelona come calling. At least Wenger can take pride in his scouting system, who have once again found a diamond in the rough.
Do you think Hector Bellerin will follow the same path trodden by Cesc Fabregas? Give us your thoughts in the comment box below!